Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Wild Punchbowl Green from 1921

This is 1921 photo of the wild 16th green at Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette, Ill., which hosted the men's and women's Western amateur that year. According to a Golf Illustrated article previewing the events, William Watson was responsible for the original design and construction.

"The tees are large, the original greens were enormous and they tell a story of a famous British golfer who, after being constantly short of the cup with his approach putts, them with his driver," wrote Jack Hoag in Golf Illustrated. "Since that time many of the holes have been changed according to plans by Billy Langford and A.W. Tillinghast and the size of some of the greens were reduced by cutting traps right out of the original greens. This has made the bunkering so close that the element of luck has been practically eliminated and the course is famous throughout the West for the sportiness of its approaches."

During his hole-by-hole description Hoag, this time writing this time in The American Golfer, was critical of the 16th. "The three hundred and ten yard sixteenth is either a very good or a very bad hole, depending on the point of view, and the point of view depends largely on your drive. You play from a tee up over the ridge, the clubhouse is on your left and an out of bounds is on your right. If your drive has been a good one, you face a little niblick pitch into a punchbowl green, which has a cop six feet high completely surrounding it and hazards outside the cop. Granted a good drive, just a pitch into the bowl and slope of the sides will do the rest. But, if you miss your drive and have to play a spoon or a long iron approach, this same bowl is a tough baby to hit."

What Langford and/or Tillinhast created was a green that possesses qualities Robert Trent Jones produced on many of his par-4 holes, that of a putting surface heavily guarded in front by bunkers or hazards and only conducive to a short-iron approach without the option to run the ball on. The problem, for me, with this design style is that when a poor tee shot is the result, any attempt to hold the green with a long iron is virtually impossible. The only options, other than trying to produce a miraculous shot, is to lay up short of trouble or dump the approach in a bunker. Neither alternative is enticing.

No surprisingly, the 1921 version of the 16th green no longer exists.

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