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Jason Way

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America's Great 18s
« on: January 01, 2017, 10:53:19 AM »
Since it is the season in the Northlands for GCA thought experiments, here is another one.

Jon Cavalier, Peter Korbakes, and I got to chatting about our favorite holes on our favorite courses.  We decided to create a Great course out of our favorite holes.  That seemed a little bit too easy though, so we added in a few layers.  The course would be comprised of the favorite 18 that at least one of us has played, by number.

Here was the process:

We each pitched our favorite holes en masse into a bucket.  I sorted them by number.  It quickly became clear that we had too many, so we split them into Classic and Modern.  We then picked a favorite for each hole number.

It seemed a little boring to have 5 or 6 holes from the same course.  Not enough variety.  Therefore, we decided that each course could only have one hole.  We went back through the buckets and did a little shuffling.  It was kind of like trying to fit a jigsaw puzzle together.

At that point the courses felt Great to us.  I started down the road of trying to consider the actual flow of holes by par and yardage, but quickly lost my mind, so we called it a day.

I will be posting a hole a day on here for the next 36 days, as well as on Instagram (@jwizay1493) and Twitter (@JasonWay1493).  Of course, we welcome reasoned debate - tell us we picked the wrong hole, but also tell us why you think another hole is better, keeping in mind our rules.

For those of you who aren't fans of suspense, our Great 18s are now up on my blog: https://geekedongolf.com/2017/01/01/americas-great-18s/.  Do me a favor though, please wait until the holes get posted here to share your thoughts/arguments.  One exception to that request would be that if you are bored and crazy enough to put your own course together according to our rules, feel free to post your Great 18 any time. 

First up, the moderns...

"Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you can exhaust yourself but never your subject." - David Forgan

Sven Nilsen

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2017, 12:24:44 PM »
Might want to check the photo you are using for the 4th hole in the modern group.
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Jason Way

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2017, 12:48:01 PM »
Might want to check the photo you are using for the 4th hole in the modern group.


Thanks for the catch Sven.  Fixed. 


First indication of how mind-scrambling this process was.
"Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you can exhaust yourself but never your subject." - David Forgan

Jason Way

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2017, 01:02:38 PM »
The opener on the Modern course is Sand Hills #1.  I like a gentle handshake as an opener, but not a lay down.  A solid par-5 fits that bill for me and the dogleg left at SH is just right.  The first also serves a preview of what is to come throughout Sand Hills, with an angled tee shot, the blowout bunkers, an approach with elevation change, and an outstanding green set in the saddle of the hill.


This is a great #1.










Our Runners-up - Boston Golf Club, Apache Stronghold, Streamsong Blue, Old Macdonald
"Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you can exhaust yourself but never your subject." - David Forgan

John Kirk

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2017, 01:49:12 PM »
I'm going to play devil's advocate here.

There can be an extreme penalty for coming up short on your 3rd shot at Sand Hills #1.  I have seen an approach shot come up just short, that rolled back leaving a 90-100 yard shot to the center of the green.

I've only seen two other holes with balls rolling back off the front that rival the 1st at Sand Hills (Crystal Downs #8, Chambers Bay #7), but neither roll back as far.  The old version of Chambers Bay #7 used to roll back further.

I might challenge the characterization of "gentle opener".  The green is tilted significantly from back to front, and with the lightning fast greens, downhill putts are treacherous and played defensively.

With that said, I agree it is an excellent hole.  I especially like how the first and second shots require thought and execution.

Anybody else have an opinion here?

Scott McWethy

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2017, 06:46:43 PM »
The opener on the Modern course is Sand Hills #1.  I like a gentle handshake as an opener, but not a lay down.  A solid par-5 fits that bill for me and the dogleg left at SH is just right.  The first also serves a preview of what is to come throughout Sand Hills, with an angled tee shot, the blowout bunkers, an approach with elevation change, and an outstanding green set in the saddle of the hill.


