Geeked on Golf

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


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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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Sleepy Hollow Course Tour by Jon Cavalier

SLEEPY HOLLOW COUNTRY CLUB – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION

Scarborough-on-Hudson, NY – C.B. Macdonald, Seth Raynor, A.W. Tillinghast

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Full disclosure: I love this place.  Sleepy Hollow is, quite simply, one of my favorite places in the country to play golf.  Exceptional golden age architecture, spectacular views, exciting shots, fabulous conditions — Sleepy Hollow has everything a golfer could want.  And to top it off, Sleepy Hollow is the course that sparked my interest in the work Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor, and subsequently my love for golf architecture generally.  So I’m biased.

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15th and 16th Greens

And of course, I’ve been wanting to do a photo tour of Sleepy Hollow for quite some time.  As with my tour of Old Town Club, Sleepy Hollow’s recent near miss on Golf Digest’s Top-100 list provided a perfect impetus and incentive to pull this tour together and shine a bit of a light on a place that, for me, is ranked about 100 spots too low.

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The “lesser” of the par-3s at Sleepy Hollow

The photographs you see below were taken over the course of two visits to Sleepy Hollow (which is the reason for the differences in light, course conditions and pin positions).

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Waking up at Sleepy

I hope you enjoy the tour.

SLEEPY HOLLOW COUNTRY CLUB

Sleepy Hollow was built on the 338-acre Woodlea estate, which the club acquired in 1911.  C.B. Macdonald designed the golf course, with Seth Raynor on the ground as engineer, and the original 18 holes were completed that same year.  In the late 1920s, AW Tillinghast expanded the course to 27 holes, creating several new holes for the 18-hole “Upper” and 9-hole “Lower” courses.  Via the passage of time and the intrusion of several interim architects of more modern vintage, the course lost touch with its golden age roots for a period.  George Bahto and Gil Hanse were brought in to restore the course’s rightful Macdonald heritage.

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The result speaks for itself.  In its present form, the main course at Sleepy Hollow is rife with beautiful interpretations of many of the Macdonald templates, including Redan, Punchbowl, Double Plateau, and one of the most gorgeous Shorts this side of Fishers Island.  While the property has been owned by Colonel Eliot Shepard and William Rockefeller, and the course has been worked on by some of the great architects in golf, including Tillinghast and Hanse, Sleepy Hollow today stands clearly as a shining example of CB Macdonald’s design tenets and as a fitting monument to George Bahto.  Quite a lineage.

The Clubhouse

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No tour of Sleepy Hollow is complete without at least a brief discussion of its magnificent clubhouse.  Some of the best courses in the country are identifiable by their clubhouses alone, and in a few instances — Winged Foot, Oakmont, Myopia Hunt, Ridgewood, and Shinnecock, to name but a few — they become iconic in their own right.  Sleepy Hollow’s is one such clubhouse.

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Looming high above, the clubhouse, designed by Stanford White in 1893 as the manor house, is the first thing the golfer notices about Sleepy Hollow upon entering the gates, and it provides quite the first impression.  As the long entrance road makes way up toward the building, the loping route provides views of several holes on the lower course, the driving range, the stables, and the many rock formations that remind the golfer that he’s in Westchester.  But all the while, the presence of the massive clubhouse dominates.

The entrance road culminates at the south face of the clubhouse, seen in the photo below.  The parking lot is in the rear, to the right.

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The clubhouse has been the scene of several television shows and movies, and has hosted countless events.  And with views like this from its spacious lawn, it’s easy to see why.

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It is a beautiful building and a fitting way to begin a day at Sleepy Hollow.

The Scorecard, Logo and Haunted Bridges

A golfer senses a theme at Sleepy Hollow.  The club has named each of its holes in reference to Washington Irving’s story, which was set in the surrounding hills.  The course itself stretches to 6880 yards and plays quite pleasantly at 6377 yards from the white tees (which I use for this tour) to a par of 70.

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The club’s logo of the Headless Horseman, likewise taken from the Irving story, is one of the best in golf.

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Finally, the Haunted Bridges, encountered on the 3rd, 10th and 16th holes, appear to have been built by Irving’s contemporaries and provide a unique and fitting touch.

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THE GOLF COURSE AT SLEEPY HOLLOW

Hole 1 – “Sunnyside” – 406yds – Par 4

There is no more enjoyable way to start a round of golf that from a first tee that sits in the shadow of the clubhouse, as is the case at Sleepy Hollow.  The Hudson river just peeks out above the treeline, giving the golfer a small taste of what’s to come.

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The first hole is a downhill dogleg right which, while tree lined, has a more generous landing area and more room to work the ball than it first appears.  The ideal position is the left half of the fairway.

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The first green is of a good size, but the bunkering on both sides and the visually deceptive framing bunker short left make for a challenging first iron.

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The fairway runs seamlessly into the green, allowing for the ball to be run on to the putting surface, but the green slopes up from front to back.  The deep Macdonald bunkering is felt immediately.

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The view back up the first hole — steeper than it appears, and a solid start to what will become a memorable round.

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Hole 2 – “Outlook” – 321yds – Par 4

Reminiscent of the first hole at Myopia, the second hole is a short, uphill par-4 defended by a relatively severe, well-protected green.  The “eyeglasses” bunkers short of the fairway are not in play, but make for an appealing visual effect.

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The approach to the second green will almost always be from an uphill lie, making for frequent short-right misses.  This deep-and-steep wraparound front-right bunker is waiting to catch those misses.

