A common concept in golf course architecture is the “playaway” hole—a simple, forgiving start allowing the golfer’s round to begin quickly and easily. The opening hole at Lake of Isles North is the antithesis: It starts with a forced carry of 180 yards to the fairway and then adds another 360 yards to a green elevated 40 feet above the fairway and guarded by bunkers left and right. Nor does Rees Jones let up on the second hole, a par 3 over water. There a total of 7 forced carry tee shots here. The most challenging was at #16 where a carry of 185 yards over a lake was needed to reach the fairway—from a set of tees aimed at golfers with handicaps as high as 18!
The holes do get more interesting as one moves away from the clubhouse, with doglegs at #s 3,5,6,9, 14 and 18 requiring some thought off the tee. But after some nicely contoured greens at the first 3 holes, most of the remaining putting surfaces are flat and dull.
An aerial approach is the only choice at over half the holes. I had dinner with Rees Jones a few tears ago. He’d had a wrist injury, was having trouble getting his iron shots airborne and allowed that he better understood the desirability of allowing a running approach. Had he designed Lake of Isles North after that injury, it would be a more interesting course.
The piece de resistance here is the requirement to ride. I estimated that there’s well over a mile of distance from greens to tees. Though this was dictated by the rocky, swampy piece of land chosen, it does not allow an enjoyable walk.
Date: April 27, 2017