Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Hole Series - The reachable par five – #18 at Pebble Beach

I opened this series with this statement, “All courses should have at least one – all players look forward to playing them – the biggest difference is what is now defined as reachable.” It was for a reason, and that is that technology has taken a few holes that were originally designed as three shot par fives and made them reachable –and much more interesting than they once were.

Pebble Beach has arguably the best finishing hole in golf, but the advancements in technology have made this an even better finish, now that players can try take on the hole in two mighty shots. So let’s look at what makes this hole great – other than the ocean.

The tee shot begins on a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean. The player is given a simple and enticing choice from the tee. How much are you going to try and cut off to shorten the hole. The way the tee shot works; the player can’t help but try and take to aggressive a route - often to find his shot in the ocean now having to hit three. The player who can cut the corner can be rewarded with a shot at the green.

Two architects notes before I continue on the approach. First the “stupid” tree (and second tree planted behind it) in the fairway is ridiculous and completely unnecessary to the hole. It only publishes a shot to centre of the fairway – huh? Second I must comment that the approach shot going for the green is very low percentage because of the size and the slight cant of the green – but that has never stopped anyone from chasing glory before has it?

The approach shot is made by the massive pine (recently replaced with one from the 1st hole) that knocks down players bailing right. The green is open from the second shot but players have to skirt the tree on he approach shot from the lay-up area. The left side approach of the green is bunkered and the ocean is hard up against the left side of the green. Finally to place a premium on the approach a deep bunker covers the right front of the green – the bails side! - meaning a rolling approach must flirt with the ocean on the left. A tough approach for those long enough to give it a go.

The green site is tiny and precise – even for the lay-up approach - but there are plenty of recovery options from the bunkers and the expansive rough right of the green site. The 18th at Pebble Beach was one of the best 18 holes in golf, now it is also one of the best “reachable” par fives too.

The other one that would have profiled was the 13th at Cruden Bay

Some other ones I considered:

11th at TPC
11th at Tobacco Road
1st at Royal County Down

I can't pick a great Canadian short five off the top of my head, so I'm open to suggestions.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Article in Golf Architecture about St. George's

This was my article published on St. George's restoration in Paul Daley's Book, Golf Architecture, A Worldwide Perspective, Volume 3

Interview in Fairway Magazine

An interview from May

Hole Series #3 from Score Magazine

This was published in September of 2006 in Score Golf Magazine.

The Hole Series - The reachable par five – # 6 at Western Gailes

The diagonal carry line off the tee

At only 498 yards the 6th at Western Gailes, known as “Lapcock” seems like a pushover on the card, but this unique use of the ground has lead to one of the most entertaining and interesting short par fives in golf. I have the rare opportunity of walking you through the hole slowly thanks to a golf picture site I recently was pointed to called

The big dune hides the green

The tee shot is one of many great diagonal carries at Western Gailes where the player must hit over the sea grass and native fescue to find the fairway. The aggressive player must hug the right side of the fairway and risk a series of deep hollows full of gnarly fescue grass to get the best angle to go for the green. The perfect shot is a slight fade off the tee, but the average player can still play safely left if they are willing to accept three shots into the green.

The lower fairway where lay-ups are played to

A successful tee shot leaves you with an interesting approach to a green you can not see. Do you play safely over the rise and to the right to lay-up, take it right over the highest dune trying to land it softly in the hollow that contains the green, or do you play the ideal and most effective approach with a running draw around the dune using the natural contour to feed the ball to the green. Like all great holes anything is possible, but missing the green anywhere but short right leaves the player trying to get up and down from the fescue.

The green with the central spine and high right side

The pitch into the green and recovery shots around the green are complicated by the sharp contours of the putting surface. The bail side is to the right and is wide open, but the green flashes up high on that side and this makes any approach from that area nearly impossible since a ball will tend to roll right across most of the green no matter how delicately the ball is played.