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The climb to the second green at Sleepy Hollow is the first point on the course where the golfer is treated to both the stunning views of the Hudson River . . .

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. . . and to the sight of Sleepy Hollow’s one-of-a-kind walking bridges.  This is the point in the round where the golfer knows, beyond a doubt, that a special day awaits.

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Hole 3 – “Haunted Bridge” – 153yds – Par 3

Aptly named, the third hole may be the best par 3 among the standout collection of one-shotters at Sleepy Hollow.  Played over a deep ravine to a green elevated just enough so that the golfer cannot see the entire putting surface, the third provides one of the most exciting tee shots on the front nine at Sleepy Hollow.

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The way in which the land was sculpted and the third green was benched into the hill will appeal to even the most jaded GCA enthusiasts.

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To access the green, the golfer crosses the Haunted Bridge for the first time.  Simply beautiful.

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Hole 4 – “Brom Bones” – 404yds – Par 4

Cresting the hill after putting out on the third green, the golfer is afforded a wide view from the fourth tee over a large, open section of the golf course.  The fourth hole plays out to an open fairway that dips down, then crests a small rise before arriving at the green.

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Longer shots may clear the rise, offering the golfer an unobstructed view of the putting surface.  For those that do not, an aiming marker is provided behind the green.

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A precision approach shot is required, as the fourth green is well guarded with deep bunkers, and is itself riddled with undulations, allowing for difficult pin positions.

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Hole 5 – “High Tor” – 403yds – Par 4

Playing back in the direction of the fourth tee, the fifth hole plays over the rise in the fairway (which is an easy carry for all players), then drops quickly before again rising to meet the green.  The view from the crest of the rise is spectacular.

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The encroaching bunkers, which begin well short of the fourth green, provide for an added challenge on the player’s approach.  Shots that come up short are in danger of rolling several yards back down the fairway.

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Approaches that come up short face this shot, with only the green (with its false front and varying internal mounds) and the pin in view.

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The fifth green.  No words necessary.

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Hole 6 – “Headless Horseman” – 458yds – Par 5

The first three shot hole at Sleepy Hollow is short on the card but plays longer, thanks to the hill that must be climbed before reaching the second fairway.  Aggressive, longer hitters can carry the steep, mounded wall but many players are better off simply laying up short of it.  Right is dead, and the massive grass bunker on the left side of the hill just wishes it was dead.

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Once reaching the upper tier of fairway, the golfer must contend with the principal’s nose bunkering, which sits smack in prime lay-up territory some sixty yards short of the green.

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The sixth green slopes substantially from back to front — approaches that end up beyond the hole will result in a very tricky putt back down to the hole.

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Hole 7 – “Tarry Brae” – 193yds – Par 3

In your author’s humble opinion, the best downhill reverse-redan hole in existence.

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The steepness of the green from high left to low right is so pronounced that balls routinely roll for 30 seconds or more as they funnel down toward the pin.  A wonderfully exciting hole to play.

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Hole 8 – “Sleepy Hollow” – 439yds – Par 4

The eighth hole begins the stretch of holes that were originally laid out by Tillinghast, and which are, for the most part, on a flatter, narrower portion of the property.  Nevertheless, the rolling terrain provides for many interesting shots, as first seen on the par-4 eighth hole.  Off the tee, the preferred result is the left side, but the partially hidden low left fairway bunker must be avoided.  A large mound in the right half of the fairway can scatter balls in any direction.

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The eighth green is set perfectly among the hills and rocky outcroppings.  A false front repels indifferent approaches.

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The eighth green, with the eleventh green complex visible behind.

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Hole 9 – “Katrina’s Glen” – 377yds – Par 4

The ninth provides a generous landing area for tee shots, but balls that end up short and right will face a blind approach to a small, well defended green.

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Tee shots that find the high left side of the fairway will have the preferred look down the center of the slightly elevated green.

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As shown in this photo, missing left is bad, but missing far left is awful.  Note the many appealing pin positions in the rippling green.

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Hole 10 – “The Lake” – 136yds – Par 3

As noted above, the 10th is probably the “worst” of Sleepy Hollow’s four one-shot holes, which should tell you everything you need to know about the high quality of the quartet that the course presents.

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The only hole at Sleepy Hollow with a true water hazard (the 12th has a small stream crossing it), what you see is what you get . . .

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. . . but it sure is pretty.

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Hole 11 – “Ichabod’s Elbow” – 371yds – Par 4

The offset teeing ground of the eleventh hole, benched into the side of the hill bordering the property, creates a soft dogleg right which favors a cut first shot.  While there are rugged, wooded areas on both sides of this hole, even bad shots are typically found and played.

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The eleventh’s key feature is its elevated green and surrounding green complex.  As you would expect, the elevation of the green makes the bunkers much deeper and much more penal as a hazard.

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The green is also one of the most undulating on the golf course . . .

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. . . and this raised section in the right rear of the putting surface makes for both some interesting putts and some impossible recoveries from misses left.

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The wonderfully constructed eleventh green complex, as viewed from the left side.

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Hole 12 – “Double Plateau” – 513yds – Par 5

The second and last par 5 at Sleepy Hollow, the twelfth winds left between the varied hills and mounds that mark this section of the golf course.  This hole was one of the most modified by Bahto and Hanse, and it is safe to assume that Macdonald would approve.

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The hole is reachable in two by longer players capable of positioning their tee shots in a spot that allows the dogleg to be negotiated.  Those laying up must contend with a small stream that winds across the fairway a few dozen yards short of the green and down the left side of the fairway.

