489 yards, par 4
What’s distinctive: Whoever heard of a course on which club officials don’t know how many bunkers there are? Before the 2004 PGA Championship on the Straits Course, the superintendent told me, “We stopped counting at 1,100.” It certainly looks like Pete Dye scattered sand everywhere, especially when the course is viewed from the back tees.
In an ingenious move of sheer evil, Dye outfoxed his architecture colleagues by building his back tees lower rather than higher. He believes that will confuse good players more, and he’s all for that.
At the Straits Course, no hole is more confusing than the 18th, a hole that bridges two huge dunes and already has been renovated three times. The semi-blind tee shot has to carry a vast wasteland but not go too far lest it tumble into oblivion.
The long second shot must carry a steep ravine and parachute onto a green that looks like it barely survived a cat fight because of all the bunkers clawing into it.
What to look for: As demanding as the tee shot is, the fairway shape provides enough pocket cushioning to allow most drives into a reasonable place ...
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The sights and sounds of a walk around the Old Course are sometimes more flavorful early in the morning when the wind is down and the commotion less distracting.
At first glance, it appeared there’d be a crossing of major forces, what with Phil Mickelson on the first tee and Tiger Woods on the 17th green. Surely, they’d be meeting somewhere along the massive piece of historic sod that combines the first and 18th fairways, but it was not to be.
Woods went directly from the 17th green, across the first green, and headed to the practice range.
No worries, because Mickelson moved with Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney from the first hole to the second tee and compared thoughts on which line to take on a blind shot over a big sand dune.
Johnson’s caddie, Bobby Brown, suggested they take it at the “left corner” of the grandstands off in a distance. Johnson wondered about hitting it at “that big white thing” in the distance, which was the R&A merchandise tent. Brown offered another line, Johnson asked if that weren’t too ...
In making the shift from the U.S. Open to the British Open, players who confronted the smallest greens in championship golf will have to deal with the largest putting surfaces of any major site.
At Pebble Beach Golf Links, attention focused on the elusive shape and quality of greens that averaged a mere 3,500 square feet.
At St. Andrews, the putting surfaces are much larger – though how much larger depends on how you count.
One of the Old Course’s defining quirks is that it has only 11 greens. Seven putting surfaces serve double duty, and there are only four solo greens (Nos. 1, 9, 17, 18). On the 11 double greens, the sizes average a whopping 22,267 square feet – more than a half-acre. That’s big enough to contain more than six of Pebble Beach’s greens. On a per-hole basis, the greens average 13,608 square feet, slightly less than four times the size of a typical Pebble Beach green.
Those double greens at St. Andrews evolved less by conscious design than by the nature of classic “out-and-back” play along a stretch of sandy dunes ...
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Here at the cradle of golf, I am surveying the 18th hole from tee to green. Great golf course, terrible finishing hole.
If the 18th at St. Andrews were a better hole, I might argue that the Open Championship is the most compelling major. After all, the Open comes back here every five years. In so many respects, St. Andrews is the face of the Open.
However, reflecting on the majors in general and finishing holes in particular, the Masters is more exciting than the others. Why? Because in modern times it has been Billy’d to perfection.
That would be Billy’d as in Billy Payne, chairman of the host Augusta National Golf Club. Wanting a dramatic finish, Payne dictates a back-nine setup that fosters birdies and eagles.
Make no mistake: Payne is a hands-on leader who has his fingerprints all over the Masters. This brand of entertainment is golf’s version of Billy Ball at its finest.
Payne has one more test before establishing himself as the premier czar in all of professional sports. He has to persuade CBS Sports to allow him to conduct ...
325 yards/250 yard, par 4
What’s distinctive: The few players in the 2010 field who competed here in the 1992 U.S. Women’s Open scarcely will recognize the course, given all of the trees that have been cut down, the resulting windswept feel of the place and the presence of those wavy rough grasses. As for the holes themselves, the par 4s at Oakmont are just about evenly split between long and short ones.
The long ones can accommodate a perfectly placed run-up approach, but on the handful of short par 4s, the only way to the green and to stay on the putting surface is with a crisply flighted iron. Avoiding the gnarly rough is bad enough; worse yet are the hazards looming alongside Oakmont’s fairways. The second hole is a good (terrifying) example. Length doesn’t matter here. All that counts off the tee is avoiding the six fairway bunkers on the right, one of Oakmont’s legendary grassed ditches on the left and yet another bunker that’s smack in the middle of the fairway about 55 yards short of the green. From there ...
DRIGGS, Idaho – Growing up in Scotland, David McLay Kidd said his dream was to be an assistant superintendent or even, with a little luck, a head superintendent like his dad, Jimmy. Then came a fortuitous meeting with Mike Keiser and, eventually, the assignment to build the first course at Bandon Dunes Resort, a job that gave him rock-star status in the world of golf architecture.
