Geeked on Golf

A Celebration of the People & Places that Make Golf the Greatest Game


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 18 (Annual Volunteer Recap)

‘Tis the season for giving thanks.  My geeky heart is filled with gratitude for all of our volunteers who come out and give their time and labor to polish up this community golf gem of ours.

Our primary focus in 2017 was on the south end of the property – the Metra Loop.  We continue to bootstrap pilot projects to attempt to give our players and the community a sense of the potential for Canal Shores.  We realize that we are only scratching the surface relative to a full-scale renovation, but the progress and camaraderie that come from the work is tremendously rewarding.

More than worth the effort.

2017 PROJECTS AND VOLUNTEERS

Reclaiming the Ridgeline on the 15th

We kicked off the season wanting to complement the new bunkering and grass lines on #15 with a clearing and cleanup of the invasives along the ridgeline above the canal.  The Colfax Street neighbors came out in force and helped us knock out the entire project in one day.  They have been among our most active and supportive neighbors and we couldn’t appreciate them more.

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16th Hole South Bank

For the second straight year, a group of students from North Shore Country Day School made Canal Shores the subject of their senior service project.  Henry, Pierce, Will and Briggs carried on the tradition of making a difference by working with Steve Neumann on community outreach as well as diving in to clear the south side of the canal bank on #16.  They worked very hard and made a big difference.

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North Bank on the 16th

When my sons Jack and Henry learned about the work of the NSCDS dudes, they wanted in on the action.  Jack grabbed his friends Matt, Luke, and Charlie, and with an assist from Matt and Luke’s dad George, we cleared the north bank.  The goodness of these kids never ceases to amaze me.  When the work was finished, for the first time in years, the water and the entire 16th green were visible from the 16th tee.  A greatly enhanced experience for our players.

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The Stone Wall on the 16th

Our neighbor and volunteer John McCarron advocated for a clearing and repair of the old stone wall that borders the base for the train line.  The golf geeks, including members of the GolfClubAtlas community, got together and took care of the clearing, with an assist from Nels Johnson on the larger trees and stumps.   John then reached out to the Union-Pacific railroad, who agreed to repair the wall so that this special feature of Canal Shores remains intact for decades to come.

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16th Hole Finishing Touches

Our friends at the Northwestern University athletic department once again came out en masse for their community service day, and did the detail work on the south bank and along the wall.  They weeded, raked, picked up debris, and spread mulch.  After their hard work, we were able to seed along the wall and grow new turf, giving the approach a beautiful look.

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Behind the Green on the 16th

The golf geeks also cleared away the brush and invasives behind the 16th green, opening up a view to and from Noyes Street.  With help from the Evanston Forestry Department, trees were cleared and thinned bordering the sidewalk allowing for the removal of the old, chain link fence.  A donation from the Honorable Company of Reverse Jans Golfers allowed us to have our friends at Fenceworks install the wood round-rail that is now the signature look of our property border.

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The 16th Tee Path

Members of our Grounds Committee got out with volunteers and re-routed the walking path between the 15th green and 16th tee.  Not only did the end result look much better, it also directed commuters and other walkers to enter the property in a much safer spot than their traditional route of heading straight out in front of the 15th green.

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Clearing and Path Building on the 14th and 17th

The ETHS Boys Golf team brought out a huge crew of players, coaches and parents that took on clearing along the ridgeline on #14, clearing behind the 16th tee, and path building between the 16th hole and 17th tee. They did great work and took further ownership of their home course.

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14th Hole Bunker Rebuild

Another group of golf geeks, including Tony and Graylyn from Links Magazine, Andy from The Fried Egg, Peter from Sugarloaf Social Club, and Coore & Crenshaw shaper Quinn Thompson, joined our volunteers for a rebuild of the greenside bunkers left of the 14th green.  A great morning of work by kindred geeky spirits with a final product that adds flourish to the start of the Metra Loop.  Special thanks also to our Super Tony, Assistant Super John Lee and their crew for assisting with the work, and for keeping the sod alive.

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Reclaiming the Ridgeline on the 14th

We end the season where we began – taking back space above the ridgeline from invasives, this time on the 14th.  Our neighbors, volunteers and the golf geeks continue to assist in this effort, which in certain spots is extending down onto the canal bank.  Chilly temps, short days, and snowy skies have not deterred our army of buckthorn warriors from continued progress.

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This is by no means an exhaustive list of the contributions made during 2017.  Our volunteers, donors, staff, Board of Directors, and committee members worked tirelessly on many fronts to move Canal Shores forward.  During this season of thanks, I am grateful to be a part of this special movement.


More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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My Favorite Template with Brett Hochstein & Jon Cavalier

When it comes to golf course architecture, it doesn’t get much geekier than MacRaynor templates.  It should come s no surprise that I love the templates, and the one I love most of all is the Leven.  In an age when length is dominating the consciousness of the game, the Leven stands as a testament to strategic principles.  I have not yet met one that isn’t one of my favorite holes, and I wanted to learn more.

A good place to start is with George Bahto’s wonderful book about the life and work of C.B. Macdonald, The Evangelist of Golf.  In it, the Leven is described as follows:

“Leven is a short par 4, usually 330 to 360 yards.  Fairway bunker or waste area challenges golfer to make a heroic carry for an open approach to the green.  Less courageous line from the tee leaves golfer with a semi-blind approach over a high bunker or sand hill to the short side of the green.  Usually a moderately undulating surface with least accessible cup placement behind sand hill.”

An opportunity to dive even deeper arose when Architect Brett Hochstein (@hochsteindesign) recently visited Lundin Links, where Macdonald found his inspiration for the template.  Brett graciously contributed a terrific field report.  There is no bigger MacRaynor fan who I know than Jon Cavalier, and so of course, I hit him up to do a tour of Levens from his travels.  Many thanks to them both for helping expand our knowledge, and for indulging my geeky impulse.

Enjoy the Leven!


THE INSPIRATION

The Original ‘Leven’ by Brett Hochstein, Hochstein Design

Charles Blair MacDonald’s inspiration for his “Leven” template can be traced back to Scotland’s southern Fife coast, where a long stretch of linksland joins the two towns of Leven and Lundin Links.  Until 1909, the two towns and respective clubs shared 18 holes over the narrow strip of land known as the Innerleven Links.  It was at that point that increased play and congestion led to the decision to add holes inland and create two separate 18 hole courses, one for each of the towns.  What would later become known as the Leven template was actually on the Lundin Links side of the split and would permanently become the 16th hole (it was the 7th when starting from the Leven side of the links).

