Story by Ian Guerin
It is of little surprised course designers almost unilaterally place their top holes in the back nine of their layouts. They want players to remember those for hours and days after the round is completed.
Some are so good, their placement is inconsequential.
Of the 18 holes selected for the Perfect Round, five fall in the front nine. What’s more, only three that were picked realistically fall within the first hour of teeing off. Willbrook Plantation’s No. 1, TPC of Myrtle Beach’s third hole and No. 4 at Tidewater Golf have set themselves apart by not only forcing themselves into the best of the best, but doing so earlier than any of their counterparts.
WILLBROOK PLANTATION NO. 1
The first appearance of any hole on any course in the Perfect Round series belongs to the opener at Willbrook Plantation, a par 4 where the average player is asked to traverse 400 yards – more than half of it after a dogleg right.
It is because of that bend, head professional Kevin McGuire said, that early adrenaline can cost you.
“What it automatically does is challenge them to be a little more precise off the tee instead of gripping and ripping it. Most people [try to play it like] a par 5,” McGuire said. “It has actually become a lot easier over the years. We’ve lost some trees. You’ve got to stay left, but not too far left. Even if you’re a great player, par is a great score there. It doesn’t give up too many birdies.”
Dan Maples walked players away from the second-hardest hole on the course by following it up with the Nos. 6, 8 and 16 handicaps, respectively, allowing folks to catch their breath a little bit. However, the early test catches most first timers off guard.
TPC OF MYRTLE BEACH NO. 3
Each of the first four holes at TPC are single-digit handicaps, meaning that Tom Fazio wasn’t going to let anyone cruise into the round. However, the combination of a forced carry off the tee, an uphill start-to-finish design and the secondary hurdle via a narrowing fairway make the 447-yard par 4 at no. 3 a difference maker.
“It’s definitely the first real challenge,” TPC of Myrtle Beach head golf professional Matt Daly said. “One and two are straightforward. You get to warm up a little bit before you get to No. 3. It’s as good of a par 4 as you’ll find down here. Once you get to the fairway, it will bottleneck at 150 yards. It’s the first punch TPC will throw at you. It’s a special hole.”
TIDEWATER GOLF NO. 4
Formerly honored as The Sun News’ best par 4 on the Grand Strand, Tidewater’s No. 1 handicap has been making noise since Ken Tomlinson’s design opened in 1990. The hole, also known as Futch Site, is separated from the Cherry Grove Inlet marsh by a slivered waste bunker running the length of the left side of the fairway and green.
In many ways, even the tease on the previous hole doesn’t prepare players for the visual that is about to be upon them.
“It’s a big deal. One and two, we start you off by the clubhouse and the trees. Then you drive over the water [to No. 3] and you see the marsh. Then you get to No. 4 and it’s right there,” head professional Chris Cooper said. “It helps you only if the rest of the golf course meets your expectations.”