Kidd was recalling his whirlwind rise from obscurity recently as he showed me and some other writers around Huntsman Springs, his newest creation and clearly one of his proudest accomplishments. At Huntsman Springs, owned by billionaire executive and philanthropist Jon Huntsman, Kidd moved a tremendous amount of dirt – north of 4 million cubic yards, by some estimates – to add elevation to a flat piece of land and bring nearby wetlands up into the course.
“This was the pinnacle of my career so far. . . ” Kidd said. “We got to showcase our creativity with a client who was pushing us in that direction.”
How did he get here? I asked Kidd how he had secured the plum Bandon assignment at such a young age, with a modest résumé. He recalled that prior to meeting with Keiser, he ...
Less than two years after naming Mark Woodward as its chief executive, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America once again is looking for a CEO.
Woodward, who took over in July 2008 after preparing and shepherding Torrey Pines through that summer’s U.S. Open, resigned with the GCSAA on June 22. No details were given about the separation other than that Woodward resigned “to pursue other career interests.”
His resignation was effective immediately, according to the GCSAA.
The GCSAA, based in Lawrence, Kan., said its Board of Directors will hire an executive search firm by mid-July that will be charged with finding Woodward’s replacement. Until then, chief operating officer Rhett Evans will serve as acting CEO. Evans, who worked with Woodward when the two were employed by the city of Mesa, Ariz., has been COO since last June.
Even in his brief tenure as CEO, Woodward left an imprint on the GCSAA, which has experienced economic challenges during the past two years.
“He led us through the most difficult economic times that anyone in our generation has experienced,” said James Fitzroy, the GCSAA’s president. “He led us through downsizing (at GCSAA headquarters), and he did a ...
Mike Davis doesn’t know how many days he spends on the road a year, just that it’s a lot.
“I’ve never counted them,” says the U.S. Golf Association’s senior director of rules and competitions. “I don’t want my wife to know. But it’s probably about half a year’s worth.”
As the man responsible for running the USGA’s major golf championships, Davis spends plenty of time in hotels and airports and conducting business from a hands-free cell phone in his car. His Lexus LS 460 – courtesy of a deal between the automaker and the USGA – is as spotless as his office. Davis doesn’t do well with clutter.
The department he runs at Golf House in Far Hills, N.J., coordinates 16 national and international competitions – everything from site selection and preparation to the competition itself. Davis, 45, is accountable for everything inside the ropes at the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Amateur and Walker Cup. He also runs USGA rules seminars and helps coordinate policy with the R&A in St. Andrews, Scotland. In his “spare time,” he volunteers as a rules official for the Masters ...
DUBLIN, Ohio – Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam, asked to be “global ambassadors” during golf’s all-out sales pitch to be part of the Olympics, want to build the course in Brazil where the Olympics will be played in 2016.
Nicklaus said he and Sorenstam have written a letter to the International Golf Federation requesting they be considered as architects of the first Olympic golf course since 1904.
“I think this is a very functional partnership,” Nicklaus said. “I hope we can work a deal.”
There figures to be no shortage of architects. Henrique Lavie, commissioner of the Tour de las Americas, said last month that already some dozen course design companies have shown an interest.
“There’s not a public course in Brazil,” said Nicklaus, who agrees with Lavie that it is imperative for the public to have access to the golf course long after the Olympics leave Rio de Janeiro, “even if it’s a resort.”
Nicklaus said one potential site already has been identified. If selected, he said he and Sorenstam would collaborate on the strategy of each hole – Nicklaus from championship tees for the men, Sorenstam with women in mind.
“I’ll be surprised if they don ...
MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA, Mass. – One of amateur golf’s most prestigious events returns to its ancestral homeland this month. The Curtis Cup sets up shop June 11-13 at the venerable Essex County Club, 30 miles northeast of Boston.
Essex County Club, founded in 1893, was home to Donald Ross from 1910 to 1916, when he served as golf professional, expanded the course to its current routing and walked to work from a house that sits behind the 14th green.
The club, rated No. 63 on the Golfweek’s Best Classic Course list, has a glorious championship history, having served as host of the U.S. Women’s Amateur (1897, 1912) and the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur (1995). Two of the club’s greatest golfers, sisters Harriot and Margaret Curtis, with four Women’s Amateur titles between them, donated the namesake silver cup for the matches that have been held biennially since 1932 – including at Essex in 1938.
The course is an iconic New England landscape. Native fescues abound, small ponds and wetlands dot the site, three brooks come into play, and there’s granite ledge outcrop everywhere.
The front nine has a softer ...
BANDON, Ore. – The design and development of a golf course is a long, drawn-out process. There are the occasional moments of epiphany, interspersed with cold, wet days out on the site, slogging along for hours looking, thinking and hoping for an idea to pop into your head.
