Saturday, March 3, 2012

What Does Jack Know...

...that other course architects don't?

I mean, PGA National is a par-70 course and a mere 7158 yards long. (That info came from the course info page.) This week several players have shot 64 -- the course record coming into this week -- and 65. On Friday Brian Harmon set a new course record of 61. This doesn't sound like it should be particularly challenging to PGA Tour players, does it?

Entry to the Bear Trap

And yet the leaders are tied at 8-under... and one of them, Tom Gillis, has a 64.

Again I ask: What does Jack know that other course architects don't?

In a world where golf courses get longer and longer because of improved equipment and more athletic players, Jack still manages to give the best players in the world all they can handle on shorter courses. Before we trash Tiger's game because he's only 1-under, let's remember that he's tied with Lee Westwood, who is arguably playing the 2nd-best of anybody in the world right now. Even Rory McIlroy is only 7-under... and let's not forget last year when he went +6 in the Bear Trap during the 2nd round.

ESPN has an interesting post on their golf blog with lots of stats about the Bear Trap -- holes 15, 16 & 17. Here are a few of the more interesting stats they ran (these are quotes taken from the post):
  • The PGA National Champion Course was home to 309 double-bogeys a year ago. That was the most on the PGA Tour in 2011.
  • When you exclude the major championships, The Honda Classic has played as the toughest course on the PGA Tour each of the past two years. Last year, the field averaged a score of more than 2½ shots above par.  
  • If a player is going to make some headway, he'll need to do it early. Holes 1 through 4 had a combined birdie or better percentage of 20.7. For the rest of the course, that number was just 11.4. And for The Bear Trap by itself? Eight percent.
Ironically, this course appears to be very playable for average golfers. Did you know that there are 8 sets of tees on the par-3 17th? Jack somehow managed to make a course that drives the pros crazy... and yet a weekend golfer can actually play the course.

Another short course that challenges the pros is Harbour Town Golf Links, the course where the RBC Heritage is played. A par-71 course, this one only 7101 yards long. (Again, info taken from the PGA Tour's course info page.) I looked to see who designed it, and the page says it was Pete Dye... in consultation with Jack Nicklaus.

Yet again I ask: What does Jack know that other course architects don't?

Perhaps Jack should consider opening a golf course design school for those other poor architects who just can't seem to design a challenging course that's smaller than Panama.

The photo came from Stephanie Wei's blog Wei Over Par.

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