In this part of the blog, we take a look at many golfers favourite part of the course – the 13th through the 15th holes.
13th Hole – 182 yards Par 3 (1982)
Enjoying a spectacular location near to the highest point of the property, the short 13th is one of the most architecturally interesting holes in the history of RCGC.
This hole has been a part of the layout from the very beginning, designed by Old Tom Morris, but was only switched to the 13th in 1979 following the replacement of three holes.
In 1949, then Professional Ernie Plummer described the hole as follows in his guide to the course:
‘The best short hole on the course, calling for a spoon or iron shot to a rising green on the edge of a plateau. We have to carry a line of bunkers in the face of the slope, and our ball traverses a dip with gorse on the right and left. Too bold a shot can find the bunkers at the back of the green. The correct line is slightly on the left of the pin.’
Plummer’s opening comment has interest in that many seasoned observers in fact rate this the weakest of the short holes in the current layout. So can it be that this hole has actually got worse over the years?
The answer probably has a mix of yes and no involved. When Old Tom originally designed the hole, it played to 200 yards from a tee further back on higher ground than the present position. This would have afforded better views of the putting surface. There would have been less vegetation on the approach to the green and around the surface, arguably making it a fairer test than in its present guise.
The blind tee shot has always required a degree of judgement of the firm ground, with (as Plummer suggested) the best strategy being to run the ball in from the left. In the early 1900’s, this type of design was commonplace. Modern design tries to eliminate blind shots and the need to use the ground extensively and so this hole is a bit of a throwback. Nothing really wrong with that methinks.
Some extensive development work is planned for the next couple of years on this hole, reintroducing Old Tom’s original tee and moving some earth in front of the green to afford better views of the pin. Done well, future golfers could well echo past thoughts that this is the best of a strong bunch of short holes.
14th Hole – 395 yards Par 4 (2018)
Could it be anything else?
The signature hole at RCGC plays from a stunning location on the cliff-edge with the drive carrying over gorse and heavy rough, with the cliff guarding the right hand side. The fairway forms a large bowl to collect the drive, from where the hole dog-legs left to the flattish green bordered by the iconic lighthouse.
It is a hole that would stand with the best in the UK.
Originally split into two short holes (see the 2nd hole in this series), it was JH Taylor in 1913 who had the vision to remove the green that sat alongside the current fairway bowl and play the land as a fantastic two-shotter.
For a few years in the 1970’s, this hole was the 18th and an incredible finishing hole it must have been (this was done in an attempt to create two loops of nine holes but abandoned with the loss of three holes and the reconfigured route), but I like it as the 14th as it comes into play at a crucial time for match-play battles, many of which will be over by the 18th.
15th Hole – 394 Yards Par 4 (1979)
Another strong Par 4, where the best description is again left to Ernie Plummer:
‘This is the best golfing hole on the course, where our drive is from the top of a hill, over a road-way below, and gorse, down to a narrow valley between two hills. Our aim should be to the left of the fairway as this is a slightly dog-legged hole to the right. The second shot is a testing one over a cross-bunker to a green slightly uphill with bunkers left and right and in front. The shorter player is advised to play safe over the cross-bunker and chip up for his third shot.’
In recent years, as is a pattern across much of the course, excessive vegetation has been planted and allowed to grow up the sides of the valley here. Work will be completed to remove this in the next few years and it is the earlier version of the hole that makes our 18.
Next week we finish off our round in with 3 stunning holes of varying length and design.