Geeked on Golf


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ENDURING DESIGN AT PINE VALLEY

A then and now look at Pine Valley and what has made its greatness endure for a century

The early days of golf in America were imbued with enthusiasm. The quirky little stick and ball game that had migrated across the Atlantic from the British Isles captured hearts and minds with its blend of outdoor recreation, a test of physical and mental abilities, competition and camaraderie. It did not take long, however, for a sense of restlessness and discontent, particularly directed at our playing fields, to set in. “Why,” players asked, “are our courses so inferior to the Scottish links?” Nevermind that those courses had evolved and improved over centuries on ground that was ideal for golf. Such is the nature of American culture—we want the best, and we want it now.

It was this impulse that sent Charles Blair Macdonald across the pond on a search for the ideal holes that he would use as inspiration for the National Golf Links of America. He was not the only one pulling on this thread. In Philadelphia, a group of avid amateurs led by George Crump was turning their own dissatisfaction into a plan. It is not clear that these men intended to create a course that would be considered among the world’s best for decades to come, but at Pine Valley that is exactly what they did.

The Dreamer

“The late George Crump must have had more than a touch of prophetic imagination…what was in Crump’s mind when he first thought of Pine Valley was that somewhere there ought to be one course where as far as humanly possible, the best man of the day should win because every bad or indifferent shot should meet with its reward.” – Bernard Darwin

To onlookers, the man who is doggedly pursuing a dream might not appear as a visionary. Instead, he is crazy, or to the more charitable, a poor fool. Perhaps that is why those who could not see the picture in its creator’s mind labelled Pine Valley “Crump’s Folly”. And given the hardship that was endured to bring the course first to life and then to long-term sustainability, their short-sighted judgment was not entirely baseless. In the end, which George Crump would tragically not live to see, his detractors would be proven quite wrong about the course in the New Jersey pine barrens.

George Crump surveys the land that would become Pine Valley

Along with New York, Boston and Chicago, Philadelphia was a hotbed of activity in golf’s formative years. At the center of that scene was George Crump. Hospitality was his business, but the word also applies to the way he lived. By all accounts, he was the kind of genuinely engaging and friendly person to whom others naturally gravitated. It is no surprise then that he was at the center of a group of Philadelphians who shared a love of the game of golf, and each other.

These men, who were referred to as “the fraternity”, were avid sportsmen, successful businessmen and bon vivants. They were members at local clubs including Merion, Philadelphia Cricket Club and Huntingdon Valley. They played matches against one another, traveled to Atlantic City and beyond for winter golf, and supported the growth of the game in the city through the creation of Cobb’s Creek. Their ranks included architects George Thomas and A.W. Tillinghast, and Merion’s Hugh Wilson, as well as George Crump’s close compatriots Howard Perrin and Reverend Simon Carr, who was described as America’s Top Priestly Golfer”. Not only did they play together, but they also collaborated and wrote about the issues of golf administration, architecture, rules and handicapping. They were leaders in this nascent period of the game.

Fraternity members William P. Smith, A.W. Tillinghast and George Crump

How often have men gathered and, fueled by libations, indulged in the making of grand plans that never progress beyond the threshold of the barroom? In order for dreams to become a reality, there must be an individual who acts as a catalyst. For the fraternity, George Crump played that role. The group had been disgruntled both with winter course conditions in Philadelphia, and with their own performance against rivals from Long Island and Boston. A new, better course located off the train line to Atlantic City would kill two birds with one stone—Crump set about making it happen. He took a study trip to the British Isles and Europe, and while there met Harry Colt. Sunningdale and the other courses of the London healthland were particularly inspiring, and so it came as no surprise when Crump sought out the famous architect for assistance with his dream chasing.

