Geeked on Golf

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


2 Comments

LinksGems Shinnecock Hills GC Photo Tour

JON CAVALIER’S LINKSGEMS 2018 U.S. OPEN PREVIEW

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club

The rich tradition of championship golf at Shinnecock Hills continues this summer.  The collaboration between Superintendent Jon Jennings and Coore & Crenshaw has brought out every ounce of the brilliance of William Flynn’s Long Island masterpiece.  Shinny is ready to test the best.

Once again, Jon Cavalier has provided us with a hole-by-hole preview featuring his stellar photography and commentary.  My course doodle has been included for your reference, and additional resources are at the end for an even deeper dive.  Enjoy!

Shinnecock-Aerial-JWSketch.jpg


SHINNECOCK HILLS GOLF CLUB

Shinnecock-ClubhouseBack.jpg

(click on image mosaics to enlarge)

No. 1 – 399yds – Par-4

Shinnecock1-Tee.jpg

A relatively easy dogleg right with an ample landing area to open, and certainly one of the better birdie opportunities on the course.  However, long is serious trouble – bogey or worse lurks behind this green.

No. 2 – 252yds – Par-3

Shinnecock2-ShortLeft.jpg

A new back tee installed for the 2018 Open stretches this monster uphill par-3 to over 250 yards to a green guarded by bunkers on both sides and a false front.  Make par here and you’ll gain on the field for sure.

No. 3 – 500yds – Par-4

Shinnecock3-Greenback.jpg

This par-4 has been lengthened via a new back tee and narrowed from the left side, bringing the bunkers on the right very much into play.  The open green slopes mostly back-to-front but abruptly falls away behind.

No. 4 – 475yds – Par-4

Shinnecock4-Tee.jpg

“Pump House,” so named for the outbuildings the hole doglegs around, has seen its fairway tightened up.  Its real challenge is the undulating green, which features a false front and falls away on all sides.

No. 5 – 589yds – Par-5

Shinnecock5-ShortRight.jpg

“Montauk” is the first three-shotter of the round, but rest assured, many will be going for this green in two despite the narrow fairway and the large bunker guarding the dogleg. Distance control is key, as once again, long is dead.

No. 6 – 491yds – Par-4

Shinnecock6-GreenBehind.jpg

“Pond” features the only water on the course, a retention pond unlikely to see a single ball this week, and a scruffy waste area right of the fairway that will.  The green is among the toughest at Shinny.

No. 7 – 189yds – Par-3

Shinnecock7-TeeZoom.jpg

This Redan, built in 1931 by William Flynn on the site of C.B. Macdonald’s original, is a hole as intimidating as it is beautiful.  Playing at a more oblique angle and with a smaller opening than most makes this tilted green incredibly difficult to hit, hold, chip to and putt.  Any misses to the right will be lucky to save bogey.  In 2004, Kevin Stadler putted from 2-feet into a bunker. Buckle up.

No. 8 – 439yds – Par-4

Shinnecock8-GreenBehind.jpg

“Lowlands” is likely the flattest hole at Shinny, and at “only” 439 yards, players will be looking for birdie here before the brutal 9-10-11 stretch.  Beware the green though, which is among the most undulating on the course.

No. 9 – 485yds – Par-4

Shinnecock9-Fairway.jpg

“Ben Nevis,” named for the highest mountain in the UK, is one of the world’s greatest uphill par-4s, and the start of the heart of this golf course.  A dogleg left at the clubhouse to a heaving fairway, and then up to a green seemingly perched on the edge of a cliff, mere paces from the steps leading in to Stanford White’s iconic shingle-style clubhouse.Par is a good score on this breathtaking hole.

No. 10 – 415yds – Par-4

Shinnecock10-ShortRight.jpg

The aptly named “Westward Ho” plays to a fairway cut through a dune hiding a precipitous drop, a left turn and a green with 50 yards of false front.  Short is dead, long is deader; better be dialed in on distance.

No. 11 – 159yds – Par-3

Shinnecock11-GreenLeft.jpg

The 11th at Shinnecock has been called many things: Hill Head (its official name), the shortest par-5 in golf, and the best uphill par-3 in the world, among others.  What it has never been called, is easy.  The green sits atop a small dune ridge exposed to the wind and falls off to all sides.  Standing on the tee, the landing area looks impossibly small.  A hole that could determine the Open winner.

No. 12 – 469 – Par-4

Shinnecock12-GreenBack.jpg

After surviving the crucible at 9-10-11, players will be looking for birdie at this downwind, downhill par-4.  Playing across Tuckahoe Road, the approach is slightly uphill to an open green.  Look for big drives here.

No. 13 – 374yds – Par-4

Shinnecock13-Approach.jpg

“Road Side” once again changes direction and plays back over Tuckahoe Road toward the clubhouse.  The shortest non-par-3 on the course, the 13th is a prime candidate to be shortened to a drivable par-4.

No. 14 – 519yds – Par-4

Shinnecock14-Tee.jpg

One of my favorite holes, “Thom’s Elbow” has been lengthened by a whopping 75 yards, turning this well-bunkered two-shotter into a monster that should require driver off the tee from the entire field.  The saddle-shaped green at the 14th is more receptive than most, and will direct balls from its flanks to the middle.  Shots hit too firmly will scoot through and will leave a difficult up-and-down.

No. 15 – 409yds – Par-4

Shinnecock15-ApproachRight.jpg

The 15th is one of the most beautiful holes in golf, its tee set high on the glacial moraine that serves as the backbone of this astonishing golf course.  Finding the fairway is critical, as the green is small, sloped and well-guarded by six terraced bunkers in front (one of the few greens fronted by bunkers at Shinnecock).  Simply put, this is just a breathtakingly beautiful golf hole.

No. 16 – 616yds – Par-5

Shinnecock16-ApproachLeft.jpg

Shinnecock, the eponymous 16th, begins our home stretch.  The second of Shinny’s two par-5s, this hole has a new tee which adds 76 yards in length, but downwind, players can still have a go at this green.  As with so many holes at Shinnecock, the defenses of this hole are found around and on the green.  Five bunkers guard the layup zone and ten more guard the green.  Most players will happily take par here.

No. 17 – 180yds – Par-3

Shinnecock17-Short.jpg

A devilishly tricky one-shotter frequently buffeted by confounding crosswinds and featuring a pushed up green with no background to help with judging distance, the 17th may well determine this week’s winner.

No. 18 – 485yds – Par-4

Shinnecock18-TeeZoom.jpg

A new tee 35 yards back brings the bunker at the dogleg back into play, but Home is all about the approach and the wickedly sloped green, which will return anything indifferent 20 yards back into the fairway.

And there you have it – all 18 holes at one of America’s very best championship venues, an iconic piece of golden age architecture.  Hope you enjoyed the tour, and that you enjoy the 118th United States Open!

Shinnecock-ClubhouseSunset.jpg

Bonus Aerials

Shinnecock-Aerial1.jpg

Shinnecock-Aerial2.jpg

Shinnecock-Aerial3.jpg

Shinnecock-Aerial4.jpg

Shinnecock-Aerial5.jpg

Shinnecock-Aerial6.jpg

Shinnecock-Aerial7.jpg

 


MORE ON SHINNECOCK HILLS

 


MORE LINKSGEMS TOURS

 

 

Copyright 2018 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


3 Comments

Whippoorwill Club Tour by Jon Cavalier

WHIPPOORWILL CLUB – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION

Armonk, NY – Charles Banks

Whippoorwill, in my view, is one of the most underrated clubs in the United States.  I played Whippoorwill in the fall, and I found the course to have a distinct flavor, and one worth the time to display.

Whippoorwill-Feature1.jpg

The 6th at Whippoorwill – surely one of the great par 5s on the East Coast

As you’ll see in these photos, I played Whippoorwill on a cloudy October day on which the remnants of a Carribean hurricane were scheduled to blow through the area, hence the cloud cover.  Nevertheless, there were Whippoorwill members out trying to sneak their rounds in, and I found them all to be very welcoming.  Though I played solo, I played several holes with three different members each, and all were very hospitable and justifiably proud of their golf course.

