Story by Ian Guerin
Two design strategies already collided at the PineHills course at Myrtlewood Golf Club.
Now, a relatively subtle turf change is going to bring their effects to the forefront of players’ minds.
Before we get to that, though, it’s important to tell the backstory. After opening in 1966 with a prime location, the older of the two on-site courses needed a facelift. There was nothing wrong with the relatively short course, so to speak, but tree-heavy golf was being replaced by other forms of target-driven play. So the owners brought in Arthur Hills in 1992 and 1993 to do his thing.
He moved dirt, added rolling terrains - especially in the roughs - and placed a few not-so-convenient bunkers smack dab in the middle of a few fairways. But what he didn’t do was eliminate all of the towering pines that were already there and affecting more than a handful of tee shots along the way.
Hence, coastal breezes plus the new-found elevation changes accompanying many of those trees made up for a maximum distance of just 6,600-plus yards.
So, are you ready for the fun addition yet?
“On the PineHills side, we’re trying to keep with the rolling hills aspect of it. It’s more of a shot-maker’s golf course,” Myrtlewood Head Golf Professional Ryan Ruddy said, before getting to the good part. “We want to bring back that higher grass in the off-lie areas to make a linksy feel to it. Like on No. 12, it’s that higher grass. It gives it that links look.”
Ruddy was being modest by only pointing out one hole where recent grass development in the roughs makes players pay the price. As many as four holes on each side show a noticeable difference in that category; it just so happens that they are paired with other hazards that bring Hills’ original plans for the par-72 round into play.
Doglegs define seven holes. Seven par 4s and 5s have sand traps in play off the tee. Add water on several others, and the “new” PineHills isn’t exactly ripe for the ol’ big dog.
Call it the great equalizer.
But was it done for aesthetics or playability?
“It’s a combination of both,” Ruddy said. “It puts more precision on your tee ball when you put that grass on the farther areas. It’s not just a bomber’s paradise. It puts a bit more (strategy) in there. I may not want to hit that driver; I’ll hit that three wood and keep it in play. We want to make it more of that shot-maker’s course.”
Naturally, everyone will think of the tee shots. But on as many as half the holes, trajectory toward the green is also squeezed by thicker roughs and then smaller greens.
The course’s signature hole, No. 18, is the perfect example of all it rolled into one potentially headache-inducing space of land.
The 403-yard par 4 eases off some of the elevation changes off the tee, only to ask players to avoid a sand trap bunching on the right side of the fairway. From there, water on eliminates shots to the left side, while mounding and three more traps hover off the right of the slim, sloped green.
A miss anywhere along the way will cost you.
And that is exactly by design.