Prior to Colt’s arrival, George Crump had exhaustively explored the land, and he held strong inclinations about holes to build. Nonetheless, he let his architect work unencumbered by preconceived notions. After a week spent studying the site, Colt produced a routing, which Crump then married with his own. This marked the beginning of a year’s long process of soliciting ideas and then synthesizing them into the bigger picture. Input was readily accepted, but the final decisions were Crump’s. In his brilliant history of Pine Valley’s creation Crump’s Dream, author Andrew Mutch summed up the collaborative process. “A friend to all, Crump was the colander into which countless experts poured their ideas,” wrote Mutch. “He sifted the collected intellectual property retaining what he intuitively knew would prove useful. Behind the affable sportsman was an uncommonly driven—even stubborn—man who would stop at nothing to attain his dream. The real genius of Crump was in using the gifted minds from the Philadelphia Fraternity to assemble his mosaic upon the beautiful lands of Sumner.”

Harry Colt’s plan for Pine Valley

The hard work of clearing the land of trees and building golf holes got underway. Progress was slow but steady, with Crump unafraid to deviate from the plan when a better option presented itself. For example, William Evans wrote of a change to the 13th in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, “Ground for the fairways had been cleared along the ridge…It occurred to Mr. Crump that the panoramic view from this ridge would be very desirable, and consequently he sent a gang of men in there to fell the trees. When the work was done, a magnificent golf hole was in evidence, a far greater hole that the one originally planned.”

In addition to being an architectural savant, George Crump also had a knack for promotion. He pioneered the concept of preview play. As holes were finished, play began as soon as possible for members and guests. A steady stream of high profile visitors stopped by to see the new course including C.B. Macdonald, Donald Ross, Robert Hunter, Walter Travis, Dr. Alister MacKenzie, William Fownes, Ben Sayers, Glenna Collett, Francis Ouimet, Chick Evans, Grantland Rice, Bernard Darwin, Max Behr, Jerry Travers, Alexa Sterling, John G. Anderson, Long Jim Barnes, Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. Reviews were almost entirely glowing, but these visits served another purpose. Crump’s intent was for the course to evolve based on observing players and listening to their feedback. He continued to make mental notes and tinker as construction progressed. Over time, he expected the course to make a steady march toward perfection.

Progress was acutely painful at times, however. The field of agronomy was far from the established science that it is today. Growing healthy turf involved trial and error, which in the case of Pine Valley, amounted to a great deal of dead grass on the fairways and putting surfaces. Once again, Crump gathered ideas and anecdotes from all quarters, but the troubles mounted. Coupled with the financial and operational strain of attempting to build a golf course during war time, as well as other health issues, the visionary’s will to proceed finally ran out with fourteen holes completed. Tragically, George Crump took his own life before he was able to see the entirety of his dream course materialized.

Following through on what he started would fall to his friends in the fraternity.

A Cast of Characters

“George A. Crump, who died in 1918, loved golf for its own sake, and he loved the good shots of the game. More than most men, however, he realized that the making of good shots must be encouraged by good courses. Mr. Crump’s ideas led to the building of a course that will always be a monument to him. The Pine Valley course to a greater degree than any course that I have ever seen possesses individuality…Mr. Crump worked constantly on the whole landscape garden as if it were a picture, adding the needed touch here and there with the patience of an artist.” – Chick Evans

In spite of the deep sorrow felt by Crump’s friends at the loss of their ring leader, they resolved to carry on and complete Pine Valley. Hugh Wilson was the first to make a big impact. He built the remaining four holes from the Crump-Colt plan and managed to solve the agronomic issues. The turf would finally be on par with the design.

Next, it was decided that the intended improvements should be carried out to the fullest extent possible. A two day Advisory Committee meeting led by founding members Howard Perrin and Simon Carr was convened in which participants racked their brains for any recollections of Crump’s intended tweaks. C.H. Alison was tapped to provide his thoughts on course upgrades, which neatly dovetailed with the findings of the Committee. That work was carried out faithfully, and it was agreed that it finally met George Crump’s lofty standards.

The course continued to evolve in the years that followed as it matured and was played by more members, guests and competitive golfers. The pimple was removed from the putting surface on the 18th in 1928. William Flynn added a second green on the 9th and softened the bunkering in front of the 18th green. In 1929, Perry Maxwell, who by then was a member, made further modifications. He tuned up several greens and their surrounds, including the 4th, 5th and 9th. Through all these changes, present was the steady hand of greenkeeper Eb Steiniger, who consistently delivered playing surfaces that allowed Pine Valley to shine.

