Geeked on Golf


3 Comments

TIMELESS IDEALS AT NATIONAL GOLF LINKS

An in-depth profile of C.B. Macdonald’s National Golf Links of America and the design ideals it embodies.

The National. Two words that, especially for devotees of classic architecture, hold so much meaning. These words are not just shorthand for the club named National Golf Links of America, they carry the weight of one man’s incredibly lofty aspiration. An aspiration that history has proven to have been fulfilled.

Charles Blair Macdonald set out to create the ideal links on Long Island after having spent years studying the great golf holes of the British Isles to ascertain what specifically made them great. With assistance from H.J. Whigham, Devereux Emmet, and most notably Seth Raynor, he then poured all of that greatness into one eighteen hole loop that opened for play in 1909.

Not long after its opening, Bernard Darwin summed up the feeling the course has evoked from so many subsequent visitors:

“How good a course it is, I hardly dare trust myself to say on a short acquaintance; there is too much to learn about it and the temptation to frantic enthusiasm is so great, but this much I can say: Those who think that it is the greatest golf course in the world may be right or wrong, but are certainly not to be accused of any intemperateness of judgment.”

Perhaps Darwin was unwilling to pronounce the course the greatest back then, but at this point time, he would likely agree with the assertion that the greatness of the National is timeless. The combination of strategic design, beauty and fun transcend the fads of any particular era. I tapped Jon Cavalier (@LinksGems) and Simon Haines (@Hainesy76) for this collaboration – the historical perspective of Macdonald and his contemporaries is complemented by Jon’s terrific photos, which make abundantly clear how beautifully the course is currently presented by Superintendent Bill Salinetti and his team.

After a tour through all eighteen holes, I am confident that this contrast of past and present will prove the case that Charles Blair Macdonald’s ingenious approach to designing and building The National ensured that it would stand the test of time.

The Course

“Any golfer conversant with the golf courses abroad and the best we have in America – which are generally conceded to be Garden City, Myopia and the Chicago Golf Club – knows that in America as yet we have no first-class golf course comparable with the classic golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland. There is no reason why this should be so, and it is the object of this association to build such a course, making it as near National as possible, and further, with the object of promoting the best interests of the game of golf in the United States. With this end in view, it is proposed to buy two hundred or more acres of ground on Long Island, where the soil is best suited for the purpose of laying out a golf course…As to the building of the golf course, it is well known that certain holes on certain links abroad are famous as being the best considering their various lengths. It is the object of this association to model each of the eighteen holes after the most famous holes abroad, so that each hole would be representative and classic in itself.” – C.B. Macdonald, from the Founders Agreement

Imagine a band holding a press conference at which they announce that they are headed into the studio to record their next album. They have studied the greatest songs in the history of music and have settled on the best tracks. They are not simply going to do an album of covers though. They have distilled the essence of greatness from each song and will create new songs that not only embody the essence of the originals, but also work together as a cohesive album. The cohesiveness is born of the adaptation of the songs to suit the current musical landscape while simultaneously harmonizing with each other. If the media and fans were even able to grasp such a plan, they would not likely believe that it would be possible to pull off. Essentially, that was exactly what C.B. Macdonald told prospective Founding Members of National Golf Links of America he would do, and then he delivered.

Click on any gallery image below to enlarge with captions


Drawing inspiration from his beloved links, Macdonald routed NGLA in a traditional out and back fashion. He found and used the best features of the land to deliver both beauty and variety. That variety is reflected in the sequence of holes – distance, direction, difficulty…consecutive holes are never repetitive. There is interest throughout the entire routing, but there is also a palpable slow build. It starts on the first tee with views of the 18th green, Peconic Bay, the clubhouse and the windmill. Players are then taken on a thrill ride over the Sahara and Alps hills with views of Bulls Head Bay, naturally drawing their attention to the all-world Redan 4th. The course then runs out on gentler land across the road, to the turn and back across the road. The first glimpse of the windmill on the hill comes on the 11th green, signaling the start of the adventure home. That iconic landmark grows bigger with every hole completed until players reach the cripplingly gorgeous home stretch, with the Eden and Cape hard against Bulls Head, the trek up and over the 16th fairway to the Punchbowl, and then the view from the 17th tee, which is as pretty as any in golf. Finally and sadly, the climb from the gates up the 18th fairway, with the Jarvis Hunt clubhouse on the left and the wide expanse of Peconic Bay to the right, the breeze coming in off the water and if timed just right, the sun going down behind the sand. It is no wonder that a routing so clearly designed to conjure magic bewitches those fortunate enough to make the journey.

