Ok team, so here we go with part two of day 186 of puregolf2010 and I have quite the act to follow up after JP has painted quite a picture of the National Golf Links of America.
Before I start gushing superlatives about Shinnecock I‚??m going to pin my colours to the wall and declare Shinnecock as one of my absolute hands down favourite golf courses. Top 5 this year without one iota of doubt. ¬†¬†The story of Shinnecock is not about the cocktails, the swish locker room (great showers) or the food ‚?? it is about the golf course: this is pure golf.¬† Allow me to elaborate‚?¶
Shinnecock was originally designed in 1891 by Willie Dunne on this magnificent piece of rolling land in Southampton on Long Island (it is right next door to NGLA and another club whose clubhouse blots the skyline and is called Sebonack).¬† The course immediately appeared on the USGA radar and hosted the 1896 US Open (won by Foulis) one of four Opens that have been held here (along with the 1986 (Floyd), 1995 (Pavin) and 2004¬† (Goosen) Championships).
Lets now fast forward to the present day and our host for the afternoon, Mr David Jennings. David hails from Connecticut but has been a member here for many years.¬† Yet another great guy we‚??ve met who is part of the financial world and now keeps himself busy as a company director and helping friends out here and there‚?¶ By the looks of David‚??s golf swing he must have done quite a lot of business on the golf course over the years as he definitely could play.¬† David is a true gentleman who is quite rightly proud of the club that is Shinnecock.¬† It‚??s generally not about crazy nights in the clubhouse here or wining and dining large outings of clients here but about taking on this spectacular golf course. ¬†
So to the golf course and the beautiful array of colours that lay out on the wide open expanse laid out below the clubhouse.¬† From an elevated tee by the pro-shop (where earlier Dodgy had made quite the impression on the staff and visitors) the round begins with a straight forward opening hole played down into the battle ground.¬†
Our first taste of the small greens here at Shinnecock which are very traditionally designed and much smaller than the traditional links style greens across the way at NGLA. ¬†Shoulders roll off the bunkers and you can‚??t be short-sided and expect to recover. Many of the greens have a false front and angle away from you making the landing area appear very small from down on the fairway - a very simple but effective design. Fortunately the putting surfaces were not rolling at US Open pace and mere mortals like us could have a chance today.
The course routing is brilliantly done as the holes wind around the huge property so that you are constantly faced with a changing wind direction. Only twice do holes consecutively run the same way, on the 2nd and 3rd, and then again on 11 and 12. And from most holes you look up the hill at the grand clubhouse looking over the golf course.
Walking down the 3rd hole, a par four played to a fairway angling away to the left, I thought to myself I should not have had that Southside over lunch and ‚??the fairways should not be rolling at me like the ocean‚?Ě. The heat was scintillating - we had picked a scorcher of a day for our double header with the mercury hitting 100 most of the day‚?¶¬† The second and third holes run in the same direction away from the clubhouse and with little wind the first four holes are flat and generally left me asking, is this it?
So +1 through the opening four and then we arrived at the number five hole after guzzling a couple of liters of water which crucially made the fairways stand still. The 5th is the first of two par fives and the first of a couple of birdies today. Jamie learnt a lesson not to go over the green where there is a steep drop off and when the pin is tucked tight to the top of the hill you just have to take your 30 footer for par and walk off..
The 6th hole is the only hole on the course with a water hazard and is aptly named ‚??pond‚??.¬† The number one handicap hole at 456 yards it plays through a myriad of bunkers both and the fairway and the green.¬† This is the hole where two solidly struck shots leaves you putting for birdie and pleased to have missed the real experiences with the hole.
The 7th (below) is a world famous hole for both the right and wrong reasons. The ‚??Redan‚?? as JP explained below described a hole where the green is tilted from right to left, guarded by a by bunker short and angles away to the left.¬† Eg, you need to come in with a very high cut to hold the slope, or preferably bounce the ball in through the opening on the right.¬† The Redan at Shinnecock formed part of the original al design by C B Macdonald and was wisely kept by Mr Flynn.¬† This is the hole that the USGA had huge issues with during the 2004 Open when the greens were just too fast and after 6 groups had played the hole the average score was 6-point-something. So they decided to water the green after each group thus favouring the later groups and all hell broke loose. But they had to do something as the hole was swiftly becoming completely unplayable.¬† All three of us missed long which left us playing up to a green sloping away from us with the pin tightly cut near the top of the slope.¬† Dave went first and didn‚??t get it up the slope so it came tumbling back towards him. JP went second and gave his chip a little much juice and was left with a 30 footer back up the hill. Then Dave tried again and did something quite spectacular, holing his shot from off the green ‚?? a shot many of the pro‚??s would have paid huge money for ‚?? particularly those in the first 6 groups!¬† I opted for the texan wedge and rolled it just over the crest of the hill for a cheeky par.