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The three-tiered double plateau green is exceptionally built and, while severe in spots (as it should be) it is also large enough to accommodate accessible pin positions.  The steep fairway-cut slope fronting the green adds another layer of challenge, especially to front pins.

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A look back down the twelfth hole.

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Hole 13 – “Andre’s Lane” – 384yds – Par 4

The thirteenth marks the golfer’s return to the area of the course originally developed by Macdonald, and it’s an excellent hole.  A wide, gently inclined fairway slopes gently from high left to low right, and while a line up the left side is ideal, it also confronts two fairway bunkers and a cross-hazard. A line up the right is safer, but not only risks caroming into the rough, but also requires an approach from a less-than-ideal line over perhaps the deepest bunker on the course.  At Sleepy Hollow, such risk/reward decisions are confronted on a continual basis.

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The raised thirteenth green complex is one of your author’s favorites.  In addition to the extremely deep front right bunker, the complex features a pot bunker cut front left, along with a large expanse of fairway cut that extends well to the left of the green before culminating in a kick-slope that tumbles to the putting surface.  This unique setup allows for players to play safely away from the righthand bunker and either benefit from the built-in slope or to putt from above the left side of the green.  An old stone wall frames the rear of the green.  A wonderfully designed feature.

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The thirteenth green as viewed from the fourteenth tee, showing the large area of fairway cut grass.  Putting from up there is both challenging and fun.

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Hole 14 – “Homeward Bound” – 378yds – Par 4

Yet another aptly named hole, the fourteenth tee is set at the eastern corner of the property, the farthest point on the course from the clubhouse, and the next five holes stretch across the property and return the golfer home.  The tee shot on the fourteenth appears simple but is deceptively complex.  From the tee, the righthand bunker juts into the rising fairway. But this small hill not only obscures the green . . .

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. . . but hides a similar, though larger, lefthand cross bunker that sits just beyond the high point of the fairway.  The firm conditions and the now-downhill slope of the fairway will carry most balls that crest the hill left of center into this bunker.

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The fourteenth culminates in a narrow, deep green – one of the smallest on the course.  The green slopes relatively gently from front to back before abruptly ending and falling several feet to a right rear bunker or the rough below.

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From the right side, the golfer is treated to a long view of the green, the multi-tiered bunkers that separate the fourteenth and fourth greens, and the ever-present rocky surrounds of Sleepy Hollow.

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Hole 15 – “Punch Bowl” – 437yds – Par 4

The fifteenth is your author’s favorite hole at Sleepy Hollow, and it is fantastic.  An Alps/Punchbowl amalgamation, the combination of features found on this hole are unique in my experience, and together, they combine to form one of the most exciting, rewarding golf holes that I have ever played.  From the slightly elevated tee, only the first 400 yards of fairway are visible to the golfer, along with the right fairway bunker.

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The fairway is generous but canted rather substantially from high left to low right.  The left side of the fairway is ideal, and anything right of center runs a high risk of catching the right fairway bunker.

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The long approach shot is entirely blind, as the green sits some 20-30 feet below the fairway.  The perfect shot is played out over the right hand bunker, left of the aiming flag. As the golfer crests the fairway . . .

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. . . he is rewarded with the breathtaking view of the punchbowl green, with the sixteenth green behind and the Hudson River valley far below.

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Looking back, the proper route to the green is revealed.  One could never tire of playing this magnificent hole.

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Hole 16 – “Panorama” – 150yds – Par 3

One of the most beautiful one shot holes in the country, the Short at Sleepy Hollow plays back over the gorge that was first confronted on the third hole to a green ringed almost completely by a trench bunker.  The club has wisely removed all of the trees that once marred this spectacular view.

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Gorgeous from any angle, the sixteenth’s views hide a surprising amount of slope within its putting surface.

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The golfer again crosses the Haunted Bridge over the gorge on his way to the sixteenth green.  The way that the third and sixteenth holes were laid out over this terrain is a brilliant example of an architect making the most of a unique but difficult feature.

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Hole 17 – “Hendrik Hudson” – 433yds – Par 4

The seventeenth plays shorter than its yardage, as tee shots will roll forever.  Given the heavy cant of the fairway from left to right, however, care must be taken to properly place one’s tee shot or risk it rolling into the right rough for the cluster of fairway bunkers which are just out of view below the crest of the hill.

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The cluster of righthand fairway bunkers, as well as the extended fairway, are revealed as the golfer descends the seventeenth fairway.  The firm, fast conditions make these bunkers play far larger than their footprint.

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Level lies on approach are few and far between, making this narrow, bunkered green a difficult target.  The fairway runs seamlessly into the front of the green, however, leaving the option for a ground attack open.

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The greenside view of the long downhill penultimate hole.

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Hole 18 – “Mansion Rise” – 401yds – Par 4

While the seventeenth plays shorter than its yardage on the card, the eighteenth, leading back up to the iconic clubhouse, plays much longer than its listed 401.  While tee shots up the left side of this relatively narrow fairway will bounce down into ideal position, the lefthand fairway bunker must be avoided, as it makes reaching the green (or anywhere nearby) a virtual impossibility.

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The beautiful approach shot with the clubhouse directly behind the green (and, often, the lunch crowd observing play) provides one last pleasant memory of a golfer’s round.  While getting up and down from a left miss is tough, missing right can lead to a 30 yard uphill pitch.

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The green, following the slope of the land, is pitched substantially from back left to front right.  Putting back to a front pin is a challenge.

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Like the first tee, the final green at Sleepy Hollow sits mere steps from the clubhouse.