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The original Leven, known to the Lundin Golf Club as “Trows,” is somewhat hard to figure out upon first sight.  For one, the green is barely visible behind a hill offset to the left, and only just the top of the flag can be seen from the elevated medal (back) tees.  From the left forward tees, it would not be out of question to think upon first glance that the hole plays to the nearby 2nd green on the right.  It is this blindness though, along with a burn (stream) running diagonally across the landing area, that give the hole its unique strategy that would be replicated numerous times by Macdonald, Seth Raynor, and others.

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From the back tee

The hole is not very long, especially by today’s standards, but it is all about placement of the tee shot.  The hill that fronts the green causes two problems: discomfort with the lack of sight and a downslope covered in rough that will either snag short shots or kick them forward and through the green.  The hill is slightly offset from the fairway though, which leaves a little opening from the right side where a ball could either bounce on or settle safely short.  Generally, the further right and further down the hole you are, the more the green opens up and comes into sight, making the shot both easier and more comfortable.  So, play it long and down the right side.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Of course, it wouldn’t be quite as interesting of a hole if just for that.

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Photo from Lundin Golf Club website

The aforementioned burn runs across the hole on a diagonal going from closer left to further right before curling up the right side the rest of the way.  This puts it much more in play around the ideal landing area, either punishing or rewarding the more aggressive play further down the right.  A more conservative play short and left will result in a blind, often downwind shot over more of the grassy hill with no room to land the ball short.

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Short of the burn

For the shorter players laying up short of the burn, the approach or layup is a difficult one, as the fairway beyond the burn slopes left to right with the green sitting high and left.  A well-played shot drawing into the slope though will find a narrow upper plateau, and if long enough and properly shaped, may even find the green itself.

This narrow plateau is also the ideal landing area for the long hitter (excepting those 300 yard drivers who can just go after the green, which would be very tough to pull off but certainly fun to try).  Getting to this plateau needs either a laser straight carry of about 220 yards or a helping draw played into the slope.  Draw it too much though, and the left rough and hill is jail.  Drift a little too far right and catch the slope, and the ball will kick down into the right rough while also bringing the right greenside bunker more into play.

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From the lower fairway right

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Short of the green on the plateau left-center

The green isn’t overly large and is defended by four bunkers that are almost evenly spaced around the perimeter.  The right greenside bunker is the most important as it guards the right side entry and punishes players who go too long down the right side of the hole. The back and left bunkers prevent players from playing too safely over the hill.  They actually sit a little bit above the green, which makes for an awkward and difficult to control recovery shot.  The putting surface itself is not overly wild with contouring but has some nice internal variation to keep things interesting.  It has a slight overall right to left slope as well, which gives a little help for those trying to navigate around the front hill to find a left hole location.

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Behind the green looking back

I found the 16th at Lundin to be a very clever and simple hole utilizing two natural features to perfect harmony.  It is no wonder MacDonald used this hole to inspire one of the more strategically interesting holes at the highly strategic National Golf Links, the short 17th named “Peconic.”  If I had a criticism of this original “Leven,” though, it would be to open up more of the right side beyond the burn crossing.  The reward is greater the further right one hugs the creek, which is a good risk/reward dynamic.  

Making the hole too easy would not be much of an issue either as someone who carelessly bombs it too far down the right would be punished by having to negotiate the front right green side bunker and a green that falls away from that angle.  The problem with this is most likely safety related, as the 2nd green sits just across the burn and in the danger zone of long wayward tee shots.  The 17th tee, which is located to the right of the 16th green, also complicates issues by coming more into play the further right and down the hole you are.  Thus, you have the rough and a bunker that has been added sometime after the 2006 aerial that Google Earth provides.  In that aerial, it also looks possible that the rough was mowed down in that area and was possibly even fairway.  Even considering the issues, I would still love to see the extra width.  

As it is though, this is a great hole and one that would be fun to play on a daily basis, especially during a dry summer with a trailing wind, both of which would make the hill fronting the green exponentially more difficult to navigate.  Even when calm though, the hole’s short length is negated by the burn, sloping fairway, and bunkers, which all make the ideal second shot landing areas effectively small and difficult to find.  Play aggressively, and a punishment is likely.  It is vexing on its own, but coupling that with the variable and often strong Scottish wind leaves you with a hole where you are very happy to run away with a 4.  

 

Restraint and thought are two skills not often tested enough in golf, especially in modern design.  The 16th at Lundin Links tests both, and that is its greatest quality.  


THE TEMPLATES

These photos and descriptions originally appeared on Jon’s wonderful Twitter series #TemplateTuesday.  Follow Jon at @LinksGems.

(click on photo collages to enlarge)

The 5th at Chicago Golf Club

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The superb 5th at Chicago Golf, which proves that a great hole does not require unique, or even interesting, terrain – only the imagination of a great architect.

The 6th at The Course at Yale

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The 6th at Yale, a dogleg left, has been blunted somewhat over time – a restoration would do wonders for this hole.‬

The 11th at St. Louis Country Club

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St. Louis CC’s 11th plays from an elevated tee to an uphill fairway, illustrating the adaptability of this template.‬

The 16th at Blue Mound Golf & Country Club

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Blue Mound has several excellent templates, and its 16th, guarded by a large mound and bunker, is no exception.‬

The 13th at Old Macdonald

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The template remains relevant today, as seen in modern renditions of this like Old Mac’s 13th.‬

The 14th at Mid Ocean Club

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Mid Ocean’s 14th drifts right, forcing the player left toward fairway bunkers for an optimum angle of approach.‬

The 12th at Fox Chapel Golf Club

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Fox Chapel’s 12th is one of the most dramatic versions of this template, built across heaving land with a severe falloff right.‬

The 2nd at Yeamans Hall Club

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The 2nd at Yeamans Hall is a more subtle rendition of the template, reflecting its bucolic, lowcountry setting.‬

The 14th at Camargo Club

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The uphill 14th at Camargo lacks the typical fairway bunkering but maintains the same strategic principles.‬

The 3rd at Shoreacres

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Shoreacres’s 3rd is a terrific example of a Leven hole built across flat ground; this green is also exceptional.‬

The 5th at Boston Golf Club

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The best iteration of a modern Leven style hole is the 5th at Boston GC – strategic considerations abound on this par-4.‬

The 17th at National Golf Links of America

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Saving the best for last, the 17th at NGLA is the paradigmatic Leven, and one of the greatest hols in the world.

