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Sean_A

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Sandy SAUNTON GC EAST COURSE: 2018-19 Winter Tour New
« on: March 12, 2012, 07:40:04 AM »
Ahhhh, Saunton. The view upon turning the corner of the house must rank as one of the highlights of British golf.  The 18th green is nestled just below the veranda, the plateau first tee to the middle of the vista and on the far right, the West’s first hole strikes off into the massive (5 square miles) Braunton Burrows.  This dunes system is the largest in England and backs three miles of the glorious Saunton Sands beach.  Just above the northern end of the beach stands the Saunton Sands Hotel.  Even if one has no intention of taking a bed, the hotel is well worth visiting for its celebrated views of Barnstable Bay.     

The original layout, like so many in England, was a Tom Dunn design which Herbert Fowler re-designed in 1919.  The product of this work had the great advantage of post-dating the arrival of the Haskell and was thus considered a fine and difficult test from its inception.  In 1932 the club hosted its first major event, the British Ladies Championship, won by the formidable Miss Enid Wilson – the middle of three in a row. Since this time many important amateur and professional events have taken place at Saunton, including the Brabazon Trophy on four occasions and the British Boys in 1997, the year a teenage Sergio Garcia was crowned champion. 

Some twenty or so years after Fowler completed his design the course was used by American troops training for the Normandy landing.  As can be imagined, the links didn’t fare very well in these circumstances and in the early 50s, the thoroughly under-rated CK Cotton brought the course back to life and made significant changes, especially to the start and end of the round.  The course we play today is largely the same with the exception of additional bunkering scattered here and there. 

Saunton is well known for its bruising start and rightfully so; the first four holes cover not far off 1670 yards.  The opener is a straightish banger playing into the wind - most will not feel as though they lost a shot to par if recording a 5. 


Looking back to the tee and house.


The three-shot second is not that attractive from the tee, but it is disorienting.  A ditch protects the left side and two bunkers the right.  Once in the fairway, the raised green becomes visible even through the mist.


On the card #3 looks to be a modest hole, but one can't judge a course by the card.  This is one of my favourite holes on the course not only for the teasing drive, but also due to an amateurishly raised green creating a tough target.     


The fourth is a brute!  One must challenge severe bunkering to the left of the fairway to earn a view of the green through a gap in the dunes. When this is achieved, a wood or long iron is required for the approach. 


The difficult back right hole location.


The first par 3 on the course, Tiddler, is an uphill teaser.  The green was redesigned about 6 years ago.  Apparently, the mound to the right was making it too easy to kick shots in.  Consequently, that mound has been shaved back.


The course now drifts into moorland type of terrain with rushes and ditches heavily featured.  It also becomes apparent that Saunton will not be a straight forward out n' back course as holes turn in various directions, not allowing the golfer to become overly comfortable with the wind direction.  The tee shot on the 6th is quite demanding due to a ditch bordering the fairway down the right, but the hole is let down by the least interesting green on the course.  Fairly long at 400ish yards and to a tighter than readily apparent fairway, the 7th is a great example of an interesting flat hole which creates a welcome balance with holes running through dunes. 


The angle of the green running behind the two right bunkers is evident once beyond the centreline bunker. The twotier effect of the green is also interesting.


I often say that a links without a daring blind drive over a dune is somehow a less than satisfying experience.  Luckily, Saunton provides this thrilling feature in the form of the 8th...which also heralds the start of a tremendous run of short two-shotters.  However, the true test of the hole is in the approach as the green is nestled in a horseshoe of dunes/mounding.






The side finishes very well - in fact the stretch between 7 and 11 is probably my favourite on the course.  From the tee #9 is visually confusing with the wind coming off the left.  The far bunker is perfectly placed on the outside of the leg to make players take on the left bunkers - thus leaving a terrible angle of approach. 


The green nestles beautifully into the site.




Its difficult to tell in pix, but the greens have a fair bit of movement to them with little tiers creating quite severe sections; many of the greens feel very modern.  I wonder if Cotton added more touches than folks realize or if perhaps when the greens were re-laid in the 80s some contour was added.


#10 is a classic sucker hole both from the tee and on the approach.  It is better to lay back to a comfortable full club distance than it is to have a go at the green 313 yards away.  One of the few criticisms of Saunton I can muster is the propensity of flat fairways.  This may be a consequence of the WWII military training.  Notice the fantastic random feature of sea grass down the left. 


One can see that it is better to approach from the left of the fairway so as to take advantage of the green length.


Looking back to the tee.