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Sleepy Hollow is a must not only for any fan of CB Macdonald, but for anyone with a love for golden age golf architecture or just a love of fun, exciting golf.  Head Professional David Young, Superintendent Tom Leahy and the club’s members are rightfully proud of their golf course and have acted as outstanding custodians of this treasure.  Soon, as more raters see Sleepy Hollow in its current form, it will assume its rightful place on every top 100 list there is.  But until then, it remains an underrated gem that everyone should try to see at least once.

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Pops lets fly on 16

I hope you enjoyed the tour.


MORE LINKSGEMS TOURS

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf

 


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National Golf Links of America Tour by Jon Cavalier

NATIONAL GOLF LINKS OF AMERICA – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION

Southampton, NY – Charles Blair Macdonald

“There are no more beautiful golfing vistas in all the world than those from the National Golf Club . . .” – C.B. Macdonald

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For me, this is sacred ground.

As a devout member of the church of MacRaynor, and indeed, as one who owes his very interest in golf course architecture and history to the golf courses these men left behind, playing a round of golf at the National was my pilgrimage, my Mecca.  Charles Blair Macdonald’s masterpiece did not disappoint.

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Windmill at dawn

I will not belabor the history of this place, as most are surely and intimately familiar with it, and far better writers than me have chronicled it (See Scotland’s Gift, by C.B. Macdonald and The Evangelist of Golf, by George Bahto for examples).  Suffice it to say, for these purposes, that National Golf Links was the brainchild and baby of Charles Blair MacDonald, who endeavored to build the premier American golf course by utilizing architectural templates adopted from the great golf holes of the British Isles.  Having found a suitable location on Long Island, Macdonald set about implementing and integrating these templates into the natural features of the property.  What remains today is the result of his lifelong association with the Club and the Course.

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Valley green

My day at National came early in the season, and with the long grasses not yet in bloom, the architectural features of the golf course were on full display.  Otherwise, with a temperature in the low 70s and a stiff breeze blowing, it was a picture perfect day.

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Peconic

Despite being over 100 years old, the National is still intensely studied and of great architectural interest today. With this in mind, it is my hope that these photos will provide a reference to those who have not seen the golf course, a refresher (or simply pleasant memories) to those who have, and an enjoyable way to pass the time for all.

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Sunrise over the Home hole

I hope you enjoy the tour.

NATIONAL GOLF LINKS OF AMERICA

“This property was little known and had never been surveyed.  Every one thought it more or less worthless.  It abounded in bogs and swamps and was covered with an entanglement of bayberry, huckleberry, blackberry, and other bushes and was infested by insects.” – C.B. Macdonald

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Few would quarrel with the statement that C.B. Macdonald, and his faithful engineering sidekick Seth Raynor, turned an unpassable wasteland into the greatest golf course yet built in America.  Playing today to a very reasonable Championship yardage of 6,935 and a Regular yardage of 6,505, the course stands as an enduring testament to Macdonald’s belief that “as bad as too short a course may be, too long a course is infinitely worse.”  Macdonald would be pleased that the club has resisted adding length for length’s sake and has instead focused on keeping the course playing the way Macdonald intended — firm, fast and fun.

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The golf course is a strategic masterpiece that provides players of all levels with an enjoyable and exciting experience.  More’s the pity that this seemingly obvious concept has become novel over the past 100 years.  Every hole on the golf course provides options for the skilled player and the hack, and every hole provides challenges that expertly balance risk and reward.

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Getting There

National Golf Links sits on rolling land northwest of the town of Southhampton, bordered in part to the north and east by Peconic Bay and Bullhead Bay, respectively.  It’s a heady neighborhood for a golfer, as the course is bordered to the South by Shinnecock Hills and, more recently, to the west by Sebonack Golf Club.

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As with several other great classic golf courses, getting to National is an experience in itself.  The long drive eastward on Long Island highways ends abruptly, and once the left onto Shrubland Road is made, the rest of the world just sort of fades to background noise.  After passing Cold Spring Pond and the ornate gates to Sebonack Golf Club, the player gets his first glimpse of the National as the road bisects the course at the eighth and eleventh holes.  The Road hole green is visible to the left …

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…and Bottle to the right.

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A bit farther up the road, Shinnecock Hills and its famous clubhouse come into view …

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Past Shinnecock, after a left is made onto Sebonac Inlet Road, the National reemerges, with the Eden hole visible to the left…

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… and if lucky, a beautiful sunrise over Bullhead Bay to the right.

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And ahead, the famous windmill first comes into view.

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At last, the player reaches the famous gates, and is already filled with anticipation resulting from the early glimpses of the course.

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And once through the gates, with the gorgeous Peconic hole immediately to the left, the player knows beyond doubt that this day will be a special one.

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The Clubhouse

When the Shinnecock Inn, which served as the National’s original clubhouse, burned to the ground in 1909, C.B. Macdonald called it “most fortunate, for to-day we have an unexcelled site.”  And he was right.

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I talk a lot about clubhouses in my tours, largely because I believe that the clubhouse is an extension of the golfing experience.  When done right, the clubhouse amplifies the ambiance and the setting of the golf course.

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Some of the best golf courses in this country are identifiable by their clubhouses alone, and often these clubhouses become iconic in their own right.  No two are the same — the imposing fortress of Sleepy Hollow is as different from the yellow-sided farmhouse of Myopia as the stone mansion at Winged Foot is from the manorhome at Merion.  But all share one key trait — they suit their environs perfectly.  The National is no exception.