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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LinksGems Birthday Tribute to C.B. Macdonald

A BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE TO CHARLES BLAIR MACDONALD

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Happy 162nd birthday to the Godfather of American Golf, Charles Blair Macdonald.

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On November 14, 1855, Charles Blair Macdonald was born in Ontario.  After growing up in Chicago, he attended St. Andrews University, where he learned golf from Old Tom Morris.  In 1874, he returned to Chicago but rarely played golf until 1891, calling these years his “dark ages.”

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In 1892, Macdonald founded the Chicago Golf Club, and built nine rudimentary golf holes in Downers Grove, IL.  In 1893, he expanded the course, creating the first 18 hole course in the US.  Parts of this course still exist as Downers Grove Golf Club.

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In 1895, the Chicago Golf Club moved from its original location to a site in Wheaton, IL, where Macdonald once again built an 18-hole course for the club. Nearly 125 years later, CGC still occupies this land.

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In 1894, both St. Andrew’s Golf Club (pictured) and Newport Country Club held national tournaments.  After finishing second in both, an angry Macdonald criticized the events, and set about forming a uniform body to govern the game in the US.

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In 1895, representatives from Newport Country Club, Shinnecock Hills, The Country Club, St. Andrew’s and Chicago Golf Club (represented by Macdonald himself) formed the United States Golf Association.  Macdonald then won the inaugural U.S. Amateur at Newport, later that year.

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In 1900, Macdonald left Chicago for New York, and almost immediately began searching for a site upon which to build his vision of the perfect golf course.  In 1906, he settled on a parcel in Southampton, NY, and founded the National Golf Links of America.

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Macdonald’s vision was to build the greatest golf course in the country.  In doing so, he modeled many of his holes on strategic principles and concepts of the best holes in the British Isles.  These “templates” would become a hallmark of his designs.

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Macdonald hired Seth Raynor to survey and plot the land on which the National would be built.  Soon after, however, Macdonald put the talented Raynor in charge of all construction, forming a partnership that would change American golf.

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When it opened in 1909, National Golf Links of America was immediately and universally recognized as the greatest course in the country, and one of the best in the world.  It remains so to this day.

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Macdonald would continue to care for and tweak his beloved National, living nearby at his estate, Ballyshear, for the next 30 years.  The property, now owned by Michael Bloomberg, includes replicas of the Redan 4th and Short 6th holes.

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Macdonald and Raynor collaborated on many other projects over the years until Raynor’s premature death in 1926, including an earlier design of Shinnecock Hills.  Six Macdonald/Raynor holes survive today, including the famed Redan 7th.

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Shortly after National opened, Macdonald was persuaded by several wealthy friends to build a course for Piping Rock Club.  Here, he built the first rendition of his par-3 Biarritz template, one of four templates, along with Redan, Eden and Short, he used on nearly all his courses.

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Next, Macdonald built the original course for Sleepy Hollow Country Club.  Later, the club hired A.W. Tillinghast to expand and revise the course, and several Macdonald holes were lost.  The club, with Gil Hanse, is currently renovating the Tillinghast holes in a Macdonald style.

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In 1914, Macdonald returned to the Midwest and built the course at St. Louis Country Club.  Although Macdonald and Raynor remained largely true to form, dutifully building Short, Redan, Eden and Biarritz par-3s, they added a 5th unique par-3, which they called “Crater.”

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In 1914, Macdonald designed the Old White Course at Greenbrier Resort.  Seth Raynor would later design the Lakeside Course (1923) and the Greenbrier Course (1924) at the resort.  Old White remains one of the few ways the general public can play a Macdonald design.

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In 1918, Macdonald designed the Lido Club, which was situated at Lido Beach on the southern shore of Long Island.  By all accounts, the course was magnificent – Bernard Darwin called it the best in the world.  That it no longer exists is one of the great tragedies in golf history.

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In 1923, Macdonald designed The Creek on Long Island’s North Shore.  One of Macdonald’s more dramatic sites, the course begins with five holes atop a hill before plunging down to Long Island Sound for the remainder.  The club is nearing the end of a restoration by Gil Hanse.

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In 1924, Macdonald built his only course outside the US, in Tucker’s Town, Bermuda.  In addition to its incredible beauty, Mid Ocean Club offers up some of Macdonald’s best templates, led by the par-4 5th hole, the best Cape he ever built, and one of the finest holes in the world.

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In 1924, Macdonald and Raynor began work on the Course at Yale University.  The most dramatic of their remaining courses, Yale is golf at its most bold, challenging golfers in a direct and uncommon manner.  As a result, the course is controversial: loved by many, hated by some.

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On January 23, 1926, having spent half of his life designing and building golf courses, including over 100 of his own, Seth Raynor died at 51.  Although Macdonald continued to work on the National, he never built another course after the loss of his partner and dear friend.

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During his final decade, Macdonald continued to improve his beloved National Golf Links of America, moving greens, adding and removing bunkers, and shifting and lengthening holes to ensure that the course remained a challenge for the best players of the day.

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On April 23, 1939, Charles Blair Macdonald died in Southampton, NY, at the age of 83.  He was interred in Southampton, just a lag putt from his close friend and partner, Seth Raynor, ensuring that the two remain close even in death.

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Over the course of his life, Macdonald was an Amateur Champion, a successful businessman, a founding member of the USGA, architect of some of the world’s best courses, and author of Scotland’s gift.  Here’s to you, C.B., on your 162nd birthday.

From golfers everywhere, thanks.

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Old Macdonald Course Tour by Jon Cavalier

OLD MACDONALD – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION

Bandon Dunes Resort, Bandon, OR – Tom Doak & Jim Urbina

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Old Macdonald is the most recently opened course at Bandon Dunes, but it is already considered by many to be the best.  The course is intended as an homage to the architectural principles of Charles Blair Macdonald.  As such, it is not a replica course, but rather uses the architectural templates of the Macdonald / Raynor / Banks school and adapts them as needed to fit the land, much in the same way that Macdonald himself (and later Raynor and Banks) did.

