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Coore & Crenshaw’s Great 18

My recent buddies trip to Boston included a visit to Old Sandwich – the seventh Coore & Crenshaw designed course that I have played.  #8 was a magical outing yesterday evening to Colorado Golf Club.

Playing C&C’s courses never fails to be a joy for me.  Their courses just look right to my eye, and they are a challenging blast to play.  The broad strokes of routing, green siting, and undulation are masterful, and the attention to the little details is always off the charts.  Their designs are packed with strategic and visual interest and yet, my buddy Shawn might have summed up best what makes their work so special while we walked down the first fairway at Old Sandwich.  He said, “Coore & Crenshaw’s holes lay so softly on the land.”  Indeed.

To express my enthusiasm, I thought it might be fun to geek out on their work and create a course of 18 of their great holes.  Picking 18 great holes seemed a little too easy though, so instead, this course will be 18 great holes, according to the actual hole numbers.  I started with the courses I have played, and then enlisted a little help from their associates David Zinkand, Keith Rhebb, and Jeff Bradley to fill in gaps and add a little flair.

What follows is what I call Coore & Crenshaw’s Great 18, but it is not meant to be definitive.  Rather, I want to hear from other C&C nuts.  Did we miss one of your favorites?  Leave your comment, or hit me up on Twitter (@JasonWay1493) or Instagram (@jwizay1493), and I’ll add yours to the mix.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE

#1 – Bandon Trails – Par 4 (Jeff Bradley pick) – I have been fortunate enough to play this opener on a chilly morning in October.  It demands a confident tee shot, and an even better approach.  It is an interesting dunesland tease as Trails makes its way away from the coast into a spectacular adventure through the woods.

#2 – Cabot Cliffs – Par 5 (Keith Rhebb pick, runners-up East Hampton, Talking Stick North) – From Keith’s GeekedOnGolf interview: “A lot of people think #16 is the best hole on the course.  The view from the green is stunning, but I still like the second hole best.  If you walked on #2 tee today, you probably wouldn’t realize the time and effort that went into the hole.  It was a total team effort to get it into the state that you see it now.”

#3 – Bandon Trails – Par 5 (David Zinkand pick, runner-up Colorado Golf Club) – From David’s GeekedOnGolf interview: “The par five Third Hole at Bandon Trails has a great deal of interest in its green that carries all of the way back up the hole in terms of how to attack.”

#4 – Old Sandwich – Par 3 (my pick, runner-up Warren Course) – When I walked up on to the tee of this par 3, my jaw almost hit the ground.  The green sits on the ridge naturally, and yet is also incredibly bold.  The green is huge, and so hitting it is not enough – you have to hit your tee shot in the proper section for a safe par or makable putt at birdie.

#5 – Cuscowilla – Par 4 (Jeff Bradley pick) – From Ran Morrissett’s GolfClubAtlas.com course tour: “…Coore rose to the occasion here by converting a wash area into a huge gaping bunker down what would normally have been the middle of the fairway.”

#6 – Shanqin Bay – Par 5 (David Zinkand pick, runner-up Friar’s Head) – From David’s GeekedOnGolf interview: “It was fun to build a classic Cape Hole on the Sixth at Shanqin Bay in Hainan, China.”

#7 – Bandon Preserve – Par 3 (my pick, runner-up Old Sandwich) – Truth be told, I loved playing the Preserve so much that I could have picked every one of those holes.  I settled on the seventh because of the way the green wrapped around and merged with its neighbor.  Not something you see every day!

#8 – Bandon Trails – Par 4 (Jeff Bradley pick) – Nobody does short 4s better than Coore & Crenshaw, and this hole is typically outstanding, especially in firm and fast conditions.  The lay of the land leaves options of attack open, including the ground game.

#9 – Friar’s Head – Par 4 (Jeff Bradley pick, runner-up Colorado Golf Club) – Friar’s Head is not just my favorite C&C course, it is my favorite course.  I have heard it described as the Cypress Point of the east coast, and nowhere is that feel more evident than standing on the 9th tee.  The color contrast of the dunes with the fairway running down into the green complex is simply breathtaking.  And don’t let the beauty fool you, par is a good score on this gem.