Looking back at the wild rumples in the fairway

The fun of the hole is all the natural rolls and hollows that influence play from tee to green. There are very few level lies anywhere including the green itself. The hole is proof that great contours have as much value as well placed bunkers in dictating the strategy of the hole.

The 18th at Pebble Beach - better Now it's reachable?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Hole Series - The reachable par five – #13 at Augusta

All courses should have at least one – all players look forward to playing them – the biggest difference is what is now defined as reachable. I’ve broken my personal rule with my first selection and picked a hole that I have not played, but like you, I’ve seen around 100 times in detail. My opener to the series is the 13th at Augusta National. So what makes this hole arguably the best short five in golf?

The tee shot has to be shaped from right to left to get around the corner for a chance to go for the green. The golfers who hit the ball straight always find themselves in the trees on the far side of the dogleg. So players must turn the ball over to find the heavily canted landing area and open up the next choice. Only a player able to control a strong draw can flirt with the creek, hard against the inside of the dogleg, to leave a flat lie and the perfect angle into the green.

A player who finds the fairway now faces one of the tougher shots in all of golf. The shot calls for a left to right approach since the creek crosses diagonally in front of the green and down the entire right side. The safe play is to the front left since there is recovery from this area, chasing any other pin becomes a gamble that you won’t find the creek. This is an important time to mention that the creek, and the potential recovery from the creek, which encourages more players to try the shot than should. The last item is the stance in the fairway. The approach is hit from a right to left lie for a majority of the play to the green, so players are trying to cut a ball from a hook lie. Even the lay-up area has the same cant which creates the risk of hitting you approach fat into the creek.

Finally, perfection continues right to the green itself. The swale and bunkers long means a downhill shot with the creek looming in the background – finding yourself in this position becomes a play for par. The green itself is severely sloped so that only putts are made on the two flatter areas of the green – both are tight to the creek and the shaved bank that leads into it. The old green was even more dynamic with better and bolder contours that were removed for faster green speeds strictly for the Masters.

The hole is very short, offers many Birdies and Eagles during the Masters, but inevitably a bogie or double bogie for one of the main contenders coming in. A perfect short par five.

A discussion of the 6th at Western Gailes:

Monday, January 01, 2007

The short par five

The approach shot on the very short and very dnagerous 11th at Tobacco Road

Most of the greatness in golf architecture occurs in the “par and a half holes”.

If I ask you to name a great short par four or reachable par five, you can probably list off at least dozen in less than a minute. Why? It is because these are the holes that we look forward to playing the most in a round. As stated before the short four provides a weaker player the chance to make a four and a strong player the opportunity to make a birdie. The short five doesn’t quite work the same way, but is looked forward to even more by most players because of the “potential” that exist only on this hole. That potential is a real opportunity to make a putt for an Eagle. No other hole in golf holds out the same hope.

So know that we understand the psychological difference of this hole from all others. We can also understand why most people will name almost all reachable holes when listing there favorite par fives.

So what makes a great short five? The short version is: when the element of risk is well balanced with the clear opportunity to score. There is nothing more pleasing than standing on a tee, or in the middle of a fairway, and weighing the risks of the next shot against the benefits of making one great swing. The short five clearly plays into or against the player’s ego, and that is where the architect must step in to take full advantage. The ego is almost every player’s greatest weakness. It often leads the player to some of the worst decisions particularly when the player is given the opportunity for glory. Most players just can’t help themselves. A short par five is a great opportunity to make the game fun for all players, but offers an equally interesting chance to really push the strong player into making bad decisions and big mistakes. Like all good ½ par holes, it becomes an equalizer through differing expectations of the players.

I personally think the great short fives presents the following:

1. offers up a clear opportunity to the player
2. invites risk taking
3. offers multiple options for play
4. demands two exceptional shots trying to get home in two
5. severely penalizes a missed shot from aggressive play

Over the next four days I will examine some of the best the game has to offer, starting with the most famous short five of them all; and I would argue the best the game has to offer. I’ll like finish with a list of the best on Friday. One I really wanted to profile had no photos available anywhere.