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As stated in the yardage guide, “The goal has been not to copy Macdonald’s great holes any more than Macdonald would have settled for carbon copies of the Alps and Redan – but to borrow upon his inspiration and method for our own fine piece of links ground.  Those familiar with Macdonald’s work will compare and contrast his holes and our own with their forefathers at St. Andrews, Leven, and Littlestone; others will have the chance to experience for the first time these classic concepts which are the very foundation of the game.”

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Drawing upon their extensive experience in restoring the classic work of Macdonald and Raynor, Doak and Urbina set about building a course that would allow players to experience this classic golden age style of design while independently providing a fun and engaging golf experience.  The result is an absolute triumph.

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As a devout Macdonald/Raynor fan, I loved Old Macdonald.  It was a thrill playing the modern adaptations of the Macdonald templates in such an incredible setting.  But I also played a round with three people who had never heard of C.B. Macdonald, and two proclaimed Old Macdonald their favorite course at Bandon.

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At over 250,000 square feet, the greens at Old Macdonald are by far the largest in the United States.  Coupled with the firm conditions and tight fairways, Old Macdonald allows for use of the ground game like few courses this side of the Atlantic.  The golf course is a blast to play, and is proof positive that the classic principles of design are more than adequate to provide an engaging experience when adapted to modern standards.

OLD MACDONALD

Old Macd occupies the northernmost part of the property at Bandon.  Its clubhouse is about 5 minutes by shuttle from the main resort.

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Hole 1 – 304 yards – Par 4 – “Double Plateau”

No hiding the ball at Old Macdonald – the player sees just what he’s in for right from the start: namely, super-wide fairways and expansive greens.  The course begins inland of a massive line of gorse-covered dunes, which obscure the majority of the course to the west.

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The course begins with a favorite template of many C.B. Macdonald fans — the double plateau.  Fortunately, the pin on this huge green is visible from the tee, allowing the player to pick the preferred angle of approach.  The middle fairway bunkers are in play for mid- to long-hitters.

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The elevation changes in the faithfully recreated double plateau green are dramatic.  A principal’s nose bunker guards the front left of the green.  Another bunker catches balls that run through the valley in the green.

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A fun opener, and a great hole to set the tone for the round.

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Hole 2 – 162 yards – Par 3 – “Eden”

The largest Eden green I’ve ever seen, and a beautiful par-3 in its own right, the third is guarded on the left by a rough bunker and in the middle-right by the deep, revetted Strath bunker that plays much larger than its actual footprint.

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This bunker collects balls from far and wide.  The contouring and elevation change in this massive green are tremendous.

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Eden indeed.

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Hole 3 – 345 yards – Par 4 – “Sahara”

One of your author’s favorite holes at Bandon, the third offers a unique and compelling take on the Sahara template.  It calls for a completely blind tee shot over the sand dune to a wide fairway shared with the fourteenth hole.  Anything from a ball to the left of the cedar to the right side of the exposed sand is playable.

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The old Port Orford Cedar stands sentry at the top of the bluff, and lords over most of the round at Old Mac.  The tree is visible from nearly the entire course.

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Once the player crests the dune, the huge expanse of Old Macdonald is revealed.  Parts of every hole on the golf course are visible from this spot.

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Good drives on the proper line will catch the slope of this heavily contoured fairway and may tumble down to within putting distance.

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It can be difficult to tell where the fairway ends and the huge green begins.

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A look back up the incomparable third fairway.

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Hole 4 – 472 yards – Par 5 – “Hog’s Back”

So nice to see a well-executed version of the Hog’s Back template.  Here, a drive that remains on top of the centerline ridge will kick forward for more distance, while tee shots to the side will tumble down into the valleys, leaving a blind shot from an often crooked lie.

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While the fairway is wide as a whole, the hog’s back itself is fairly narrow.  But hitting it provides a valuable benefit on this long par 4 hole.

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A nasty center bunker waits in the middle of the fairway some 50 yards short of the green . . .

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. . . while a catch basin waits to collect approaches left short of the putting surface.

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A superb half-par hole.

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Hole 5 – 134 yards – Par 3 – “Short”

The shortest hole at Old Macdonald, and one of the largest greens you’ll ever see.  Look at all those potential pin placements!

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This mammoth green has a bit of curl to it as well.

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This is probably the easiest pin on this green, and one of the only flattish spots on which to putt. A lovely rendition of the short template.

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Hole 6 – 520 yards – Par 5 – “Long”

The longest hole on the course follows the shortest.  Playing directly into the prevailing summer wind, the sixth forces the golfer to decide whether to take on Hell Bunker with their second shot.

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Hell Bunker dominates the second shot and obscures the view of the green from most parts of the fairway.

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The bunker is aptly named – your author speaks from experience.

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The sixth traverses some of the least interesting land on the property, and it is a credit to Doak and Urbina that the result is one of the most interesting holes on the course.  A large knob guarding the green front right makes the approach from the right side blind and redirects shots left short in all directions.

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This large bunker center rear catches any approach that runs through the front-to-rear sloping green.  It is not an ideal place to be — again, your author speaks from experience.  Twice.

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Like the fifth, the sixth green is a masterwork.

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Hole 7 – 345 yards – Par 4 – “Ocean”

The seventh is one of the few holes at Old Macdonald not based on a Macdonald template, and it is also one of the best holes on the property.  The drive out into a wide, rippling fairway is all about positioning, and avoiding the deep fairway bunker to the left of the large hill on which the green sits.

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The size and steepness of this dune is difficult to grasp from a photo, but the relative size of the flagstick gives an idea of its massive scale.  Any approach left short will tumble all the way back down until it hits a bunker or reaches the bottom of the hill.

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Tough pin today.  Though the green is large, it also contains a fair amount of slope.  Chipping to this pin from the back of the green is terrifying.  A tough par.

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Until the seventh, the course plays mostly inland away from the ocean.  This aptly named hole gives the golfer his first real taste of the sea.  For a golfer on a first time trip to Bandon and who happens to play Old Macdonald first (as did your author), the feeling of ascending to the seventh green rivals any in golf.

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Sidebar – Tom Doak’s Sheep’s Ranch

After playing the seventh, if the golfer looks upshore to the north, a beautiful view of Tom Doak’s mysterious Sheep’s Ranch is provided (along with a view of a hell of a lot of gorse).