This is a great #1.










Our Runners-up - Boston Golf Club, Apache Stronghold, Streamsong Blue, Old Macdonald

A "gentle handshake"!!!  This hole has played more like a prostate exam for me on more  than a few occasions.  It is a fantastic opener, but that third shot can be extremely difficult.  What a great hole to start a round of golf.

Jason Way

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2017, 08:05:46 PM »
That's a nice visual Scott.  Moooooooon river!  You using the whole fist Doc?

John and Scott, your comments confirm what I like about this hole (and good par-5s in general) as openers, and by no means am I calling it gentle.  I don't care for throwaway holes as openers, even if they satisfy the "gentle handshake" standard.  Given that it usually takes about 6 holes for my back to lube up, I also prefer to not have to come up with an A+ drive or a mid-iron approach before I have settled into the round a bit.

#1 at Sand Hills does indeed make great demands in the approach and on the green, but those are demands that I am more prepared to answer right out of the gate.

Thanks for jumping in fellas.  Still interested to hear if there are other Modern #1s that anyone thinks are better.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2017, 08:31:45 PM by Jason Way »
"Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you can exhaust yourself but never your subject." - David Forgan

Mike_Trenham

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2017, 10:25:21 PM »
French Creek #8 was a runner-up?  Maybe #9?
Proud member of a Doak 3.

John Kirk

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2017, 11:06:20 PM »
I'm not sure there's a better 1st hole among the moderns, but now you've used your Sand Hills hole and you can't use another.

My memories are a bit fuzzy, but Old Sandwich has a nice par 5 1st hole.

Mentally paging through the choices, the 1st hole at the great moderns I've seen tends not to be among the best holes on the course.  I think the choice for the 1st hole is a tough one.


Jason Way

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2017, 09:05:29 AM »
I'm not sure there's a better 1st hole among the moderns, but now you've used your Sand Hills hole and you can't use another.

My memories are a bit fuzzy, but Old Sandwich has a nice par 5 1st hole.

Mentally paging through the choices, the 1st hole at the great moderns I've seen tends not to be among the best holes on the course.  I think the choice for the 1st hole is a tough one.


Good observation John.  That is one of the fun aspects (to a geek like me) of trying to put the course together according to our rules.  Courses like Sand Hills, that have so many wonderful holes, might not end up with their best hole, or even our favorite hole from that course, on our Great 18.
"Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you can exhaust yourself but never your subject." - David Forgan

Jason Way

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2017, 09:17:04 AM »
The 2nd on our Moderns course is Sebonack #2, a par-4.  This is one of Jon's picks and I have not played Sebonack, so I will let him chime in on the debate if need be.  I can tell you from discussing the course with Jon that we are both fascinated by the Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Doak collaboration, and Jon feels that one of the results is that Sebonack is a course where the strong holes are very strong.

Here is his commentary from the blog post:

Beginning with a tee shot between two old growth trees to a rumpled fairway split by massive blowout bunkers, the 2nd is one of Sebonacks toughest holes.  But what makes this hole great is its greensite, sliced diagonally into the dunes, protected by a sharp false front and a dune that obscures its right side.









Our Runners-up Talking Stick North, Kingsley Club, Lost Dunes, Sand Valley, Apache Stronghold, Old MacDonald, Streamsong Blue, Erin Hills
« Last Edit: January 02, 2017, 09:19:10 AM by Jason Way »
"Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you can exhaust yourself but never your subject." - David Forgan

Steve Lapper

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2017, 11:24:55 AM »
Your choice of Sebonack #2 is, IMO, horrendous. It is indeed an aesthetically beautiful hole, and undeniably a "strong," if not brutal hole.


 The problem lies not with the tee shot, although the angular fairway bunker complex narrowing the preferred left side angle (from tee) further increases the degree of difficulty as it pushed the drive toward the middle and right side. Any of these latter positions narrows the ability of all but sub-scratch golfers to find enough realistic distance and height to safely land a ball onto too small and shallow a green that also throws in a hard-sloped back-to-front and wicked false-front, all surrounded by nasty little bunkers  and wire grass...all combining to create one of golf's better S&M par fours.