#10 – Colorado Golf Club – Par 4 (Jeff Bradley pick, runner-up WeKoPa) – I am a sucker for simple golf holes.  My favorite hole at my home course (Kingsley Club) is bunkerless, and so is the 10th at Colorado GC.  The tee shot is a thrill, and the approach is deceptively demanding.  Lose focus before the ball is in the bottom of the hole on this beauty, and you are staring an “other” in the face.

#11 – Warren Course – Par 3 (Jeff Bradley pick, runner-up Colorado Golf Club) – From the Warren Course site: “This par 3 features the largest green on the course.  Bunkers line the fairway and border the green to catch even the slightest errant shot.  Take enough club to carry the false front of the green.”

#12 – Talking Stick North – Par 4 (my pick, runner-up Dormie Club) – There are several holes at Talking Stick that use the straight property boundary to create wonderful angles off the tee.  Challenge the fence, and you are rewarded with a significantly easier approach.  Play it safe, and difficulty hitting the green awaits.  That choice is compounded on the twelfth by the wash down the middle of the hole.  No “fence sitters” allowed on this hole.

#13 – We Ko Pa Saguaro – Par 4 (my pick, runner-up Friar’s Head) – This hole is strategic golf at its most elegant, and features a wonderful Coore & Crenshaw centerline bunker.  There is no way to completely avoid peril.  So how do you want it?  On your tee shot, or on your approach?  Players who like to mindlessly whack the ball into the middle of the fairway on every hole will hate this hole, and that delights me!

#14 – Lost Farm – Par 4 (Keith Rhebb pick, runner-up Chechessee Creek) – From Keith’s GeekedOnGolf interview: “The rough contours were already within the lay of the land.  We had to tread lightly so we didn’t lose what was there in the construction process.  It turned out nicely.”

#15 – Friar’s Head – Par 4 (my pick, runner-up Streamsong Red) – Walking up the stairs from the 14th green to the 15th tee provides one of my favorite reveals in golf.  The awe turns to joy watching a well-struck drive float down the the fairway landing area, and the approach down to the green.  The joy flips right back to awe coming off the back of the 15th green to the wooden walkway overlooking Long Island Sound.  Pure magic.

#16 – Streamsong Red – Par 3 (my pick, runner-up Friar’s Head) – Everything about this hole is wild.  The visuals are wild.  The setting is wild.  The tee shot is wild.  And the green?  Get ready for a wild ride!

#17 – Chechessee Creek – Par 4 (Jeff Bradley pick, runner-up Colorado Golf Club) – From the club’s site: This short Par 4 certainly tests your courage. You can either drive over the hazard, a carry of 245 yards, or lay your ball out to the left, leaving a longer approach. The narrow green is protected on the right by two deep bunkers, but offers a generous bail-out area to the left.

#18 – Cabot Cliffs – Par 5 (my pick, runner-up Talking Stick North) – How often does a course and a hole live up to the hype?  I have not been to Cabot yet, but when I go (and I am going), I have no fear that this closer will exceed my very high expectations.

 

Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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2014 Geeked on Golf Tour

The leaves and the first snow have fallen in Chicago.  My golf calendar looks as desolate as the landscape for the remainder of this year.  It’s a good time to revisit the wonderful courses I was privileged to play in 2014.  Those memories will be enough to take me through the winter.

With an extra project on my work plate in the spring, I did not get out for as much golf adventuring as I would have liked.  However, there were several highlights:

  • I joined the Kingsley Club and got 15+ rounds in at my new home course.
  • I checked off two more Coore & Crenshaw gems – Streamsong Red and We Ko Pa Saguaro.
  • My buddies and I made our second trip to Long Island and hit Bethpage Black, The Bridge, NGLA, and Friar’s Head.
  • After many invites, I finally got out to Tom Doak’s Lost Dunes and also popped over to Mike Keiser’s Dunes Club – both special places.
  • In addition to Bethpage, I checked two more U.S. Open venues off my list – Skokie CC and Erin Hills.
  • I spent plenty of time at my other “home” courses – Bryn Mawr CC, Arcadia Bluffs, and Canal Shores.