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Hole 8 – 170 yards – Par 3 – “Biarritz”

There remain several great Biarritz holes in the country – the ninth at Piping Rock, the ninth at Yale and the fifth at Fishers Island are a few of the best.  In your author’s opinion, the eighth at Old Macdonald can stand with any of the holes in this group.  It is an exceptional example of the Biarritz template.

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The front portion of this large Biarritz green is sloped toward the swale, to encourage shots that run down and through the trough.

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The wide channel bisecting the eighth green.

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Shorter hitters can use the back of the knob front left of the green for extra forward kick.  A wonderfully fun hole to play.

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Hole 9 – 352 yards – Par 4 – “Cape”

The ninth turns back in a southerly direction and begins a sequence of holes that plays back and forth across the open area of the property.  The ninth curves gently right around some rugged bunkers and gorse bushes.

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These bunkers are nasty.  In fact, missing the fairway right at the ninth is one of the few places on Old Macdonald where a golfer can lose a ball.

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Playing out to the left leaves a longer approach but a better angle up the open mouth of this green.

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The contours within the ninth green provide a challenge as well as an aid in directing greenside shots and putts toward or away from the intended target.

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Hole 10 – 440 yards – Par 4 – “Bottle”

The tenth plays to one of the widest fairways on the golf course, but the large fairway is dotted with four penal bunkers that run from short left to long right.  Care must be taken to challenge the bunker suitable for the individual golfer’s abilities.

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The bunkers crossing the fairway are deep and high lipped – playing out backward is sometimes the only play.

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The difficult green is set atop a small dune, with the surface falling away to the right of the green.  The land allows a running approach up the left side, which will catch a slope and redirect to the center of the green.  But anything short right will bound down the hill and away from the putting surface.

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This view from the side of the green shows the substantial high right to low left tilt.  An overly conservative miss to the left side of this green leaves a treacherous putt.

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Hole 11 – 399 yards – Par 4 – “Road”

If ever there was a hole where the position of the tee shot mattered, this is it.  If the pin is right, play right.  If it’s left, play left.  Note that the fairway is wider than it appears, as the gorse bushes down the right side come to a halt short of where many players can carry their drives.

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This angle, from the right of the fairway, is the ideal position for today’s pin.  While the player must still contend with the substantial false front, he is also afforded the widest angle into the green and can play away from the deep revetted bunker.

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This position, on the other hand, is not ideal.  Note that it is not simply the deep bunker that provides the thrills here, but the brilliantly constructed green.

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A look back down the long eleventh green.

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Hole 12 – 205 yards – Par 3 – “Redan”

Playing with the prevailing summer wind, this classic redan green can be difficult to hold even with well struck approach shots.

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Running the ball on to this green is possible, and in some cases, preferred.  The redan kick slope impacts balls that land on the green or short of it.

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Everyone loves a well designed Redan, and the twelfth at Old Macdonald fits the bill.

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Hole 13 – 319 yards – Par 4 – “Leven”

This short par four plays to a green squeezed between two dunes.

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While the safer play is down the bunkerless left side of the fairway . . .

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. . . the right provides the better angle into this severely sloping and heavily contoured green.

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The large wraparound berm that runs down the left side and around the back of this green provides a backstop that allows the player to bring an approach shot back to the center of the green.

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Even approach shots that land halfway up the left dune will bound happily back on to the green.  A fun, exciting hole.

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Hole 14 – 297 yards – Par 4 – “Maiden”

A short par four with a gargantuan fairway, the fourteenth plays back up the massive dune that the player initially crossed while playing the third hole.  The player can play as aggressively left or as conservatively right as he chooses.

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The inclined fairway is rippled throughout, adding a degree of challenge to what is typically a wedge approach.

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The wide, shallow fourteenth green is benched into the side of the massive dune.

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The back to front slope and internal contours of the fourteen provide an added element of difficulty on an otherwise short hole.

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Hole 15 – 482 yards – Par 5 – “Westward Ho”

The aptly named fifteenth hole turns once more toward the sea.  From a tee high on the face of the dune, the fifteenth falls to the valley below and swings right around a deep sandy scar.

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This par 5 is reachable in two for longer hitters.

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But care must be taken to avoid the fairway bunker short and right of the green.

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Not where you want to be.

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The green is backstopped by the top of the dune which separates the seventh green complex from the fifteenth.

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Shots that roll through the green are gathered by this grassy trench, a nifty little feature which illustrates the care that went into designing the greens at Old Macdonald.

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A very beautiful and enjoyable hole.

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Hole 16 – Par 4 – 433 yards – “Alps”

The sixteenth tee is the northwesternmost point at the Bandon Dunes resort, and begins the sweeping trek homeward.

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The large encroaching dune provides the “Alps” feature here, and renders blind all but the longest tee shots that squeak past it on the right.

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The view of the ‘Alps” feature from the middle of the fairway.  The directional post on top gives the player a general idea of the line to the center of the green.

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The beautifully-sited sixteenth green, nestled between a surrounding ring of dunes, is revealed upon passing the dune.  The green is partially backstopped to contain long approaches.

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The view from behind this exceptional hole reveals the short grass behind the alps feature that can assist shorter hitters in reaching this green in two.  While this hole remains controversial to some who are not familiar with Macdonald’s Alps template, it is surely a favorite of those who are.

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Hole 17 – 515 yards – Par 5 – “Littlestone”

Playing with the prevailing summer wind, the seventeenth is reachable in two for players willing to challenge the hazard reaching into the right portion of the fairway.  While the fairway does provide ample room, this is one of the more intimidating tee shots on the course.

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If these bunkers can be avoided, a good score is likely on this hole.

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If not, unlikely.

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In your author’s opinion, Old Macdonald closes with two of the best greens on the property.  The seventeenth is fronted by a bunker and a slope that will either facilitate a ball to a back pin or kick it past a front pin.  Exposed knobs right, left and behind this green lend their substantial influence to the putting surface.

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The view from the back portion of the sizable seventeenth green illustrates the beauty of the setting.

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Hole 18 – 426 yards – Par 4 – “Punchbowl”

The final tee shot at Old Macdonald must avoid the fairway bunkers on both sides.  Any tee shot on grass will have a good look at this last green.

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And what a green it is.  Ringed with mounding, the eighteenth green slopes several feet from its elevated left side to its lower right.  Long approach shots can be hit into the mouth of this green on the left and run all the way down to today’s pin in the bottom right corner.

