If you’ve been following my series from the beginning, you probably have detected some themes in my taste for golf holes. In general, I enjoy the risk/rewards of 1/2 par holes, but I am also heavily influenced by topography. My formative years of golf were played in the Southtowns, so I am inspired by holes that rise & fall, adding beauty and additional elements of skill to the simple metrics of par & distance.
Obviously, a few of this week’s 7th hole nominees meet those criteria, with the tempting drivable par 4 at Ironwood, the elevated green at St Bonaventure, and probably one of the most topographically influenced holes in the region – the drive off a cliff at Chestnut Hill.
However, a few more holes I would have considered for the polling were:
South Shore ~ 315 yard Par 4
If you’ve played in enough charity events over the years, you know why this hole is fun and memorable. We all love the temptation of driving a par 4, especially in a scramble format, when you don’t have to pay the penalty for missing.
Unlike most drivable holes, South Shore’s 7th doesn’t limit you to just a single lay-up alternative. The hole dives down into a valley some 100 yards short of the green, before crossing a creek and ascending sharply to a tiny, elevated target.
You could lay back safely with a mid-iron, leaving a flat approach across the valley, but the miniature nature of the green makes even a 130-yard approach a knee-knocker. Alternatively, you could take on a little more with a hybrid or fairway wood, leaving a shorter pitch from the valley floor. But neither lay-up option is simple given the target size. And, of course, the Driver option across the dogleg is always tempting if you don’t mind the risk of the creek or the potential for a very severe uphill lie for coming up just short.
Once again, a truly fun hole which proves you don’t need 450+ yards of hole to challenge even single handicap players.
Elkdale ~ 318 yard Par 4
I’ve always had a fondness for this hole, right from the first time I played it in 1993. I have a particular attraction to fairways which heave & roll, enveloping the golfer like a small vessel on an active sea.
This hole features a wonderfully contoured landing area, situated above the teeing grounds. Upon navigating the tee shot, played with anything from a 6-iron through Driver, the hole gracefully continues its ascent to the putting surface (but don’t be long – the descent starts shortly behind the 7th green).
To me, there is a certain romance in elevated approach shots. Even though the distance is unchanged from the flat or downhill variety, I love the mental uncertainty that creeps in without the visual reassurance of the landing surface. It makes the achievement more satisfying than your standard-issue approach when you do pull it off and suspect you’re close. On those occasions, there’s nothing more exciting than climbing the hill, eagerly waiting to see the results of your efforts.
Brookfield ~ 452 yard Par 4
Of course, not all elevation change has to be uphill & severe for me to enjoy it. The 7th at Brookfield is a gently-sweeping dogleg right, flowing downhill for the majority of the hole. When I have played it, the hole just simply “felt” right to me – which is a hard quality to describe, but you know it when it’s there. Architect William Harries has produced a number of these feelings in me around Western New York, as he was adept at using the natural contours of the land to maximum effect.
Unlike the previous two holes, the 452 yards leaves little potential for a short wedge into the green and you won’t have the building anticipation of the “reveal” associated with an uphill approach. But that’s OK with me, because there are a variety of little things I love about this game, and a long iron approach can be one of them because of this:
“There’s nothing better than a long walk with a putter in your hand.”