Chapter 15

 
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15     FANTASTIC FOUR

 

Alister Mackenzie was very worried Cypress Point had a fatal flaw – it did not have the consistent terrain required of the best courses of his day. Being the unconventional thinker, however, he decided to make this variety its hallmark, and let the chips fall where they may. He cashed in. It was a bold but risky decision for a relatively unknown designer with his first major project in America. It later landed him Bobby Jones’ commission to build Augusta National over stiff, and more experienced, competition. Moreover, in hindsight, this decision seemed simple and very natural - a good reminder to always be willing to consider cutting across the grain of groupthink.

The immediate praise for the course also concerned Alister. He felt his best work took time to discover and appreciate. The eighteenth is one hole that some initially criticized, and others still do. “The best seventeen hole course in the world,” it is called by some. Now they would get to weigh in.

It was a short par four with a dogleg right up the steepest hill on the course. Just a fairway wood or less was needed off the tee, and it was tough to hit the narrow landing area among fairly dense tree growth. The key challenge was the approach shot up lookout hill – the elevation called for a short iron, but the length a mid iron. They needed to have hit it closer to the hill’s base to avoid this conflict.

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Fairly big and sloping back to front, the green helped hold the approach shot. Putting was a different matter, however, and this was a challenging way to finish. This body blow was quickly softened by the vantage point. From there, and from a few steps away at the back porch of the clubhouse, they could happily overlook the fantastic four of the course. They filled up their cameras’ memory cards from here. And they did not agree with a negative view of eighteen. While not the course’s champion or even on the podium, it well deserved its spot on the team.