My lasting impression from Kinloch is that it was a fun golf course. Lots of double fairways where you can choose your own adventure, a few drivable par fours, and quite generous fairways. We played on a fairly gloomy October day after a week of rain. So, not only do the pictures below not do justice to the course, but it also tamed the greens down a bit for us. Even with the rain, the greens were still insanely fast--I can only imagine what they are like in the middle of summer. Like I have said in many posts, I love courses where the difficulty comes from the greens because it makes the course enjoyable for golfers of all skill levels. You would be hard pressed to shoot a really bad score at Kinloch. You may three putt a fair amount, but you are not going to spend your days hacking out of thick rough or searching for balls in the woods. Big fan of courses where it is fairly easy to avoid huge scores, but quite difficult to make really good ones.
The other memorable feature of Kinloch is that it is vast--winding over an enormous piece of property. There are only a few occasions where you are on a hole and can see another hole. The place where this primarily occurs is around a lake on the back nine. The par three fourteenth plays on one side of the lake and the par four sixteenth is on the opposite side. I found this setup quite enjoyable because you were able to clearly see this other part of the golf course, but still be separate from it.
My brother and I are so grateful to our host who allowed us to have such an awesome day. The tomato grilled cheese in the clubhouse was also one of the best pieces of food I have ever had at a golf course.
Now onto some individual holes.
1st--383 yard par four.
The first eases you into the round--just how I like it. Not much to the hole at all. Enormous fairway and a large green without much protection in the front--there is a bunker on the left, but you can still run it up to the green if you like.
2nd--340 yard par four.
This is the first place you see a double fairway. Going for the upper fairway requires you to challenge the bunkers, but, if you get up there, you will have an unobstructed entrance to the green. The lower fairway is much easier to hit, but the approach will have to carry a greenside bunker.
Aerial view of second hole.
3rd--523 yard par five.
The third was one of my favorite holes because of the pond in front of the green. Unless you are going for it in two, this hole should not be difficult. Hit it anywhere in the fairway (or rough), hit your 150 club, and leave yourself 100 yards into the green. Of course, somehow, all four of us found the pond in front of the green. The fun came from the fact that I knew this was a birdie hole. I was standing over my 100 yard third short directly in front of the pond and knew that I was either going to make a 4 or 5 or a 6 or 7. It turned out to be the latter (and the reason I did not break eighty on the day).
Pond in front of third green. Unfortunately I do not have a photo from directly in front of the pond because the challenge of the shot is much clearer from there.
4th--310 yard par four.
This was my favorite hole on the property. Another double fairway, but the kicker here is that if you hit the upper fairway in the correct spot, it will funnel your ball towards the green. My brother came up about 20 yards short. Not only does going for the upper fairway give you a shot at driving the green, but, if you come up short, you have an unobstructed view into the green. I had about 60 yards on my approach, punched it up there to about 25 feet (I actually left it in a bad spot above the hole), and, with a great read from my caddy, drained the birdie.
Aerial view of fourth hole.
The divide between the upper and lower fairways on four.
Inviting approach to four if you make the upper fairway. You can see my brother's ball in the distance just short of the green.
5th--165 yard par three.
This was probably my least favorite of the par threes. I do not remember this hole perfectly, but I believe the green was pretty crazy.
6th--370 yard par four.
Hardest hole on the course right here. The one thing I do not like about this hole is the fact that there really is no risk reward. Unless you can truly bomb it, you have to lay up short of the marsh with your 200 yard club. This makes it a difficult hole because you are hitting a 170 yard uphill shot to a tight, partially blind green. I think you should be able to hit driver on every par four or five--maybe doing so would not be the smart play, but that was not really an option here.
Approach to six.
Ravine in middle of sixth fairway.
7th--199 yard par three.
Kinloch does not have a ton of holes with drastic elevation change, but this is one example on this stellar downhill par three. The green complex is a wild one with a strong tilt in the green from right to left. Because of that, hitting the right bunkers leaves a near impossible up and down.
Me on the seventh tee.
8th--407 yard par four.
This is one of my favorite holes on the course and, in my opinion, the most difficult. The drive is fairly straightforward, but the approach to the green is no bargain. Immediately in front of the green is a pond and the area between the green and the pond is closely-mown such that any balls that come up short will roll back into the water. I hit a shot I was real proud of to 15 feet and then proceeded to three-putt.
Approach to eight.
Closer view of pond on 8.
9th--540 yard par five.
Another hole with a double fairway. In retrospect, I played the hole stupidly. Hitting the left fairway is not terribly difficult. The difficulty comes in clearing the marsh with your second shot (if you clear it you leave yourself about 100 yards into the green). The problem, though, is that clearing that marsh is no easy task and the reward is not that great. My brother an I both hit it into the marsh and dropped behind it--where we should have hit our second shots to begin with. From there, it is a 140 yard shot into the green. Play the hole like this--drive, 150 yard shot, 140 yard shot, and it is pretty easy.
