They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, which means several golf courses across the country are dolling out copious amounts of adulation. Of the many courses out there that feature a collection of replica holes—in some cases, a full layout of them—I’ve highlighted five that truly stand out. More specifically, I’ve spotlighted a single replica hole on each course that a prominent executive at the club deems to be the most successful in its mimicry.
Tribute Golf Links (The Colony, Texas)
Four holes into a round at Tribute Golf Links, players encounter the course’s first par three, a replica of the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon. When designing the course—or rather, when finalizing the layout—the club’s team designated this location as the ideal spot for the hole, since the area is strongly affected by the wind coming off nearby Lewisville Lake. “In calm conditions, you could easily make a two,” the club’s general manager Mike McCabe says. “But if the wind picks up, you could be holding on trying to get out of there with no more than a four or a five.”
Sounds like Royal Troon’s famous par three, doesn’t it? Just like across the pond, in calm conditions golfers might be flipping a gap wedge from off the tee on this short par three. Other times, they might be swinging hard with a 7-iron. The superintendent also maintains the course’s terrain to promote conditions that are as firm and fast as they can be—by American golf standards, anyway. “It can be a challenge to hold the green if you don’t strike your tee shot well,” McCabe acknowledges. “A slight mishit mixed with some wind and you won’t have a chance of holding that narrow green complex.”
Northern Bay Golf Resort & Marina (Arkdale, Wis.)
When players make the turn during their rounds on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, they’ll start thinking ahead to the course’s famous—or infamous—17th hole. By contrast, when players make the turn at Northern Bay Golf Resort, they’ll encounter a tribute to that hole right away. According to Derek Donovan, the resort’s head professional, this hole is the most life-like replica of the seven tribute holes on the course. As one might expect, Northern Bay’s island green requires players hit tee shots that are identical in distance to those found at TPC Sawgrass, but the club has also focused in on the details to ensure the experience is as authentic as possible. “We just re-did the collar this spring to make sure the soil and grass butt right up to the wood, ensuring your ball will roll off the green,” Donovan says. “While redoing the collar we did a bunker renovation to replicate what TPC Sawgrass has done to theirs.”
If there’s one difference between the two, Northern Bay has designated an area on the walkway to the green as the hole’s drop zone, which Donovan says is solely about speeding up pace of play. Something tells us that the decision hasn’t been met with much criticism, at least not from the players who are forced to utilize it.
Bear’s Best Las Vegas (Las Vegas, Nev.)
It stands to reason that every replica hole at Bear’s Best Las Vegas, located in Sin City’s Summerlin community, is a stellar rendition of the original hole that inspired it. After all, the course was conceived to be a “greatest hits” album of Jack Nicklaus’s design efforts over the years, and Nicklaus Design was hired to create the course. That said, the club’s general manager, Greg Brockelman, highlights the 4th hole—a tribute to the 7th hole at Old Works Golf Course in Montana—as an especially successful replica.
“This downhill par three provides a great view of the large putting surface and the striking black-sand bunkers, which are actually comprised of mining debris from the nearby operations,” Brockelman says. “It provides a striking contrast to the green grass and blue sky and provides a very different look to a traditional golf hole.”
The rendition at Bear’s Best plays slightly shorter from most of the tee boxes than the original hole does at Old Works; and as Brockelman acknowledges, golfers who are familiar with the original will notice that the drop in elevation from tee to green is more pronounced in Montana. Those minor discrepancies aside, the two holes are identical.
Donald Ross Memorial (Harbor Springs, Mich.)
Empowered by modern technology—CAD design programs and Google Earth, specifically—while also aided by Donald Ross’s original drawings, the team at The Highlands resort in Harbor Springs, Mich., are constantly refreshing the construction of the 18 tribute holes on the Donald Ross Memorial course to ensure they are as accurate as possible. Of those holes, the 15th, a replica of the 11th hole at Aronimink Golf Club outside of Philadelphia, is one that Bernie Friedrich, director of golf course renovation and development, believes is the most effective in its appearance and playability.
“The hole is radically different from our previous attempt,” he says, explaining that up until recently, the team was unaware how frequently the hole at Aronimink had changed over the last 90 years. When the resort committed to updating the hole, it did so by rebuilding the hole from scratch. “When we moved the green and hole to the left, we were able to put in a hillside, with a mound and trees behind the hole very similar to Aronimink,” he continues. “We even added some tall fescue behind the back bunkers, and we were able to build the green to the same height in relation to the fairway. The green slopes and size are literally the same.”
Tour 18 (Dallas, Texas)
Although the Tour 18 tribute course finishes with a trio of holes that replicate Amen Corner at Augusta National—complete with a Masters scoreboard behind the 16th green—Doug Wortman, the club’s director of golf, believes that the 9th hole, a replica of the island green at TPC Sawgrass, is likely the favorite hole on the course for regulars and first-time visitors to play. Visually, the hole effectively replicates the world-famous par three in Ponte Vedra Beach, but given its proximity to the clubhouse, the testing one-shotter also brings in an element of another famous TPC championship golf course. “This hole is on the backside of the clubhouse and is overlooked by our back patio,” says Wortman, “so everyone enjoys going out to watch, cheer, or heckle incoming players. It has almost a feel to it like the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale during the Waste Management Phoenix Open.”
Have you played an exceptional replica hole in your golfing career? Tell us about it in the comment section.