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The view from the right rear of the punchbowl reveals the tumbling slope of the putting surface.

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Having walked right past this green on the way to the first tee, the golfer has been anticipating playing it since the beginning of the round.  The experience more than lives up to billing.

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Old Mac is the rare course that would be both a thrill to play once and an enjoyable experience to play every day.  For lovers of classic, golden age architecture, it provides an opportunity to see those principles interpreted and adapted by the brightest minds in modern golf architecture.  For those that aren’t, the course is simply a fun, unique and beautiful place to play golf.  In either regard, Old Macdonald is a resounding success.

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I hope you enjoyed the tour!


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Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Boston Twofer – Boston Golf Club & Essex County Club

With this season’s Noreaster heading back to Long Island, I found myself longing for golf in Boston by mid-summer. Work afforded an opportunity to make it to Beantown, and I was able to line up visits to my two of my favorite courses – Boston Golf Club and Essex County Club – with buddies Peter Korbakes (@sugarloafsocialclub) and John Coffey (@jwjava). The perfect company for a quick-hit golf adventure.

My hole-by-hole photos and commentary are below, and I enlisted Jon Cavalier (@linksgems) for a feature photo for each hole. He captured a wonderful set of autumn shots that contrasts beautifully with my summer photos, illustrating just how much visual range these courses possess.


BOSTON GOLF CLUB

Boston GC is among my favorite modern golf courses. Why? Gil Hanse took a wild piece of land, and instead of attempting to tame it, he embraced the wildness. The course is a thrill ride, but it never goes over the top. There are birdies to be had when shots are played with creativity and confidence. Throw in holes like Shipwreck, which are among the most unique I have ever seen, and you have a truly special golf course.

(click on circle images to enlarge)

HOLE 1 – Par 5 – 485 yards – Three Creek

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A blind tee shot is followed by the temptation to have a go at the elevated green fronted by a wetland and bunkers. BGC’s opener tells the player everything they need to know about the strategic adventure ahead. The wild ride begins…

HOLE 2 – Par 4 – 407 yards – Mt. Rushmore

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Giving new meaning to the saying, between a rock and a hard place, the second plays between a rocky hill and nasty bunkers. There is room to play from the tee on every hole at BGC, but Gil Hanse did a masterful job throughout of making it appear as if there is no safe line to take. The pronounced undulation of the fairway runs seemlessly into the green.

HOLE 3 – Par 4 – 420 yards – Redan

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Most of the landing area on the 3rd is obscured from the tee. Cresting the hill, players find their drives along with a stunning scene. A valley short must be carried to reach the green that has a high slope front left, bunkers behind, and a sharp fall-off right. Bunkers lurk behind, and the green slope feeds toward them. One of BGC’s many wonderfully creative green sites.

HOLE 4 – Par 4 – 413 yards – Wizard’s Cap

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A walk through the woods brings the player to this two-shooter named after a distinctive tree behind the green. The drive is semi-blind over a centerline bunker. The approach is no picnic either, requiring the player to hit the right section to avoid a 3 (or even 4) putt. The slopes and shelves on the 4th green are death for wayward approaches, but oh what a beautiful way to die.

HOLE 5 – Par 4 – 313 yards – Shipwreck

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This shorty starts with a blind uphill drive that must flirt with disaster right to have any chance at an angle into one of the narrowest greens you’ll ever see. Being even slightly out of position puts the player on the defensive trying to manufacture par. Danger lurks behind the raised green. This hole is among the most original and creative I have ever seen. Kudos to Gil Hanse for his willingness to polarize. Count me among the lovers of this maddening little four par.

HOLE 6 – Par 3 – 157 yards – Wild Turkey

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A carry over a wild landscape created by repurposing a quarry confronts players as they walk dumfounded off the 5th green. The hole’s two sections, left and right, play quite differently in terms of angle and distance. When coupled with the oft-swirling wind, those sections provide wonderful day-to-day variety. For players who can do no better than an indifferent tee ball – all manner of nastiness imaginable awaits short of the green.

HOLE 7 – Par 4 – 423 yards – Penniman Hill

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A fun two-shotter, the seventh has bunkering galore up the right side that is anything but fun. Steer clear of those bunkers and all that’s left to tackle is the false-fronted, amply sloped green perched on the ridgeline. Easy peezey, right?

HOLE 8 – Par 3 – 210 yards – Bent Pine

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From the tee, it appears as though there is no safe place to hit the tee shot on this three par. The sandy waste that must be carried is visual subterfuge however, as it turns out that there is plenty of fairway short, and a receptive green. When the mind plays tricks on the 8th, focus the eyes on the ghost tree behind the green and swing away. A birdie putt awaits.

HOLE 9 – Par 4 – 440 yards – Geronimo

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The tee is perched high above the fairway that doglegs left around a wetland, and then drops a step down to a large, undulating green. A wonderfully unique and stout conclusion to the outward half.

HOLE 10 – Par 4 – 390 yards – Mae’s

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The inward nine begins with a semi-blind tee shot playing downhill to a fairway that is interrupted by steep drop-off. A safe play out to the left is an option, but brings both bunkers into play and leaves a poor angle into the green, which runs away. Center tee shots give a better look, but it is a look right into the mouth of the nasty little pot bunker front-center. The tenth might be short on yardage, but it is long on challenge. Mae Ovaska owned the house to the right of the tenth hole, and her land extended across what is now the tenth fairway. She was reluctant to sell her land, but John Mineck’s charm won her over. The hole is named in her honor.

HOLE 11 – Par 3 – 178 yards – Petrified

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This picturesque one-shotter plays over a wetland to a heavily contoured green set against a hillside. Getting a great photo is by far the easiest thing about the eleventh. The putting surface is both canted and contoured. A good spot for a playing partner who believes in a wide circle of friendship.

HOLE 12 – Par 4 – 424 yards – Gate

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The tee shot is played over a stone wall that pays tribute to the love poured into BGC by its founder, to a landing area that is wider than it looks. The fairway narrows further up with bunkers left and center. The real challenge of the 12th is at the green that sits atop a saddle with closely mown runoffs front and back. Many a hopeful round has gone down in flames at this very spot. Imagine standing greenside, as your playing partners’ chips run back and forth over, and then off, this green. Once you see it, it’s hard to wipe the memory from your mind. Good luck with that next approach of your own!

