Sunday, 2 January 2011

4th at Seminole

The approach to the 4th

When it came to the 4th at Seminole, I always knew it would be on this list. I’ve always been fond of the slightly unconventional routing that leads to the superior hole. Ross’s routing uses the two large parallel dunes on either end of the property on almost every hole. It is a magnificent method to create the feel of elevation when the reality is there was very little on the site. Without a doubt in my mind the best part of the routing is the holes (4-5-6) that run along the far dune. The 4th is a hole that runs right on top of the far dune and the hole is that it runs in contrast to all the others. Most holes play down from the dune creating a great tee shot and view, or up into the dune to creating great green sites. Seminole should be studied for the routing alone.

The 4th plays like a hogs back, with the land falling sharply away on both sides of the dune, but Ross was smart enough to create a reasonably landing to play for on your tee shot. He cut the top off the dune and then used bunkers and natural sandy areas on either side to define the right and left of the hole so that play must be accurate. The green is where this hole comes together for me. He has tucked it slightly behind the huge natural bowl on the left so that the fairway banks around the sandy bowl and then swings back as it gets to the green.

Ross’s genius was to not place the green right on the bowl, but to set it 20 yards back allowing a bounce in approach. Where this became essential was when he raised the green up a couple of feet creating a slightly crowned plateau. The bunkers right and long tell you that the smart play is to bounce in the approach or to play short and left for an easy up and down.

What have I learned? What I love about the hole is that if you want to get aggressive, the hole will punish you for being too cocky, since the crowned green is very hard to hold. If you recognize the room and the safer option on the left, you find Ross has given you a very fair route into this long testing par four and an easy way to make four. It is a great combination of difficulty and playability in one hole. Finally, this is another fine example of making sure every hole doesn’t have a raised tee, elevated green, plays through a valley, or goes with the grades; ridgeback holes (and other less conventional holes) are just as important to routing a great golf course.

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