Eb Steiniger studies the bunkering on the 15th in 1954

Today, the course is under the care of Superintendent Richard Christian and consulting architect Tom Fazio, who has been a member since the 1980s and whose Uncle George was the club’s playing pro in the 1940s. Fazio built the companion short course, and has undertaken some tree removal and bunker renovation. George Crump did not intend for Pine Valley to be a static golf course—he desired continuous improvement. Would he want trees cleared and vistas restored? Would he like the new aesthetic of the bunkers and sandy wastes, or would he prefer they be more rugged? What would he make of modern agronomic capabilities? We, like Fazio and the membership, are left to speculate and debate. One thing is certain though, he would have loved to be in on lively discussions with friends, and he would hopefully take some satisfaction in Pine Valley’s position among the greatest golf courses in the world.

The Course Then & Now

“I personally feel that of all the golf courses that exist in golf, Pine Valley may be the only one where by moving a tee, fairway or green, you may not be able to improve it. You may be able to move something for the sake of change, but in terms of actually moving or recreating or adding something relative to the design of the golf course, I personally don’t think you could make it any better.” – Tom Fazio

Click on any gallery image to enlarge with captions

In hindsight, there was an alchemical process that led to the creation of Pine Valley. Inspiration drawn from Scotland and the London heathland, applied to suitable ground that had been meticulously studied, influenced by brilliant design minds like Colt, Tillinghast and Wilson, allowed to freely evolve as opportunities for betterment arose. A formula that seems destined to yield greatness as we look back at it now was far less apparent when the alchemist was working through the steps. George Crump gave himself completely to Pine Valley, and through the course, his dream endures.

A course as timeless as Pine Valley is worthy of a tour delivered through both past and present lenses. Fortunately for the curious, the historical record is filled with the observations and impressions of many of golf’s greatest minds from the last century. To the fullest extent, their words have been employed, with links allowing for further exploration. Simon Haines (@Hainesy76) has generously opened up his treasure trove of historical photos covering almost every hole, which are contrasted with the modern photography of Jon Cavalier (@LinksGems). A fortunate few players are afforded the opportunity to directly experience Pine Valley’s brilliance. For the rest of us, the hope is that the tour that follows allows for vicarious pleasure. Enjoy!

HOLE #1 – 421 yards – par 4

Crump was a match player, and he thought of his opener as both a first and potential 19th hole, drawing inspiration from one of his personal favorites at Hoylake—scorable, yet able to cause acute difficulties. Ran Morrissett of GolfClubAtlas wrote of Pine Valley’s 1st, “The demand for clear thinking is immediate: with the front portion of the green ample in width, is the golfer content to take two putts to get down? Or is he confident enough to chase after back hole locations where the green narrows? A wonderful dilemma posed by a bunkerless green site.”

HOLE #2 – 368 yards – par 4

Players quickly realize that, at Pine Valley, the yardage on the card is meaningless vis a vis a hole’s level of difficulty. “My word, do you play this hole, or just photograph it?” wrote John La Cerda in his profile for The Saturday Evening Post in 1945. Golf Digest’s Jerry Tarde further describes the experience. “The 2nd is the longest, most treacherous 368 yards in golf,” he explained in his flyover video tour. “Church pew bunkers run up both sides of the fairway to a rising hill with a lunarscape of sand pits. You can only see the top of the flagstick.” Tom Fazio referred to the second shot on the 2nd as the impetus for building the short course. He just wanted to hit that shot over and over. “The green is even more perilous,” continued Tarde. “A missed shot is a death sentence. As the members say, Welcome to Pine Valley.’”