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The North Face of the Clubhouse, as seen from the eighteenth fairway

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The East Face

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National’s fountain

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Impeccable detail

Inside, the clubhouse features a large statute and portrait of C.B. Macdonald.

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The Windmill

No tour of National Golf Links would be complete without at least a brief mention of its famous windmill.

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As chronicled in George Bahto’s excellent book, the Evangelist of Golf, the story goes that a member, Dan Pomeroy, suggested to C.B. Macdonald that the club’s water tower was unsightly, and suggested that a windmill be built around it.  Macdonald obliged, and then stuck the member with the bill.  At least he got his name on the plaque.

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The National’s windmill is a central feature of the golf course visible from more than half the holes, and provides a unique and memorable emblem for the club.

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Practice Areas

The range at the National is one of the more picturesque in existence, as it sits between the Home hole and Peconic Bay.  The range is on the former site of the three hole “practice course” that Macdonald built and which contained replicas of the three par-3 greens present at the National – Redan, Short and Eden.  The practice course is visible on the course map below.

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The National also provides a practice green, which sits between the clubhouse and the first tee, and a beautiful short-game area tucked into the far northwestern corner of the property, which affords gorgeous views of the Bay.

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Nature

“When playing golf you want to be alone with nature.” – C.B. Macdonald

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It bears mentioning here that during my visit, I was quite pleased to find the National teeming with wildlife.  As a city boy, I wholeheartedly agree with Macdonald’s sentiment. In addition to the ospreys inhabiting the nest near the beach (kindly provided by the Club), National is home to deer and many other species of birds (including turkeys, but alas, our scorned national bird refused to be photographed).

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THE GOLF COURSE

As mentioned above, National Golf Links plays to a “Championship” yardage of 6,935 and a “Regular” yardage of 6,505 and a modern-day par 72.

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As was Macdonald’s practice, each of the holes at National is named (a practice I very much endorse) and those names are listed on the exceptionally simple scorecard the club provides.

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The course is laid out in a true links style out-and-back routing running generally from north to south on the front, and south to north on the back.  As a result, the player confronts opposing winds on each nine.  Green-to-tee walks are pleasantly short (strikingly so by modern standards) and there is little on the course to distract or detract from the golf experience.

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Hole 1 – 330/315yds – Par 4 – “Valley”

This beautiful little opener gives the player an idea of what he will confront constantly during his round — choices.  Playing left to right, the choice of tee shot could be anything from a mid-iron to driver.

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Overly timid or indifferent tee shots will catch this string of bunkers laid out short of the fairway.  Note that the carry to the left is significantly farther than it appears from the tee.

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While the aggressive line over these bunkers makes the green reachable for longer players, these bunkers will extract a severe price from an overly ambitious tee-shot hit by an overly confident player.

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The green is elevated, obscuring parts of the putting surface and surrounding area from view on the approach.  A severe false front will repel shots that come up short.

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Balls missed left will find the bunkers in the foreground, while those right will encounter the series of random humps and mounds visible in the background.

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The first green is rife with undulations and ridges, placing added importance on an accurate approach.

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Missing left is no picnic …

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… nor is missing right.  This view from right-rear shows the large ridge bisecting the green.  Being on the wrong side of this ridge is a recipe for a three-putt.

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As seen from above: the bold internal contours of the first green at National.

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Simply put, this is one of the best openers in golf.

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Hole 2 – 330/290yds – Par 4 – “Sahara”

Another gem of a short two-shot hole, the second again confronts the golfer with a decision from the tee — be aggressive, hug the left side, carry the Sahara bunker and try to drive the green, or be safe, play out right and attempt what should be an easy par.

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Though most of it is hidden from view from the tee, the Sahara bunker presents a formidable hazard.

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An aggressive ball that carries the Sahara bunker is rewarded with a fairway that slopes directly into the putting surface.

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While bailing out to the right to shorten the carry over the Sahara bunker might be considered the safe play, it is not entirely free of danger, as a ball too firmly struck on this line will carry down into a deep hollow, resulting in a difficult and blind approach.

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The green is open across its full length, permitting balls to be run on to the surface, whether struck from the tee or the fairway.  The Narrows, Redan and Alps are visible behind.

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As this view back up the fairway shows, Macdonald provided an ample reward for players that successfully negotiated the risk of an ambitious line.  Note that long is perhaps the worst miss of all, as the green drops immediately straight down some dozen feet, and can shed balls for some distance.

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Sahara as seen from Alps — note the fall off from the rear of the green and the deep hollow to the left of the frame.  Along with the Alps, one of my favorite holes on the course, and as can also be said for the Alps, it will forever remain a mystery as to why such holes are no longer made.

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Hole 3 – 426/407yds – Par 4 – “Alps”

One of my favorite holes in all of golf, Macdonald’s rendition of the Alps is a magnificent and challenging two-shot hole.  In opposition to the first two holes, which are shorter with fairways tending right to left, the Alps is a long, uphill hole with a fairway moving from left to right.

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The first choice the player must make is to pick an appropriate line off the tee.  The farther right the line, the longer the carry over the bunker, but the shorter and better the angle for the approach.

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Once safely in the fairway, the player confronts another choice — challenge the Alps hill and aim for the green (marked by a bell tower), or bail out up the right side and play for the green in three.  Each route to the hole presents its own set of challenges.  For what its worth, I believe that the second shot is the finest blind shot in golf.

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One of the primary difficulties of the second shot here is that, although Macdonald built the second green very large, he also ringed it with trouble, including the crossbunker fronting the green.  A player can’t “get away with one” on this hole — it is a true test that must be met with a true golf shot.