With Old Macdonald, newest of the four courses comprising Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, the nearly four-year effort involved a communal program that is rare in golf and that has its own unique rewards. I have no idea how “signature designers” can think they are achieving anything but public-relations photo ops when they fly in with their entourage for a half-day of presumptive consulting. The real story, at least at Old Macdonald, is far more mundane. Mainly it entails walking and talking.
Old Macdonald is the design of architects Tom Doak and Jim Urbina. For nearly 20 years, Doak has been the lead man at his design firm, Renaissance Golf, and he has advocated a scruffy, idiosyncratic design style that evokes classic links-style golf and adapts it to a variety of sites. The approach was tied to his personality, which was that of the “boy genius” out to start something of a revolution in ...
It will come as a surprise to no one that the Black Course at Bethpage State Park once again occupies the top spot on Golfweek’s Best Municipal Courses list for 2009-10. The A.W. Tillinghast masterpiece, which Rees Jones buffed up a decade ago, last year played host to its second U.S. Open in seven years.
The runner-up to the Black again this year is Chambers Bay, the University Place, Wash., links that will play host to the U.S. Amateur this summer.
What might come as a surprise is the strong debut by Butterfield Trail, a Tom Fazio design near the El Paso, Texas, airport that supplanted Torrey Pines’ South Course, another U.S. Open venue, at No. 3. Torrey Pines, in fact, this year got bumped two spots to No. 5, one notch below Piñon Hills, a 20-year-old Ken Dye design that put tiny Farmington, N.M., on the golf map.
Butterfield Trail is one of three newcomers to this list, joining Washington County Golf Course (No. 35) in Hartford, Wis., and Ol’ Colony (No. 49) in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
One of the things that is striking about this ...
Bradley S. Klein, Golfweek’s architecture editor, offers his opinion on one memorable hole:
Yards: 393, par 4
Architect: Pete Dye (1981)
Where: Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., The Players Championship, May 6-9
Ranked: No. 16 on the 2010 Golfweek’s Best Modern List
It’s great because . . . no tournament course in the U.S. makes better use of angles and perception/misperception of ground features than this historic Dye tract. In an era when everyone else was building for aerial power golf, Dye took a dead-flat swamp and tamed it into a bewildering concatenation of quirky bounces, false safe zones and straight-in-your-face difficulty. For all the attention paid to the photogenic par-3 17th, it’s the least characteristic hole on a layout that gives every golfer options, bailouts and diagonally arrayed hazards. And for all of the focus on the dramatic trio of finishing holes, the golf course, from the opening tee shot, allows players to pick and choose a safe or risky path from tee to green.
It would be even better if . . . the sixth hole did not feel so claustrophobic. It’s the only hole on the course where the primary hazard isn’t sand or water, but ...
NEWPORT, Wales – Europe captain Colin Montgomerie has had nearly $750,000 spent on preparing the Celtic Manor course in Wales to meet his specifications for the Ryder Cup in September.
However, many of the changes are subtle and do not follow the attempts to gain a distinct home advantage against the Americans made by his predecessors Ian Woosnam at The K Club in Ireland in 2006 and Sam Torrance at the Belfry in 2002.
The alterations, unveiled to the European golfing media on Monday, have been implemented despite the fact that the Celtic Manor course was built and opened for play for $8 million just two years ago.
Montgomerie has had many of the course bunkers deepened, had the rough made consistently thicker than its had been for the Wales Open on the European Tour in 2008 and 2009, and has insisted the greens be firmer and less receptive to spin.
“All along, Colin has insisted that he was not interested in gaining a home advantage,” said Jim Mckenzie, Celtic Manor’s director of golf courses.
“If Europe do regain the Ryder Cup he wants it to be because they have played the better golf and not because the course ...
No: 16 170 yards, par 3, Augusta National Golf Club
Architects: Robert Tyre (“Bobby”) Jones and Robert Trent Jones Sr. (1947)
Where: Augusta, Ga., The Masters, April 8-11
Ranked: No. 9 on Golfweek’s Best Classic List
It’s great because . . . the last of the five water holes on Augusta National – all on the back nine – provides a theatrical setting for championship golf. The hole, established in its current form in 1947, embodies a distinctly modern sensibility of power, aerial shotmaking and all-or-nothing drama. In many ways, it’s a precursor of the stadium-like setting found at TPC Scottsdale’s par-3 16th hole. The genius here lies in a pond running down the left side and a concave green shaped like Africa and bunkered at 2, 5 and 10 o’clock. The traditional Sunday hole location is readily accessible by feeding the ball in from right to left down the slope. Tug it a little and water comes into play. A bold shot easily can run long and leave the delicate kind of banked chip shot that Tiger Woods famously negotiated when he last won in 2005.
It would be even better if . . . there were a little more variety in ...