Desert golf, like the Nicklaus Course at PGA West, is scenic, but easy for the game's best.
It’s easy enough to tell when the best players in the world are competing on a difficult golf course.
Scores are the biggest indicator, of course, but snarls, grumbling and bad words are also tell-tale signs.
That’s not to say it’s all giggles when the PGA Tour players get on a course that’s not so stressful, i.e., easier. Good shots still have be hit, putts have to be made, but it’s a little easier to accomplish that on some of these course.
So which courses were the easiest in 2012?
Here’s a list of the top 10.
It can get windy in the desert, but it was very easy there this year.
One of three courses that annually host the Humana Challenge (formerly the Bob Hope Classic), the Nicklaus Private Course has the highest stroke (74.3) and slope (146) ratings of the three private courses at PGA West in the California desert.
At 6,924 yards, however, it has the honor of being the easiest course on the PGA Tour for the 2012 season.
The field averaged 69.33 strokes per round, 2.807 strokes under the par of 72.
Interestingly, the Nicklaus Course doesn’t lead PGA Tour stats in eagles and birdies (actually third least in each), but when the final scores were in, players beat par by the biggest margin there.
Plenty of distractions and birdies at Kapalua.
Could there possibly be a better way to start your season than by playing in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, a winners-only, limited-field event at the Plantation Course at Kapulua in Hawaii?
The only way it could be better is if the golf course was easy.
Well, that’s what the Plantation Course is: the second-easiest course on the PGA Tour.
It can play as long as 7,411 yards, plays to a par of 73 and last year’s winners beat up the place by shooting scores over two-and-a-half (2.556) strokes under par at 70.444.
There are some awe-inspiring views, dramatic elevation changes and some terrific scores.
Believe it or not, only four of the dreaded “others” were recorded there last January.
Just one of breath-taking sights at Torrey Pines North.
In San Diego, the Farmers Insurance Open is held each February on the Torrey Pines North and South Courses.
It’s very clear that the South is the championship layout and the North is more of a municipal-type layout that hosts Thursday and Friday rounds of the tournament. Ironic, too, that Torrey Pines’ signature hole is the sixth on the North Course.
Having said that, however, with all the beauty of the facility, the North was the third-easiest course on the PGA Tour.
Players averaged 69.551 on the North, 2.449 strokes below par.
It’s not a matter of length; the North measures 7,067 yards and plays to a par 72.
Pretty hard to beat the scenery at PGA West.
Another of the Humana Challenge hosts, the Palmer Course at PGA West is also a favorite of the guys who like to get their season off to a birdie-filled start.
Certainly not the longest course at 6,950 yards, the Palmer Course played to an average of 69.876, a solid 2.124 below par of 72.
So just what kind of things can happen on the Palmer Course? Do you remember 1999 when David Duval sprinted to a victory with a final-round 59?
The 18th hole at Annandale Golf Club presents high risk/reward.
Annandale Golf Club is Mississippi’s first world-class championship course thanks to a Jack Nicklaus design that’s plenty challenging, but also the kind of course that the pros can get at when conditions are right.
They were right this year when the pros made Annandale the fifth-easiest course on the PGA Tour. The pros put up 1,682 birdies over the four days of the tournament.
Annandale played to an average of 70.277, 1.723 under the par of 72.
The course has plenty of length at 7,202, but it surrendered the most eagles of any tournament during the year, 64.
Dark skies didn't prohibit a birdie fest at Crooked Stick.
Crooked Stick Golf Club is generally regarded as Pete Dye’s first great design. Built in 1964 in Carmel, Ind., this tract of flat Indiana farmland was transformed into a links-like design patterned after the designs of Alister Mackenzie, Donald Ross and C.B. MacDonald.
As host of the BMW Championship, the field of 70 of the best players in the world ate the place up, making it the sixth-easiest course on Tour this year.
On a course that featured a par of 72, at a length of 7,497 yards, the players averaged 70.536 per round, 1.464 strokes below par.
Fifty-five players finished the event under par. Phil Mickelson posted 28 birdies, and Bubba Watson put up a final-round 65.
Birdies are always bountiful at TPC at Deere Run.
The John Deere Classic has been held at the TPC at Deere since 2000 in a slot on the PGA Tour schedule just before the Open Championship.
Players who go to Silvis, Ill. know that birdies in bunches will be required to contend. Take this year, for instance.
There were 1,894 birdies and 5,198 pars were recorded there, highest in each category on this list. There were also 1,047 bogeys made, most of any course on the list.
That explains why TPC at Deere Run was only the seventh-easiest course and not much higher on that list. The field averaged 69.549 strokes per round,1.451 below the par of 71.
LaQuinta has some of the best golf course scenery anywhere.
The third host course of the Humana Challenge, LaQuinta Country Club, has been a host since 1964 when the tournament was called the Palm Springs Golf Classic, later to become the Bob Hope Classic.
This par 72, 7,060-yard desert beauty played to an average of 70.678,1.322 strokes below par, making it the eighth-toughest course on the PGA Tour in 2012.
On Sunday afternoon, the par 5 11th hole played to an average of 4.280 with one eagle and 54 birdies.
No gamble here, TPC Summerlin is a great place to go birdie hunting.
The Las Vegas stop on the PGA Tour, which has been contested under nine different names, is always a highlight on the players’ schedules.
TPC Summerlin is not all that far from the Las Vegas strip, the golf course is top-notch and really, what’s better than golf and wagering?
Summerlin plays to a par of 71 at 7,243 yards, but in 2012, the pros posted average scores of 69.713, 1.287 strokes below par, making it the ninth-easiest course on tour this year.
A whopping total of 1,679 birdies were registered this year there, 48 eagles, as well as 4,513 pars proved this course is a definite risk-reward paradise.
The risks? How about 19 of those “others," 101 double bogeys and 984 bogeys.
Trouble lurks everywhere at TPC Louisiana.
Another of Pete Dye’s creations rounds out the easiest 10 courses on the PGA Tour. Located not far from New Orleans in Avondale, the numbers say the course should be a big, brawny test for PGA Tour players.
Even with a par of 72 and yardage total of 7,425, the field averaged 70.998 strokes per round, which adds up to 1.002 strokes under par.
The course yielded the second-most birdies, 1,738, and the most pars, 5,287, of any of the courses on the list.
The other side of that is 137 double bogeys were made at the TPC Louisiana, the highest number on the list.