In an era when 300-yard drives are commonplace on the PGA Tour – as well as among better amateurs – and courses are being stretched longer and longer, often at prohibitive expense, it’s nice to know some of the best tests in golf still can be among the shortest ones.
So says Ron Whitten, architecture expert for Golf Digest and Golf World, in the latter magazine’s Architecture Issue. Whitten, whose credentials include co-designing highly-rated Erin Hills in Wisconsin, profiled seven of the best “Short and Stout” holes, and selected the par-3 ninth hole at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club in Pawleys Island as one of them.
“Golf architecture has succumbed to the long ball,” Whitten writes in his introduction. “A one-shot hole that is a delicate pitch to a daunting target has been all but forgotten. … We’re talking about truly short par-3s, ones no longer than a football field, end zones included, 120 yards more or less.”
Calling great short par-3 holes “as rare as a Democrat on the PGA Tour,” Whitten then lists his favorites. Some are known around the world, such as the “Postage Stamp,” the eighth hole at Royal Troon in Scotland (114-123 yards), and Pebble Beach’s oceanfront seventh hole (90-109 yards). Others – such as Caledonia’s ninth (80-118 yards), called “The Start-Up” by Whitten – are lesser known but no less endearing.
“Ten years after he helped (Tom) Fazio build the third (hole) at Ventena Canyon (in Tucson, Ariz., and also on the list), Mike Strantz designed his own vest-pocket hole on his first solo design,” Whitten writes. “Working on a tight site, he truncated the ninth to spare the removal of several ancient moss-draped live oaks in the clubhouse area.
“The hole was supposed to be 130 yards long, but a back tee on the far side of the entry road was soon abandoned. The wide, shallow green is shaped like an hourglass tipped on its side, all the sand pouring out to form a frontal bunker that is bigger than the green.”
That doesn’t make Caledonia’s ninth any less difficult, as anyone who has played the first of Strantz’s two Pawleys Island designs (True Blue is the other) can attest. Come up short off the tee, and prepare for a test out of the sand.
Of course, that’s the point. Strantz, now deceased, believed in golf that is eye-catching as well as challenging, and Caledonia is a visual marvel – but also a course that forces players to hit good shots. Such as the tee shot at No. 9.
For more information on the ninth hole, Caledonia and True Blue, go to www.fishclub.com. To read Whitten’s article and view photos of the holes, click here.
The Short and Stout lineup:
The Postage Stamp (No. 8), Royal Troon Golf Club, Scotland; Land’s End (No. 7), Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links; The Mashie Niblick Sticky Wicket (No. 13), Merion Golf Club (East Course), Ardmore, Pa. (114-127 yards); The Wee Precipice (No. 13), The Links at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach (76-126 yards); Hole in the Wall (No. 3), Ventena Canyon (Mountain Course), Tucson (67-107); The Start-Up (No. 9), Caledonia; The Little 17th (Bye hole), Los Angeles Country Club (North Course), 121 yards.