HOLE 13 – Par 4 – 459 yards – Knuckle Bucket

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This elegant four-par bends right over gently rolling terrain to a large green with plenty of slope and contour. The simple holes are often among my favorites, and the thirteenth is no exception. An impulse which I can certainly understand, Mr. Mineck wanted to build one bunker himself. Behind the 13th green, well behind it, is where Gil Hanse let him scratch his itch.

HOLE 14 – Par 4 – 418 yards – Big Sky

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The tee shot plays down into a wide valley, but the hole narrows with flanking bunkers as it heads down to the green. The ground level putting surface, set into a cozy nook, allows for all manner of aerial or ground approaches. With tumbling fairway and artful bunkering, I like this hole MUCH more than it likes me.

HOLE 15 – Par 5 – 545 yards – Coyote Trail

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The imposing tee shot plays uphill to a landing area that looks much smaller than it is. The second plays over a sandy wash up to the top of roller coaster hill, and then down to a contoured, tiered green set in a hollow. Too many decisions and options to count on this visually stunning and wildly creative hole. Too many putts to count as well, if your approach fails to find the right section of the green.

HOLE 16 – Par 4 – 340 yards – Principal’s Nose

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The namesake center fairway bunker gets the attention on this hole, and fairly so. It poses an interesting question of positioning for which there are multiple answers. However, it is really the small green and surrounding bunkers that require the player’s strategic attention. Bad approach distances and angles can result in severe punishment. The artistry of the shaping masks the sharp teeth waiting to bite players in the you-know-what whose approaches are found wanting.

HOLE 17 – Par 5 – 525 yards – American Chestnut

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The penultimate hole plays up to a fairway bisected by a pronounced mound. It then drops down and winds around a bunker complex right and past a centerline bunker to an open-fronted green. An overland adventure packed with peril for the final three-shotter. Photos don’t do justice to the magnitude of undulation in the approach and the green as it rises to its high back-right. The ground provides options, and the visual overwhelms the eyes. Far from easy to keep the mind focused on the task at hand with wedge in hand.

HOLE 18 – Par 3 – 180 yards – Stonewall

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The tee shot plays uphill to the well-defended green set below the clubhouse. The walk up that same hill is filled with both satisfaction and sorrow. Satisfaction at having met Gil Hanse’s challenges to the best of that day’s ability. Sorrow at the long shadows signaling that the day is too short to allow for a hop back over to the first tee.


ESSEX COUNTY CLUB

Essex County is my favorite classic golf course. Why? Donald Ross’s routing genius is evident as the course takes players on a tour of the brooks, wetlands, and rocky hill. The hazards – bunkers, wastes, mounds, hummocks – are varied in position, look, and difficulty. ECC’s greens are magnificent in their cant and contour. Clearly, while living next door, Mr. Ross poured his heart into every detail of this magnificent course.

HOLE 1 – Par 4 – 438 yards

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The opener begins from an elevated tee near the clubhouse. The tee shot plays over Sawmill Brook to a wide open fairway. The canted green, flanked by mounds on one side and a bunker on the other, sets the tone for the course. The richness of texture and color on this property is special. Superintendent Eric Richardson and his crew, backed by a wise and supportive membership, continue to polish this gem.

HOLE 2 – Par 4 – 339 yards

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The second turns gently to the right and uphill and is the first indication of Mr. Ross’s routing genius. In and out of nooks and crannies ECC goes, beginning with this two-shotter. And to cap it off, a Ross green that is both canted and crowned. Plenty of challenge packed into this little package.

HOLE 3 – Par 5 – 623 yards

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The tee shot plays over wetland to a slightly angled fairway with OB left and all manner of nastiness right. This is a three-shotter in the truest sense, requiring three strong shots to find the green safely. The green features an internal bowl. Local speculation is that the green was built over a large tree stump. Stump decomposes, green sinks. Glorious quirk.

HOLE 4 – Par 3 – 233 yards

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The first three par is a stern test. Long, over water to a big, contoured green flanked by deep bunkers. Mr. Ross’s examination of all aspects of a player’s game in full effect.

HOLE 5 – Par 5 – 457 yards

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The 5th begins a stretch of three holes intimately routed in and out of the south portion of the property and marked by two brooks – Sawmill and Causeway. The tee shot on the 5th plays over Sawmill and must find the fairway to have a go at the green, which is set beyond Causeway. The putting surface is low profile and features subtle but tricky internal contours. A wonderful theme of ECC’s greens.

HOLE 6 – Par 4 – 330 yards

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Heading back over the brook, which runs diagonally across the fairway, the player is invited to choose as aggressive a line as they can stomach. Leaving a short approach into the elevated green, tucked hard against the property boundary, is critical to scoring.

HOLE 7 – Par 3 – 130 yards

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The green, set in a hollow just beyond the brook and surrounded by bunkers, is canted and subtly contoured. The hole is short, but demands a precise approach. Tee shots left above the hole are often followed by a slow, trickle-torture as the player watches their first putt roll and roll and roll.

HOLE 8 – Par 4 – 422 yards

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The tee shot is blind, playing over a hill with OB left, bunkers and fescue right, and this insane tiered fairway in the middle. Perhaps the coolest fairway I have ever seen at a place not called Pasatiempo. With another canted Ross green making demands on the player who is likely still trying to process what they have just seen in the landing area, the approach can play level or uphill depending on where the drive comes to rest.

HOLE 9 – Par 4 – 429 yards

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The tee shot plays to a narrow fairway, and the approach down to an infinity green guarded by stair-step bunkers right, and a combination of mounds and bunkering left. Rossiness levels set to max at this green complex.

HOLE 10 – Par 4 – 363 yards

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The all-world back nine begins with a drive over the wetland to a fairway partially obscured by a hill. The approach plays into a heavily canted green, demanding cheating to the right for any hope of holding the green for a birdie putt. The uphill 11th sits beyond, ominously waiting. Mr. Ross’s genius routing uses the slopes of the property’s central hill to confuse the eye on 10, 12, 17, and 18.

HOLE 11 – Par 3 – 175 yards

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This stout uphill one-shotter plays to an elevated green surrounded by tiered, flat-bottom bunkers. It looks like an all or nothing proposition from the tee, and this case, looks are not deceiving.

