In this part of the blog, we will cover the end of the front 9 – holes 7,8 and 9.
Catch up on Holes 1-3 here.
If you missed Holes 4-6, you can read that part of the blog here.
To this point, our composite course has been dominated by holes at either end of the Clubs 130 year history – original Tom Morris designs or reinvigorated holes from the last 5 years. In this part, we will delve into the ‘middle years’ of the course as well as a modern update on a classic Par 3.
7th Hole – 378 yards Par 4 (1923)
This would have been a fantastic strategic hole.
From an elevated tee (on the cliff side of the current 13th green), golfers hit towards a very generous fairway, shared by the 16th hole coming in the opposite direction.
To the right of the above photo, you can see the current 8th hole – photo below from 2015.
The land that our featured hole is on is still there (left of photo), but covered in bracken. It was taken out of play as part of the 1978 changes for fear of a cliff fall that is yet to happen.
Our featured hole played similarly to the modern 8th, but with a more dramatic tee and green location it got the edge for our composite course. Due to their similar design, I did not consider including them both.
Returning to our featured hole, although the fairway was wide, the angle would have been important, given that tee shots pulled left or pushed right would have had the view to the green blocked. Perhaps the best description of this hole is from a Handbook of the time:
‘In front of the tee the ground sweeps down into a great dip that rises steeply on the other side into the slope of Target Hill. The green is on a shelf-like plateau set left-handed into the top of the slope, with a steep drop on the right and gorse on the rise on the left. It is a hole at which it is scarcely possible to go wrong with our drive and exceedingly difficult to be just right with our judgement of the approach’
The difficulty of this hole was noted early on – with Open Champions JH Taylor and Sandy Herd halving in inglorious sixes during the exhibition to open the course in 1895.
8th Hole – 398 yards Par 4 (1962)
The ‘Punchbowl’ has been a part of the course since the beginning and with epic scale it has continued to be a feature hole throughout the Clubs history.
As such it was always likely to feature as part of the ultimate course so the choice was which incarnation it would be. In 2019, playing as the 7th, the hole incorporates a blind tee shot to a fairway angled left to right across the golfer.
Whilst there are some architectural advantages to this design, ultimately the version of the hole that is included plays from tees near the current 10th hole starting point and offers a clear view straight up the hole.
With the North Sea to the right, and steep banks of bracken rising to the left and rear of the green, the scale of this hole is magnificent.
We return to our handbook for the hole description from the late 1950’s:
‘The eighth is a remarkably fine two-shot hole laid out along the bottom of the great shallow basin between Target Hill and the lesser ridge to the left. This hole is known as the Punch Bowl from the formation of the green, which is set into the face of the slope at the far end of the valley, a very encouraging target for the player who can get right up to it with two stout smacks. But the valley is well bunkered; a couple more bunkers set into either side of the rise to the front of the green narrow the entry for a running shot; and it is easy to meet with trouble before we ever get the length of the green.’
The putt from the back of the green to a front hole location is particularly intimidating given the real risk of putting off the green and 50 yards back down the fairway.
9th Hole – 160 Yards Par 3 (2019)
Our second short hole closes the front nine in some style.
A part of the course from its inception, at various times this hole has played as the 8th, 10th or 14th but has now found its position as the 9th.
Playing downhill from a tee with the North Sea behind, this hole has always been beautiful. The redevelopment work carried out by a team led by Course Manager Mark Heveran however, has taken it to another level.
From the tee, the wind plays a huge role. As the only hole on the current layout playing in this direction, the golfer is faced with a different challenge. A lofted shot played high into the air will often be buffeted by the ever-present breeze and fall short. For this reason, many golfers prefer a ‘punch’ shot through the wind on this hole.
The green is surrounded by the ‘Seven Sin’ bunkers, seen in dramatic fashion from overhead.
Very much of the ‘pot’ variety, escaping from any of these sinful places with a score intact is indeed a challenge.
A favourite spot for golfers to stop, catch their breath and take selfies, this is a fitting end to a dramatic 9 holes.