The 15th hole from the tee
I thought I would spend this week describing “other great holes” that really inspired me. I’ll try to mix up the architects and concentrate on the ones I have not mentioned in my first 18 holes in 18 days series.
Every once in a while you find yourself out touring a courses where you run into a “true” original hole. They are the rarest of all gems, since most holes can be traced back to the holes that inspired them or the habits of the architect. These great holes almost always occur with the influence of the natural land leading the way, but every once in a while someone has the skill to create one. I think this is why most of us admire Mike Stranz so much, there may be other architects that I admire more, but he is one of the few who could possibly build a great hole from scratch. For the non-architects reading, this is much harder than you can possibly know.
Looking back from the green
The 15th hole at French Creek is one that recently caught my attention. First off there is nothing as much fun as a 290 yard par four that is easily drivable from all the tees. Gil Hanse created a hole where the green is attainable with only the most precise shot, yet the distance and visibility instantly draws out your driver; exactly like a good short four should. Hanse also provided an upper fairway that leads into the green in cas you can’t hit it far enough to drive the green The upper plateau and bowl collects tee shots and long lay-ups as long as you carry the fairway bunkers and keep the shot out of the long grass on the right. A tee shot finding the upper fairway is rewarded with a clear shot into the green flanked by bunkers on either side. The last option is play to the unguarded lower fairway which can be accessed with a short iron. The problem with this alternative is that the approach is hit up hill to a green that you can’t see. The green is perpendicular to this angle and is protected both long and short with penal bunkers.
I love this hole since each alternative works well; you simply pick the route that suits your style of play best. Gil does a nice job of creating a short four where the risks are worth the gamble and the opportunity to play aggressive is hard to ignore. This is what a short four is supposed to be about.