Whippoorwill-Feature2.jpg

Fall at Whippoorwill

Whippoorwill is a Charles Banks design and is generally considered to be his masterpiece.  I’ve had the great pleasure of playing several Banks courses, including Forsgate, The Knoll, Rock Spring, Essex County, Cavalier, the fourth nine at Montclair and the excellent Tamarack (which is minutes from Whippoorwill and possesses some of the boldest templates I’ve seen), and Whippoorwill is in a class by itself.  While this course is smack in the middle of one of the most golf rich areas in the world, the degree to which it is overshadowed by its neighbors borders on criminal.  This is simply a fantastic golf course, and it contains one of the most dramatic and memorable stretches of holes that I’ve seen.  I have yet to meet anyone who has played Whippoorwill and who does not rate it among their favorite places to play golf.

Whippoorwill-Feature3.jpg

Whippoorwill’s Biarritz

I hope you enjoy the tour.

Whippoorwill Club

Whippoorwill-EntrySign.jpg

Although the original course at Whippoorwill was designed by Donald Ross, the present iteration was built in 1928 by Charles Banks, using the principles and templates he learned from Seth Raynor, passed down by C.B. Macdonald.  The four template par-3s (redan, short, eden and biarritz) are present.  Banks moved a great deal of earth to get this course built, but the result feels natural, and the course suits its surrounds.  You can read more about Whippoorwill’s history here.

Whippoorwill-Clubhouse.jpg

Though I actually teed off on 10 and played the back nine first (which some might argue is a more interesting way to play the course), I’ll run the tour through the layout from 1 to 18.

Hole 1 – 377yds – Par 4

Whippoorwill opens rather gently, given the contrast of what is to come.  Much like The Creek’s first few holes hide the drama that begins with the 6th, Whippoorwill’s first three holes play over more gently rolling parkland.  The dogleg left first hole provides a generous fairway for the player’s opening ball, with only a miss right exacting a high price.

Whippoorwill1-TeeZoom.jpg

The horizon green at the first is typical Banks, with a deep bunker front and left, and a steep falloff behind.

Whippoorwill1-Approach.jpg

The further left the tee shot, the more open the approach to the green becomes.

Whippoorwill1-ShortLeft.jpg

This view from behind the left side of the green shows that even the more subtle holes at Whippoorwill have elevation change.

Whippoorwill1-GreenBehind.jpg

Hole 2 – 346yds – Par 4

Most consider the second, a short, downhill par 4, to be the easiest hole on the course.  An aggressive tee shot will attempt to carry the right fairway bunkers, while the conservative play will be short of the left hand bunker.

Whippoorwill2-TeeZoom.jpg

A short approach to a pushed up and attractively bunkered green is all that remains after a solid tee shot.  This is the smallest green on the course.

Whippoorwill2-Approach.jpg

The view from behind the second green.

Whippoorwill2-GreenBack.jpg

Hole 3 – 485yds – Par 5

This short, uphill dogleg left par 5 is the last of the “easy” opening holes at Whippoorwill.  The courses does a fine job of allowing the player to find his swing over these holes before entering the gauntlet.

Whippoorwill3-Tee.jpg

The uphill approach to this half-par hole.

Whippoorwill3-Approach.jpg

The third fairway bleeds seamlessly into the green, encouraging long second shots and running third shots.

Whippoorwill3-Short.jpg

Hole 4 – 159yds – Par 3

And so it begins.  This “short” template par three begins one of the most exciting stretches of golf I’ve played.  It’s downhill, and the continuous bunkering is reminiscent of other “short” templates, including the 16th at Sleepy Hollow.

Whippoorwill4-TeeZoom.jpg

Misses left at 4 can end up anywhere.

Whippoorwill4-GreenLeft.jpg

Hole 5 – 453yds – Par 4

This is a truly gorgeous hole, and a standout par 4 at Whippoorwill.  The ideal line is left of center, where a well struck ball will take the slope and bound down the fairway and around the dogleg.  Anything to the right of center typically ends up in the right rough, or worse, as the drop-off to the right of the playing corridor is extreme.

Whippoorwill5-TeeZoom.jpg

The approach on 5 is typically a mid iron back up to a raised green, or a long-iron or hybrid from a downhill lie.  The front left bunker is HUGE.

Whippoorwill5-Approach.jpg

Looking back up the fairway on 5 illustrates the magnificent terrain that Banks had to work with, and tame, to construct this course.

Whippoorwill5-GreenBack.jpg

Hole 6 – 556yds – Par 5

One of my favorite par 5s in golf, and one of the most spectacular holes in this region.  The 6th starts off rather innocuously, with a tee shot over a steep rise in the fairway.  After climbing this hill, the golfer is treated to . . .

Whippoorwill6-Tee.jpg

. . . an amazing sight.  The size of the rolls and banks in this fairway and the steepness of the decline down to the green are, quite frankly, shocking.  This hole is simply a blast to play.

Whippoorwill6-Fairway.jpg

A long view to the green from left of the fairway.

Whippoorwill6-FairwayLeft.jpg

They called him Steamshovel for a reason.  This green appears carved from stone.  That Banks built this hole nearly 90 years ago is amazing.  Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this hole is that despite its extreme nature, it remains very playable for all skill levels.

Whippoorwill6-Approach.jpg

The 6th green is sloped back to front and is bisected by a ridge running laterally across the green.  This pin placement comes with a backstop, but the hole becomes more difficult if the pin is back.

Whippoorwill6-GreenBack.jpg

Hole 7 – 427yds – Par 4

This is Banks’ version of the punchbowl template, but with his own twists, the first of which comes in the form of a downhill tee shot over a pond to a fairway that bends nearly 90 degrees left.  The 7th tee at Whippoorwill, with the 6th green and fairway behind and above you, and the 7th fairway below, is one of the more picturesque spots in golf.

Whippoorwill7-Tee.jpg

The approach on 7 is uphill and narrows considerably as the fairway climbs to the punchbowl green.  The granite walls press inward and make for an intimidating, but exciting, shot.

Whippoorwill7-Approach.jpg

The mouth to Banks’ punchbowl green is open in the front but guarded closely by two large mounds that will deflect low or running shots.

Whippoorwill7-Short.jpg

Having scaled the 7th hole, a look back down the fairway brings a sense of accomplishment.

Whippoorwill7-Greenback.jpg

Hole 8 – 226yds – Par 3

I’ve long thought that Banks’ bold style was most suited to the adaptation of the biarritz, and the 8th at Whippoorwill is a fine example of that.  This hole calls for a long tee shot over a road to one of the most beautiful green sites on the golf course.  In terms of sheer beauty, this biarritz ranks behind only the 5th at Fishers Island among those I’ve played.

Whippoorwill8-TeeZoom.jpg

The long biarritz green, with waterfall behind for effect.

Whippoorwill8-GreenLeft.jpg

Hole 9 – 373yds – Par 4

The 9th hole closes the dramatic stretch that began with the 4th, and this steeply uphill two-shotter is no slouch.

Whippoorwill9-TeeZoom.jpg

This wide shot from below the 9th tee illustrates the steepness of the terrain.

Whippoorwill9-Bridge.jpg

Even the green is elevated, requiring one last climb.

Whippoorwill9-Approach.jpg

The 9th green, with the tee box far below.

Whippoorwill9-Greenback.jpg

Lucky’s Run

After crossing the road to the 10th tee, we see this marker, dedicated to Lucky the bird dog, who “kept the geese from Whippoorwill.”  Lucky must have been quite a beloved pooch, and the membership is to be commended for honoring their friend in this way (disclosure – I am a sucker for dogs).

Whippoorwill-LuckysRun.jpg

Hole 10 – 405yds – Par 4

Another gorgeous view from the elevated 10th tee.  What you see is what you get.

Whippoorwill10-Tee.jpg

The hill to the left was recently cleared and exposed.  Even from this spot in the fairway, the 10th green’s many undulations are apparent.  Don’t miss long – the area behind the green drops 15 feet straight down.

Whippoorwill10-Approach.jpg

This view back up 10 shows the elevated tee box and the rolling nature of the ground.

Whippoorwill10-Greenback.jpg

Hole 11 – 196yds – Par 3

A rare redan playing over a pond (like the second at Fishers, though Whippoorwill’s 11th plays downhill), the typical redan characteristics of this hole are more subtle than normal, but this is still quite an enjoyable hole to play, and a pretty setting for a par 3 of any type.

Whippoorwill11-Tee.jpg

The mound to the right of the green provides a welcoming target to this pin, but the right bunkers are not the ideal miss.

Whippoorwill11-Approach.jpg

The view from behind, showing the right to left tilt of the green.