HOLE 12 – Par 4 – 415 yards

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Beginning with a blind drive over the hill, and ending with a downhill approach to a Rossy green surrounded by bunkers and mounds, this is a classic. A field goal between the caddies will do just fine. The 12th green, set in a serene corner of the property, afternoon light filtering across the bunkers flared right. Marvelous.

HOLE 13 – Par 4 – 375 yards

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This straightaway hole plays along the far side of the central hill with wildflower littered wetland down the left side. The elevated green sits in the shadow of the stone covered hillside. Mounds and boulders punctuate what might be my favorite hole on the course.

HOLE 14 – Par 3 – 162 yards

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This green had to be moved, and the recreation is wonderfully devilish. Internal contours and fallaway edges conspire to make recovering from an errant tee shot more than a little pulse quickening. The new setting for the green makes use of the hillside which confuses the eye and shields the player from the wind, making club selection difficult.

HOLE 15 – Par 4 – 349 yards

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The 15th tees off from out front of Donald Ross’s old yellow house and plays uphill to a large, challenging green that is fronted by an even larger, and more challenging bunker. A solid drive and a gutsy approach are required just to avoid a big number.

HOLE 16 – Par 4 – 409 yards

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From the new elevated tee built into the hillside, it plays down to a winding fairway. The final flat hole before the rollercoaster finish. The 16th green, features subtle internal contours, and artful depressions off the green edges. The surrounds create wicked little recoveries.

HOLE 17 – Par 4 – 328 yards

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The penultimate hole heads straight uphill to a terrific green set amidst bunkers and stone. Tree removal by Superintendent Eric Richardson and his crew has opened up breathtaking vistas. Magic.

HOLE 18 – Par 4 – 414 yards

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One of the most exciting tee shots in Golden Age golf plays down to a fairway snaking between fescue covered stone hills. The angles and elevation make this shot as disorienting as it is memorable. The approach on Essex County’s home hole plays over the brook one last time to a crowned green set in a hollow below the clubhouse. From behind the green, the final look back up the hill, reflecting on the adventure just completed, never fails to fill me with a combination of gratitude and sadness.


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Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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What My Kids Taught Me About Architecture

My son Jack is 15 years old and my son Henry is 7 years old.  This season, I officially became one of those lucky golf geek dads whose kids are golf-crazed.  We play most of our golf together at Canal Shores, but we also had outings over the summer at Kingsley Club, Champion Hill, and Arcadia Bluffs.

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Jack and me, sweeping the dew on the opener at Kingsley

I took Jack out for his first “real” round of golf at Kingsley, and we were joined by my buddy Howard.  He had never been on a big course before, and I thought his eyes might pop out of his head when we stepped onto the first tee.  In Jack’s defense, many people who visit are intimidated by Kingsley’s opener, and the 2nd is no picnic either.  Jack struggled on the first two holes, and on the 3rd tee, I gave him a pep talk.  “Ignore what you see on the ground and hit it in the direction I point,” I advised.  He is a quick study and followed the instruction, striping his tee shot.

It was well hit, but on a more aggressive line than intended.  We held our breath wondering if it would clear the right fairway bunker.  It did, and the feeling of exhilaration was palpable, not just from Jack, but throughout our whole group.  In that moment, I realized that my boys were teaching me about golf course architecture.

LESSON #1 – It is fun to hit the ball over obstacles.

Sure, good design provides the opportunity for hazards to be avoided in exchange for strategic advantage, but the truth of our hearts is that we love to knock the ball over things.  The corner of a dogleg.  A creek or crevasse.  A bunker – the bigger and nastier the better.  The successful clear provides a thrilling satisfaction.  It’s in our DNA.

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Henry, after clearing a deep bunker on the 1st at Arcadia Bluffs

My wife and little guy Henry joined Jack and me for a walk and twilight golf at Arcadia Bluffs.  On each hole, I would create a “Henry Tee” in a special spot 100 or so yards from the green.  We found a perfect Henry Tee on the far right of the ridge above the bunkers that cut across the fairway on the 3rd.  He gave his hybrid a lash and we watched expectantly as his ball bounded along the fairway toward the green, peeling off at the last moment and coming to rest on the fringe.

LESSON #2 – It is fun to watch the ball roll over interesting ground toward the target.

There is a reason why “fair” is a four letter word, and in my opinion, it has no place on a golf course.  The game is gloriously unfair, especially on courses with contour, kept in firm and fast conditions.  Hit a good shot, catch a bad bounce.  Hit a bad shot, catch a good bounce.  There is no justice in the rub of the green, and that is the way I want it.  I want to watch my ball tumble along, not knowing exactly where it will end up.  Predictable is boring.

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Jack guessing on a line for the semi-blind tee shot on the 14th at Champion Hill

I do my best to walk the line between patience and teaching my guys a lesson about moving along on the course.  They get more of the former when nobody else is around.  After all, I’m loving every moment I get with them, and what’s the rush?  At times, when I get impatient, I have a habit of giving them long putts.  They don’t like that practice one bit.  They want to get the ball in the hole, and I am robbing them of that pleasure.

LESSON #3 – It is fun to get the ball in the hole.

I love wild green surrounds and undulating greens as much as anyone, and yet I wonder sometimes, has that trend gone a little bit too far?  If the surrounds are so complex that my chances of ever holing a chip or pitch are diminished to the point of dumb luck, is the architect’s creative expression worth it?  If the greens are so severe that every putt over 5 feet is a pure guessing game, is the player cheated of seeing a line clearly and dropping a bomb?  I’m no tour caliber putter, but I’m no slouch either.  I like to see a putt drop into the hole as much as my boys, and it seems that an architect has some responsibility to at least give players a reasonable chance of success.  Restraint is a virtue.

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Jack chasing the summer sun on the 5th at Arcadia Bluffs.

My kids have a way of stripping away complications to help me see what really matters.  Like most golf geeks do, I appreciate strategic options and being encouraged to think.  I also greatly appreciate the natural beauty of the contrast of colors and textures.  Rarely do I encounter quirk and creative flourishes that I don’t dig.  But at my core, I am just like my boys and they remind me of the essence of the game.  If the architect and greenkeeper give me the opportunity to golf my ball over obstacles, to see my ball run along the ground, and to get my ball in the hole with reasonable effort, I will have fun.

Could great architecture be that simple?

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf