12 VAN GOGH
Delays must be common on the fifteenth as everyone but the most jaded will reach for their cameras instead of their clubs. This was a private wing in Cypress’ art museum, and they needed to admire and contemplate the large-scale masterpiece in front of them. They looked around for the button to push or headphones with an audio tour to rent. As a short par three, they could take in the full hole up close and personal. While its singular beauty was memorable, perhaps unlike any other hole they had seen, its difference from the rest of the course deepened their response. This was a Van Gogh on a course of Monets and Constables.
The swirling, bent Cypress trees surrounding the green were the sky in Starry Night. It sat on a rocky point with several protrusions like limbs; this was a fossilized turtle or something with a saurus or don in its name. It shared a similar sprocket shape with the eight green, with an even narrower front tongue, where the pin was placed that day. Add in gusting, swirling ocean breezes, and club selection was tough. Just finding the dance floor would be a very good result.
The walk around the inlet in front of the green was a grade school field trip full of tide pools, seaweed and other exotic plants, and lapping waves against sharp rocks in varying degrees and colors of wetness. They expected their caddies to remind them not to touch and stay together. There were also several sunning and bleating sea lions. Sea lions, they learned, have earflaps and longer front and hind flippers for walking, and seals do not. This hole having sea life is like a swimsuit model also being intelligent and funny. The sand in the greenside bunkers felt like real, beach sand – it had a more natural color and consistency than typically used. And the traps had fairly recently, and thankfully, been restored to their original, intricate design, replacing the bland, awful ovals from the free clip art collection of golf course design. With a severely sloping green, the obvious defense for a short hole, par was an excellent score even for those shots leaving ball marks.
Interestingly, and unlike most of the other holes, this was clearly a painting and not a tapestry – it was spectacular from the tee, but bland from its backside. With little reason to linger, but pulses still racing, they were twitching like birds to move onto the sixteenth. If they could only find out how to get there. Like the fourteenth, the way to the next hole was not clear. Their caddies led them to a small opening to the left of the green, which only led into a Cypress grove as far as they could see. Further hiding the path was an overhanding branch, which they would need to duck under just a few steps from the entrance. It would not be surprising the sixteenth would be guarded by a secret passage way; a good thing the caddies knew the password.
It was not a short hike, more than four football fields long, through a dense grove of Cypress trees. But the trees here were not trolls like back on the fourteenth, but instead were the flying buttresses and stained glass windows of some place very peaceful, even spiritual, in tone. This place did not create pressure, but provided a chance for reflection instead of being rushed right on to another tee. This was like visiting the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial, standalone destinations, instead of the Louvre with one priceless work of art after another. Adding to the seclusion was how the length of the walk naturally created more space between each of the golfers traveling at different speeds. Banter dies out over distance. Once again, Alister was creating ebbs and flows in emotions like a skilled playwright or novelist.
A clearing about midway through the journey gave a glimpse of the bay and peninsula that was the sixteenth. Where was the lighthouse? Emerging from the cathedral grove, the view made them much more winded than the hike did. This may be the only hole on earth where the water-to-land ratio matched the overall planet. And it took minimalism to its apogee, which would make Doak and Crenshaw smile, as it was hard to believe this hole had not always existed. Cut the grass a bit and add some finishing touches to the hazards, and it was ready for play. Any lost profit margin building holes in dunes and forests was clearly made up here. Perhaps even a sprinkler system was not needed.