Whippoorwill11-GreenBack.jpg

Hole 12 – 422yds – Par 4

The first straightaway par 4 at Whippoorwill comes at 12.  The ideal tee shot will depend heavily on the day’s pin position, as this green is extremely wide and split front-to-back by a mound.

Whippoorwill12-Tee.jpg

This view from the fairway shows the green’s defenses, which include the fronting mound and the internal contours of the green itself.

Whippoorwill12-Approach.jpg

The view back up the fairway.

Whippoorwill12-Greenback.jpg

Hole 13 – 336yds – Par 4

One of my favorite holes on the back 9, this short par 4 comes with plenty of options off the tee.  Bite off what you dare.

Whippoorwill13-TeeZoom.jpg

The short, uphill approach to the 13th green.

Whippoorwill13-Approach.jpg

The view from behind 13.  The dual tee boxes are visible in the upper right of the frame.

Whippoorwill13-Greenback

Hole 14 – 466yds – Par 4

Multiple options are available off the tee on this fantastic half-par hole.  Make the safe play to the left and the hole essentially becomes a par 5.  Pull off the aggressive play down the right, and the green is both reachable and accessible.

Whippoorwill14-TeeZoom.jpg

Whippoorwill’s incredible rolling terrain makes this an exciting hole.

Whippoorwill14-Approach.jpg

The large, undulating 14th green.

Whippoorwill14-Green.jpg

The one-of-a-kind 14th hole at Whippoorwill.

Whippoorwill14-Greenback.jpg

Hole 15 – 372yds – Par 4

A throwback hole, the 15th plays blind over a crest of a hill.  A directional flag behind the green gives a general idea of where to aim.

Whippoorwill15-TeeZoom.jpg

The approach to the incredibly deep 15th green.  I imagine that this green sees more three putts than any other on the back 9.

Whippoorwill15-Approach.jpg

Not an ideal miss.

Whippoorwill15-GreenLeft.jpg

Hole 16 – 546yds – Par 5

On this three-shotter, Banks’ skill for placing fairway bunkers is on display.  This is tame ground for Whippoorwill, and the fairway bunkers lend interest to the longest hole on the back side.

Whippoorwill16-TeeZoom.jpg

The approach to 16.

Whippoorwill16-Approach.jpg

This view from the right side of the 16th green shows the climb, which starts gradually and becomes steeper.

Whippoorwill16-GreenRight.jpg

The view back down the sprawling 16th.

Whippoorwill16-GreenBack.jpg

Hole 17 – 158yds – Par 3

Banks’ eden template, and a good one, if a bit short.

Whippoorwill17-TeeZoom.jpg

The view from the right, showing the gentle cant of the green toward the front right runoff.

Whippoorwill17-ShortRight.jpg

The deep bunker to the rear makes for a difficult recovery with the green running away.

Whippoorwill17-BackRight.jpg

Hole 18 – 435yds – Par 4

An outstanding and beautiful closing hole, and typical for Whippoorwill in that it presents options off the tee.  The ideal position in the fairway varies substantially based on the day’s hole location (which, on this hole, with its massive green, are plentiful) and the wide fairway can accommodate many types of tee shots.

Whippoorwill18-TeeZoom.jpg

The uphill approach to 18.  Nothing behind the green or pin to provide a sense of distance or scale.

Whippoorwill18-Approach.jpg

The beautiful setting of the 18th green.

Whippoorwill18-Short.jpg

The view back down the excellent 18th hole.

Whippoorwill18-GreenBack.jpg

I’ve been raving about Whippoorwill since I played there, and I recommend it to anyone interested in the architecture of Charles Banks (or Macdonald/Raynor).  Banks fans could do worse than a 36-hole day at Whippoorwill and Tamarack.

Whippoorwill18-GreenClubhouse.jpg

I hope you enjoyed the tour.


MORE LINKSGEMS TOURS

 

 

Copyright 2018 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


Leave a comment

LinksGems 2017 Year in Review

One of the many reasons that my 2017 was great was that I had the pleasure of teeing it up again again with Jon Cavalier.  Of the many reasons why Jon’s 2017 was so great are the courses below, and the photos he captured.  Jon recently referred to this season as “solid”.  I’ll add one more superlative to his that follow – Understatement of the Year.

Many thanks to Jon for continuing to put forth the effort to capture these photos, and freely share them on social media with us.  Twitter and Instagram are much more beautiful places as a result of his talents and generosity.


PLEASANT SURPRISES

MammothDunes-Aerial-JC.jpg

Sand Valley Golf Resort was one of my favorite stops in 2017, and its flagship course by Coore & Crenshaw is worthy of the praise and ranking. But Mammoth Dunes was one of my most pleasant surprises on the year, and it stands to make a big splash when it opens fully next summer.

WBYC-JC.jpg

White Bear Yacht Club was perhaps my most pleasant surprise in 2017, and one of my most enjoyable “new” courses. The rolling fairways and greens here have to be seen to be believed, and watching your golf ball carom and roll from one to the other is a blast. Terrific.

WatchungValley-JC.jpg

One of my favorite surprises of 2017, Watchung Valley is a classic gem designed and routed by Seth Raynor and built by Marty O’Loughlin. Thanks to David Cronheim and George Waters, WVGC is now a true charmer, and a must visit for Raynor fans.

 

BelAir-JC.jpg

The Swinging Bridge and the par-3 10th at Bel-Air Country Club, another of my 2017 surprises. This brilliant George Thomas design, routed through canyons connected by a series of tunnels, an elevator and the aforementioned bridge, is being restored by Tom Doak.

MeadowClub-Aerial-JC.jpg

Another of my most pleasant surprises of 2017 was the Meadow Club, Alister MacKenzie’s first U.S. design and the beneficiary of a loving restoration by Mike DeVries. The history alone makes MC a compelling visit, but the golf course itself is exceptional.


TOP NEW PLAYS

MPCC-TopNew10-JC.jpg

Here are my top 10 “new to me” courses that I played for the first time in 2017. At No. 10, narrowly edging out the Dunes course, is Monterey Peninsula CC’s Shore Course, designed by the late, great Mike Strantz.

MidOcean-TopNew9-JC.jpg

At No. 9 on my list of courses I saw for the first time in 2017: Mid Ocean Club. MOC was the last of the great C.B. Macdonald courses on my list, and suffice it to say, it did not disappoint. Utterly gorgeous, and wildly fun to play. Holes 1, 17 & 18 are pictured.

Gozzer-TopNew8-JC.jpg

No. 8 on my list of courses I saw for the first time in 2017: Gozzer Ranch Golf & Lake Club. One of the most photogenic courses I played last year, and my favorite of the 30 or so Tom Fazio designs I’ve seen, Gozzer exceeded all expectations.

MilwaukeeCC-TopNew7-JC.jpg

No. 7 on my list of courses I saw for the first time in 2017: Milwaukee Country Club. A true throwback in every respect, MCC merges an absolutely perfect piece of land with the architectural brilliance of Charles Alison. The result is a true classic gem.

RockCreek-TopNew6-JC.jpg

No. 6 on my list of courses I saw for the first time in 2017: Rock Creek Cattle Company. Tom Doak’s Big Sky masterpiece, RCCC is the rare mountain golf course that remains both walkable and highly playable. And it’s beautiful to boot. A modern gem.

Ballyneal-TopNew5-JC.jpg

No. 5 on my list of courses I saw for the first time in 2017: Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club. Though Ballyneal follows the Sand Hills model, Tom Doak takes the concept even further here, with a rugged minimalism combined with bolder features and wilder greens. Terrific.

Camargo-TopNew4-JC.jpg

No. 4 on my list of courses I saw for the first time in 2017: Camargo Club. As a huge Seth Raynor fan, I’d waited a long time to see this course, and was beyond pleased that it more than lived up to high expectations. One of Raynor’s very best designs.

SandHills-TopNew3-JC.jpg

No. 3 on my list of courses I saw for the first time in 2017: Sand Hills Golf Club. The most important golf course built in 80 years and already a classic, dozens of modern gems trace their roots to SHGC. Everyone should make the pilgrimage here at least once.

PineValley-TopNew2-JC.jpg

No. 2 on my list of courses I saw for the first time in 2017: Pine Valley Golf Club. What more can I say about the consensus best golf course on the planet that hasn’t already been said? The par-3 10th is just as pretty and scary-looking from above as from the tee.

