The joy of discovery is a precious and Cool Golf Thing

Compelling golf is just around the corner.
The 7th green at Gator Trace Country Club is delightful, with a series of mounds along the right side. It's a reminder that even lesser-known (and often less-ballyhooed) courses can have interesting features.

For the past several years, I have been fortunate to play dozens of new-to-me (and sometimes new-to-the-world) golf courses each year, often in conjunction with trips to destinations around the country and wider world. Last year, I played 72 courses for the first time. This year, that number is 11, mostly pre-pandemic. I’ve always felt very fortunate to be able to travel and play golf as part of my livelihood. That feeling has never been stronger than over the last eight months, and it’s further increased my appreciation for the excitement of seeing a new course, especially close to home.

Take Gator Trace Country Club in Fort Pierce, Fla., for example. I stopped by on a whim last Friday after my car service appointment finished early. I was aware of the course but when asking around about it in the past, I never got the impression it was of much interest. Nevertheless, the excitement at the prospect of seeing a fresh set of golf holes exceeded any preconceived notions. I happily paid the $30 green fee.

My curiosity was rewarded. Gator Trace is not a world-beater; it was in somewhat scruffy shape and the layout is short and somewhat awkward, padded out to just over 6,000 yards to market itself as a “championship course” when the property would have been more suited to a 5,000-yard executive layout. But I was charmed by the greens Arthur Hills laid down there in 1985. Small surfaces, abrupt falloffs and rolled edges meant approach shots favoring a particular side of the fairway had a leg up on others. The 7th green, which sloughs off shots along the left edge, dazzled me with a series of waves along the right side. Then and there I knew I was getting my money’s worth.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
Commented on

Let’s face it: playing any new course involves risk. But I’m glad to see you calling attention to the importance of giving courses (like Gator Trace) a fair try with an open mind. Having played here long ago in 1993, I remember GT as a very entertaining and somewhat unpredictable 9-holer, a course that befit what Arthur Hills crafts so well. It surprised me that it was so strong, moreover, without benefit of an excellent site. Wanting to play it again two years ago, I couldn’t get a tee time on the day I tried (they were hosting a tournament).

I like to look for good courses like this back home in Connecticut, courses that may have been around from quite some time but often remain criminally underrated and underappreciated. But finding them seems to pay dividends, especially when—like Gator Trace—they’re reasonably priced. As you well put it, it’s not of utmost importance that these unlikely gems are perfectly conditioned, nor do they have to be “world-beaters.” What they do offer, in essence, is definitely enough.

Thanks for an incisive look at this sort of “precious and cool golf thing.” I do believe that a lot of golfers—and, actually, a sizeable number that review courses on this website—agree with your viewpoint. You’ve also directly put your finger on, I think, what sets Golf Advisor apart from the exclusive but ironically less insightful panel reviews or selections, which have long been the key modus operandi of publications like Golf Digest.

Great article.

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The joy of discovery is a precious and Cool Golf Thing