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Few thrills in golf can match hitting the third green at the National in two well-struck shots, and walking away with par or better here reminds the player of why he took up golf in the first place.  Certainly, Alps is one of the finest par-4s in the world.

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Hole 4 – 195/181yds – Par 3 – “Redan”

If the third hole at National is to be counted among the best two-shot holes in the game, certainly the fourth is among the best of the one-shot holes.  The iconic American Redan, this hole is as beautiful as Redans get, and plays as all Redans should, which is to say, difficult.

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The front right framing bunker is out of play for all but the most indifferent of shots, but the lefthand bunker presents a true hazard and makes direct approach to this green foolhardy.

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The severity of the slopes built into this Redan are unique among Macdonald’s versions of this hole.  Piping Rock’s third, with its elevated green and deep front bunker, is likely the closest comparison.

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The kickslope here is substantial enough to propel the ball to all potential hole locations on this large green, which, along with its right to left / front to back slope, contains its own set of undulations.

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Shots missing long will find the back bunker, which is an extremely difficult recovery (as your author learned from experience).

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Putting from above the hole is a supreme challenge.

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The finest Redan in American golf, and one of the best par-3 holes in the world.

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Hole 5 – 478/451yds – Par 4 – “Hog’s Back”

The third of three difficult holes, the fifth at National asks for a tee shot over a formidable cross bunker cut into the hill to a fairway humped down its spine so as to shed balls to either side.

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The fairway’s natural ripples provide added visual and playing interest.

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Longer drives will contend with this unique trench bunker that bisects the fairway.  The green sits in the middle of this frame.

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The wide, downsloping fairway leads straight into the green and will carry running approach shots a long way, allowing even shorter hitters to reach this long par-4 in two shots.

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The approach at the fifth practically begs for a running shot.

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These two bunkers left of the green strongly suggest that the player use the sloping right-to-left fairway to access the green.

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Hole 6 – 141/123yds – Par 3 – “Short”

A Macdonald original as fun as it is maddening, the sixth is the shortest hole at National and has one of the largest and wildest greens on the property.  From the tee, the greens for Sebonack and Eden are visible to the right.

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To say this green is heavily contoured is to understate the matter substantially.  The large mound in the center of the green (on which this day’s pin sits) sheds balls in all directions, as does the larger green itself.

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Any ball that fails to find (or hold) the putting surface is likely to end up in a bunker — some more penal than others, like this little beauty here.

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The degree of elevation change in this green, as seen from the right side, is quite striking and adds a wonderful element of challenge to an otherwise short hole.

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Hole 7 – 478/467yds – Par 5 – “St. Andrews”

The first three shot hole at National is Macdonald’s tribute to the Road Hole at St. Andrews.  A blind tee shot over a waste area is the first order of business.

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The bunkering down the right will catch any tee shots that stray that way.  These bunkers are largely invisible from the tee.

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The National is replete with interesting and unique terrain features, like this slash of a bunker and fronting mound.

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These two small bunkers in the area short of the green are so flat that they are invisible from a distance, adding to the uncertainty and challenge of the approach.  The road bunker looms to the left of the elevated green.

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The large green is elevated by a mere two feet or so, but this small feature adds exponentially to the difficulty of judging and hitting an approach shot.  A brilliant feature.

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The most formidable Road Hole bunker that Macdonald ever created, this monster has allegedly been softened over time.

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Quite simply …

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… avoid at all costs.

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The green, while largely flat, slopes away on all sides and is harder to hold than it appears.

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A large, deep bunker runs down the entire right side of the green, ready to catch those who decline to challenge the Road bunker.

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An exceptional three-shot hole in every respect.

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Hole 8 – 400/385yds – Par 4 – “Bottle”

Another template that has been largely lost with time, Macdonald’s “Bottle” hole presents the option to take the straightforward tee shot down the right side, or attack the left side of the fairway and challenge the bunkers in return for a better view and angle into the green.

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The tee shot on the eighth crosses Shrubland Road for the first time.

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The Bottle bunkers that bisect the eighth hole are unique in design and formidable in their defense of the hole …

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… and they play bigger than they look.

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Between the Bottle bunkers and the green, Macdonald installed a Principal’s Nose bunker complex.

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The green is substantially elevated with steep drops on three sides.  Missing right is particularly penal.

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The view from behind the classic Bottle hole.

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Hole 9 – 540/534yds – Par 5 – “Long”

The aptly named ninth is the longest hole at the National, which is perhaps surprising to some, since it measures only 540 yards.  But what this hole lacks in length, it more than makes up for in other ways.

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The ideal line off the tee is to remain as far right as possible while still carrying the short set of bunkers.  Shots hit down the left will run through the fairway and feed into the “Hell’s Half Acre” complex.

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Once past Hell’s Half Acre, a large green defended by steep bunkers short left and long right awaits.

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This day’s pin forces the player to challenge the right bunkers and the side slope of the green, which will shed balls up to 25 yards away.

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The view back toward the ninth tee.

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Hole 10 – 450/420yds – Par 4 – “Shinnecock”

Aptly named, the tenth at National borders Shinnecock Hills and turns the player back northward toward the clubhouse.  It is a hole that ranks as a favorite among many.

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Two low profile cross bunkers encroaching into the fairway from either side add challenge to the tee shot.

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What looks like a rather straightforward approach shot from the safer, right side of the fairway is soon revealed to be …

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… more challenging than it first appears.