I expect to be in the minority, but I admire holes which are manufactured from land which is far from ideal.  Like St Enodoc's 4th, Saunton's 11th is not a looker, but it provides what the game is about - thinking.  The hole is roughly 350 yards with the corner of a field being the prime hazard off the tee.  Depending on where the flag is, one can have a bash and try to execute the finicky chip over a bunker or lay back for a full club approach. 






This ends a marvelous four hole stretch which is completely unique.  Like the 11th, #s 12, 13 and the tee shot on 14 are also in moorland country more reminiscent of Exmoor than links.  Although, I have a lot of time for these holes.  The 12th is perhaps the best of this run; a longish two-shotter with nasty rough right and a ditch left.  The greens have the curious effect of seeming modern because of their elevated nature and broad contours. 


With only two short holes in the first thirteen, Saunton must be a bit unusual, unfortunately, this isn't a positive feature.  Be that as it may, #13 is probably Saunton's best par 3 due to the severity of the green contours.


#14, or Narrows, is unbelievably difficult if a 4 is the goal.  To gain a decent glimpse of the green the tee shot must be played as close to the right fairway bunkering as one dares.  There is maybe 10 yards of bail area if one can't reach the green...in the middle of the fairway. 


There is nowhere to lay up on this 432 yard beast.


Looking back to the tee - Narrows is an apt name.


The second and final three-shotter, 15 leaves pure linksland for the tee shot.  This is a relatively short par 5, but in the winter it still seemed awfully difficult to reach.  The real star of this hole is the green; it rests on a small plateau with off-set tiers.




Another tortuous long par 4, the 16th is probably the best of this sort at Saunton.  While the two bunkers to the outside of the leg are very well placed, they aren't terribly attractive.  The approach must hold a shelf cut off the left dunes.  Yes, its a tough shot, but ever so much fun. 


Another terrific green site and interesting contours.


The penultimate hole is a long par 3.  Not a bad hole at all, but not as good as the other par 3s.  The home hole, wonderfully named Isaacs Slopes, apparently after the right dune in the drive zone, is a good one that finishes directly in front of the house, just as a golf course should. 






It had been about 6 years since my last visit to Saunton – too long by anyone’s count for Saunton is more than merely good golf.  Not many courses in England are its superior and that is high praise indeed.  Three aspects of Saunton East impress me greatly.  First, while the threes and fives are not top notch, the variety and quality of the par 4s is outstanding.  There isn't a single one of the bunch I could could say is less than good.  Additionally, the 16th is an All-England candidate.  Second, I rather admire the restraint required to keep most of the tees on lower ground (or level with the green) as hill climbing for a set-piece view can become tiresome.  Finally, the variety of greens is unusually good for a links.  I find it perplexing that anybody would have anything but praise for the East.  2018

Ciao
« Last Edit: December 03, 2021, 09:53:35 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South & Crystal Downs

PPallotta

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2012, 12:57:35 PM »
 :) :)

Sandy Saunton Saunters Smartly into a Seeker's Sights, Stellar Sean Stylishly Singing its Subtle Stengths

Salute!!

Peter
« Last Edit: March 12, 2012, 01:02:25 PM by PPallotta »

Ulrich Mayring

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2012, 04:54:35 PM »
Shame about the weather, here's how you could have had it:



Ulrich
Golf Course Exposé (300+ courses reviewed), Golf CV (how I keep track of 'em)

Terry Lavin

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2012, 05:19:49 PM »
Oh, my.  That is one beguiling golf course, Sean, thanks so much for posting.
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.  H.L. Mencken

ward peyronnin

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2012, 05:24:12 PM »
Sean


When Witty and i were there two falls ago they were planning an event to commemorate Westward Ho's 150th

I believe it was to be a match played on a composite course with the linkage being a massive hole/play across the tidal flats.

Did they pull it off? How epic ...shades of Charlton Heston
"Golf is happiness. It's intoxication w/o the hangover; stimulation w/o the pills. It's price is high yet its rewards are richer. Some say its a boys pastime but it builds men. It cleanses the mind/rejuvenates the body. It is these things and many more for those of us who truly love it." M.Norman

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2012, 08:40:05 PM »
Saunton, is always highly rated yet remains largely an unknown quantity by many.  I have often thought that it would be on my short list of clubs I would join if I lived in the area.  I find the courses wonderful and the club itself outstanding.  Thanks Sean.  Wonderful stuff as always.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2012, 09:37:02 PM by Tommy Williamsen »
Tom Williamsen
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

John Mayhugh

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2012, 09:15:44 PM »
Thanks for the tour, Sean.  No idea how you can get something posted so quickly.  I'm in agreement on the stretch from 7-11, with the 11th possibly being my favorite on the course.  Will try to post some more photos of it in the next day or so, as it's a really good use of that part of the property.


