Saturday, 1 January 2011

5th at Pine Valley

It could be argued that this is the single hardest shot in golf. The old tag line for this hole was “only God can make a 3”. At 235 yards up hill all the way with huge trouble short, left and long, and a complete disaster looming right; you have no choice but to hit your absolute best. Every part of this hole is hard. The hole is cut into a hillside on the left but Crump created a green up on its own natural plateau to intensify the challenge. This created a false front further defends the green and he included a strong pitch from back to front so even putting is a struggle. A three is well earned here.

Many of the greatest 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 or three. The insurmountable hole is important to providing interest and contrast in the collection of holes. It often provides memories too, make a birdie and it becomes the story for a lifetime!

“It is an important thing in golf to make holes look much more difficult than they really are. People get more pleasure out of doing a hole which looks almost impossible and yet is not so difficult as it appears.” Alister Mackenzie, Spirit of St. Andrew’s

It is also an interesting technique taken in context of an 18 hole course. Most insurmountable holes tend to be par fours. The idea of one being a three is fascinating since the player begins the challenge with the ball on the tee and the opportunity to hit one great shot. It makes an ideal place for a hole of this type for this reason. No matter how much trouble sits between tee and green ONE great shot can overcome all!

Why is this hole great rather than unfair? You have to understand the value of the hole first; it is used to apply pressure to the player. Crump has given players limited opportunities to get going on the first four holes and this is the point where he says, you thought that was hard, now I want only your best. Holes like this play with the players psyche, it tests whether the player will try rise to the occasion, or be beaten before they play the shot. Some revel in the chance for greatness and rise to the challenge, it’s these moments that set them apart. Pine Valley is all about pressure, there are lots of opportunities to score, but the apprehension it creates about missing shots is what sets it apart from all others.

What Crump did so well at the 5th at Pine Valley was use an exacting par three to ask the player to make one “great” swing under immense pressure, before he opened up more opportunities to score.

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