Cypress-TopNew1-JC.jpg

No. 1 on my list of courses I saw for the first time in 2017: Cypress Point Club. MacKenzie’s masterpiece, CPC is the most beautiful course I’ve ever seen and one of the best I’ve played. A day here is a magical experience and a seminal moment in a golfer’s life.


FAVORITE PHOTOS

MPCCDunes-FaveShots-JC.jpg

Catching a wave at the perfect moment makes this shot of the par-3 10th at Monterey Peninsula’s Dunes Course one my favorite shots of 2017, as it seems to capture well the atmosphere of this lovely place.

SleepyHollow-FaveShots-JC.jpg

A 2017 favorite: the par-3 16th at Sleepy Hollow Country Club, a “Short” template with its in-green thumbprint/horseshoe restored by Gil Hanse. Sleepy has always been a favorite course, but the improvements made here recently are astounding.

Merion-FaveShots-JC.jpg

Another favorite from 2017: this aerial of the famed 11th and 12th at Merion Golf Club shows a bit of the brilliance in the routing here, covering just 126 acres, and which led Jack Nicklaus to say that “acre for acre, it may be the best test of golf in the world.”

PineValley-FaveShots-JC.jpg

Another of my 2017 favorites: this shot of the iconic 10th and the Devil’s Asshole at Pine Valley Golf Club was taken on a truly perfect day. The big, fluffy white clouds and crystal blue sky are beautifully contrasted by the greens and browns of the golf course.

FishersIsland-FaveShots-JC.jpg

On a less-than-ideal day for aerial photography, the fog broke for about 3 minutes, which was long enough to snag one of my favorite shots of 2017: Latimer, the par-4 7th at Fishers Island Club, as the fog rolls back in and down the fairway.

Shinnecock-FaveShots-JC.jpg

This was one of my most popular shots of 2017: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on an autumn dawn, as the cold morning fog gathers in the nooks and crannies of the course’s rolling terrain. The 2018 U.S. Open promises to be a great one.

NGLA-FaveShots-JC.jpg

Another 2017 favorite: the Home hole and clubhouse at National Golf Links of America, on a picture-perfect summer evening. While it’s impossible to capture the essence of a place like National in a photograph, this photo may be as close as I’ve ever come.

ChicagoGC-FaveShots-JC.jpg

One of my favorite shots of 2017: the par-3 short-template 10th at Chicago Golf Club, with the par-4 9th left, the par-4 15th right and the iconic clubhouse beyond. A living piece of golf history, on display to the world as host of the inaugural Senior Women’s U.S. Open in 2018.


CYPRESS POINT – THE GOOD DOCTOR’S GIFT

CPCTop7-7-JC.jpg

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you, and thanks for making this a wonderful year. As my small gift to you, here are my top 7 favorite photos from my favorite “new to me” course in 2017: Cypress Point Club. No. 7: All-18 Aerial.

CPCTop10-6-JC.jpg

No. 6 of my favorite shots from Cypress Point Club: the blowhole erupts on the par-3 15th hole. One of the many things that makes Cypress unique is how dynamic a place it is – quite a contrast to most courses.

CPCTop10-5-JC.jpg

No. 5 of my favorite Cypress Point shots: the par-4 17th, viewed from over the ocean under a pink dawn sky after a storm. Grabbing this photo first thing in the morning really set a great tone for the round to come.

CPCTop10-4-JC.jpg

No. 4 of my favorite shots of Cypress Point Club: the par-4 9th, playing into the dunes, while dressed in ethereal morning fog and light. One of the best holes at Cypress, and easily one of the world’s best short two-shotters.

CPCTop10-3-JC.jpg

No. 3 of my favorite Cypress Point photos, and my favorite aerial, is this sunset shot of the beautiful closing stretch: the 15th, 16th, 17th & 18th holes. Though always gorgeous, these holes are otherworldly at the golden hour under the Pacific sun.

CPCTop10-2-JC.jpg

No. 2 on my list of favorite Cypress Point shots (and the cover of the 2018 LinksGems calendar): the 16th, seen here under a perfect sky as a breaker rolls into the cove, is perhaps the most famous par-3 in golf, and undoubtedly the most beautiful.

CPCTop10-1-JC.jpg

No. 1 – my favorite shot of Cypress Point, and perhaps my favorite amongst the many thousands of golf photos I’ve taken, is this look down on the 16th hole from a copse of Cypresses. Everything that makes CPC special to me is captured in this frame.


FriedEggPodcast-JC.png

In case you missed it, check out the year-end recap with Jon, Zac Blair, and host Andy Johnson on the Fried Egg Podcast. They geek out on golf courses, more golf courses, and even more golf courses. Listen here. (also available on iTunes)


MORE LINKSGEMS TOURS

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


8 Comments

Now & Then – Great Holes Through the Years

To paraphrase something I heard Jim Urbina say, a golf course is a living thing, and will therefore evolve.  I find the evolution fascinating, particularly when illustrated in pictures.

Every geek loves Jon Cavalier’s photos (@linksgems), and recently, Simon Haines (@hainsey76) has been adding a twist by piggybacking historical photos of some of the holes, often from the same vantage point.  Genius.  A repository to compile these one-two punches of glorious geekery seemed like the thing to do.  Jon and Simon agreed, so here they are.

Check back periodically for updates, and enjoy!


GREAT HOLES – NOW & THEN

CYPRESS POINT CLUB

HOLE #3 – Par 3 – 151 yards

CypressPoint3-TeeZoom-JC.jpg

The underrated par-3 3rd at Cypress Point Club.  As I’ve said many times before, the thing that stunned me most about CPC was the quality of the less-famous holes (1-14), which are all excellent.

CypressPoint3-TeeZoom-SH.jpg

Awesome hole and looked even better with the blow-out dune exposed on the left…

HOLE #5 – Par 5 – 472 yards

CypressPoint5-Approach-JC.jpg

The wonderful par-5 5th provides an architectural clinic on using deception as a design feature.  As MacKenzie himself said, “It is an important thing in golf to make holes look much more difficult than they really are.”  The Doctor was a veteran of both the Boer War and World War I.  During his service, he adopted and mastered techniques in camouflage, and used these skills in his golf course designs. At the 5th, he hid the ample layup landing area amid a field of bunkers.

CypressPoint5-Approach-SH.jpg

Mackenzie playing it in 1928.

HOLE #9 – Par 4 – 283 yards

CypressPoint9-Tee-JC.jpg

Options abound from the tee and on approach to the 9th, one of the best and most visually stunning short par-4s in the world.

CypressPoint9-Tee-SH.jpg

Alister MacKenzie teeing off on 9 in 1928…

Cypress9-ShortRight-JC.jpg

The 9th at Cypress Point Club, with the par-3 7th peeking over its left shoulder.  This vantage shows why this short par-4 is so maddeningly difficult: MacKenzie benched this small, sloping green into a dune and canted it almost perpendicular to the line of play.  Hit it or else.

Cypress9-ShortRight-SH.jpg

HOLE #11 – Par 3 – 427 yards

CypressPoint11-Approach-JC.jpg

The par-4 11th at Cypress Point Club plays down a fairway guarded by bunkers on both sides to a green backed by an enormous dune.  So many great holes like this at CPC, which don’t receive their full measure of credit due to the long, heavy shadow of the 15th, 16th & 17th holes.

CypressPoint11-Approach-SH.jpg

Alister Mackenzie attempting a large carry over sandy waste on the same hole shortly after opening.

HOLE #13 – Par 3 – 344 yards

CypressPoint13-Approach-JC.jpg

CypressPoint13-Approach-SH.jpg

“A THIRTEENTH HOLE THAT WILL PROVE MORE THAN A ‘HOODOO’ FOR DUFFERS.  This great golf hole is one of the seaside holes of the new Cypress Point course.  No trouble at all for a ball driven straight.”

HOLE #15 – Par 3 – 120 yards

CypressPoint15-ApproachLeft-JC.jpeg

MacKenzie’s masterpiece, Cypress Point is the most beautiful course I’ve ever seen and one of the best I’ve played. A day here is a magical experience and a seminal moment in a golfer’s life.

CypressPoint15-ApproachLeft-SH.jpg

CypressPoint15-Aerial-JC.jpg

The par-3 15th, with both the original upper tee (left) and modern cliffside tee (right) in view.  Often overlooked due to the incredible surrounding beauty is the wonderful shape of this green.  Today’s hole, cut on the front left finger, is particularly fun.

