Saturday, 25 December 2010

Fishers Island

Fishers wonderful blind punchbowl 4th green

Fishers Island is the Holy Grail for many serious golfers. It’s one of the most exclusive clubs in the world and features some of the greatest Oceanside holes in America. Throw in a wonderful design by Seth Raynor and some of the more unusual and iconic holes in golf and you have one of golf’s greatest experiences.

The opener is a wonderful start playing out towards the Ocean with the beautiful old Coast Guard Station acting as a background. The 2nd is a transition over the interior marshland and out to the cliffs on the north side of the point. Raynor made the transition using a Redan hole which creates a wonderful hole and proves that a clever green can overcome even the most limited piece of ground. The stretch of holes from the 3rd to the 12th is one of the very best in the game. The 3rd hole hugs the cliffs edge and climbs slowly to the very highest point. Raynor built a plateau green at that point and surrounded the sides and back with 20 foot deep bunkers to emphasize the location. The three that follows is one of the best par threes in the world. The 5th is a Biarritz with a true ocean carry like the original and a wild plateau and valley leading to the putting surface. I much prefer the front not cut as green.

The 210 yard Biarritz 5th

The course heads briefly inland and offers a wonderful rollercoaster of a five that is used to get you to a key point in the routing. The 7th plays off a very high ridge and straight down to a point with the ocean behind. You flirt with the wetland on the right to attack the green which angles hard to the left behind a deep bunker. The 8th tees off from the point and plays across a diagonal of small sand dunes finishing up at a super cool Road Hole green site. The 9th plays back over a second major ridge and right back out to a second point with wonderful views of the coastline in the distance.
The 10th heads back in the opposite direction and back up the coast and finishes on another high elevated green again on the highest point in the area. This places major pressure on the approach since the front is short and the ball could run back 50 yards. The 11th was another major highlight with Raynor’s Eden playing from one high ridge to a second one completely out on another point. The hole is one of the finest threes in with a daunting carry and major exposure to the elements. The run finishes with the rollercoaster12th played back into the island finishing up with a really terrific reverse Redan style green site.

The incredible Eden with the fog rolling in

After that the course lets down. The 13th is fine drive but features a forced carry approach over the wetland. The 14th tee shot is awkward since neither long nor short yielded a different length of approach, both left a long forced carry into the green. The 15th is surprisingly free of bunkers, a nice hole, but not up to the high standards set by the rest.

Fortunately the holes pick up again with the incredible short 16th and its wildly interesting and undulating green. I really enjoyed the long 17th and its clever green site and thought the 18th was an ideal finish with one of my very favourite greens of all. Raynor once again finishes on the high point leaving a beautiful view of the ocean beyond.

Fisher’s Island remains one of the most remarkable experiences you can have. Raynor's routing is a wonderful journey that takes you from one magic spot to the next. Each time you crest a hill you are treated to another spectacular view which is punctuated by the great hole you are about to play. You feel grateful to be able to play golf over this piece of ground. You are even more grateful that it was entrusted to Raynor since some of the most brilliant holes in golf can be found there.

Some have argued that his reputation is a product of great sites like Fisher's Island, but I’ve seen enough average courses on great sites, I would counter that Fisher's Island is a result of Raynor’s skill with routing a course.

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