Proper Golf

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Favorite Golf Hole on My Home Course

#11 at Quaker Ridge Golf Club, Scarsdale NY (AW Tillinghast)

In 2009 applied for the Renaissance Golf Summer Work Program, run by Tom Doak. One of the questions I was asked was to "Describe your favorite golf hole on your home course, and what you like about it." Here is my answer, that got me selected as a finalist and invited to interview with Mr. Doak during a round of golf at Old MacDonald in Bandon, Oregon. While Mr. Doak planned to have me on for what was to be the 2nd course at Black Mesa in New Mexico, the course never got underway.

In the Hanse renovation, the "master pit"
was interpreted as a series of 3 bunkers

My favorite golf hole at Quaker Ridge, my adopted home course, since I have never been a member of a golf club, is the par 4 #11 which measures 404 yards from the back tees. As typical of Quaker Ridge golf holes, a premium is placed on driving, and finding the right side of the fairway on this hole is a must if one hopes to hit the green in two. Personally, I like to hit driver on this hole, although longer hitters may elect to take a wood or even a hybrid off the tee. Distance is not the key on this hole, but placement, which is very typical of Tillinghast. The drive, which crosses a natural stream, one of two crossings on the hole, must hug the right side of the fairway, getting as close as possible to the fairway bunker, which starts at 265 yards out from the tee. If one pulls a drive left off the tee, you will have to contend with a giant elm, which is nearly impossible to carry with the proper combination of distance and loft to hit the green while coming out of Quaker’s legendary thick rough which has been growing for nearly a century. Worse yet, you can end up taking two strokes for finding the stream, which runs all the way up, before crossing the hole just in front of the green and the great elm. The second shot, which ideally will be played with a pitching wedge or short iron, is best played with a right to left ball flight, not only to avoid the creek, once again, which catches all balls short and right, but will help you to stop your ball on the domed green, sloping back left to front right, on one of the fastest most treacherous greens on the course, especially with a back right pin placement.

While certainly not the longest or the most difficult hole on the course, #11 certainly is a textbook A.W. Tillinghast hole. It forces the player to think before he can bomb away with the big stick. The hole also is one of the best incorporations of trees, or a single elm in this case, I have ever seen. The great elm is truly a wonderful specimen, and for sure was left to grow to its towering dimensions by Tilly, a lover of trees. The hole also shows Tilly’s mastery of forced strategic play by the introduction of his “master pit” which sits just on the front left portion of the green and works perfectly with the fairway bunker on the right. The master pit, which some might consider a slight redundancy in this age, with the size of the great elm which stands about 25 yards in front of it, is a true signifier of the genius of Tilly’s design theory, and in my opinion is the greatest hole on “Tilly’s Treasure”.

This hole was renovated in 2010 by Gil Hanse. Once the snow clears and the final phase of construction is finished this spring, a full review will follow.

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