Chapter 8

 
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8     YELLOWSTONE

 

The second hole led off into the core of the course with a semi-blind, diagonal tee shot over rough-hewn dunes and a deep valley. Missing left would be tragic; going through the fairway right was easy since it was hard to pick the correct line, especially in heavy fog. This was a tough three-shotter with many bunkers awaiting both the second and approach shots. The green was mercifully tamer, balancing the work needed to get there.

The third hole was the first of three in a row with military bunkers. On his own, the course designer Alister Mackenzie became a camouflage expert while serving in the Boer War and World War I, which replaced his physician assignment. He then replaced this with becoming one of golf’s first architects after the war, and arguably the best ever. Perhaps nothing more need be said about the breadth of his curiosity, intelligence, and talents. So many career changes in the days before technology shifts and buy-out mania eliminated long-term careers?

The par three third hole was exhibit A for his first use of military bunkers - to make a hole appear more difficult than it really was. Almost surrounded by sand, with a veil of fog to make the hazards more menacing, this hole did create fear despite its moderate length. Moreover, the dune behind the green made it hard to focus. Such a large dune so far from the shore seemed unnatural, but it was clearly not manmade. It was also covered with several twisted and dying trees, a junkyard of trunks and branches. This was a Yellowstone of sand and wood, suddenly sprouting up from very different surrounding terrain. So using it as an excuse for a missed green felt very credible, at least to their sympathetic inner jury.

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The fourth and fifth holes showcased the second use of military bunkers – these hazards would be visible when playing the hole, and then vanish from view when looking back to the tee. This made them smile, but also wonder – why bother? Perhaps it was a signature style that could be resold to other clients, or an interesting challenge to solve, or the force fitting of a skill into an unneeded circumstance. But maybe it was just to produce these smiles from those interested enough in their surroundings to look back, and not just go head down to the next tee. Looking back from the fourth green also provided one of the best panoramic views, and they could see all the way back to the ocean. The fog had lifted enough so they could now see this far, in a LA smog-type way.

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The abundance of bunkers on both holes, disappearing or not, made playing them hard, and five also had a good deal of elevation change, being about the most uphill on the course. They would need to be tour pros to correctly gauge and hit that approach shot the first time out. These two holes took them the deepest into the woods, so they now entered their third different setting within five holes – from seaside to dunes to woods. And the fifth seemed to match the small screen images they had seen of Augusta’s tenth hole very closely, with long shadows creating a spider web of shadows back and forth across spider-like bunkers.

While the fifth became an instant, inland favorite for its beauty - some say the tenth was Bobby Jones’ favorite at Augusta - the sixth zoomed to the top of their fun-to-play list. It was a fairly short, downhill par five, so they felt most Bubba-like there off the tee. It made a sharp left about where their drives would land and beyond a fairway bunker not really in play, so they could swing away freely to send their balls off the natural backstop and have them roll down the hill. The second shot was also from above the hole with plenty of bail out areas right, so tension and tight muscles were nicely absent once again. The small and undulating green was the hole’s defense, so making par was still a task.

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The sixth also rolled up to the ridge of dunes that started behind the third hole, so they were back in Yellowstone. More hot pots, with fog playing the role of steam. Behind the sixth green was another shared tee box, this time the seventh and tenth on top of the dune ridge. These were the shoulders of the course, fitting nicely with the belt of it behind the first tee, and with an even better view. Almost the whole clubhouse side of the course was in view. Three greens surrounded it – the sixth, the ninth and eleventh. Ikea would be proud of the use of space. The seventh green was above and to the right of the tee, midway up the other, larger dune belt that ran along the whole north side of the course, the same one the middle brother had visited months before. An elevated shot with a false front in the middle of hazards and dunes, this was a tough hole to follow an easier one. Thoughtful cadence was another of the course’s strengths.