 This is hardly excused as just another par 4.5 either. When the green speeds are up (usually) and the wind is up (down, or cross, usually) it renders this hole stupidly difficult iMO and instantly recognizable for the dichotomy inherent to the design tension between it's two architects. Mind you, I don't dislike tough, or strong, per se, but do dislike borderline (or over) unfair and immediate.


 On the classic side, so many great venues give you testing, but fair par 4's (i.e Oakmont, PVGC, Merion, WFW & WFE, Riviera, LACC N, etc....). The modern side has plenty better than this one as well, i.e...Pac Dunes, Desert Forest, Spyglass, Rock Creek, Boston GC, Old Sandwich, Hidden Creek and Rustic Canyon. Sorry to differ so vociferously, but you asked for it!
 ;)
« Last Edit: January 02, 2017, 01:57:24 PM by Steve Lapper »
The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking."--John Kenneth Galbraith

Tyler Kearns

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2017, 11:39:17 AM »

There can be an extreme penalty for coming up short on your 3rd shot at Sand Hills #1.  I have seen an approach shot come up just short, that rolled back leaving a 90-100 yard shot to the center of the green.

Anybody else have an opinion here?


No question that knowing about the extreme false-front at No. 1 beforehand played heavily on my mind when playing my short third shot into the green.


TK

BCowan

Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2017, 11:51:21 AM »
In regards to the 2nd hole choice.  I'd go with Kingsley.  I think its the strongest hole on the course and some of my friends that don't care for the course think highly of the hole.  It gets in your head on the 1st hole.  This is all achieved with NO water hazards.  It's one of the few par 3's I can think off the top of my head that has an element of strategic options. 

Peter Pallotta

Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2017, 11:57:59 AM »
Jason - thanks, this is going to be a pleasure to follow. I can't add a single thing, but already the complexity/multi-faceted nature of the puzzle you put together is clear. Besides everything else, how one hole flows into/balances out the one that comes before it and after it has already come to the fore, i.e. in your 18, the happy golfer who has managed a solid par on a solid opening Par 5 better have gotten warmed up and ready to play because, bam, the 2nd hole is a hard one!
P

Jim Tang

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2017, 12:36:11 PM »
The first at Sand Hills is a an exciting and fun way to open your round.  I agree the third shot is very dangerous with little margin for error.  If the hole is cut on the front portion of the green, is is very possible to putt off the green.  This is especially true for the first time visitor.  I was shocked at how fast the greens were.

Tim Fitz

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2017, 12:39:18 PM »
So far I have nothing to add, but like Peter P I am looking forward to the discussion as this unfolds. 

Additionally, one of the upsides to the weather getting colder here in the Midwest is that Jason Way can't play golf.  With that distraction out of the way, his brain starts turning and great threads tumble forth.  Looking forward to this (hopefully with plentiful photographic evidence provided by Jon Cavalier) and others to come.  I am also hopeful that Jason will post a recap at the end after he has had a chance to sort through how well the course is balanced (mix of par, length, use of different swing types) when all the holes are revealed.

Not having played Sebonac, I'll suggest that Erin Hills has a terrific #2.  After a pretty still first hole, the blind tee shot on number two lets you know that this round will be different than most tracks in the Midwest. 

Jason Way

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2017, 12:39:36 PM »
Your choice of Sebonack #2 is, IMO, horrendous. It is indeed an ascetically beautiful hole, and undeniably a "strong," if not brutal hole.


 The problem lies not with the tee shot, although the angular fairway bunker complex narrowing the preferred left side angle (from tee) further increases the degree of difficulty as it pushed the drive toward the middle and right side. Any of these latter positions narrows the ability of all but sub-scratch golfers to find enough realistic distance and height to safely land a ball onto too small and shallow a green that also throws in a hard-sloped back-to-front and wicked false-front, all surrounded by nasty little bunkers  and wire grass...all combining to create one of golf's better S&M par fours.