CypressPoint15-Aerial-SH.jpg

HOLE #16 – Par 3 – 218 yards

CypressPoint16-Trees-JC.jpg

A peek through the forest at the 16th at Cypress Point Club.  A breathtakingly beautiful place, CPC is as magical as it gets for a golfer; a true natural and architectural wonder.

CypressPoint16-Trees-SH.jpg

HOLE #17 – Par 4 – 374 yard

CypressPoint17-Tee-JC.jpg

Astounding that a course should have such beautiful views, perfect terrain, amazing landscapes & abundant wildlife.

CypressPoint17-Tee-SH.jpg

“OVER THE GULF OR ROUND THE COAST? – A KNOTTY PROBLEM ON A NEW CALIFORNIAN COAST.  The 17th hole on the Cypress Point course, in California, is one of those places where discretion is at constant war with valour.  Whether to take the long way round the group of Cypress trees shown towards the left across the water, or attempt the drive straight across the gulf, with its attendant dangers – that is the question that faces all the visitors.  Cypress Point is a new course, designed by Dr. A. Mackenzie, and there is already agitation afoot for the American Amateur Championship to be played there, instead of at Pebble Beach, which is situated round the promontory in the background of the above picture.  Cypress Point is on the Del Monte peninsula, about 100 miles south of San Francisco, and was only laid out in November of last year.  It has soon settled down and already provides very fine golf.”


NATIONAL GOLF LINKS OF AMERICA

HOLE #1 – Par 4 – 330 yards

NGLA1-Tee-JC.jpg

Peconic Bay, the Home hole, the famed clubhouse, and the iconic windmill – my favorite opener in golf.

NGLA1-Tee-SH.jpg

“THE CLUBHOUSE AT THE NATIONAL LINKS.  Taken from the first tee.  The first hole is over the bunker in the distance and the eighteenth is off to the left.  In the clubhouse the dining porch looks over the eighteenth fairway.  The lounge faces the first tee.  Both overlook Peconic Bay.”

HOLE #4 – Par 3 – 195 yards

NGLA4-TeeZoom-JC.jpg

The 4th at National Golf Links – C.B. Macdonald’s homage to the 15th at North Berwick is the first, and still the best, Redan in America.

NGLA4-TeeZoom-SH.jpg

HOLE #6 – Par 3 – 141 yards

NGLA6-TeeZoom-JC.jpg

No conversation about great greens is complete without mention of the “Short” par-3 6th at National Golf Links of America.

NGLA6-TeeZoom-SH.jpg

“The fearsome 6th hole at the National Golf Links of America, Southampton, Long Island.  More than 500 bushels of Carter’s tested Grass Seed were sown on this golf course.”

HOLE #16 – Par 4 – 415 yards

NGLA16-TeeZoom-JC.jpg

Punchbowl – the 16th at National Golf Links of America, begins with an uphill tee shot to a fairway that falls off hard to both sides.  The approach is blind over a large knob to a bowled green under the iconic windmill.  As fun a hole as there is.

NGLA16-TeeZoom-SH.jpg

“THE SIXTEENTH HOLE FROM THE TEE.  This is the Punch Bowl and is a splendid hole – the lake replacing the old marsh will be noticed in the foreground.  The second must carry to the green as there is a whole group of mounds and bunkers in front of it.”

NGLA16-TeeZoom-SH.jpg

HOLE #17 – Par 4 – 375 yards

NGLA17-TeeZoom-JC.jpg

Peconic – the 17th at National Golf Links of America. Preeminent golf writer and hall-of-famer Bernard Darwin said that the view from the tee on this par-4 out “over Peconic Bay is one of the loveliest in the world.” Wise man, Sir Bernard.

NGLA17-TeeZoom-SH.jpg

‘VIEW FROM THE SEVENTEENTH TEE.  This is a particularly fine hole of its length.  The sand bunkers and sea grass extend all the way down on the left so that the carry to get closest to the green may be chosen.  The Peconic Bay in the distance gives its name to the hole.”

Clubhouse

NGLA-Clubhouse-JC.jpg

The gorgeous clubhouse at National Golf Links of America, designed by Jarvis Hunt on land overlooking Peconic Bay.  The current clubhouse was built in 1911 after the original Shinnecock Inn burned down.

NGLA-Clubhouse-SH.jpg


PEBBLE BEACH GOLF LINKS

HOLE #7 – Par 3 – 98 yards

PebbleBeach7-Green-JC.jpg

An iconic short par-3 with a truly incomparable view.  Ernie Els bogeyed the 7th in the 2000 US Open, allowing Tiger Woods to nip him by 12 shots.

PebbleBeach7-Green-SH.jpg

HOLE #8 – Par 4 – 400 yards

PebbleBeach8-Approach-JC.jpeg

The iconic par-4 8th at Pebble Beach – the difficulty of the approach overshadows that of the small, sloped green.

PebbleBeach8-Approach-SH.jpg

PebbleBeach8-GreenBack-JC.jpg

The par-4 8th at Pebble Beach Golf Links. From the top of the cliff, players face a 200 yard approach over Stillwater Cove to a tiny, sloping, well-guarded green – the heart of one of the best stretches in the game, and one of the best holes in golf.

PebbleBeach8-GreenBack-SH.jpg


PINE VALLEY GOLF CLUB

HOLE #2 – Par 4 – 355 yards

PineValley2-GreenRight-JC.jpg

At Pine Valley’s 2nd, one of the greatest greens in golf awaits those who navigate a church-pew-lined fairway & a wall of sand.

PineValley2-GreenRight-SH.jpg

HOLE #3 – Par 3 – 181 yards

PineValley3-TeeZoom-JC.jpg

PineValley-TeeZoom2-JC.jpg

Prior to leaving for California, George Thomas was one of several architects to accept the invitation of one George Arthur Crump to lend expertise and assistance to the creation of Crump’s dream among the pines of southern New Jersey.

PineValley3-TeeZoom-SH.jpg

PineValley3-TeeZoom2-SH.jpg

HOLE #5 – Par 3 – 219 yards

PineValley5-Tee-JC.jpeg

The par-3 5th, with newly cleared and bunkered areas around the green, is perhaps the greatest uphill par-3 in the world.

PineValley5-Tee-SH.jpg

‘THE FAMOUS FIFTH AT PINE VALLEY.  A 205 yard iron shot which is considered one of the finest golfing tests in America.  This is the first satisfactory picture showing the complete play from tee to green, as Pine Valley is very difficult to photograph.”

HOLE #8 – Par 4 – 314 yards

PineValley8-Approach-JC.jpg

The 8th at Pine Valley, the first of back-to-back double-greened par-4s, and a high stress half-wedge to one of two extremely small greens.

PineValley8-Approach-SH.jpg

“OUR PHOTO SHOWS THE MESA-LIKE GREEN OF THE EIGHTH HOLE AT PINE VALLEY.  A good tee-shot carries one down into the hollow with a short niblick pitch to reach the green.  But how different from the usual niblick pitch!  Here one has not only to throw a ball over a hazard but on to a green that stands out in all its loneliness, beckoning a risk of fate.”

HOLE #9 – Par 4 – 422 yards

PineValley9-Approach-JC.jpg

The approach to the famous dual-greened 9th at Pine Valley Golf Club – the left, built by Perry Maxwell, is generally agreed to be the better of the two, and with the removal of the trees behind, the shot into this skyline green is one of the best on the course.

PineVally9-Approach-SH1.jpg

PineValley9-Approach-SH2.jpg

HOLE #10 – Par 3 – 142 yards

PineValley10-TeeZoom-JC.jpg

This shot of the iconic 10th and the Devil’s Asshole at Pine Valley Golf Club was taken on a truly perfect day. The big, fluffy white clouds and crystal blue sky are beautifully contrasted by the greens and browns of the golf course.

PineValley10-TeeZoomBW-JC.jpg

I’m not usually one for black & white photography, but the lack of color gives this hole a bit of a throwback vibe.

PineValley10-TeeZoom-SH.jpg

Aerials

PineValley-Opening5Aerial-JC.jpg

The opening quintet at Pine Valley Golf Club begins with the par-4 dogleg right 1st followed by the heavily bunkered par-4 2nd & the terrific par-3 3rd playing bottom-to-top of frame.  Portions of the par-4 4th & par-3 5th, as well as the clubhouse, are visible through the trees.

