Saturday, 25 December 2010

Fenway Golf Club

Fenway’s spectacular 200 yard uphill 11th

I was taken by the contrast between Fenway’s architecture and that of Winged Foot and Quaker Ridge. The greens were smaller, very undulating and the bunker work was grass faced instead of flashed up. I found the effect much more understated and much more elegant.

Fenway’s opening set was awesome. The short opening four, the long four that followed, the incredible five with the Sahara, the short and diabolical fourth and finally the long and demanding fifth returning to the clubhouse was as varied and interesting a stretch  as we saw the entire New York Trip. I was excited to see what was to come.

The sixth was a solid up hill par three setting up the next run into the larger valley. The next set of holes should have been a great stretch of holes but was ruined by the trees. The corner of the 7th was ridiculously overplanted and the trees impinged on play. The 8th no longer made much sense because the lay-up option has been lost through over-planting on both sides. It was so bad that it made more sense to drive the ball onto the 12th fairway for the easiest approach. The 9th is an all world par four featuring one of the best green sites on the course but the tee shot is pinched by more trees in the landing which removed the options from the tee.


The 9th green site was super cool

The second nine begins like the front with the awesome long par four 10th hole that featured some excellent bunkering. The eleventh was one of the best threes I saw all week and is an ideal example of how to build an outstanding uphill par three.

Then the trees begin to take over once again. The 12th was a great hole but over-treed down the left side removing the opportunity to take the aggressive line. The 13th is through a forest of trees with much of the architecture crowded out. It was so tight that it seemed out of place. The 14th continues the run of excessively long fours and by this point I was worn out from too many long fours and too many trees. The initial love for the place disappeared at this point.

The respite was the beautiful short 15th. Interestingly the dangerous line directly at the green was removed by trees planted on the corner. Too bad! This “forces” the player to play “smart” for the ideal approach angle into the green. The small undulating green was a huge highlight for me and the hole is akin to the 10th at Riviera in its creative use of size and angle as a key to defending the hole. I will be borrowing from this hole in the future!


The amazing green at the 15th

The final set of holes left me completely flat again. The trees were too much in play on the 16th cluttering up the landing area. You desperately needed to be left because of the sentinel trees on the right corner but once again over-planting removed this option. The 17th was a nice hole but I’ll never be a fan of pond holes, even built by the likes of Tillinghast. The long par five 18th featured a great tee shot, but the goal post of large trees in the second landing pinched the hole down to nothing.

The lesson of Fenway was that you can’t lay out continuous stretch on long arduous holes in a row. While the 11th is a three, it’s a long tough shot into that green site. The rest of the holes are all long tough fours from the 9th through 14th and the run wears you out completely. While I did admire the 9th, 10th and 11th, I pretty much lost interest by the time I finished out on the 14th. The lesson of Fenway is you need variety, early on there is lots and the golf is great, by the end it there is none and it becomes a torture test.

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