 This is hardly excused as just another par 4.5 either. When the green speeds are up (usually) and the wind is up (down, or cross, usually) it renders this hole stupidly difficult iMO and instantly recognizable for the dichotomy inherent to the design tension between it's two architects. Mind you, I don't dislike tough, or strong, per se, but do dislike borderline (or over) unfair and immediate.


 On the classic side, so many great venues give you testing, but fair par 4's (i.e Oakmont, PVGC, Merion, WFW & WFE, Riviera, LACC N, etc....). The modern side has plenty better than this one as well, i.e...Pac Dunes, Desert Forest, Spyglass, Rock Creek, Boston GC, Old Sandwich, Hidden Creek and Rustic Canyon. Sorry to differ so vociferously, but you asked for it!
 ;)

Now we're getting somewhere.  Thanks for chiming in Steve.  I have not played Sebonack, so I cannot defend the choice.  I'll leave that to Jon.

I don't believe that any of the three of us have played Rustic Canyon or Rock Creek, so we couldn't consider those #2s.  We chose other holes from PD and BGC so those were out.  I am surprised that you put #2 at Old Sandwich as a toughness counterpoint to our choice.  I found that hole to be extremely difficult, especially with the wind quartering in as it did the day I played it. 

So, to call the question, if you could only pick one Modern #2 from your personal list, which would it be and why?
"Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you can exhaust yourself but never your subject." - David Forgan

Sven Nilsen

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2017, 01:00:19 PM »
I'd go with the 1st at Bayside in Ogalalla.  It checks all the boxes you mentioned, and does more with less than the 1st at Sand Hills.


For the 2nd, I'm assuming we're doing US only.  Otherwise the 2nd at St. Andrews Beach might get a nod. 


For the honorable mentions, I don't think the Old Mac hole is the best 2nd hole at the resort (with the 2nd at the Preserve maybe taking the title).  I like the Talking Stick North nomination. 


Hoping to see some representation from courses like Wild Horse, Wine Valley, Gamble Sands, Angel's Crossing, Blackstone, Engh's litany of Colorado courses and at least one nomination from one of the North Dakota courses.  With a panel of three and what appears to be a decided focus on bedpost notching courses, I'm not going to hold my breath.







"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Tom_Doak

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2017, 01:32:06 PM »
I knew when I saw it that the 2nd hole at Sebonack would be a controversial selection.  It's one of the most uncompromising holes around the green that I've ever worked on.  That they used it as the first hole for the Women's Open was almost comical.


That said, the first three holes nominated as counterpoints could be described in almost exactly the same terms.  You could easily go back and forth across the green on the 2nd at Kingsley multiple times ... I watched Mike DeVries do that the only time we played together there.  I haven't seen the 2nd at Erin Hills since they enlarged it, but the original green was surely one you could miss and miss again.  And I love the simplicity of the 2nd hole at Talking Stick North -- I diagrammed it in my book and might well have nominated it here -- but it does have o.b. right up against one side of the green, which is pretty severe.


For that matter, if you don't like the wicked false front on the 2nd at Sebonack, you shouldn't be too big a fan of the one on the 1st at Sand Hills, either.


The main problem with most proposed "Great 18" courses is that they are 90-100% comprised of difficult holes that you'd probably never want to play one after another.  Is that a factor in the decision-making, or are you just picking the "best" 1st hole, 2nd hole, etc., within the parameters of no more than one per course?

Tom_Doak

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #20 on: January 02, 2017, 01:35:57 PM »
Hoping to see ... at least one nomination from one of the North Dakota courses.


