Sunday, 26 December 2010

Hole Type - The Insurmountable Hole

The 6th at Kawartha 235 yards to a high plateau green

I wrote a long time ago about the need for a “breather hole” on a course dominated by a series of exceptionally challenging holes or through challenging terrain. Today I want to talk about the importance of the Insurmountable hole, in this case set among a series of easier holes.

Yesterday I played golf at Kawartha Golf & Country Club, a great Stanley Thompson layout that has been profiled on this blog before. The first five holes at Kawartha are a nice slow introduction into the course, a selection of medium par fours with one very short par five (a hole I would love to see play as a long par four with just a few shorter tees for playability). After the first five, the player runs smack into the teeth of the course, the first of the long par threes. The 6th hole is a very long and very uphill par three of around 235 yards. What makes the hole tough is that it plays at least one if not two clubs uphill. The green sits atop a diagonal ridge to the left that is severely sloped, with a rambling deep bunker cut in the face of the slope. Long right is a directional bunker that is impossible to recover from because of the slope of the green. The green is also set up a few feet higher on an additional slight rise, like the 15th at Catarqui (another insurmountable hole). Only the very best shot will find the surface and the slope turns the rest od the approach shots around and back down the slope. Oh yes, and then there is the green, nothing fancy just a severe pitch directly at the bunker on the left. You must be underneath the pin to make a putt. The green is not ridiculous enough to roll the ball off, but a putt from the sides is pretty much impossible. That, my friends, is an insurmountable hole. You would remember a birdie there for a long time, a par is a victory to be savored (it probably won you money) and a bogie is clearly an acceptable result. The members say the average group finishes out in 20!

My playing partner called the hole goofy. I in turn said after 5 short holes where Thompson allowed you lots of opportunity to score, the hole is ideal. Golf needs changes of pace to be interesting, and it is at its best when holes contrast the previous in length or difficulty. What I like about the 6th at Kawartha is if you haven’t got your game together yet, it’s time for Thompson to start taking strokes back. He’s telling you that it’s time for you to show what kind of player you are.

I’ve often talked about flow in a round of golf. This is a course where Thompson was building for the employees of GE (originally owned by GE) and he made the decision to build a golf course that was playable. There are almost no fairway bunkers on the entire course and there are lots of middle length holes to enjoy where good players have ample opportunity to score. What Thompson did is ramp up the difficulty in a few select holes to test the player. Remember it is nearly impossible to lose a ball on our insurmountable hole, he just used the land to say you’ve had your fun, now can you play a little.

Great holes like the Road Hole at the Old Course are practically impossible to make par on for all but the greatest players. Overcoming one of these “par and a half” holes means a lot more to the average player than making a par on a on a simple par four. The insurmountable hole is important to providing interest and contrast in the collection of holes. It often provides memories too, make a birdie on the Road Hole and you can tell that story for a lifetime!

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