PineValley-Opening5Aerial-SH.jpg

PineValley-ClosingStretchAerial-JC.jpg

A look down on arguably the best 6-hole closing stretch in golf: the 13th through 18th at Pine Valley Golf Club.  The all-world par-4 13th is left; the par-3 14th is at bottom; the par-5 15th plays top-to-bottom center; the par-4 16th is to the right; 17 and 18 are top right.

PineValley-ClosingStretchAerial-SH.jpg

PineValley-Aerial1-JC.jpeg

PineValley-Aerial1-SH.jpg

PineValley-Aerial2-JC.jpeg

PineValley-Aerial2-SH.jpg


OTHER COURSES (in alphabetical order)

BALTUSROL GC (LOWER) #18 – Par 5 – 553 yards

BaltusrolLower18-Green-JC.jpg

Built by Tillinghast and opened for play in 1922, the Lower is the club’s championship venue, and has hosted 7 majors and a host of other significant events.

BaltusrolLower18-Green-SH.jpg

 

BEL-AIR CC #10 – Par 3 – 200 yards

BelAir10-Green-JC.jpeg

This brilliant George Thomas design, routed through canyons connected by a series of tunnels, an elevator and the aforementioned bridge, is being restored by Tom Doak.

BelAir10-Green-SH.jpg

“THE BEAUTIFUL BEL-AIR GOLF CLUB AT BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA.  This is probably the most pretentious of the new Spanish Club buildings that reflect the mode of the moment in club house designs.  The course at Bel-Air is spread over hills and picturesque canyons.  The approach to the club house is via a suspension bridge which spans a fairway.”

CHICAGO GOLF CLUB #7 – Par 3 – 207 yards

ChicagoGolfClub7-TeeZoom-JC.jpg

ChicagoGolfClub7-TeeZoom-SH.jpg

“THE SEVENTH HOLE.  A full mid-iron shot and a very fine short hole.  The back edge of the green is twenty feet high.  On special occasions the pin is placed behind the left-hand sand pit which makes a most exacting shot to get close to the hole.”

ENGINEERS CC #11 – Par 3 – 160 yards

Engineers11-Green-JC.jpeg

Engineers11-Green-SH.jpg

“Eleventh Green Engineers Country Club, Roslyn, L.I., where 1920 Amateur Championship will be played.  All materials supplied by Carters Tested Seeds, Inc.”

HOLLYWOOD GOLF CLUB #4 – Par 3 – 135 yards

HollywoodGC4-TeeZoom-JC.jpg

The par-3 4th at Hollywood Golf Club features huge mounding on both sides of the green with bunkers cut into their faces, a wicked false front, and the smallest green on the course. This Water Travis gem may be the most underrated course in New Jersey, and is terrific throughout.

HollywoodGC4-TeeZoom-SH.jpg

MANUFACTURERS’ G&CC – Aerial

Mannies-Aerial-JC.jpg

The mini-quarry par-3 8th at Manufacturers Golf & Country Club.  This 1925 William Flynn design has long been one of Philly’s hidden gems, but since being polished up by Ron Forse, Mannies truly shines.  A must play for those visiting the area.

Mannies-Aerial-JH.jpg

MERION GOLF CLUB #9 – Par 3 – 183 yards

Merion9-Green-JC1.jpeg

Merion9-Green-JC2.jpeg

Merion9-Green-SH.jpg

“ON THE THOROUGHLY TRAPPED NINTH GREEN AT MERION DURING THE EVANS-GARDNER MATCH.  New champion watching the ex-champion putt, and one of the biggest crowds that ever followed a golf game in America watching both.  And there were twice as many waiting at the next green, gone ahead to get the first place along the lines.”

MERION EAST – Aerial

MerionEast-Aerial-JC.jpg

Holes 2 through 9 at Merion Golf Club’s East Course, a stretch which includes some of golf’s best holes, including the roadside par-5 2nd, the par-5 4th with huge fairway bunker, the brilliant and treacherous par-4 5th, the short par-4 8th and the beautiful par-3 9th.

MerionEast-Aerial-SH.jpg

MID OCEAN CLUB #13 – Par 3 – 238 yards

MidOcean-JC.jpg

MidOcean-SH.jpg

“THE CASTLE HARBOUR GOLF CLUB.  A splendid new course, designed by the late Mr. Charles H. Banks, in connection with the magnificent Castle Harbour Hotel, situated right next to the Mid-Ocean Club at Tuckerstown, Bermuda.  Well away from the more populous areas, the surroundings are most delightful by land and water.”

NEWPORT COUNTRY CLUB – Clubhouse

NewportCC-Clubhouse-JC.jpg

Very few clubhouses make an impression or dominate their surroundings like the Whitney Warren-designed, Beaux Arts-style clubhouse at Newport Country Club.  Dubbed High Tide and resembling an oversized jewel box, the clubhouse is visible from all points of the golf course.

NewportCC-Clubhouse-SH.jpg

OAKMONT CC #18 – Par 4 – 484 yards

Oakmont18-Green-JC.jpg

The well-defended par-4 18th at Oakmont Country Club, site of Dustin Johnson’s stone cold 6-iron to cap his 2016 U.S. Open Championship.

Oakmont18-Green-SH.jpg

OAKMONT CC – Clubhouse

Oakmont9-Clubhouse-JC.jpg

The shared 9th green/practice green and clubhouse at Oakmont Country Club.  Built in 1904 by Pittsburgh-based architect Edward Stotz, the Tudor-style clubhouse is a veritable museum of golf history, containing artifacts from nine U.S Opens and numerous other major tournaments.

Oakmont9-Clubhouse-SH.jpg

PASATIEMPO GOLF CLUB #16 – Par 4 – 387 yards

Pasatiempo16-Approach-JC.jpg

The infamous 16th at Pasatiempo drops some five vertical feet from back-to-front across three tiers.  Some love it, all fear it.

Pasatiempo16-Approach-SH.jpg

“SIXTEENTH GREEN AT PASATIEMPO.  One of California’s famous courses.  Dr. MacKenzie, who designed the course, cites it as a shining example of what can be done to reduce the cost of golf and so greatly increase the number of people who can continue to play golf, even in times of economic stress.”

PASATIEMPO GC #18 – Par 3 – 169 yards

Pasatiempo18-Tee-JC.jpg

There are few courses that finish with a par-3, and far fewer still that finish with a great one.

Pasatiempo18-Tee-SH.jpg

RIVIERA CC #6 – Par 3 – 175 yards

Riviera6-GreenLeft-JC.jpeg

Riviera6-GreenLeft-SH.jpg

SAN FRANCISCO GC #18 – Par 5 – 512 yards

SanFranciscoGC18-Approach-JC.jpg

Among the finest of Tillinghast’s designs, SFGC has a decidedly west coast flavor, with bunkering of a style that appears more MacKenzie than typical Tillinghast, who was expert in designing courses to suit the surrounding terrain.

SanFranciscoGC18-Approach-SH.jpg

“SCENE AT THE CALIFORNIA LADIES’ CHAMPIONSHIP.  The clubhouse and eighteenth green at the San Francisco Golf and Country Club,  Here Mrs. Leona Pressler won her third consecutive state championship from a very strong field after a hard thirty-six hole match with Mrs. Roy Green in the finals.”

SHINNECOCK HILLS GC – Clubhouse

Shinnecock-Clubhouse-JC.jpg

True perfection: the clubhouse at Shinnecock Hills, designed & built by legendary architect Stanford White in 1892, is the oldest in the US.

Shinnecock-Clubhouse-SH.jpg

SLEEPY HOLLOW CC #16 – Par 3 – 155 yards

SleepyHollow16-Green-JC2.jpeg

SleepyHollow16-Green-JC1.jpeg

A single sailboat enjoys an evening run on the Hudson River, between the Palisades on the west, and Sleepy Hollow Country Club on the east.

SleepyHollow16-TeeZoom-SH.jpg

SLEEPY HOLLOW CC – Clubhouse

SleepyHollw-Clubhouse-JC.jpg

One of the biggest and boldest in golf, the clubhouse at Sleepy Hollow was built by Sandford White as Woodlea, a 140-room Italian Renaissance revival-style Vanderbilt Mansion with sweeping views of the Hudson River.  A perfect match for the boldness and beauty of its golf course.

SleepyHollow-Clubhouse-SH.jpg

SOMERSET HILLS CC #2 – Par 3 – 205 yards

SomersetHills2-Tee-JC.jpg

Tilly’s Redan – the par-3 2nd at Somerset Hills – my personal favorite from among Tillinghast’s many designs.