The 8th and 9th holes play back in general direction of the clubhouse with the 8th a short par four with a green that slopes away from you and is devilishly difficult to hit, and then the 9th climbs up to the clubhouse for a truly spectacular finish to the nine with the bunkers (see photo two below) guarding the front left of the green.¬† A miraculous up and down and I was out in 35.
To the back nine and the rollercoaster 10th hole which plays uphill, downhill and then back uphill.¬† If you bomb it down the hill you‚??re left playing a wedge into an elevated green with the most severe false front I‚??ve seen.¬† A ball hit with spin will literally roll off the green and then 40 yards back down the fairway.¬† That is not an exaggerated ‚??40 yards off the green‚?Ě but you‚??ll actually have close to a full swing getting it back up top.¬† I laid up short with 2 iron from the tee and had a flat approach across the gully and there was no way my 6 iron was going to spin back off the green.
11 is a short uphill par three surrounded by bunkers and a roll-off back left which is actually the worst miss and from where it is impossible to get up and down from unless you are Greg Norman. Or Phil Mickelson.¬† This wee postage stamp reminded me of 17 at NSW.
The 12th tee is a great place on the golf course. I looked down upon the 11th green and thought of the disasters that much have occurred on that tiny piece of soil, and then refocused on the beauty of the 12th fairway (picture below looking back down 12 fairway from the green), a monstrously long par four along the perimeter of the course. ¬†A good bounce and a flush 6 iron down the breeze later and I was tapping in for 3 ‚?? it‚??s great to be back playing hard and fast golf where the elements really play their part.
Standing out on the 13th fairway with 8 iron in hand I stopped thinking about the beauty of the course and realised I was in red numbers at Shinnecock. I looked up and the green looked like there was absolutely no landing area ‚?? false front, bunker left/long and short/right with a green angling away to the right.¬† Where do you hit it?? (Note ‚?? JP and Dave were sensibly just taking in the beautiful way this hole is framed with the clubhouse perched off in the distance).¬† Shinnecock is not a place to start thinking too much and moments later my 8 iron was floating up in the air against the wind and plugging into the bunker short right - double.
On the 14th hole ‚?? the location for Shell‚??s wide world of golf where some pro‚??s jaunted around in a helicopter playing the 18 finest holes in this area ‚?? you start to realize that this back nine is a special special creature. I‚??m going to leave this hole, and the downhill strong par four 15th to the photographs below.¬† The light in these parts is particularly good and the golfing vistas along the 14th and 15th holes are about as good as it gets.¬†
16 is another green perfectly framed by the clubhouse. A three shot par five, particularly into the wind, Dave said it is a hole that the winner of the Open normally makes birdie on.¬† And it‚??s very much a birdie hole if you get into position for your third shot.¬† Walking off with 5, my hopes and dreams of an under par round at Shinny were dashed and I limped home over the last two holes to finish +4, 74.¬† Another kiwi misses the cut.
The 17th rounds out the set of par threes with another green angling away to the left and surrounded by bunkers ‚?? almost redan-esque but without such a severe tilt on the green. The par threes as a set? In a word ‚?? perfect.¬† Up there with both NSW and Riviera as the best of the year.
And then 18, well what can you say‚?¶ The site of much history, drama and great golf shots. Jamie‚??s 2 iron out of the bunker to 20 feet would rival Mr Pavin‚??s four wood from 1995, although I dare say Mr Patton had more pressure on his shoulders.
We play a lot of golf, and recently on some of the better golf courses going around. But very very few courses are as breathtaking as Shinnecock. In particular the back nine here has to be one of the great nine holes in world golf. Despite holes 10 ‚?? 18 being our 28th to 36th holes of the day in 100 degree weather, I was in another world walking around the back nine. A pig in mud. ¬†The design elements, the grandiose of the holes set amongst the rolling topography and the sheer beauty of the terrain was awe-inspiring and an experience I will never forget.
Thank you David for your company and making the day possible. A day that will be very hard to look past in years to come when reminiscing about the year that was golf.
Posting comments has been disabled.