HOLE #3 – 198 yards – par 3

The collection of one-shotters at Pine Valley may be the best on the planet. They are varied, and all demanding of well-struck tee balls. “As sightly a hole as the golfing artist could wish to view; and as severe a test of golf skill as the expert iron player could crave,” wrote founding member Simon Carr in a 1915 issue of Golf Illustrated. “The green, a perfectly beautiful natural conformation, lies about fifteen feet below the level of the tee, with every part of its surface fully in view…A weakly hit ball, or a slightly pulled ball, needs no urging to trickle, or to shoot, into the depths of the graceful, serpentine bunker that winds around the whole left side of the green. On the right side, just at the distance the ball should carry, the bunker pushes two hungry mouths partway into the green, ready to gobble a ball the least bit too far to the right…There is no puzzle, no trick, no blind chance of play. It just requires the skill and nerve of a very finely controlled long iron shot.”

HOLE #4 – 499 yards – par 4

Crump was not shy about confronting players with intimidating looks from the tee. The experience elicited colorful reactions from early guests and visiting journalists. “(The course) has sandy wastes so extensive that they should be crossed only by camel,” wrote John Kieran from the New York Times. “From the fourth tee, the indignant visitor looks out over nothing but sand. The caddies point somewhere along the skyline and say, ‘Aim up there.’ There should at least be a pyramid or an obelisk as a roadmark for wayward golf traffic.” There is more to this stout four-par than the tee shot, as explained by Morrissett. “Crump was a master at fitting the green to the hole,” he wrote. “It comes as no surprise to find the green is open in front and is one of the biggest on the course. The green itself follows the general slope of the land, which is from front to back.”

HOLE #5 – 238 yards – par 3

There is a distinct satisfaction in successfully producing a shot at the very limits of one’s ability. The architects of the Golden Age often included a long par-3 to provide the opportunity for this thrill, and at Pine Valley, it comes at the magnificent 5th. Bernard Darwin described the experience well when he wrote, “What a memorable short hole is the fifth—one full spoon shot over a tremendous chasm stretching from tee to green, a wilderness of firs on the right, big bunkers on the left. To land the ball on that green—and there is no reason in the world why you should not do it if you are not frightened—provides a moment worth living for.”

HOLE #6 – 394 yards – par 4

“When the ridge along the 6th is reached, the panorama is so magnificent that it grips and holds hard like a spell,” gushed A.W. Tillinghast in American Cricketer magazine. “I defy any bred-in-the-bone golfer to stand on the ridge, gazing over that marvelous sweep of country, without feeling a glow of great satisfaction stealing over him, and he must say in his heart, ‘It is good to be here.’” Although the maturing of the forest has changed the view from that which Tilly saw in his day, Pine Valley is still spell-binding on every hole, including this dogleg right par-4 that invites players to challenge the corner for an advantageous approach in to the angled green.

HOLE #7 – 636 yards – par 5

In the modern age, where three-shotters often only take two, Pine Valley holds players to a more demanding standard, requiring consecutive shots that are both well conceived and struck. “The 7th is the longest hole on the course, 636 from the back, with Hell’s Half Acre, the hazard at its midpoint,” said Tarde. “You might say there are no bunkers at Pine Valley. It is one big bunker with occasional patches of grass. There also are no rakes at Pine Valley. Golfers are asked to smooth their deepest footprints, but otherwise the sand is left to be tended by the wind and rain.”

HOLE #8 – 328 yards – par 4

The clever architect creates a variety of challenges. As noted by Morrissett, “Since Crump’s death in 1918, Pine Valley has never once fallen prey to the false quest for length that first gripped courses in the 1960s.”  The greatest courses test skill with every club in the bag, including the short clubs. When players are given an opportunity to have wedge in hand, those shots, including the approach to either of the two greens at the 8th, are no gimmes. “Pine Valley is generally considered to be the most terrifying course in the world,” penned Darwin, “and I, for one, have small doubt that the eighth hole is the most terrifying on it. After a good drive, the trembling wretch takes his mashie niblick and pitches for that little triangle of safety. If he fails, well…”

HOLE #9 – 458 yards – par 4

The 9th is the second straight par-4 that had an alternate green added, although it plays quite differently than the 8th. The approach shot to Crump’s original left green is the more demanding of the two. According to course historian James Finegan, “The player’s instinct is to take plenty of club in order to get up. Shallow bunkers in the back may contain the too aggressive shot, but eight or nine feet beyond the green, the earth falls abruptly away down a wooded slope so long and steep that the ball, if it doesn’t fetch up against a tree trunk, may actually edge out into the 18th hole, which, for all practical purposes, might as well be on another planet.”