SomersetHills2-Tee-SH.jpg

“The second hole at Somerset Hills, is a reproduction of the Redan at North Berwick.”

 SOMERSET HILLS CC #12 – Par 3 – 151 yards

SomersetHills12-Tee-JC.jpg

SomersetHills12-Tee-SH.jpg

WILSHIRE CC #10 – Par 3 – 156 yards

Wilshire10-JC.jpg

Wilshire10-SH.jpg

YALE UNIVERSITY GC #9 – Par 3 – 213 yards

Yale9-TeeZoom-JC.jpg

The famous par-3 9th at Yale.  Many say that the Biarritz template no longer has a place in the modern game, but I always enjoy seeing one.

Yale9-TeeZoom-SH.jpg

“THE FAMOUS WATER HOLE.  This is considered one of the greatest water holes ever built.  The carry from the back tee is 168 yards to the double green, divided in the middle by a trench, which, in itself, is a part of the green.  This picture, from the front tee, shows a water carry of 155 yards.”

 

 

Copyright 2018 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


12 Comments

Winter Daydreaming – An Homage to Crystal Downs

“Crystal Downs is a thinking person’s golf course, where long is good but not necessary…where the position you leave your ball is critical, and where the wind always blows.  Crystal Downs is the coming together of golf’s greatest architect, Dr. Alister MacKenzie, at the zenith of his career (after designing Cypress Point and just before Augusta National), with a marvelous piece of property.” – Fred Muller, Head Golf Professional

CrystalDowns8-GreenBack-JC.jpeg

Photo by Jon Cavalier

Crystal Downs is more than just a great golf course.  It is a wonderful family club that has been delighting its membership for nearly a century as they make their summertime migrations north.  It is also the origin point of a design lineage that began with MacKenzie, continued with the Maxwells, and reached all the way forward to inspire Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, Mike DeVries, Tom Doak and the modern minimalist movement.

Having now played Prairie Dunes and Sand Hills, I have experienced first-hand the architectural brilliance that this secluded northwest Michigan course has spawned.

CrystalDowns-Entrance-JC.jpeg

Photo by Jon Cavalier

Paying homage to Crystal Downs feels like a worthy endeavor as winter arrives in Chicago and Michigan golf is but a daydream.  I enlisted Jon Cavalier, also an admirer of The Downs, who graciously contributed a feature photo for each hole, and supplemented with my own (click on the square images to enlarge).  The club provides a terrific course guide – those hole descriptions are included (in italics), along with my commentary.

For those who have been fortunate enough to play the course, we hope to bring back good memories.  For those who have not, we hope to give a sense of what makes this place so special.  Enjoy!


CRYSTAL DOWNS

The club was founded in 1927 and the course, designed by Dr. Alister MacKenzie, opened for play in 1929.  His associate Perry Maxwell carried out the construction and deserves much of the credit for the final result.  The front nine, which is arguably the best outward half in America, plays across an open hillside below the clubhouse.  The back nine is an out-and-back playing along a narrow stretch of land bounded by Sutter Road and a quiet neighborhood overlooking Lake Michigan.

CrystalDowns-Stone-JC.jpeg

Photo by Jon Cavalier

The course is masterfully routed to maximize the movement of the land.  The bunkering naturally fits the landscape, and has plenty of artistic flair.  The greens elicit equal parts awe and terror, with their cant and subtle contour.  The turf is fast and firm, the fescue gorgeous, and tree management is darn near perfect.  The course doesn’t feel over-manicured but everything is just right.  Superintendent Michael Morris and his team present The Downs such that the greatness of the design and features shine through.

Few courses are capable of producing such high levels of pleasure, with the occasional, acute pain.

CrystalDownsAerial-Front9-JWCourseMap-Large.jpg

The Outward Half

HOLE #1 – Par 4 – 449 yards

“Although downhill, this hole plays every bit as long as its 449 yards suggest.  It is usually into the wind, and like many holes at Crystal Downs the tee shot lands into a rising fairway.  Sneak up on a wildly undulating green with a shot that lands short and pitches on.  A miss to the left is a bogie, a miss to the right is a disaster.”

CrystalDowns1-JC.jpeg

Emerging from the clubhouse, seeing the front nine spread across the land and Crystal Lake on the horizon, is nothing short of a spiritual experience.  Like every good opener, the 1st foreshadows the adventure ahead.  Playing downhill over rumpled ground with the severely sloped green extending from the bunker-gouged hillside, the elegant beauty of this green site distracts from its challenge.  Hit the approach above the hole and leave your putter in the bag.  Instead, kneel down and breathe on the ball – that puts you in the right position to pray that it doesn’t roll off the green.

HOLE #2 – Par 4 – 420 yards

“Avoid the bunkers left and right of the fairway and you’ll face a medium iron or fairway wood to the green.  Although generally downwind, the green is 25 feet above the tee.  Take enough club.  Golfers have putted off every green at Crystal Downs, and the front pin here is one where it happens often.”

CrystalDowns2-JC.jpeg

A stout uphill two-shotter, especially into the wind, the second is punctuated by a sneaky tough green.  The first two at The Downs illustrate that the good Dr. felt that gentle handshakes are overrated.

HOLE #3 – Par 3 – 159 yards

“Downhill and into a swirling wind, this is a most difficult hole for club selection.  Remember how much the wind was helping on #2, and that’s how much the wind is hurting here.  The green sits on an angle to the tee, one more club to the left side than the right.”

CrystalDowns3-JC.jpeg

This one-shotter pays slightly downhill.  The elevation change and the swirling wind in this corner of the property make judging line and distance tricky.  The reward for guessing wrong on the tee shot is often having to grind out a two-putt on the canted, slick, difficult-to-read green.

HOLE #4 – Par 4 – 397 yards

“Fade the drive here or risk running through the fairway into the left hand rough.  The long second shot will run up into the green only from the right front, however, pitching from the left front of the green is no disaster.”

CrystalDowns4-JC.jpeg

This deceptively demanding hole is one of my favorites on the course.  It requires a confident tee ball, ideally shaped left to right to hold the tilted fairway that runs away.  The approach plays uphill to a green set against a hillside and surrounded by short grass runoffs that are chock full of awkward lies.  A brilliant beginning to a stretch of four straight amazing four pars.

HOLE #5 – Par 4 – 345 yards

“This is one of MacKenzie’s great holes and most complicated, and is rated by Golf Magazine as one of the best par fours in the world.  Hit the tee shot over the left edge of the giant oak, leaving a hanging lie 7 or 8 iron to a green that slopes dramatically from left to right.  Or ‘bite off’ some more of the ridge on your tee shot to leave a pitch.  Don’t bite off too much.  Always pitch to the left portion of the green or risk rolling into the right hand green side bunkers.”

CrystalDowns5-JC.jpeg

The tee shot is easier than it looks, but it is so visually confounding that it takes several plays to get confident.  Contrast this look with the seemingly straightforward approach, which is anything but.  The green requires a precise shot to the left third.  Miss on the high left side and you’re dead.  Miss center or right and watch your ball trickle into the right side bunker.  CD’s fifth can be gloriously exasperating.

HOLE #6 – Par 4 – 351 yards

“This hole and #5 are MacKenzie’s idea of a ‘forced carry’.  If you make the crest of the hill, the short iron to the largest green on the course is fairly easy.  If you fall short on the drive, a blind long iron or wood awaits.  The famous ‘Scabs’ are the bunkers to the right off the tee.  Don’t even think about that route.”

CrystalDowns6-JC.jpeg

On a front nine packed with all-world holes, this is my favorite.  Hit it at the house off the tee and hope to catch the speed slot just over the hill.  The green is divided into distinct sections – find the right spot with the approach and birdie is in play.  Miss your spot, and well, you know…

HOLE #7 – Par 4 – 330 yards

“A 210 yard tee shot leaves a short iron to a most unusual green – a kidney shaped ‘MacKenzie green’ in a punch bowl.  A 230 yard drive leaves a short pitch to the green, but it’s a blind shot.  It’s your choice, but be sure to get your second shot on the proper lobe of the kidney.”

CrystalDowns7-JC.jpeg

Those who have seen the iconic boomerang green can attest to how gloriously wild it is.  Great architecture like this serves as a reminder to us all – sometimes, it’s best to let the architect chuck words like “fair” and “playable” right out the window.