Aerial view of ninth hole.
Approach to nine.
Approach to nine from directly before the marsh.
10th--405 yard par four.
There was nothing particularly noteworthy about this hole until you get to the green, which was diabolically fast even in the wet conditions. Not the strongest hole on the course, but no cake walk.
Approach to ten.
11th--467 yard par five.
Another one with a split fairway. On a dry day, I probably would have went for it in two. If you hit a good drive and it rolls out there 260, you will have to fly it 200 to the green. On a wet day, though, the creek that ran in front of the green was waiting to ruin what was turning into a strong round.
Aerial view of eleventh hole.
Eleventh tee with a stream dividing the fairways.
Approach to eleven.
Creek winding in front of eleven.
12th--415 yard par four.
This was probably my least favorite hole on the course. Not a lot going on--just a fairly long, uphill par four. Unlike almost every other hole on Kinloch, there was nothing particularly appealing to the eye on this hole.
Approach to twelve.
13th--520 yard par five.
This hole brings you down to the lake that will be central to several of the finishing holes. A good drive is useful here because it takes cross bunkers out of play--a bad drive will leave a longer and more difficult shot to clear those bunkers. The approach is slightly downhill to a green backed by the lake.
Approach to thirteen.
14th--130 yard par three.
Another fun, memorable hole. Love short par threes where the scenery threatens to steal your focus. The water to the left really should not be in play--that would be quite the pull for a 130 yard shot. However, what you do not see is the water over the green, which, if you thin it, is certainly in play. As I said in the introduction, for a course where the holes are usually secluded from one another, I enjoyed the course opening up a bit so you could see other holes, but, at the same time, keeping the holes separated by the water.
Brother on fourteenth tee with sixteenth green in background.
Water behind fourteenth green.
15th--300 yard par four.
Another drivable par four (yes, that is the third on the course). The tee shot is intimidating because you cannot see the landing area and the left side appears to be more trouble than it actually is. In reality, you just have to take your driver, hit it as hard as you can, and, as long as you do not go twenty yards one way or another, you should be fine. No reason not to rip it here. When you line up, there appears to be a tree directly in the middle of the fairway...and there is. A few yards left of the tree is probably ideal, but even if you nail the tree, you will still only have a half wedge into the green. The only real danger is ending up directly behind that tree and having to find a way around it.
Aerial view of fifteen.
Approach to fifteen with that pesky tree.
16th--390 yard par four.
This is likely the most recognizable hole from Kinloch. A dogleg left par four that wraps around the water. After playing it, the hole is not super hard. The drive should easily clear any trouble. The approach is uphill and visually scary because of the lake lurking on the left, but the shot is not too far, so you would really have to pull it to find the lake. Big fan of holes that are difficult because they look scary, but, in reality, are not as hard as they look.
Me on sixteenth tee.
Approach to sixteen.
View of fourteenth green from sixteenth fairway.
17th--175 yard par three.
This is a really strong way to close out Kinloch's par threes. Unfortunately, I did not get a great picture of this hole, so I am not representing it well. A stream slithers its way up the fairway. If you hit an ugly chunk shot, you risk finding the creek, but, if you hit it pure, but pull it left, there is a risk you will find it as well. The hole is also tough because if you come up short, there is a tight collection area that will leave you a ten yard chip up a steep slope....come up short and the ball will certainly be back at your feet. This is ranked as the fifth easiest hole on the course. Not sure that I agree with that assessment--there are many holes where I would feel more confident in walking off the green with a par.
18th--377 yard par four.
Great finishing hole--scenic, expansive views, and mid-level difficult (which makes a great way to settle a match). The hole shows itself to you from the tee. What is less apparent is the wild green with some intense contouring. I had to two-putt from approximately 50 feet to beat my brother, but the chances of two-putting on that green from that distance were about 1/10 and, sure enough, I three-putted.
Approach to eighteen.
Kinloch certainly deserves its lofty place in the rankings. There are very few throwaway holes--in my opinion, only the fifth and twelfth holes. Otherwise the course is chock-full of strong and/or unique holes. I love all the drivable par fours and the split fairways--gives you tons of options and scoring opportunities. Then, there are also just strong, straightforward golf holes--7, 8, 10, 14, 16, 17, and 18. And, if you are measuring courses by holes that will stick with you, there are a ton here--the drivable second and fourth, the pond on three, the par three fourteenth along the lake, the fifteenth with the tree in the fairway, the sixteenth around the lake, and the eighteenth with its elevated tee looking back at the lake and clubhouse. All of those will be in the memory bank for a long time.
Maybe the best praise I can give is that Kinloch ranks very highly on the "Courses I would Like to Play Everyday" list. Fun, beautiful, great conditioning, and a place that focuses exclusively on golf. Pretty close to perfection.