Thursday, May 17, 2012

King's Riding Golf Club Course Review

King's Riding Golf Club
Aurora, Ontario, Canada

Architect: Thomas McBroom (2000)

6,502 Yards; Par, 71

Rating/Slope: 72.3/139

My Quick Review: A wonderful piece of land, but a lack of restraint in routing and hazard placement detracts from the quality of the golf course.

Clubhouse as seen from the 10th Tee


The Routing
McBroom was blessed with a wonderfully rolling piece of property on which to build King's Riding GC.  I am the first to admit that I don't know what (if any) environmental restrictions or mandates by the owner he was given; but, based on what is on the ground today, I question the need to use all of the high points on the property as tee locations.

In my opinion, the desire for great views, a yardage of over 6,500 yards and a par greater than 70 forced McBroom's hand.  Take, for example, the short par-3s at the 5th and 12th; could McBroom not have routed each hole such that the walk from the previous green was much shorter?  Was it necessary, especially at the 12th, to have the tee play from a piece of land at the same elevation as the green?  To me, the routing would have been more comfortable having that hole play uphill and semi-blind from near the 15th tee.

Similarly, the transition from the 8th green to the 9th tee is extremely awkward.  It seems that the possibility of a dramatic tee shot and the desire to have the course play to a par of 71 instead of 70, led McBroom to design a tee that is 100 yards and up-a-mountain from the 8th green.  An odd routing decision.

Holes to Note

Hole 2: Par 3, 212 Yards
An extremely difficult downhill par-3 with a diagonal green that is guarded closely by water.

There is no bailout here (not a good thing, in my opinion), as shots that miss left will find deep bunkering.  Is not a chip from an awkward lie to a green that slopes severely away penalty enough for missing left?

Hole 4: Par 4, 339 Yards
The 4th often plays downwind and on a straight line to the green plays well under 300 yards, but it must be the most controversial hole at King's Riding.  A grouping of trees guards the front of the green and only shots placed on the left 1/4 of the fairway will have any opportunity to hit over them.  Shots that find the centre of the fairway are faced with either a chip shot under the trees, or an attempt to hit it high and through the branches.  Hit-and-hope is an appropriate description of the approach.

The approach from the centre of the fairway:

The 4th green is easily the most difficult on the golf course, with the back/left quarter of the green sloping away from the line of play.  The rest of the green is dominated by a large hump in its centre that penalizes shots not hit near the day's pin location.  This wonderful green is enough to defend par on this hole, and the 'gimmick' of the trees undoubtedly detracts from the quality and strategic interest of the hole.

Hole 7: Par 4, 420 Yards
One of the most intimidating shots on the golf course, and arguably the best hole.  The fairway is guarded closely on the left side by a pond; there is plenty of room to bail-out right, but a longer and more difficult angle of approach is from there.

Approach from Right:

Approach from Left:

From Behind:

Hole 8: Par 4, 440 Yards
The most difficult hole on the golf course, the 8th plays as a very long par-4 uphill and typically into the wind.  A trio of bunkers on the right guard the shorter line and preferred angle into the green.  Unfortunately, into the wind, carrying anything more than the first bunker is unrealistic for must golfers.

Just a thought, how about fairway cut right of the bunkers?  That would make an interesting tee shot decision; play left to the wide part of the fairway, or play right of the bunkers and leave a shorter but blind approach.

Absolutely terrible mowing lines on the 8th.  Any golfer that successfully carries the 2nd or 3rd bunker on the right will be rewarded with a lie in the rough; not an easy place from which to play this severely uphill second hit.

Hole 10: Par 5, 471 Yards
Routed parallel to the 8th and 9th holes, the 10th plays back up the mountain from which the golfer just descended.  The short line to the green is guarded by the largest and most intimidating bunker on the golf course; plenty of room to bail right, though.

McBroom went 'feature-happy' on the 10th in an attempt to protect par on this very short par-5; sometimes accepting that some holes are 'birdie-holes' is better than trying to do too much with a hole.

The greensite on the 10th is very good; easily the best on the golf course.  The green is tucked behind a large mound with only the right 1/4 of this wide and shallow green viewable from the fairway.  McBroom benched bunkers into the side of the mound fronting the green.  This, to me, is unnecessary.  The penalty for missing left is a blind approach to a very shallow green.

Even an approach from the centre of the fairway from ~100 yards out is semi-blind.  Only lay-ups on the far right-side of the fairway will have a good look at the green.

Green as seen from left:

Hole 11: Par 4, 369 Yards
A very narrow, downhill tee shot to a fairway that tilts toward the forest on the left.  There is plenty of width for those willing to lay-up short of the 150-yard marker.  A cleverly placed bunker on the right side of the fairway guards the safe line for a longer tee shot; unfortunately, terrible mowing lines eliminate any strategic interest.

Deep rough just past the right-side fairway bunker means that any tee shot that successfully challenges the bunker will find rough and a very awkward lie, instead of caroming forward and left into the centre of the fairway (as I suspect was the intent of Mr. McBroom).

The approach is played over a narrow hazard to one of the least contoured greens on the golf course, sloping generally from back-to-front.

Hole 14: Par 4, 378 Yards
One of very few holes I have ever seen to feature a reverse-cambre fairway.  Growth of trees on the right has made it near impossible to find the fairway without hitting a fade from the tee; but this hole remains one of the best on the golf course.

The approach is played over a water hazard to a green that lay at a diagonal to the line of play.  Tee shots that successfully challenge the right-side from the tee are rewarded with an approach that need not to carry the water hazard.

Along with the 4th, one of the best greens on the golf course...

Hole 15: Par 5, 595 Yards
An awfully narrow tee shot for such a long hole.  The temptation is for the golfer to try to play down the left, but the ideal angle for the second shot is from the right.  The golfer must choose between distance and line from the tee.

The lay-up area on the 15th, like the lay-up area on the 10th is unnecessarily cluttered.  A bunker on the left 150ish yards from the green guards -- nothing.  Similarly, a large tree 100 yards short of the green on the right serves to block-out any approaches in the right half of the fairway.  Given the length of the hole and the location of the hazard near the green, I argue that the tree is nothing more than a penal feature that adds no strategic interest to the hole.

A hidden bunker, one of many hidden bunkers long of greens at King's Riding, seems to add nothing but maintenance expense...

Improved mowing lines and the removal of a few trees would go a long way to improving the strategic merit of King's Riding.


  1. Seems to me like the Humble Golfer should change his name to "the Know-It-All Golfer"

    1. I will take that as a compliment.

      Anything constructive to add?