By Jack Madigan — aka The Golf Guy | Photos Provided
There are many factors that go into the design of each individual hole on a golf course. The designer first and foremost has to work with the basic lay of the land. However, in practically every parcel of raw land there is that area that just screams out to be a great design. Then the designer has to take that gift and bring it to its full potential so that the result is a great golf hole.
When the designer is finished, the true test of a hole’s worth is the golfer’s anticipation in reaching that particular hole when playing the course. The elements that cause this anticipation are many fold. Beauty and overall visual enjoyment are a prerequisite. Degree of difficulty is always there on a sliding scale, from the very demanding that tests the golfer’s skill, to basically easy, yet enormously fun. Last, but not least, is the fairness of the hole and the reward factor. A hole can be very tough and at the same time fair. If you hit a good shot there should be a reward. A drive down the center of the fairway should stay in the fairway and not roll off into the woods or a severely penal rough. So, with these thoughts in mind let’s take a trip around the Lake of the Ozarks and point out some great designs that every golfer looks forward to playing either out of fear or love!
Over at Porto Cima there is an abundance of great holes, but the often overlooked Hole No. 4 merits a mention. This par-5 winds through a picturesque valley with a creek running the entire right side of the hole and then meandering around to front the green. This hole encompasses beauty with fairness and difficulty yet rewards every decent shot. The signature Hole No. 15, although not extremely difficult, is stunningly beautiful. Its 12 bunkers and Lake background move it to the front of the class. Hole No. 17 combines beauty, shot-making and difficulty with its two Lake crossings and sloping fairway. This can prove to be one of the most difficult yet prettiest holes at the Lake.
Picking up our bag and trotting over to The Cove it’s Robert Trent Jones’ signature 230-yard par-3 Hole No. 4 where one encounters the pure difficulty that every golfer approaches with fear in his heart. Yet it is exactly this expectation that makes it a great design. On the other side of this coin we can look at the par-3 Hole No. 6 at Tan-Tara-A’s Hidden Lakes. This super short hole features a clifflike drop to a narrow green guarded in front by a lake. Every golfer teeing up on this hole truly hopes — if not expects — to get a hole in one. With its flower-laden tee box, lake and fountain it combines beauty and excitement that makes it a hole you look forward to playing again and again.
Driving down Highway 54 to the Arnold Palmer design at Osage National, by almost unanimous agreement Hole No. 8 on the Mountain course and Hole No. 4 on the River course absolutely stand out. Hole No. 8 is a par-4 dog-leg left with a severe elevation change down to a fairway and green guarded by a plethora of bunkers. Presuming your tee shot lands you at the turn by the drop-off, you are greeted by a breathtaking view of the course and the Osage River valley. Beauty and a demanding shot make this hole an unforgettable experience. The par-3 Hole No. 4 on the River course is demanding. You hit to a narrow elevated green guarded by a pond that simply eats tee shots, but a tee shot to the center of the green gives untold satisfaction.
Two other par-3s, one at Indian Rock and the other at Eldon, offer similar challenges. Both demand accurate tee shots across lakes that span the holes from tee box to green. Huge, beautiful, natural stone formations comprise the backdrop at Indian Rock. Eldon also offers some very tough holes, such as the par-4 Hole No. 2 that every golfer dreads.
Deer Chase offers some spectacular elevation changes but probably none better than the par-4 Hole No. 9, where the tee box provides a view of the Little Niangua River Valley. In addition to the view is a second shot across a big lake to a narrow green. Continuing along the beauty trail to The Oaks, the signature par-5 Hole No. 9 features a third shot to a kidney-shaped green guarded by a pond covered with water lilies and fed by a waterfall surrounded by a hillside of flowers. It’s simply beautiful, not to mention that approach is a tough shot, usually from an uneven lie. Staying with the par-5s, the 548-yard Hole No. 9 at Sycamore Creek is just plain hard. The tee shot has to be long to clear a big lake, then the next two shots are uphill in a narrow fairway that leads up to a two-tiered green that is very difficult to putt if you are anywhere behind the pin.
Both Bear Creek and Lake Valley have par-3s you just can’t wait to play. Hole No. 16 at Bear Creek boasts the largest elevation change at the Lake. The green is large, receptive and guarded by a deep creek. It’s a fun hole to play and almost demands a bet on who is closest to the hole. And then Hole No. 17 at Lake Valley that descends from the tee box to a green with water to the left and rear. A fountain decorates the center of the lake, and when you stand on the tee box taking this all in you are generally thinking ‘I can ace this baby,’ and two years ago the Golf Guy did exactly that.
This leads us to Old Kinderhook at the western end of the Lake’s golf world. Just the drive into the complex is so inviting and picturesque that one feels like they are in an entirely different surrounding. This Tom Weiskopf design has so many great holes it is tough to pick one, but I think it is apropos to finish this article on design with the best finishing hole at the Lake. This par-5, 516-yard hole is totally visible from the clubhouse. It has a green that is separated from the fairway by water and protected by bunkers. The thing that separates this hole from the run of the mill is the risk/reward factor of the second shot. With a good drive you can reach the green in two, but only if that second shot is perfect. It is doable but very hard, and the reward is an eagle if successful. Weiskopf succeeded in encompassing all the design elements necessary for a magnificent finishing hole.
So, the next time you play any of these courses, pay attention to the designs and note the holes you love or fear.
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