Maybe you should be so bold as to nominate one yourself.  FWIW, I played the North Dakota Golf Trail a few years back and there aren't any candidates that jump to mind ... the one little par-3 at the top of Bully Pulpit is more severe than the holes being argued about above, and it's the one that renders the course impossible to walk, for bonus points.

John Kirk

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #21 on: January 02, 2017, 06:31:36 PM »
Steve Lapper says:

"On the classic side, so many great venues give you testing, but fair par 4's (i.e Oakmont, PVGC, Merion, WFW & WFE, Riviera, LACC N, etc....). The modern side has plenty better than this one as well, i.e...Pac Dunes, Desert Forest, Spyglass, Rock Creek, Boston GC, Old Sandwich, Hidden Creek and Rustic Canyon. Sorry to differ so vociferously, but you asked for it!"
 

Hi Steve,

A chance to reciprocate your greetings from the Foxy thread.  Happy New Year, old chap!  And now for the all-Doak analysis:

Sebonack's 2nd hole is brutal.  A good argument against this choice is the limitations on hole locations.  It's a pretty small green, and the front third has no pin positions.  Overall, I enjoyed Sebonack immensely, but this is a very difficult hole.

Rock Creek has a sensational 2nd hole.

Pacific Dunes has a rather famous 2nd hole, but I'm holding out for one of the bigger stars on that course.

Ballyneal's 2nd hole happens to be one of my favorites on the course, but you're probably saving a spot for one of the funkier designs.

Another one of Tom's great 2nd holes is found at Dismal River - Red.  Another long par 4 with a partially blind tee shot over a dune, followed by a long uphill approach to a perched green surrounded by a sea of short grass.  Really good.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2017, 06:35:37 PM by John Kirk »

Tom_Doak

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #22 on: January 02, 2017, 07:01:26 PM »
Rock Creek has a sensational 2nd hole.

Pacific Dunes has a rather famous 2nd hole, but I'm holding out for one of the bigger stars on that course.

Ballyneal's 2nd hole happens to be one of my favorites on the course, but you're probably saving a spot for one of the funkier designs.

Another one of Tom's great 2nd holes is found at Dismal River - Red.  Another long par 4 with a partially blind tee shot over a dune, followed by a long uphill approach to a perched green surrounded by a sea of short grass.  Really good.


Personally I would take our second hole at Stone Eagle over any of the above; I am really fond of that one.  I'm surprised you didn't mention it since you were once a member there.  But this exercise seems to be focused on great holes from top-100 courses, and I've got more than my share of holes in the list anyway.

Sven Nilsen

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #23 on: January 02, 2017, 07:36:34 PM »
Hoping to see ... at least one nomination from one of the North Dakota courses.


Maybe you should be so bold as to nominate one yourself.  FWIW, I played the North Dakota Golf Trail a few years back and there aren't any candidates that jump to mind ... the one little par-3 at the top of Bully Pulpit is more severe than the holes being argued about above, and it's the one that renders the course impossible to walk, for bonus points.


Be happy to when we get to those holes.  It might be the par 3 with the thumbprint green at Links of ND.
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

John Kirk

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Re: America's Great 18s
« Reply #24 on: January 02, 2017, 08:05:07 PM »
Even though I mentioned Ballyneal in the last post, I may be shying away from mentioning the holes I knew as a former or current member.

The 2nd hole at Kinloch is a Bottle hole, and among the more distinctive holes there.  However, it is quite an easy hole, too.  Once again, if you're going to use one hole from Kinloch, there are better choices.

I also like the 2nd hole at Bandon Trails, especially played as a 210 yard par 3.  A lot of people hate the penalty for a pushed or sliced shot (a large, unkempt dune), but the bailout area short and left (and blind from the tee) is ample.

Lots of great 2nd holes.  I'm wondering whether the modern design philosophy is one of delayed gratification, where you put the clubhouse on a less dramatic location, and work your way out to the good golfing land.  I feel like I can make an argument that the 1st holes on modern golf courses, on average, are among the weakest set.

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