Finally the first par five, but what a par five for ideas.
Tobacco Road is probably the most intimidating and frustrating course you can play for the first time. While it has plenty of width and playability, Mike Strantz uses blind shots and very overwhelming hazards throughout the round to hide that fact. Often the player simply looks at a massive display of sand with no clear idea of where to play, yet the hidden fairway is large and receptive hiding behind the bunkers or trees.
The 13th is a great example, off the tee the player has lots of room to hit the tee shot left (while the hole doglegs sharply right). If the player wants to become more aggressive, he ends up looking at a narrow neck of fairway that looks impossible to hit. What he does not realize first time out, is he can possibly carry the trees on the right and find a blind fairway, leaving a middle iron into the green. All I can say is, you better be down wind to give it a go.
Once off the tee, unless you have found a short cut, the next shot is through a narrow opening between intimidating bunkers out to a wide open fairway. Mike loves to make these shots look impossible and then give you ample room in behind. He believes that a player got more excitement from overcoming a seemingly impossible than making a routine one.
The aggressive line in red, the standard line in yellow.
The final shot is where he really truly took it up a notch, or where he embraced one of the oldest and least used concepts in golf. He used a natural punchbowl set between huge sand piles (looking like dunes) so that the green is blind. You can see the flag through a narrow gap in the front if the pin is not left. Adding to the pressure and intimidation of the shot mike created huge scraggly bunkers right into the dunes in front. The player is left to feel the pressure to execute the shot because Mike has emphasized the hazard rather than the target as he does on most holes.
So what have I learned? Mike loves the short par five where there is a lot of opportunity to take a big risk; he has also made it clear that if you dare gamble, you may pay dearly. He provided optional routes and adequate bailout areas, but used visual trickery to make the hole appear much harder than it is. Mike teaches that visual intimidation is an important tactic, and that blind shots can still be part of that equation. He has taught us to take risks with our architecture and to say to hell with convention and criticism – it’s all about great holes.
Next Hole: http://thecaddyshack.blogspot.com/2006/06/18-holes-day-8-4th-at-st-georges-nle.html