Course map of NGLA – Credit: Keith Cutten

HOLE #1 “Valley” – 326 yards – par 4


From the first tee with the Jarvis Hunt clubhouse left of the fairway

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. Overly timid or indifferent tee shots will catch a string of bunkers laid out short of the fairway. The carry to the left is significantly farther than it appears from the tee. While the aggressive line 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. 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. Balls missed left will find deep bunkers, while those right will encounter a series of random humps and mounds. The first green is rife with undulations and ridges, placing added importance on an accurate approach. Simply put, this is one of the best openers in golf.

HOLE #2 “Sahara” – 302 yards – par 4


From the tee on the 2nd, with the imposing sandy waste, and pre-windmill water tower

“The short player who cannot carry even 150 yards must avoid the bunker altogether by aiming to the right. He has a perfectly open fair green there, but he cannot reach the brow of the hill and he is left with a blind and extremely difficult second. The principle of the hole is to give the player on the tee a great number of alternatives according to his strength and courage. If he plays for the green and succeeds he has the advantage of at least one stroke over the opponent who takes the shorter carry to the right, and probably more than one stroke over the player who avoids the carry altogether. But if he fails, he may easily take a five or six and lose to the short player who goes around. The Sahara at the National is a better hole than the Sahara at Sandwich, first because the edge of the main bunker is more clearly defined, and secondly because the second shot for the player who makes for safety is far more difficult…At the National the second shot is always difficult unless the big carry is made; in fact, a fairly good tee-shot played only a little to the right is apt to run down to the bottom of the hollow, and result in too difficult a second…In the main the National Sahara is one of the most inspiring holes in golf; the carry is stupendous and awe-inspiring, and there is great reward for the perfect shot; but there are plenty of alternatives, and for those who cannot go for the flag there are infinite possibilities in the approach. Fifteen years ago a 270-yard hole was considered a very poot affair; with the rubber-cored ball and natural features like those of the Sahara properly taken advantage of it is perhaps the finest hole in golf.” – C.B. Macdonald and H.J. Whigham, Golf Illustrated, 1914

HOLE #3 “Alps” – 473 yards – par 4


The Alps green, with its tricky internal contours

“A long tee-shot played directly on the flag or anywhere to the left of the flag leaves the ball at the foot of the large hill called the Alps, and then the second shot is extremely difficult; for the ball must be raised abruptly and must still have a very long flight. The best line is to the right where the hill slopes down to the level and where the ball will get a longer roll and the second shot is much easier. But to get to the right the long carry must be taken off the tee, and when the tee is back the extreme carry is nearly 190 yards. Therefore, although the Prestwick tee-shot has to be placed rather more exactly, the National tee-shot is more spectacular. And at the National the second is more difficult on account of the extra length and the higher position of the green. In other words, the third hole at the National is an improved Alps, and as a test of golf it is beyond reproach. It is impossible to reach the green in two unless the tee-shot and the second are real big golfing strokes, hit in the middle of the club, and that can be said of very few holes with a maximum distance of only 413 yards.” – C.B. Macdonald and H.J. Whigham, Golf Illustrated, 1914

HOLE #4 “Redan” – 194 yards – par 3


A crowd watches a match on the Redan green

“Take a narrow tableland, tilt it a little from right to left, dig a deep bunker on the front side, approach it diagonally, and you have the Redan…The principle of the Redan can be used wherever a long narrow tableland can be found or made. Curiously enough the Redan existed at the National long before the links was thought of. It is a perfectly natural hole. The essential part, the tilted tableland was almost exactly like the North Berwick original. All that had to be done was to dig the bunker in the face, and place the tee properly. The National Redan is rather more difficult than the North Berwick hole, because the bunker at the back of the green is much deeper and more severe. Some people think the hole is too difficult altogether. But anyone who gets a legitimate three there, especially in a medal round, is sure to say that it is the finest short hole in the world. There is no compromise about it. Whichever of the various methods of attack is chosen, the stroke must be bold, cleanly hit and deadly accurate. At the ordinary hole of 180 yards it is a very bad shot that does not stay on the green. At the Redan it takes an exceedingly good shot to stay anywhere on the green; and to get a putt for a two is something to brag about for a week…In reality there are only about four or five kinds of good holes in golf. The local scenery supplies the variety. Here is one of the four or five perfect kinds. The principle of the Redan cannot be improved upon for a hole of 180 yards.” – C.B. Macdonald and H.J. Whigham, Golf Illustrated, 1914

HOLE #5 “Hog’s Back” – 474 yards – par 4

The third of three difficult holes, the 5th 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. The fairway’s natural ripples provide added visual and playing interest. Longer drives will contend with a unique trench bunker that bisects the fairway. 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. Two bunkers left of the green strongly suggest that the player use the sloping right-to-left fairway to access the green.

