Saturday, March 04, 2006

What's in a Hole Name?




Het Girdle, a well named par 3









Why is the 10th hole at Carnoustie named South America? What about Het Girdle at Gleneagles, Killecrankie at Highland Golf Links, or even Heich o’ Feisch at Osprey Valley?

Het Girdle describes the hot surface of a skillet than sends a drop of water speeding off the side. The 5th at Gleneagles is the best table top green I know, and a missed shot is severely punished with the deep bunkers surrounding the plateau green. The name perfectly describes playing the hole. Killiecrankie (or Killer to the locals) is described as a long and narrow passage through a valley. If you’ve been to Highland Golf links in Nova Scotia, you will know this perfectly describes the setting of the hole. The 4th at Osprey Valley – Heathlands was named by me and it means the height of trouble. I used the name to describe the very delicate little pitch into the 4th green and what would happen with a mis-placed the approach. I have named every hole that I have worked on – some clubs, like Osprey Valley have made them part of the course and the card - others like Ballantrae chose not to. Golfers remember great holes, but when a name like Pandemonium or Purgatory is attached they become even easier to remember.

Hole names are one of the unique charms of golf. When well done, they help describe the situation, shot or setting of the hole more eloquently than a simple hole number. A clever name like Too Soon for Scarboro’s treacherous par 3 2nd hole simply speaks for itself. A.W. Tillinghast and Stanley Thompson both professed to be huge fans of hole names and often named their holes. James Braid even went so far as to name a hole Braid’s Brawest – just to let players know which was his favorite.

The most famous hole name of all must be The Postage Stamp. The hole was actually called Ailsa for the crag in the ocean beyond, but Willie Park described the hole as “a pitching surface skimmed down to the size of a postage stamp” and the name stuck. So how did we get South America?

At the turn of the century a young lad from Carnoustie decided that he was going to spread the word of golf to the south of America. After a party held in his honor, he decided to start out on his trek that night. Obviously the party involved lots of drinking because he was found fast asleep at the 10th hole of Carnoustie the next morning. Hence the name South America, and golf is a richer sport for it.

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