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Again, Macdonald maps the terrain to allow approaches to the green along safer, if at times less rewarding routes.  Here, if the proper angles are played, no hazards need be crossed.  A wonderful green complex, to be sure.

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The magnificently routed tenth at National.

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Hole 11 – 432/418yds – Par 4 – “Plateau”

A blind tee shot awaits the golfer at the eleventh hole, and care should be taken to avoid the left side …

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… as gathering bunkers collect shots hit in this area.

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The approach on eleven crosses back over the road, obscured here by a berm.

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A second Principal’s Nose bunker complex sits short of the green.

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Macdonald’s exceptional Double Plateau green speaks for itself.

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As seen here from the right side of the green, the small bunkers arrayed around this green have a much larger footprint than their actual size.  It’s very possible to putt into some of them.

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This large bunker behind guards the lower portion of the green and will catch balls that skirt through the middle of the plateaus.

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Hole 12 – 459/427yds – Par 4 – “Sebonac”

This two-shotter calls for a tee shot to an ample but angled fairway…

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… guarded by deep bunkers down the lefthand side.

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Approach shots confront a small, slightly elevated green fraught with hazards on all sides.

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The lack of any background makes gauging distance difficult.

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The green runs hard away to the right and rear.

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The twelfth as seen from behind.  A truly original and enjoyable hole.

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Hole 13 – 174/159yds – Par 3 – “Eden”

The third of the National’s three one-shot holes, Macdonald’s tribute to Eden is fronted by the famous pond, which prevents players from having a go at the green with a putter.  The result is a gorgeous hole.

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The Hill, Strath and Shelley bunkers are all present and accounted for, as is the Eden bunker wrapping behind the green …

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… though the Strath bunker is particularly menacing.

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Tucked into a corner of the property, the Eden green is one of the most peaceful, and beautiful, spots in golf.

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Hole 14 – 393/341yds – Par 4 – “Cape”

Perhaps Macdonald’s most famous original design, the fourteenth plays out over a pond to a fairway running right to left along its far banks.

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The undulating fairway is guarded by a deep pot bunker left and the pond along its right flank.

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This green offers no easy access from any angle.  Players attacking the left side must contend with a series of small bunkers short left and deeper bunkers left and rear of the green …

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… while those approaching from the right must tackle the hazard.

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The gorgeous Cape …

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… a hole as challenging as it is scenic.

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Hole 15 – 417/368yds – Par 4 – “Narrows”

Perhaps the most beautiful hole at National, the fifteenth plays out to a fairway flanked with bunkers on all sides.

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Missing the fairway into the left bunkers cut into the hillside all but guarantees a missed green.

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The fifteenth fairway winds its way between Macdonald’s strategic bunkering, including this bunker in the middle of the fairway some 60 yards short of the green.

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The green is offset slightly to the left and is surrounded by bunkering.  This is the most heavily bunkered hole at National.

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The green slopes substantially from back to front, aiding with approaches but making putting difficult.

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This view from the right greenside bunker reveals the steepness of the slope in this challenging green.

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Long is a brutal miss here, as the player must not only confront the deep bunker, but the slope of the green running away.

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Once again, Macdonald gave the player no close background for reference, and the horizon green only adds to the challenge.

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Exceptional.  Note the Redan in the right of the frame.

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Hole 16 – 415/394yds – Par 4 – “Punchbowl”

An Alps and an Alps/Punchbowl — this surely must be heaven.  The sixteenth hole begins with a tee shot up a rising fairway, ideally reaching the level portion of the ground beyond the first crest.

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Straying too far to the right, however, will lead a ball to this deep hollow, similar to the feature on the second hole.  While all shots to the sixteenth green are blind and uphill, an approach from the bottom of the hollow is doubly so.

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The sixteenth also shares a Sahara-like bunker feature with the second hole, as seen here short of the green.

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The green itself is tiny, although the surrounding punchbowl features contain shots that miss.

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Having cleared the fronting bunkers, the player must still contend with the ridge running from the back of the hazard to the front of the green, which will deflect balls on to, or away from, the putting surface.

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These two bunkers set high into the face of the left hill provide a formidable hazard for shots that are far enough offline to deserve such a fate.

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An incomparable hole.

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Hole 17 – 375/342yds – Par 4 – “Peconic”

“The view over Peconic Bay is one of the loveliest in the world.” – Bernard Darwin

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Indeed.  The penultimate hole at the National is gorgeous in every respect, but it is also a world class short par-4 hole.  From the tee, the player is forced to lay up short of the two fairway bunkers or drive over them to the left.  This hole is reachable for longer hitters.

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On approach from the right, the player confronts this odd sandy berm that runs the length of the green and hides parts of the putting surface.

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The berm also hides the small pot bunkers, which stand ready to catch any shot left short.

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This defense is a unique feature, and one that I do not recall seeing elsewhere.

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One of the many standout holes at the National.

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Hole 18 – 502/483yds – Par 5 – “Home”

“Finally there is, I think, the finest eighteenth hole in all the world.” – Bernard Darwin

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Playing far longer than its listed yardage, the three shot eighteenth hole plays back up to the clubhouse with full views of Peconic Bay.

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From the shadow of the clubhouse, one appreciates what Bernard Darwin meant when he wrote of the beauty of golf along Peconic Bay.

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In approaching the green, the left side affords the better view, the right the better angle of play.

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The green provides ample room for a ground approach but falls away rather steeply on all sides.

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Long does not work well here.

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The view of the Home green, with Peconic Bay behind.

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The view looking back down the 18th hole.