HOLE #6 “Short” – 123 yards – par 3


The original Short 6th, with Royal West Norfolk inspired sleepers fronting the green

The diminutive sixth might be the shortest hole at National, but with one of the largest and wildest greens on the property, it is as fun as it is maddening. From the tee, the greens for Sebonac and Eden are visible to the right. To say this putting surface on this Short template is heavily contoured is to understate the matter substantially. The large mound in the center sheds balls in all directions, as does the larger green itself. Any ball that fails to find (or hold) the green is likely to end up in a bunker – some more penal than others.

HOLE #7 “St. Andrews” – 505 yards – par 5

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. The bunkering down the right, which is largely invisible from the tee, will catch any shots that stray that way. The National is replete with interesting and unique terrain features, like the slash of a bunker and fronting mound. 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 and large green, adding exponentially to the difficulty of judging and hitting an approach shot. A brilliant feature. The most formidable Road Hole bunker that Macdonald ever created, this monster has allegedly been softened over time. The green, while largely flat, slopes away on all sides and is harder to hold than it appears. A large, deep bunker runs down the entire right side of the green, ready to catch those who decline to challenge the Road bunker. An exceptional three-shot hole in every respect.

HOLE #8 “Bottle” – 407 yards – par 4

“A few such bunkers are excellent, diagonal or en echelon. Variety is what one wants in a hole properly laid out. Long carries should not be compulsory, but if taken, the player should have a distinct advantage. Where there are bunkers at varying distances from the tee, the player has the option of going around or over according to his judgment. Bear in mind that a course must be absorbing and interesting, and not built for crack players only.” – C.B. Macdonald, Scotland’s Gift: Golf

Another template that has been largely lost with time, Macdonald’s “Bottle” hole presents the options while playing over Shrubland Road. 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. The Bottle bunkers that bisect the 8th are unique in design and formidable in their defense of the hole and they play bigger than they look. Between the Bottle bunkers and the green, Macdonald installed a Principal’s Nose bunker complex. The green is substantially elevated with steep drops on three sides, and missing right is particularly penal.

HOLE #9 “Long” – 534 yards – par 5

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. 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. Once past Hell’s Half Acre, a large green defended by steep bunkers short left and long right awaits. Certain pins will force the player to challenge the right bunkers and the side slope of the green, which will shed balls up to 25 yards away.

HOLE #10 “Shinnecock” – 445 yards – par 4

The 10th at National, drawing its name from its neighbor, borders Shinnecock Hills and turns the player back northward toward the clubhouse. It is a hole that ranks as a favorite among many. Two low profile cross bunkers encroaching into the fairway from either side add challenge to the tee shot. What looks like a rather straightforward approach shot from the safer, right side of the fairway is soon revealed to be more challenging than it first appears. 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. Shinnecock is punctuated by a wonderful green complex, to be sure.

HOLE #11 “Plateau” – 430 yards – par 4

A blind tee shot awaits the golfer at the eleventh hole, and care should be taken to avoid the left side as gathering bunkers collect shots hit in this area. The approach on eleven crosses back over the road, obscured here by a berm. A second Principal’s Nose bunker complex sits short of the green. Macdonald’s exceptional Double Plateau green speaks for itself, with bold front left and back right sections set at an angle and divided by a deep trough. 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. The large bunker behind guards the lower portion of the green and will catch balls that skirt through the middle of the plateaus.

HOLE #12 “Sebonac” – 459 yards – par 4

This two-shotter calls for a tee shot to an ample but angled fairway guarded by deep bunkers down the left side. Approach shots confront a small, slightly elevated green fraught with hazards on all sides. The lack of any background makes gauging distance difficult to a green that runs hard away to the right and rear.

HOLE #13 “Eden” – 166 yards – par 3

The third of the National’s three one-shot holes, Macdonald’s homage to the original at The Old Course at St. Andrews 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. The Hill, Strath and Shelley bunkers are all present and accounted for, as is the namesake Eden bunker wrapping behind the green, which is particularly menacing. Tucked into a corner of the property, the Eden green is one of the most peaceful and beautiful spots in golf.

