What makes a great 19th hole?

Courtesy of Bandon Dunes

What makes a great 19th hole?

Digital Edition

What makes a great 19th hole?

By

What makes a 19th hole memorable?

Golfweek put that question to 40 members of our course-ratings panel. Is it the setting? The food and drink? A friendly staff? An historic venue?

The answer our raters gave to all of those questions was: Yes. And more. Much more.

One of the themes that ran through the raters’ comments was their favorite 19th holes aren’t just a place to enjoy a post-round pop. They are part of their golf experiences.

“It’s a way to extend the day by sitting with strangers with a common thread – the love of the game,” said Doc Nocella, a rater from Farmington, Mich.

“When I think of a great 19th hole, you want it to be a special place that really encapsulates the whole experience,” added rater Nick Martin of Florence, Ala.

What separates golf from virtually every other sport is the playing field. Unlike a basketball court or soccer pitch, for example, each golf course is distinctive and worthy of debate and at least a modest amount of contemplation. The 19th hole is a place to do that while watching how others handle the challenges you’ve just confronted.

“It’s special to have a final look at the course, views and beauty – and also remember (or forget in some cases) how you handled the same,” said Nashville-based rater Jason Hancock. “It increases the fun and pressure knowing others are watching and waiting.”

Jeff Catlett, a rater from Sevierville, Tenn., echoed other raters when he said that “the setting is far and away the most important consideration and I like to be situated where I can see the course I just finished playing. It seems to prolong the golf experience, which … I don’t really want to see end.”

That setting doesn’t need to be elegant. The clubhouse at The Kingsley Club in Kingsley, Mich., is little more than a double-wide trailer with a deck out back. But Catlett recalled how much fun it was “to sit and watch players test their skills on the mind-bendingly difficult short par-3 ninth hole.”

That surely is one of the most treacherous 100-yard holes in golf.

Similarly, the clubhouse at Sand Valley Golf Resort in Nekoosa, Wis., is a simple, prefabricated building – functional, not flashy. But Stuart Duhl of Evanston, Ill., said one of his best 19th-hole memories was sitting on Sand Valley’s porch with a drink, chatting with the young staff and watching players finish their rounds on Mammoth Dunes.

“My favorites have more to do with setting than anything else,” Duhl said.

In that regard, some 19th holes enjoy an unfair advantage.

The Bench at Pebble Beach Golf Links (Courtesy of Pebble Beach Resorts)

Pebble Beach received several mentions from raters, and why not? Raters waxed poetic about The Bench and The Tap Room at Pebble – the firepits, the view down 18, the temperate climate, the ocean.

“Even though the drinks are outrageously expensive, you can’t beat the view and the atmosphere around the firepits,” said Bill Baer of Marietta, Ga.

Like several fellow raters, Dave Edwards of Long Meadow, Mass., ranked The Tap Room at the top of his list, but for a different reason.

“Nobody is in a bad mood! Everyone is happy to be there and the camaraderie is great,” Edwards said. “(The Tap Room) and McKee’s (Pub at Bandon Dunes, pictured atop this story) are the two bars I think are the easiest to start conversations in. They almost have a neighborhood bar feel even the first time visiting.”

That’s an important consideration – what you might call the “Cheers” factor. As Jim Martin of Mobile, Ala., said of some of his favorite clubhouse grills, “You were never a stranger, just one of the guys! (The staff is) always there to serve, in no hurry to leave.”

Arcadia Bluffs, Golfweek’s No. 1 public course in Michigan, drew some comparisons to Pebble Beach, thanks largely to its setting, which perhaps is best enjoyed from the Adirondack chairs that line the hillside behind the 18th green.

“Spectacular view of the course and Lake Michigan,” said Kent Cooper of Houston.

The raters we surveyed tended to take an expansive view on this topic.

The Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, for example, technically doesn’t have a 19th hole. If you think it’s difficult getting a tee time on the Old Course, you should try getting inside the R&A Clubhouse for a post-round cocktail or sandwich. (Dallas-based rater Kevin Hall had that privilege several years ago. He recalls a bulletin board listing that week’s guests. He and a friend were the only two names on the board.)

The nearby Dunvegan Hotel and Jigger Inn surely rank as two of the most famous 19th holes in golf. They are a rite of passage for the thousands of golfers who visit St. Andrews to play the Old Course.

“The Jigger Inn (is) an excellent alternative, as the caddies who hang out there add an additional element to the setting,” said Greg Ohlendorf, a rater from Beecher, Ill.

The best view of the world’s most famous course might, appropriately, come at the Road Hole Bar in the Old Course Hotel.

“I don’t think they understand the meaning of a good pour across the pond – a wee nip won’t even wet your whistle,” Martin said. “But what a place to have a cocktail, looking up the 18th fairway and the historic setting of the R&A at the Home of Golf!” Gwk

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home