A feel for the vastness of the canyon.
I've been a little slow to visit Gil's work in California despite many an invitation from the Emperor, but finally made it in 20-60 knot winds last week. A surprisingly sloped piece of ground perhaps 150 feet from one end to the other it avoids a strict up and back routing and there are some great features and great holes out there.
Most of you have played it so I'll probably be a little heavy on the photos and light on the prose. Biggest criticism I have is par 5 at #1, #9, #10 but thankfully not one at #18. Gil really likes par 5's at #1 (Boston, Rustic, Applebrook, Crail/Craighead) and I generally give him a pass on that point, but I really don't care for par 5 first holes. Too many a times in my youth and beyond I have seen players wait to go for it and then top it, shank it, foozle it and on some days really stink up the next shot or two. Or hole or five. This is a routing feature I personally think limits the flow of the course and course of play. #1 and #9 & 10 are all fine holes, but starting and finishing nines I prefer fours but do not mind a three for #9 or #10 or #18. The standard of a starting par 4 of moderate difficulty is a plus for me. Even a hole that does not require a driver is fine, but a potentially driveable #1 also offers the same problem(s).
I really liked #1 it was a cousin to the fantastic #12 at French Creek, Gil's most difficult piece of ground with which to work, but it shares several features - the smallish green with surrounds functioning as green and the wash/ditch creating angles and reward.
The inviting tee shot - cross one bunker, avoid wash in distance.
The player coming up short of the first from the right fairway and the demands of that approach.
The preferred features of a left fairway approach either second or third shot.
The driveable Bottle Hole variant third. Downwind is rather easy to do it with firm fast conditions.
Right-side trouble on second at number ten
... ... and the Hell's Half Acre to carry
The perhaps toughest-of-all eleventh
... ... ... even without such winds as we encountered
Thirteenth green complex
Fifteenth Green complex (enhanced for detail)
Leave it to the Emperor and the redanman to find a Scot to play with. Alister of Troon on the 17th tee
There are five par 3's.
Four - On last week's play (166) 9i downwind to a very interesting set of green and surrounds contours, mostly blind. A wonderful hole.
Six - (220)5i downwind to a swale-fronted, mostly right-left, back front, contoured green, semi-blind, again a way better than average hole.
Eight - (127) a very controlled 50% 8i punch shot. A quartering into/right-left strong wind with a very treacherous left pin on a turret green - perhaps the most demanding shot of all the threes that day. Reminiscent of Applebrook 9 and 11 features, but its own hole. Perhaps my favorite.
Fifteen - (150) uphill into similar wind to #8, but a massive stepped green by comparison. A very soft, low running five did not work to get close but yielded par due to a tremendous lag putt at teh hands of my new plumber's neck Taylor Made Fontana. Green is unique to course and similar to other criticised unique greens such as 7 Olympic Lake with its three distinct levels. A little out of place.
Seventeen - (190) downhill and downwind, left to right a punch 7i went over. A little mound in front comes into play to slow, speed or re-direct the ball. In 60 knot winds, lady luck is involved, in fact predominates.
Notable variety in the fours from the unreachable in wind 452 eleventh to the drivable third and twelfth, both downwind. Approach shots ranged from pitch back to the green on three to 16* rescue, 5i runner on 11. Included were all varieties of shots, most concerning the golfer's ability to control spin, shape and flight. Especially flight.
Five fives - 1(d), 5(i), 9(i), 10(i) and 13(i) either downwind or into the wind. Five was dead into wind as was 13, 9 crossing right and into and 10 changing from cross/into to full balls to the wind. A hard crossing right to left wind might have been an interesting twist although I haven't come up with where yet, just haven't given it any thought. The use of the wind in play is well-varied and I doubt it is ever very calm there on site, but our day was in a Santa Anna - when the fires were going on (and we were west and north of them so we were unaffected). Humidity was about 3% as is typical of SA conditions, just like a windy Denver foothills day.
Kudos to Gil's design associate Jim Wagner and design consultant Geoff Shackelford for the time spent on site. Emperor told me of his inputs as well so two big thumbs up.
The one feature I really didn't get or like was the contouring of the landing area on sixteen. At least downwind - where you want to land is very narrow and repelling on the left with has unplayable all over the right side and a right-sided wasted bunker. One can try a massive carry left (risking desert wash), risk the mound left or blow it right or boringly lay up. Still thinking about that one.
(sorry it's blurry - wind, you know)
Further back ...
Revisiting this in 2011 I have a new appreciation that I did not get at teh time of this visit. I'll head back to re-look as I was fixated down the left side for some reason.
Overall Rustic Canyon plays more as a Links course than most advertising themselves to be such in the USA. You have to play shot after shot down, curving, running and cunning if you are to score at all. The conditioning for an average day was to die for. Traditional American golfers, especially the card-and-pencil type are not going to like the course as well and some unaware of strategic implications are going to say such things as "There is not enough demand on the tee shot.
This golf course comes very close to being the course in America allowing golf "as it was intended" certainly very close to alone in that group available to anyone with $60 who walks up.