Shinnecock’s superb short holes - 118th US Open
by M. James Ward
The greatness of Shinnecock Hills comes from its collective presentation. There is no one special hole or cluster of holes that stand apart. The sum of the William Flynn design is the total connection from the moment golfers arrive at the 1st tee until leaving the 18th green.
The quartet of par three holes certainly merit special attention, as each is totally different from the other. Players will be forced to hit a full array of different shots -- often determined by the ever-varying wind velocities that can whip through the property at any moment.
2nd Hole / 252 Yards
The overall distance has been increased 26 yards since the '04 championship. Generally, the hole plays with the prevailing southwest wind but if that should change the added length will likely have a significant impact. In downwind conditions -- look for players to hit mid-irons. The hole features a small upslope in the very front of the green. Approaches not hit sufficiently will not likely get deep into the green. There are fall-offs to the sides and in the rear area that are closely mown and can propel such shots a greater distance away from the hole.
Birdies will happen but they will not be plentiful. Getting off to a good start is central to scoring well at Shinnecock and getting through the 2nd hole will be a major plus in keeping the momentum going forward.
7th Hole / 189 Yards
The most infamous hole from the 2004 championship. The USGA fumbled the ball in a big time way by refusing to sufficiently water the green. The result? Players were unable to keep the ball on the green and scores ballooned. The debacle almost ended the relationship Shinnecock Hills had with the USGA concerning future host roles for the US Open.
The club and USGA have placed that matter in the rear view mirror, however, how the 7th plays for the duration of the championship will be keenly watched.
The Redan Hole is vexing -- especially when encountering headwinds which are the prevailing type from the southwest. The green slopes from front right to back left. There is a major dropoff to the right for those players unable to flight their approach correctly. Those finishing to the right of the green are left with a fiendish pitch to a green tilted severely away from their position. The green is quite deep so different clubs will be needed and handling the trajectory of one's shot from the tee will be an absolute must. Many who come to Southampton marvel at the 4th hole at the National Golf Links of America -- Shinnecock's esteemed next door neighbor. That Redan hole is also a replica of the famous 15th at North Berwick and is quite special, but the 7th at Shinnecock is no less impressive in its own right.
11th Hole / 159 Yards
Among the more truly noted "short" holes in championship golf includes the 12th at Augusta National, the 8th at Royal Troon and the 7th at Pebble Beach. Joining that conversation is the treacherous 11th at Shinnecock. The demands come immediately when standing on the tee. The green is elevated slightly higher and this position allows for the full impact of the wind to heavily influence club selection.
Generally the prevailing wind is helping from the left at the tee and failure to flight one's ball correctly can mean a clear mishap resulting in bogey or worse. The green has no backdrop to give players guidance. The putting surfaces slopes from back left to front right. Three bunkers eat into the right side of the hole and missing right allows for some sort of recovery if one can secure a playable lie. Those missing the green to the left will find a next to impossible recovery as the green falls abruptly away from that side.
There is an expanded rear pin position where only the brave -- or foolish -- will attempt to flight one's ball to that location. Should wind conditions change -- the 11th is equally demanding with a wind blowing either into the golfer's faces or worse yet with a devilish cross wind coming from the northeast.
17th hole / 180 Yards
The last of the par-3 holes occupies the penultimate hole position. The green was expanded in the rear left area. This has added overall depth of the green resulting in a series of different club selections depending upon pin location and velocity of the wind encountered. The prevailing breeze generally comes across the hole from the left. Those missing the green right can find a deep bunker guarding that side.
The contours of the green are varied and those finishing too far away will be under tremendous pressure to avoid a late round three-putt.
The par-3 17th for the '04 championship was a fairly benign hole. The improvements have smartly added more decision-making to the equation and given the hole's position in the round the need to flawlessly execute will be thoroughly tested.
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