Ulrich,
Beautiful conditions that day, but did you have to rub it in?

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2012, 06:47:51 AM »
Thank you, Sean. Very observant, as always. Mark.

James Boon

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2012, 09:43:05 AM »
Thanks Sean,

It looks like you had some odd weather, but the quality of Saunton east still shines through.

A pity you didn't play the short par 3 5th as its a particular favourite of mine. The drop off the back is especially lethal for such a short hole and when played downwind its very easy to end up down there.

Other favourites of mine are the 8th where I love the drive over the dune to a big wide and flat fairway, then the approach to a green sitting almost punchbowl like between the other dunes is great use of the land. Also the 16th which is a real tough par 4 making use of some of the more undulating land.

This has to be the first time I've seen a mention of Saunton on here, without someone mentioning it as a possible future Open venue...  ::)

Cheers,

James
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Garland Bayley

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2012, 02:25:27 PM »
The view upon turning the corner of the house   must rank as one of the highlights British golf.  The 18th green is nestled just below the veranda, the plateau first tee to the middle of the vista and on the far right, the West’s first hole strikes off into the massive (5 square miles) Braunton Burrows dune system.  The system is the largest in England and backs three miles of the glorious Saunton Sands beach.  Just above the northern end of the beach stands the Saunton Sands Hotel.  Even if one has no intention of taking a bed, the hotel is well worth visiting for its celebrated views of the Barnstable Bay which naturally include the burrows and beach.    


« Last Edit: March 13, 2012, 03:33:06 PM by Garland Bayley »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2012, 02:27:47 PM »

The original layout, like so many in England, was a Tom Dunn design which Herbert Fowler re-designed in 1919.  The product of this work had the great advantage of post-dating the arrival of the Haskell and was thus considered a fine and difficult test from its inception.  In 1932 the club hosted its first major event, the British Ladies Championship, won by the formidable Miss Enid Wilson – the middle of three in a row. Since this time many important amateur and professional have taken place at Saunton, including the Brabazon Trophy on two occasions and the British Boys in 1997, the year a teenage Sergio Garcia was crowned champion.  

Some twenty or so years after Fowler completed his design the course was used by American tank divisions training for the Normandy landing.  As can be imagined, the course didn’t fare very well in these circumstances and in the early 50s, the thoroughly under-rated CK Cotton brought the course back to life and made changes to the start and end of the round.   The course we play today is largely the same with the exception of additional bunkering scattered here and there.  


« Last Edit: March 13, 2012, 03:32:40 PM by Garland Bayley »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2012, 02:29:50 PM »



Saunton is well known for its bruising start and rightfully so; the first four holes cover not far off 1670 yards.  The opener is a straightish banger playing into the wind - most will not feel as though they lost a shot to par when recording a 5.  



From in front of green.



Looking back to the tee and house.




« Last Edit: December 05, 2014, 08:16:13 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2012, 02:32:41 PM »



The second is protected (assuming one can't reach the green) by a sneaky ditch, a particular feature of the East and moreso the West.  The green lies in a saddle and is not terribly large!

The three-shot second is not that attractive from the tee, but it is disorienting.  A ditch protects the left side and two bunkers the right.  



Once in the fairway, the raised green becomes visible even through the mist.



« Last Edit: December 05, 2014, 08:18:38 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2012, 02:34:08 PM »



On the card #3 looks to be a modest hole, but one can't judge a course by the card.  This was one of my favourite holes on the course not only for the teasing drive, but also due to amateurishly raised green creating a tough target.    



From well beyond the drive zone.



« Last Edit: December 05, 2014, 08:21:34 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2012, 02:35:23 PM »



The fourth is a brute!  One must challenge severe bunkering to the left of the fairway to earn a view of the green through a gap in the dunes. When this is achieved, a wood or long iron is required for the approach.
 







« Last Edit: December 05, 2014, 08:24:54 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2012, 02:36:53 PM »



The first par 3 on the course, Tiddler, was not in play as it underwent the knife some eight months previously.  Apparently, the mound to the right was making it too easy to kick shots in.  Consequently, that mound has been shaved back and presumably the green re-laid.





