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Pebble's 9th...Why Can't There Be More Holes Like It?

I watched five minutes of the Crosby AT&T today. Between the blinding white bunker sand (thanks Arnold) and Kenny G talking to the camera, I just couldn't take it. And that was before the traditional blimp shot showing the 9th and reminding me of what a simple, elegant and strategically sound hole Chandler Egan created.

Notice how simple the strategy is. You play right and flirt with the ocean, you open up the better angle of attack. You play left, you have to come over that massive greenside bunker. This isn't rocket surgery, and one builds 'em like this anymore.

No. 9 sketch by Joe Mayo
No. 9 at Pebble Beach circa 1929 (click to enlarge)

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Reader Comments (11)

Site location and adaptability being possible issues, of course. Putting those aside, the main thing might be that these holes are percieved as being too hard by some architects; too rutheless. On the one side of things, you set yourself up for a very good conclusion to the hole by taking the ultimate risk in golf (the possibility of a lost ball, on the slice side of all places), while on the other you get a relatively wide-open shot that will lead to delayed frustration when Joe Duffer plops one into the bunker, and takes three tries to get out. Without blaming the architects, I could see a great many planning comittees fielding these objections, and getting it ripped off the planning board.

Why we don't see more of these on tournament setups probably has something to do with the left to right decending grade of the fairway. If it ain't level, the big boys don't seem to want to be a part of it.
02.8.2007 | Unregistered CommenterScott S
Perhaps because (as your photo illustrates) it isn't very photographically "sexy". remember, this course was done in the pre-signature hole era when golf holes were judged on how well they played vs. how well they photographed. If done today, I would bet that you would see a bunch of bunkers to "catch" errant shots right. That would be the official line while in reality, that would just be an excuse to put them in to add to the visual "stunningness" of the hole.
02.9.2007 | Unregistered CommenterTim
There is a good example of design like this at Gold Mountain's Olympic Course, site of the 2006 U.S. Public Links. Just about every par 4 has this strategic design. The fairways are fifty yards wide more often than not. One side of the hole has trouble and one does not. Play down the side that has trouble and the angle at the green is much, much easier. It's been several years since I moved away from the Puget Sound, but off the top of my head, I count at least 8 or 9 holes that have this element in their design there. To score well, you have to play to about a 20 yard strip of land on the fairway.

One comment on that course: they ruined it when they swapped the nines. The old 16, 17, 18 stretch was about as hard as you get for white-knuckle golf under pressure. The new #1 (old #10) is the hardest hole on the course...not the intent of Mr. Harbottle, I think. Too bad.
02.9.2007 | Unregistered CommenterKS
Ain't it the truth. It's just not that hard to do right.

The 1st at Cuscowilla is a similarly elegant, strategic hole. This isn't rocket science.
02.9.2007 | Unregistered CommenterBobC
Rocket surgery?
02.9.2007 | Unregistered CommenterThe Big K
Is there a better stretch of holes than 7-10 at Pebble? I've only played Pebble twice, and it was about 12 years ago but I can still run through every shot on those four holes in both rounds we played. Maybe the roller coaster that is the middle nine on the River Course at Blackwolf Run? You finish the first four holes and wonder what all the fuss was about, and then drive and walk up to the 5th tee. Then strap it on for a wild ride. You want strategy on a g.c.? Come play the River.
02.9.2007 | Unregistered CommenterSmolmania
I'm afraid you are right.

Big K,
My attempt at humor.
02.9.2007 | Registered CommenterGeoff


Not a better stretch, but equally impressive are the first 5 holes at Royal Durban C.C.

The Golf Course

I liked Durban Country Club as a golf course, although it does not have 18 strong holes. It has a particularly strong start, especially the first five holes that are narrow, hilly holes that play in the bush. The middle holes, 9-15 are average at best, but the course has a strong finish with the last three holes. The front nine are near the Indian Ocean and thus are more impacted by the wind. The course is not directly on the ocean; there is a busy and loud highway that runs between the course and the ocean. On the first day I played there were many windsurfers and parasailers out on the water enjoying the strong wind, which usually isn't a good sign for golf, but it turned out ok. The back nine is away from the water and not as impacted by the wind. The massive Durban Stadium towers over a couple of holes on the back nine.

So how is it that a course with seven average holes wedged between two concrete structures is ranked in the world's top 100? The answer is because the good holes are so good that they more than compensate for the weak holes. Plus, the attraction of playing in the bush really makes it unique.

Enjoy some of the pictures of the holes, they're awesome!
02.9.2007 | Unregistered CommenterBNW

Certainly looks like fun. A bit further than my average road trip tho. I can make it to Kohler in less than 2 hours, driving. Geoff, Herb's place would make a nice spot for the Shack Open -- why don't you use your clout and take care of your loyal readers. . . we could even swing over to Erin Hills and check that out as well. . .
02.9.2007 | Unregistered CommenterSmolmania
The Cliffs of Doom---No.8 thru No.10 at Pebble.

Must be a nice place to start your round (No.10) especially in wind and rain.

Toughest "opening" hole ever?
02.11.2007 | Unregistered Commentercrosby's pipe
Geoff, Where do you get these marvelous old images of Pebble Beach? They are fabulous. They show how much it has changed over the years. I have the program from the 1992 Open with comments from Jack Neville on how to play each hole. I can't imagine the pros of today hitting into the green at 9 with a mid-iron (2-Iron) as they did in the 20's (without a lot of complaints).
02.12.2007 | Unregistered Commenterjmcraney

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