HOLE #10 – 161 yards – par 3

If there is one hole that has come to embody Pine Valley in our consciousness, it is this short par-3. Simon Carr summed up the experience beautifully. “The tee is built out on the very edge of the ridge, with the valley on the left, 50 feet below,” he wrote. “The green is located on a knoll in the side of a huge sand hill. In the distance, the green looks like an uncut emerald, as it rests amid the yellow and white sands of the surrounding bunkers. It is the jewel of the round…The wind always blows out on the edge of the ridge where the tee is placed; it tests one’s judgment soundly to gauge this important factor accurately in playing the shot. Tee shots at this hole are either good or bad…One must play the shot just right, or fail.”

HOLE #11 – 397 yards – par 4

“Every hole at Pine Valley is dramatic and memorable,” wrote Tom Doak in Golf Magazine, “even the holes that nobody talks about, like the medium-length 11th, with its perfect tee shot into a saddled fairway and perfect pitch back up a narrow valley.” This hole presents subtler challenges, but playing an approach from an uneven lie to a well-defended green is no less demanding than facing a wall of sand, water hazard, or the Devil’s Asshole.

HOLE #12 – 337 yards – par 4

In the modern era of aerial golf, angles still matter at Pine Valley. From the right tee, the fairway is wide and allows for advantageous positioning into the long axis of the green. Finegan explained the versatility of the 12th, “If the hole is played from the oft-neglected left-hand tee, elevated and tucked well back in a glade, the forced carry is more like 170 yards than 150, the landing area is not in view, and the subsequent shot to the narrow green is longer and rather on a sharp angle, with only the top half of the flagstick visible. The left-hand tee was built in 1962 for the express purpose of toughening this hole. It succeeds admirably.”

HOLE #13 – 486 yards – par 4

One of the course’s many strengths is the variety. Lengths, directions, elevation, constantly shifting, keeping players on their toes, epitomized by the stretch from eleven through thirteen. “Pine Valley blends all three schools of design—heroic, penal and strategic—over the whole course, often on a single hole. For rugged grandeur, 13 may be the best of the best,” gushed Tarde. “486 yards, first to a perched landing area on the right, then a long second sweeping left, with death or glory at hand.” Simply put, an all-world four par.

HOLE #14 – 220 yards – par 3

Wiley architects often use beauty to mask peril, a tactic that players must guard against at the par-3 14th. “For the photographer or painter, the hole is enthralling,” wrote Finegan. “For the player, it is unnerving. The ‘island’ green awaits far below in its picturesque setting of water and trees and sand. Because of the falling nature of the shot, the hole plays less than the measured distance. The breeze, generally off the port bow, can be tricky, often hurling a softly flighted ball directly into the water short of the green or into the forest that is everywhere the water is not, yet sometimes failing to influence in any fashion a crisply lined iron that, alas, now splashes in the water beyond the green.”

HOLE #15 – 615 yards – par 5

The second of Pine Valley’s two par-5s is straightforward, and just plain hard. “It might have been 15 that Robert Trent Jones had in mind when he called Pine Valley the most difficult course in the world,” explained Tarde. “For most of us, this par-5 requires four full shots and a putt. Is it unfair at times? Maybe so. But isn’t that the ultimate test? Can a player hit a good shot, only to be crushed by a horrific result, and still find it within him or herself to rise to the occasion on the next one?”