« Last Edit: March 13, 2012, 03:27:25 PM by Garland Bayley »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2012, 02:41:26 PM »



The course now drifts into moorland type of terrain with rushes and ditches heavily featured.  It also becomes apparent that Saunton will not be a straight forward out n' back course as holes turn in various directions, not allowing the golfer to become overly comfortable with the direction of the wind.  The tee shot on the 6th is quite demanding due a ditch bordering the fairway down the right, but the hole is let down by the least interesting green on the course.




« Last Edit: December 05, 2014, 08:26:16 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #17 on: March 13, 2012, 02:43:40 PM »



Fairly long at 400ish yards and to a tighter than readily apparent fairway, the 7th is a great example of an interesting flat hole which creates a welcome balance with holes running through dunes.  





The angle of the green running behind the two right bunkers is evident once beyond the centreline bunker.

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« Last Edit: December 05, 2014, 08:28:52 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #18 on: March 13, 2012, 02:45:43 PM »



I often say that a links without a daring drive over a dune is somehow less than a satisfying experience.  Luckily, Saunton provides this thrilling feature.



However, the true test of the hole is in the approach as the green is nestled between two rows of dunes/mounding.







« Last Edit: January 10, 2015, 11:33:46 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #19 on: March 13, 2012, 02:48:36 PM »



The side finishes very well - in fact the stretch between 7 and 11 is probably my favourite on the course.  From the tee #9 is visually confusing with the wind coming off the left.  The far bunker is perfectly placed on the outside of the leg to make players take on the left bunkers - thus leaving a terrible angle of approach.



From the left side - the flag can just be made out.



There is absolutely no room to come in on this side of the fairway.





Its difficult to tell in pix but the greens have a fair bit of movement to them with little tiers creating quite severe sections; many of the greens felt very modern.  I wonder if Cotton added more touches than folks realize or if perhaps when the greens were re-laid in the 80s some contour was added.






« Last Edit: January 10, 2015, 11:40:12 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

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Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #20 on: March 13, 2012, 02:50:37 PM »



#10 is a classic sucker hole both from the tee and on the approach.  It is better to lay back to a comfortable full club distance than it is to have a go at the green 313 yards away.  One of the few criticisms of Saunton I can muster is the propensity of flat fairways.  This may be a consequence of the WWII military training.



One can see that it is better to approach from the left of the fairway so as to take advantage of the full length of the green.




« Last Edit: January 15, 2015, 03:06:38 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #21 on: March 13, 2012, 02:52:23 PM »



I expect to be in the minority, but I admire holes which are manufactured from land which is far from ideal.  Like St Enodoc's 4th, Saunton's 11th is not a looker, but it provides what golf the game is about - thinking golf.  The hole is about 350 yards with the corner of a field being the prime hazard off the tee.  Depending on where the flag is, one can have a bash and try to execute the finicky chip over a bunker or lay back for a full club approach.  With the hole cut up front on this green which runs away from the fairway, I reckon a safe layup to the left of the fairway does the trick.  A layup leaked right off the tee leaves a very dodgy wedge over OOB and a ditch.  What a hole!






« Last Edit: January 15, 2015, 03:09:00 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #22 on: March 13, 2012, 02:55:04 PM »



Like the 11th, 12, 13 and the tee shot on 14 are also in moorland country more reminiscent of Exmoor than links.  Although, I have a lot of time for these holes.  The 12th is perhaps the best of this run; a longish two-shotter with nasty roughright and a ditch left.  



The approach isn't easy to this green with quite a bit of movement.






« Last Edit: January 15, 2015, 03:12:24 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #23 on: March 13, 2012, 02:56:36 PM »



With only two short holes in the first thirteen, Saunton must be a bit unusual, unfortunately, this isn't a positive feature.  Be that as it may, #13 is probably Saunton's best par 3 due to the severity of the green contours.




« Last Edit: January 15, 2015, 03:14:15 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

Garland Bayley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: SANDY SAUNTON - East Course: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #24 on: March 13, 2012, 02:58:47 PM »



#14, or Narrows, is unbelievably difficult if a 4 is the goal.  To gain a decent glimpse of the green the tee shot must be played as close to the right fairway bunkering.  There is maybe 10 yards of bail area if one can't reach the green...in the middle of the fairway.  I didn't get a photo, but in the distance to the right of this hole is huge blow-out.  Apparently, it was done on purpose to help spread sand among the burrows.

From well in front of the drive zone.



Looking back to the tee - Narrows is an apt name.




« Last Edit: January 15, 2015, 03:16:30 PM by GJ Bailey »
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

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