HOLE #14 “Cape” – 391 yards – par 4


The nerve-racking tee shot on the Cape 14th

“The fourteenth hole at the National Golf Links is called the Cape Hole, because the green extends out into the sea with which it is surrounded upon three sides. It is today one of the most individual holes in existence and there is probably not another one like it anywhere. In a straight line to the green over the water the distance is 296 yards. The direction of play however is to the left, over a neck of the sea and then over a sharp face of rising ground. The shortest way over the water, a carry of 120 yards, is the longest way to the hole, whereas the shortest way to the hole is to the right, a carry of 150 yards. This carry, may not in yards appear very formidable, but the sea hugging closely to the right of the fairgreen, extends such a compelling invitation to a slice, that as a moral hazard it has proven very disastrous to the golfer. One who has been accustomed to the ordinary hazard placed to penalize a slice can have no conception of the effect which this limitless expanse of water has; and especially so because it stands mercilessly guarding the straightest line to the hole. The ordinary echelon bunker asks no more that to be carried, but here, not only a good carry is demanded, but the most precise direction. The temptation to risk it is very great, for the line to the middle of the fairgreen at a distance of 210 yards, is but a shade to the left of this longest carry, and as at this point the fairgreen is but forty-seven yards in width, with a series of four large sand traps to catch a pull, the risk is mandatory upon the long driver. If the shot is successful, the player is left with a niblick pitch over a pebbly beach onto a flat green which from his position is one hundred feet in width. An over approach is disastrous, consequently, a far four to this hole, which by land is but a little over 300 yards, is very satisfying.” – C.B. Macdonald and H.J. Whigham, Golf Illustrated, 1914

HOLE #15 “Narrows” – 419 yards – par 4

“Composite first shot of the 14th or Perfection at North Berwick, with green and bunker guards like the 15th at Muirfield.” – C.B. Macdonald in Outing, 1906

Perhaps the most beautiful hole at National, the fifteenth plays out to a fairway flanked with bunkers on all sides. Missing the fairway into the left bunkers cut into the hillside all but guarantees a missed green. Macdonald’s strategic bunkering including one in the middle of the fairway some 60 yards short of the green, which is offset slightly to the left and is well guarded. This is the most heavily bunkered hole at National. The green slopes substantially from back to front, aiding with approaches but making putting difficult. Long is a brutal miss here, as the player must not only confront the deep bunker, but the slope of the green running away. Once again, Macdonald gave the player no close background for reference, and the horizon look only adds to the challenge.

HOLE #16 “Punchbowl” – 476 yards – par 4


A gallery follows a match up the fairway on the 16th

An Alps/Punchbowl – this surely must be heaven. The 16th hole begins with a tee shot up a rising fairway, ideally reaching the level portion of the ground beyond the first crest. Straying too far to the right, however, will lead a ball to a deep hollow, similar to the feature on the second hole.  While all shots into the sixteenth green are blind and uphill, an approach from the bottom of the hollow is doubly so. It also shares a Sahara-like bunker feature with the second hole, visible from short of the green. The putting surface itself is tiny, although the surrounding punchbowl features contain shots that miss. 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 in random directions. 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. An incomparable hole.

HOLE #17 “Peconic” – 370 yards – par 4


From the tee, the rugged Leven 17th rolling downhill

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

Indeed. The penultimate hole at NGLA is a gorgeous in every respect, but it is also a world class short par-4 Leven template. 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. On approach from the right, the player confronts an odd sandy berm that runs the length of the green and hides parts of the putting surface. The berm also hides the small pot bunkers, which stand ready to catch any shot left short. This defense is a unique feature, and one that can’t be found elsewhere.

HOLE #18 “Home” – 501 yards – par 5

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

Playing far longer than its listed yardage, the three shot eighteenth hole plays back up to the clubhouse with full views of Peconic Bay. While headed up the home fairway, one appreciates what Bernard Darwin meant when he wrote of the beauty of golf along Peconic Bay. In approaching the green, the left side affords the better view, the right the better angle of play. The green provides ample room for a ground approach but falls away rather steeply on all sides – long does not work well here. Cresting the hill and putting out, the first time player senses that the game will never be quite the same for them again.

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

Charles Blair Macdonald had panache, but he was also a man of purpose. These two sides of his personality are reflected in the design of National Golf Links. Looking at the aerial and ground photographs, one can’t help but notice that there is quite a bit going on. The experience of playing the course is similar. So much to see and take in. The wealth of artistic features should not be mistaken for mindless clutter though. Every mound and bunker has a purpose, every contour a use. Taken together, these features combine to form holes that have asked players complex questions for more than a century. The answers do not come easily. Repeat play and careful study are required of those whose aim is to discover all of NGLA’s secrets.

Macdonald was not an architect for hire at National Golf Links. This was his club. He was deeply invested in its success financially, intellectually and emotionally. He was not just building the next in a long line of golf courses. He was creating a masterwork. That devotion showed in the product of his work in Darwin’s day, and its timelessness endures.

For those wishing to dive even deeper into the history of the club, more knowledgeable men have already covered that ground. I cannot recommend highly enough George Bahto’s The Evangelist of Golf: The Story of Charles Blair Macdonald, Chris Millard’s NGLA club history book, and Macdonald’s own Scotland’s Gift: Golf.

Copyright 2019 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


3 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.