HOLE #16 – 475 yards – par 4

The 16th switches back and runs down to the water, before the course turns and heads for home. Position off the tee is important to approach the green set up against the lake. “Those who can clear the sand from the tee on the optimum line will have the luxury of hitting an iron from the right side of the fairway to the left side of the largest green on the course, which is to say hitting away from the lake,” expanded Finegan. “A grand and wonderful hole it is, and one which, like its predecessor, fully rewards the big basher.”

HOLE #17 – 345 yards – par 4

One can imagine how exciting match play can be coming down the stretch. Opportunities for triumph and disaster abound. Morrissett peeled back a layer when he wrote, “(The 17th) highlights how revolutionary George Crump truly was and how well he understood the psychology of the game. Like Donald Ross, Crump understood that there must be give and take by the course architect and he allows the golfer a chance to birdie the penultimate hole to break 80…or 90…or 100. Of course, rash tactics that place the greedy golfer above the day’s hole location on this sharply pitched green can be the undoing of an otherwise fine round.”

HOLE #18 – 483 yards – par 4

The home hole encapsulates much of the spirit of Pine Valley. There are forced carries on both shots, first over sand and then over water and sand. There are intimidating hazards complemented by subtle contours. There is incomplete visibility—it’s all there on the 18th, but not necessarily all there in front of you. Both the fronting bunkers and green surface have undergone changes, making both less penal than they were in Crump’s day. Newspaperman Ted Hoyt described the infamous feature that was later removed. “The famous pimple on the 18th green at Pine Valley,” he wrote, “has probably been cussed out more by aggravated linksmen than any other single hazard in the country.”

“The world doesn’t need a lot more courses that are just like Pine Valley. Designers have been trying to imitate it, and they will forever fall short. But if more golf courses were developed by guys who cared as much as George Crump did, we’d be on the right road.” – Tom Doak

Is Pine Valley difficult? Of course it is. In fact, although many consider it to be the greatest course in the world, those who prefer a more relaxed feel for their everyday golf would not designate it their favorite, precisely because it is relentlessly demanding. But it is so much more than a hard golf course. From the use of the land in the routing, to strategic placement of hazards, to the contours of the greens, it is evident to all that the course was a labor of love for a group of golf’s best minds during the Golden Age. Its greatness endures because it taps into the satisfaction one feels having overcome a true challenge, even if only for one shot. At Pine Valley, every victory, large or small, is earned.

Beyond the play of the course though, let’s not forget that the founders sought to create a place of natural beauty where enjoyment of time spent on sport with one’s fellows would reign supreme. As was often the case in the early days, Simon Carr put words dripping with a religious fervor to the feelings of visitors then, and now: “It is then a golfing Paradise. It is so peaceful, so secluded, so restful, that you feel as if you were a thousand miles from the rout of the big city…As you wander over the Pine Valley hills and through its dales, your eye is feasted, with nature’s sweet, wild beauty; the odor of the wholesome pine delights your nostrils; you seem to gather health and cheerfulness at every step. There is the peace of seclusion, nature’s godly beauty, the pure joy of most excellent golf. With a sturdy old friend by your side to share it all—what more could an earthly paradise be?”

Copyright 2020 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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

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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.

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

HOLE #5 – Par 5 – 472 yards

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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.

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Mackenzie playing it in 1928.

HOLE #9 – Par 4 – 283 yards

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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.

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Alister MacKenzie teeing off on 9 in 1928…

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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.

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HOLE #11 – Par 3 – 427 yards

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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.

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

HOLE #13 – Par 3 – 344 yards

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“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

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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.

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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.

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HOLE #16 – Par 3 – 218 yards

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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.

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HOLE #17 – Par 4 – 374 yard

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

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“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

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

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“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

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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.

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HOLE #6 – Par 3 – 141 yards

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

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“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

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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.

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“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.”

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HOLE #17 – Par 4 – 375 yards

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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.

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‘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

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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.

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PEBBLE BEACH GOLF LINKS

HOLE #7 – Par 3 – 98 yards

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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.

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HOLE #8 – Par 4 – 400 yards

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

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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.

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PINE VALLEY GOLF CLUB

HOLE #2 – Par 4 – 355 yards

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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.