Without further ado, here are the photos.

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In addition to this embarrassment of riches, I ended the year with numerous invites and plans left on the table – Seminole, Old Elm, Glen View, Crystal Downs, Olympia Fields, The Course at Yale, Sleepy Hollow, Riviera, Whisper Rock, Stonebridge, Strawberry Farm, Oakmont, Merion, Oakland Hills, to name a few.

Looks like 2015 is going to be a great year…


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Copyright 2014 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Take the Risk, Get the Reward

Whenever I can, I sneak away on my frequent business trips to Arizona to play one of my favorites – the Coore & Crenshaw gem, Talking Stick.  On my most recent outing to Talking Stick, one of my all-time favorite holes, the short par-4 12th (more on that hole later), got me to thinking about risk-reward holes par 4s, and why they are so great.

Golf is a game that makes many demands of the player.  Mental demands to process information and use it in decision making. Physical demands to execute against the decision made.  And the best holes, especially risk-reward par 4s, make strategic demands.  On these holes, the player must weigh 2 options:

  • The first option typically involves a safe tee shot that leads to a tougher approach, and the therefore a lower probability of being rewarded with a birdie, but also a lower probability of a bogey.
  • The second option involves a riskier drive, where failure to execute could result in bogey or worse, but where success means a much easier approach to claim the birdie reward.

A risk-reward par 4 does not need to be drivable to maximize challenge and enjoyment, although many are.  The beauty of these holes, and what makes them so demanding, is that there is no “right” choice.  The safe and risky strategies both work, and both have their challenges.  There is no easy way out, and so the player must make a decision, commit fully, and execute to make a birdie.

I fell in love with risk-reward holes as a caddie at Old Elm Club, which has recently undergone a restoration by J Drew Rogers.  The 9th hole is a short dog-leg left par 4.  The green complex is drivable, especially with a well-shaped draw, but errant tee shots are gobbled up by stands of large old trees.  Drives that find the trees rarely result in a green in regulation.  The player can choose to lay up short of the green in an area between 2 sets of bunkers, yielding an 80-100 yard pitch to a tiered green guarded by bunkers.  Birdie is still quite possible with the safe play off the tee, but not nearly as probable as if the player can drive up near the green for an easy up-and-down.

Taking into account wind and weather conditions, I played the hole both conservatively and aggressively over the years.  I made numerous birdies on the 9th, and had a few looks at eagle, but I also made my fair share of bogeys and others.  The 9th at Old Elm never got boring, which is the mark of a great hole. (Thanks to Dimpled Rock Photography for the beautiful Old Elm photos)

My home course, the Kingsley Club, which was designed by Mike DeVries, also has a risk-reward par 4 that is great fun.  The 13th at Kingsley is short enough to be drivable under almost all conditions.  It also has an ample landing area for lay-ups.  An undulating green, surrounded in front and right by bunkers, makes all approaches challenging and exciting.

Having played this hole both ways, I have concluded that the risky play at the green with a bail-out long left is the optimal choice.  Ideally the player can hit a fade that runs up on to the green left of the front bunker.  Neither the safe nor the risky play from the tee leaves an easy second shot though.  There is still work to be done, even from greenside, to collect that birdie reward.

Returning to Talking Stick’s 12th – this hole has an abundance of visual and strategic interest, in addition to making wonderful use of the natural features of the land.  Specifically, the natural wash/dry creek bed has been creatively incorporated to demarcate the safe and risky options.

Having played this hole more almost ten times, I have still not committed completely to one of the two options.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I have made more bogeys than birdies .  That is the mark of a great risk-reward hole.  It introduces options, which can confound the player and produce doubt.  Very few good shots are born of a doubtful mind.

The 9th at Old Elm, The 13th at Kingsley, the 12th at Talking Stick North, and every other great risk-reward par 4 – they tease and torment, and every so often, they pay off with a birdie.  From my perspective, they embody all that is best about golf – challenge, interest and enjoyment – and that is why they keep us coming back for more.