Mailbag! - Jay Flemma's favorite holes (Part 1)
This is from Jon in Virginia:
"Dear Jay: You've played a lot of great golf courses. What are some of your favorite holes that I can go see and play?"
Boy talk about giving a starving man a menu. The number of courses I have visited for my book had reached 220. That's alot of great golf courses and many memorable holes - some beautiful, some strategic, some terrifying and some that blend some or all of those characteristics. I'll write about more holes soon, but here are five of my favorites, in no particular order. (Four of these you can run out and play!) Pictures are above.
A. 4 at TPC Sawgrass. Par-4, 360 for pros, 339 regulation, 257 forward. Far from the camera eye and overshadowed by the finishing stretch, this is the most underrated, but strategy rich hole on the course. With the green guarded on the front by water and with a lateral water hazard on both sides of the fairway, going for the green is crazy. The green and fairway slope off in a false front into the water. Two bunkers in the back of the green make sand shots terrifying as one bladed effort and the ball is in the water hazard. A long iron or fairway metal will result in a middle to short iron to one of the toughest greens on the course as it has enormous undulations and two tiers. The shortest par-6 you ever played.
B. 5 at Bethpage. Par-4, 450. One of Tillinghast's most brilliant strategic holes. A mammoth drive must carry a cavernous crossbunker that cuts obliquely into the landing area. Take the bunker out of play by hitting safely to the left and the approach is blocked by a stand of trees guarding the pedestal green. Only a perfect hard draw will reach the green. The proper play is to heroically challenge the bunker to have a clear shot from the right side of the fairway. The pedestal green is guarded by three huge scalloped bunkers and the snack shack behind.
C. 2 at Ventana Canyon (Mountain Course). Par-4, 376. Even I need eye candy some times. Fazio set this green to a backdrop of a forest of saguaro cacti. It's primal as well as gorgeous.
D. 2 at Royal New Kent. Par-5, 505 yards. This horseshoe shaped par-5 plays around a 70 foot deep crevasse of dense, impenetrable scrub. The minimum carry on the second shot is 225 yards to a sliver thin green which is also guarded by a bunker on the left and trees behind. Conservative players may lay up well to the left to face a shorter but just as perilous third shot approach. It is reminiscent of the fabled 13th at the Dunes, another horse shoe par-5 around a lake. Both tees shots must be placed on the right side of the fairway to offer any hope of getting home in two. The left side of the fairway is the optimum side to aim for if a player will lay up. Those who find themselves on the right and decide to play safe, have a more difficult angle of play.
E. 4 at Black Rock (Boston). Par-5, 500. I made architect Brian Silva's day on the fourth hole of his superb private design Black Rock in the southern suburbs of Boston. When he told me I had to play my second shot OVER a five story tower of bunkers stacked into the hill like pancakes and that, once clear if the bunkers, the ball would plunge straight down the fairway to a punchbowl green, I cheered so loud you would have thought U2 was coming back out on stage to play their encore at Red Rocks. Of all the places I have played in my life, it was one of the most exciting and unique shots I have seen.
I'll write about other great holes soon, including holes from Pasatiempo, Pacific Dunes and Hiawatha Landing (which has one of the most amazing finishing stretches in the country.)
Earlier this year, I conducted a fan and reader poll of your favorite holes. Here are the results, again in no particular order. As there are two holes from Bethpage, it may be a little NYC heavy, but then again, bethpage is truly terrific.
18 at Pebble Beach
5 at Bethpage (Black)
17 at TPC Sawgrass
17 at Red Tail (Boston)
4 at Bethpage (Black)