Saturday, 1 January 2011

4th at Highland Golf Links


The last of the driveable par fours: The 4th at Highlands once again illustrates the value of a great green site.

Yesterday I spoke of Tillinghast’s use of a small narrow target reinforced by the brilliant placement of flanking bunkers used to defend and define the green at Scarboro. Today’s hole is more about routing and the use of a natural feature to the greatest effect. The green at Highlands shows us the value and merit of using a hog’s back ridge as a landing and a hill top green site to make a sub 300 yard hole incredibly fun and difficult all at the same time.

When you stand on Thompson’s tee the green sits on top of a knoll looking back at you from between two prominent rolls. One is the fairway and lay-up area on the left, where you will be left likely with the ball below your feet if you choose to play short. The right side is now treed (too bad) but was once an open hill full of limestone sink holes (like giant pot bunkers). The next section of landing area is blind, small and would leave a half shot approach. The rise up towards the green is fully visible and full of intermittent bunkers. There is also a small natural pond long and left that is blind from the tee (and the holes only really weak point).

The genius of the hole is the enticement. Thompson was smart enough to leave fairway around and between all the bunkers so that as long as you missed them (and you were accurate) the ball would continue onto the green. It provides a green light when a bank of rough would have caused you to concider the more prudent lay up option. Such a simple thing makes such a big difference and such a subtle and clever defense too. While you see fairway, the approach is actually a hog’s back and balls leaking slightly left and right find positions that a player doesn’t want to be in. Short left of the green is a difficult recovery from a deep bunker. Right can leak easily all the way into the long native rough.

The green is the final touch. Being a hill top green presents huge problems if you miss. Short is not awful since the turf is never short enough to really run the ball away. [That does make me wonder how much more fun this would be with better and tighter turf!] Left is in a deep bunker, but that’s not actually a bad place to be. It’s long and right where the ball is well below the green and likely lost in deep native rough. So thinking of that, you realize a lay-up short and left leaves a narrower angle of the green, with a deep bunker short and a lost ball long. All of a sudden this short little hole has serious pucker power when you have to hit the shots.

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