HOLE #8 – Par 5 – 542 yards

“Crystal Downs’ first three-shot hole is rated as one of the world’s best par fives.  Drive down the middle, fairway wood up the right side and a medium iron into the green.  No problem…except you will encounter all kinds of uneven lies.  You are the mercy of the fates.  The 150 yard mark is one of the longest in golf, and the green’s not very big either with lots of undulation.”

CrystalDowns8-JC.jpeg

Considered by many to be among the greatest five pars on the planet, the eighth’s greatness is found in the ripples and rolls of the land that lead all the way uphill to the minuscule green set against a hilltop.  If there is a level lie to be had here, I’ve yet to find it.

HOLE #9 – Par 3 – 159 yards

“The green is over 30 feet above the tee, which slopes from back up to the front (yes, it’s an uphill tee).  Do not attack this hole.  Hit a low shot and bounce the ball onto the front center of the green.  Be careful with your putter.  A careless shot could send you back for a wedge.”

CrystalDowns9-JC.jpeg

This little one-shotter plays up into the (literal) shadow of the clubhouse.  From the uphill tee box, to the contrasting lines of the green and the hillside, to its position on the spine of the ridge, the 9th is a bundle of disorientation.  A unique conclusion to what might be the best 9 holes in all of golf.

 

 

CrystalDownsAerial-Back9-JWCourseMap.jpg

The Inward Half

HOLE #10 – Par 4 – 390 yards

“The perfect tee ball here, from an elevated tee is something inside the 150 yard mark in the right fairway.  This leaves a middle iron shot over a pot bunker and straight up the slope of the green.  Hit an extra club to carry the bunker yet avoid going long and left.”

CrystalDowns10-JC.jpeg

Walk out the back door of the clubhouse, take a right, and you find yourself standing on one of my favorite tee boxes in all of golf.  The thrilling challenge of the stout tenth lies before you, with nature’s beauty and Crystal Lake beckoning beyond.  Magic.

HOLE #11 – Par 3 – 184 yards

“You’ve heard those wonderful words of wisdom ‘stay below the hole’.  Do that here.  The green is some 20 feet above the tee so it plays long.  With that in mind choose a club that will get you to the front level of this three level green.  Putt or chip uphill to the pin.  Now, change philosophy and get the ball to the hole or you’ll be stepping aside as the ball rolls back past you, and maybe off the green.”

CrystalDowns11-JC.jpeg

On this tiered green, there is only one place you cannot be – above the hole.  Simple enough, right?  If only…

HOLE #12 – Par 4 – 420 yards

“The magnificent beech tree straight ahead is on the left side of the fairway.  Your tee shot must be to the right of the tree.  The green slopes from front to back, and unless you hit a large drive leaving a short iron, you should hit a low running hook shot that will bounce up and onto the green.  A pitch back to the green from behind is no problem.”

CrystalDowns12-JC.jpeg

This dogleg right features a semi-blind, discomforting tee shot and an approach into a green that runs away front-to-back.  It is also an example of CD’s solid management of its specimen trees, including those that are incorporated into hazards.  The beginning of a wonderful stretch of holes.

HOLE #13 – Par 4 – 435 yards

“This is the most difficult par at Crystal Downs.  Hit a hard fade off the tee that will run with the contour of the fairway.  The shot into the green is determined by the pin placement.  The green is very small, with a tiny front portion, dropping off to a larger rear portion of the green.  Choose a club for your second shot that reaches just short of the green and then pitch it at the pin if it is in front.  Try to hit the ball deep into the green for the rear pin.  The greenside bunkers are easy to roll into and difficult to recover from.”

CrystalDowns13-JC.jpeg

The entire hole is pitched from high left to low right, requiring the player to either shape or position (or both) their shots, as if holding against a stiff crosswind.

HOLE #14 – Par 3 – 139 yards

“This beautiful little gem is a straightforward 139 yard shot.  The green slopes less from back to front than it looks.  Enjoy the view of Sleeping Bear from the back of the green and stay out of the sand.”

CrystalDowns14-JC.jpeg

Infinity is the theme of this little beauty.  The gorgeous infinity view that has been recently restored through tree removal on the ridge behind.  And infinity being the number of ways that a player can make a 5 or worse.

HOLE #15 – Par 4 – 322 yards

“We call this hole ‘Little Poison’.  The fairway is narrow, the green is tiny and elevated, and the wind is usually in your face.  The key to this short par 4 is a long drive.  It takes 225 yards to crest a hill that will leave a short pitch.  Not cresting the hill can leave an uphill blind shot.  This green repels shots, so hit for the center of the green.”

CrystalDowns15-JC.jpeg

Crystal Downs turns back toward home with the 15th.  This short four plays over rolling ground to a smallish elevated green.  The player must decide how to navigate the flanking fairway bunkers to get to their ideal distance for an attempt at holding this devilish little putting surface.

HOLE #16 – Par 5 – 577 yards 

“Hit your tee shot hard.  Hit it hard again.  And if the wind is blowing, hit it hard again.  This green slopes from back to front; don’t putt it too hard.”

CrystalDowns16-JC.jpeg

This subtle, elegant three shotter gently bends and rolls over the land, finally arriving at a green surrounded by bunkers.  Don’t let its simplicity lull you into complacency though.  Getting out of position for the approach can change a birdie chance into a bogey in a heartbeat.

HOLE #17 – Par 4 – 301 yards

“Three hundred and one of the most frightening yards in golf.  A 200 yard tee shot leaves a 9 iron or wedge.  A 180 yard tee shot leaves an unplayable lie.  A 215 yard tee shot leaves a blind, uphill, difficult pitch to the green.  Now, if the wind is helping, you could drive the green.  The greenside bunkers mean bogey or worse, and you don’t want to putt off the front of this green, because it won’t stop rolling for 50 yards.”

CrystalDowns17-JC.jpeg

The seventeenth is polarizing – some think that it is a brilliant risk-reward short four, and others think that it’s an awkward connector hole.  I’ll leave that debate to others.  My experience has been that it gets more interesting with each play, and it’s good geeky fun to try and master.

HOLE #18 – Par 4 – 382 yards

“Drive your tee ball straight.  Don’t cut the corners, it won’t work.  Your target is the 150 yard mark.  The beautifully bunkered green is well above the tee shot landing area.  On your second shot, hit enough club and keep the shot to the right.  Anything to the left will kick into the bunker.”

CrystalDowns18-JC.jpeg

A lovely dogleg right that finishes in a prototypical MacKenzie/Maxwell green setting at the base of intersecting hills.  The walk back up the hill to the clubhouse elicits the same mixed feelings one has after finishing all truly great courses – happy to have played it, sad to leave.

Crystal Downs is a course that cannot be muscled or overpowered.  It does not just encourage creative shot making.  The course demands it.  Players who like to have their minds engaged, and who are willing to experiment will not find a more stimulating golf course anywhere.  The Downs has its secrets, and those secrets must be teased out.  That is what places it in such high favor, and what makes it a joy to revisit repeatedly.


MORE GEEKEDONGOLF ADVENTURES

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


3 Comments

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).

Hochstein-Design-Leven-Hole-Lundin-Links.jpg

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.

Hochstein-Design-Lundin-16-Leven-Hole-backtee.jpg

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.

Hochstein-Design-Lundin-16-Leven-Hole-DroneShot.png

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.

Hochstein-Design-Lundin-16-Leven-Hole-blindshortleft.jpg

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.

Hochstein-Design-Lundin-16-Leven-Hole-PositionB

From the lower fairway right

Hochstein-Design-Lundin-16-Leven-Hole-PositionA.jpg

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.

Hochstein-Design-Lundin-16-Leven-Hole-backgreen.jpg

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

CGC5-AerialBackLeft.jpeg

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

Yale6-GreenBack.jpg

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

SLCC11-TeeZoom.jpg

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

BMGCC16-ShortRight.jpg

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

The 13th at Old Macdonald

OldMac12-ApproachRight.jpg

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

The 14th at Mid Ocean Club

MidOcean14-ShortRight.jpg

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

FoxChapel12-Tee.jpg

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

YH2-Short.jpg

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

The 14th at Camargo Club

Camargo14-ShortRight.jpg

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

The 3rd at Shoreacres

Shoreacres3-GreenRight.jpg

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

BostonGC5-Approach.jpg

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

NGLA17-GreenBack.jpeg

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