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HOLE #3 – Par 3 – 181 yards

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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.

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HOLE #5 – Par 3 – 219 yards

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

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‘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

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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.

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“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

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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.

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HOLE #10 – Par 3 – 142 yards

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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.

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

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Aerials

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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.

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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.

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OTHER COURSES (in alphabetical order)

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

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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.

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BEL-AIR CC #10 – Par 3 – 200 yards

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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.

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“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

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“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

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“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

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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.

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MANUFACTURERS’ G&CC – Aerial

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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.

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MERION GOLF CLUB #9 – Par 3 – 183 yards

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“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

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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.

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MID OCEAN CLUB #13 – Par 3 – 238 yards

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“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

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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.

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OAKMONT CC #18 – Par 4 – 484 yards

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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.

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OAKMONT CC – Clubhouse

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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.

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PASATIEMPO GOLF CLUB #16 – Par 4 – 387 yards

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

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“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

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

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RIVIERA CC #6 – Par 3 – 175 yards

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SAN FRANCISCO GC #18 – Par 5 – 512 yards

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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.

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“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

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

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SLEEPY HOLLOW CC #16 – Par 3 – 155 yards

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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.

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SLEEPY HOLLOW CC – Clubhouse

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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.

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SOMERSET HILLS CC #2 – Par 3 – 205 yards

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

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

 SOMERSET HILLS CC #12 – Par 3 – 151 yards

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WILSHIRE CC #10 – Par 3 – 156 yards

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YALE UNIVERSITY GC #9 – Par 3 – 213 yards

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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.

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“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


6 Comments

An Homage to the Short Par 3

“In this era of obscene power, the likes of which the game has never witnessed, why not strive to induce a little fun into the mix and at the same time present a true test of delicacy and accuracy?” – Ben Crenshaw

This quote from an essay in Geoff Shackelford’s book Masters of the Links resonates with me.  In the work I have been doing at Canal Shores (read more about it here), I am coming to appreciate short courses and short holes more and more – especially short par 3s.

Therefore, I would like to pay homage to short par 3s here by constructing an 18 hole course out of some of the best.  Mr. Crenshaw provided a list of 11 in his article:

  • Pine Valley #10
  • National Golf Links #6
  • Whitemarsh Valley #9
  • Merion #13
  • Royal Melbourne #7
  • Pebble Beach #7
  • Cypress Point #15
  • Royal Troon #8
  • Chicago Golf Club #10
  • Augusta National #12
  • Kingston Heath #15

I’ll round it out with 7 (plus a bonus) of my personal favorites to play:

  • Bandon Trails #5
  • Crystal Downs #14
  • Kingsley Club #2
  • Maidstone #8
  • Shoreacres #12
  • Streamsong Blue #5
  • Old Macdonald #5
  • Bonus Hole: Friar’s Head #17

Why do I love to play short par 3s?  Because they are great at causing internal conflict.  The shorter distance makes me think that I should be able to easily execute the shot.  That expectation of success can cut both ways: it comes with a boost of confidence, and extra pressure.  In much the same way that a 5-footer can break you down, so can a short par 3.  I have to try extra hard to focus on execution, and stay off the result.  Easier said than done when standing on the tee with a wedge or short iron.  Good golf shots are rarely produced with one’s head twisted into a pretzel.  I love taking on the mental challenge presented by short 3s.

I am working on concepts for several short par 3s for Canal Shores and they are great fun to contemplate and discuss.  Removal of distance as the primary challenge also removes creative constraints.  The player won’t be challenged by length, but there are so many other ways to interest and mentally torment – green size, contours, site lines, orientation, hazards, elevation change, etc.  Let it not be said that a shorty can’t test skill and fortitude.

It is my hope that architects continue to find ways to incorporate devilish little par 3s, and short holes of all kinds, into their designs.  In the age of the long ball (in every sense of the phrase), the shorties add so much to the game.

Do you have favorite short par 3s that I missed?  Post them here in the comments, or on Twitter – tag me at @JasonWay1493 or #short3s.


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