Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Overlooked Genius of Fishers Island

Fishers Island has a well-deserved reputation as one of the finest golf courses in the United States, and one of the most scenic in the world. The Seth Raynor design, which opened after he died, was completed by his able assistant, Charles Banks. Perched on the edge of Fishers Island. N.Y., just off the Connecticut coast, it has ocean views on all 18 holes.

What is obscured by the beauty, however, is how architecturally strong Raynor's work is here. He constantly presents players with the option of challenging a hazard that, if successful, will set up the preferred angle into the green, made even more important on the many days the course is battered by winds.

A wonderful example of that is the seventh hole, shown here in a photo by Brett Zimmerman, my tee shot still in flight. Called, "Latimer," it is 363 yards from the back tee. I overlooked the genius of this hole, as well, the first few times I played it, but in 2006 and 2007 while caddying at Fishers, I learned many of the best players consider this one of their two or three favorite holes.

One reason the hole was ignored was that for years the aggressive underbrush was allowed to creep in some 30 yards in on the right from where it is now, eliminating almost the entire right half of the fairway. When golf course superintendent Donnie Beck pushed the overgrowth back, he revealed that strategy as Raynor intended.

In the photo, you can see how the green is angled to right so that the axis is facing a small pond just visible off the right front corner of the tee. The perfect tee shot is either one that challenges the pond leaving about a 160-yard, uphill approach shot into a wind that crosses from left to right in the summer, or a bombed drive that goes beyond the pond.

If the safe route is taken, placing the tee shot on the left side of the fairway, then the approach shot - because of the prevailing wind - must be played out over the left bunkers that sit some 10 feet below the putting surface. A shot aimed too far into the middle of the green, will be pushed by the wind and roll off the far side, finding an equally deep bunker.

I caddied for the Fishers Island Club champion in 2006. He would lay up off the tee and then play to the front of the green if the pin was front or middle, or, if the pin was back, maybe to the front third of the green. Par was always an acceptable score and on a surprising number of occasion, was good enough to win the hole.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I've entered the modern age and started my own blog. Not surprisingly, it will revolve around golf, golf course architecture and my golf writing. I'll write, you read.