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CONCLUSION

As you can no doubt tell, I adored this golf course.  It is no less than the finest golf course that I have ever played, as well as one of the most enjoyable.  For a MacRaynor fan, a round at National Golf Links is like a tour through a living museum, and my round there will surely remain a highlight of my golfing life.

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I must mention here that I owe a debt of gratitude to GCA’er Chuck Glowacki, who caddied for us on our trip around these legendary links.  Chuck is a wonderful looper, extraordinarily knowledgeable about the National, and outstanding company to boot.  His presence added immeasurably to my enjoyment of the round.  And I likewise owe thanks to GCAer Nigel Islam, who was with me at National during this round and whose fine play and enjoyable camaraderie made the round that much more special.

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National Golf Links is a truly special place, and a golf course that should be treasured and preserved for all time.  A day at National is a throwback in time that will refresh your spirits, restore your hopes, and remind us all why we took up this game in the first place.

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MORE LINKSGEMS TOURS

 

 

Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Golf Course Architecture & History – A Video Archive

It is exciting to see increased discussion of golf course architecture on Golf Channel and other televised golf coverage, with Matt Ginella and Geoff Shackelford leading the way.  Perhaps some day, we will see the GCA show I argued for in this previous post – The Art of Course.

In the meantime, this video link archive has been created to be a resource for all those who want in-depth exploration of golf courses, architecture and history.  Many thanks to my collaborator Kyle Truax (on Twitter @TheTruArchitect) for his extensive contributions to this archive.  Check back regularly for updates, and see below for Kyle’s own video series TruAxioms.

A few words about the format and structure of the archive: Wherever possible, a YouTube playlist has been created for each subject, and can be played right from this page.  Links to videos from sources other than YouTube have also been provided, with hyperlinks in the video titles.

With proliferation of GCA-related videos, the original single page format was getting to be a bit unruly.  I split the archive into three parts, in addition to this index page, which will still include the video links for the current year’s Major Championship venues.

GOLF COURSES

This page features course-specific videos.  A great resource for course research.

GOLF COURSE ARCHITECTS

This page features architect interviews, presentations, etc. that are not course specific to a single course.  See the Architect videos here…

GCA COMMENTATORS

This page features the Golf Channel architecture features, as well as videos from other commentators and architecture enthusiasts.  See the Commentators videos here…

If you have any clips to add, please feel free to tweet them me at @JasonWay1493 or leave them here in the comments.  Enjoy!


MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIP VENUES of 2018

AugustaMastersLogo.pngTHE MASTERS – Augusta National GC

  • Hole Flyovers and photo gallery from Masters.com:

HOLE 1 – Par 4 – Tea Olive                                        HOLE 10 – Par 4 – Camellia

HOLE 2 – Par 5 – Pink Dogwood                              HOLE 11 – Par 4 – White Dogwood

HOLE 3 – Par 4 – Flowering Peach                          HOLE 12 – Par 3 – Golden Bell

HOLE 4 – Par 3 – Flowering Crab Apple                 HOLE 13 – Par 5 – Azalea

HOLE 5 – Par 4 – Magnolia                                       HOLE 14 – Par 4 – Chinese Fir

HOLE 6 – Par 3 – Juniper                                          HOLE 15 – Par 5 – Firethorn

HOLE 7 – Par 4 – Pampas                                         HOLE 16 – Par 3 – Redbud

HOLE 8 – Par 5 – Yellow Jasmine                            HOLE 17 – Par 4 – Nandina

HOLE 9 – Par 4 – Carolina Cherry                          HOLE 18 – Par 4 – Holly

 

ShinnecockHillsLogo.jpgTHE U.S. OPEN – Shinnecock Hills GC

(Host: 2018, 2004, 1995, 1986, 1896)

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THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP – Carnoustie Golf Links

(Host: 2018, 2007, 1999, 1975, 1968, 1953, 1937, 1931)

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PGA CHAMPIONSHIP – Bellerive CC

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Discovering Golf’s Birthplace in America

In 2013, I took my first golf buddies trip.  Unlike conventional trips to resorts like Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, or Bandon Dunes, we headed out to Long Island, NY.  We are fortunate enough to be able to leg out access to private clubs through our personal and professional networks.  This is the birthplace of golf in America, and for those lucky enough to have the connections, it is a must do trip.

PipingRock

First green at Piping Rock, looking back at the clubhouse (photo courtesy of GolfCourseGurus.com).

We got off the plane and headed straight to Piping Rock.  Walking to the practice area and seeing most of the front nine laid out before me was intoxicating.  Growing up playing many of the great classic courses on Chicago’s North Shore only partially prepared me for the impact.  The effect was similar to seeing the ancient city center in Rome – visually stunning, and oozing with history.

Our trip just got better as we played Shinnecock Hills, Maidstone and Friar’s Head.  One amazing track after another.  Needless to say, we were hooked and headed back for more this year.  In subsequent conversations about future annual trips, we have dismissed all ideas of going anywhere else.  The supply of world-class golf is nearly endless given that we have expanded our scope to include Philadelphia, Boston and other areas of New England.

I have become our crew’s researcher and planner, which plays into my obsession with golf course architecture – (especially from the Golden Era).

I created a Google map to keep my findings organized, and to track our progress over the years.  This map is now public (tinyurl.com/JasonWayNEGolf).  Hopefully, it will be a help to other golf adventure junkies.  And of course, if you have a recommendation, feel free to share.

NYGolfMap

The full map is available at tinyurl.com/JasonWayNEGolf