The Maidstone Club
9th hole, 400 yards; Whether it is the sight from the tee of the island fairway surrounded by sand, the view of the Atlantic hard to the right, or the wind from which there is no place to hide, for whatever reason, even the best players come unstuck on this all-world hole. As with the 2nd, there is no place to miss the tee ball other than straight, a fact that is all too evident from the elevated tee. If the golfer can steady his nerves and make two good swings, there are few more rewarding holes in the world to play well.
10th hole, 380 yards; Unlike the great 9th and 10th holes at Pebble Beach, the 9th and 10th at Maidstone play in opposite directions. Thus the dilemma faced by the golfer will be materially different. One moment the golfer may be trying toholda three wood approach under the wind at the 9thand a few momentslater he will be trying to control his wedge from going over the 10th green (or vice versa). What makes this so interesting/unusual is that the two holes are only 20yards apart in length!
12th hole, 180 yards; Holes of great distinctionwere to be had amongst the dunes portion of the property.Park’s realchallenge was to knock character into the rest of the holes so that the overall quality of the course wouldn’t suffer.While the 12th doesn’t endear the passion of the other holes that were blessed with greaternatural attributes, Park created a fine one shotter onpredominatelyflat ground. The entrance to the green is an extension of the fairway, and Park built up/tilted therest ofthe green so that the golfer can see much of the putting surface from the tee.
13th hole, 490 yards; Angles, angles, angles – Maidstoneis aboutpositioning the ball time and again to leave one’s self with the best opportunity for the next shot. As with so many of the green complexes here, this one is angled toreward an approach shot from a particular spot in the fairway.
14th hole, 150 yards: One of golf’s magical spots, the 14th is set entirely in the dunes with the Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop. There is a tee and 140 some yards away a green surrounded by scrub and bunkers.Surely this hole should be considered the finest ‘island’ green one shotter in the world?
16th hole, 470 yards; Park’s excellent use of the natural hazards continues with the diagonal options available fromthe 16th tee. Call it a long par four or call it a short par five, who cares? Driver-short iron one day and driver-three wood-wedge the next, the hole plays equally well in either wind.
17th hole, 330 yards; The design of Maidstone plays no favorites and just as the 16th swings left to right, the 17th swings the other way from right to left. As with the short 7th, the green is bunkered on the inside of the dogleg, thus making making an approach from the outside of the dogleg the oft times preferred angle. The green complex itself may well be themeanest one in the United States – the tiny 2,800 square foot putting surface slopes fiercely back to front and the shoulders of the elevated green can easily kick a ball twelve paces away, whichis out of bounds. Congratulations to the man who can pull off such an exacting approach so late in the match!
The authoris blinded by the charms of golf at Maidstone as it is ideal in so many respects – exposure to the elements, firm and fast conditions thanks to a lack of fairway irrigation and overwatering, superlative strategic design. However, there aredetractors of Maidstone, whomumblethat this 6,400 yard, par 72 course is not long enough, especiallywhen the wind is down and the fairways are baked.In effect, their comment centers around the fact that three of the four par fives measure under 500 yards and are vulnerable to theace player.
Such arguments are nonsensical as theyare basedon whether the scorecard deems a hole to be a ’4′ or a ’5′. When Park laid out the course, match play was the dominate game as opposed to stroke play, with the sole object to beatthe opponent’s scoreper hole.Ifconditions are such that one’s opponent cancard a’4′ on a 480 yard hole, then you had best figure out how to do the same as well. This is no mean feat as theholes in question at Maidstone feature out of bounds, water hazards and/or bracken covered sand dunes,whichviciously penalize imprudent tactics.Unlike many par fives in the United Kingdom whichtolerate sloppy play on the first two shots, the pressure is keep on the golfer at Maidstone.
On rainy Sundays, sometimes it is interesting to wonder which course of his an architect might enjoy seeing today if he were still alive. While Willie Park Jr. is more closely associated with the historic Old Course at Sunningdale, and while he poured his heart (and money) into Huntercombe,how could a Scot like Park fail to select today’s Maidstone, where so much of the originalspirit and enjoyment of the game is alive and well?