By Mike Clayton – Renowned golf course designer
Normally an easy hole to par but with the tee forward and renamed a par four it becomes an easier hole but one where making a par is more difficult. The best place to play into the green is over by the fairway bunkers and those driving safely left face a long and significantly more daunting approach.
A downhill short hole where the new green makes for an easier target than the one Jack Nicklaus originally did back in 1977. Still, it is one of the more difficult short holes in the country and especially so if the wind is blowing.
This shortish par four turns left around a fairway bunker on the corner of the dogleg and the green, guarded by water on the right, is orientated from left to right to reward a well placed tee shot down the left. In now wind it is hardly a difficult hole but into the wind from the north it becomes very dangerous.
The green here sits on an angle from left to right and hugely rewards a shot turning the same way. Anything coming in from right to left is likely to find the bunker at the back and from there saving three is no fun. A twist to this hole new this year is a new tee further left and forward of the traditional ones, opening up scope to have a back-right pin or two, but it's still a tough shot.
Nicklaus removed some poorly placed trees off the corner of the long par five and replaced them with some expansive bunkers. In 1990 Greg Norman holed a long wood here for an albatross and it was a time when few even contemplated reaching the green in two. Now it is within range for the longest hitters but still making a birdie is most often dependent on a good pitch
The drive here is blind over the dune and the fairway turns far to the right making this the most significant dogleg on the course. The original green was best played to from the outside of the dogleg but the revised edition rightly offers a reward to the player who has played the more difficult drive into the right corner of the dogleg.
A sliding left to right tees shot with fairway bunkers on the outside of the hole. An man-made water hazard waits at the right of the green for any pushed iron – or one pulled by the left-handed 2102 champion Greg Chalmers – and into the wind it may be the single most difficult iron on the course.
The good news if the 7th is into the wind is the longest four on the course will be downwind. Into the wind it is may be one of the most difficult par fours in the country to par as the only option to run the ball onto the green is through the narrow gap at the front right.
The massive dune on the right separating the freeway from the golf course is named after the low scoring machine from the 1970s, Billy Dunk who blew a drive into the dune and gave away a winning chance in the 1975 Open. The hole was the finisher on the pre Nicklaus course and the reworked version is a much-improved hole now the trees down the left have been removed.
From the high tee under the clubhouse the hole plays toward the south and is something of a relief after the previous quartet of difficult par fours. There is nothing particularly complicated here and two decent shots will make for an easy four.
Nicklaus was a brilliant iron player, perhaps the best of all time, so it is not any surprise his short holes are demanding of accurate, well flighted and well shaped shots. This one is no exception. Hit a good shot and three is assured. Hit a poor one and more than likely four is the outcome.
Like the 10th the 12th plays from down from a high tee to a fairway protected by fairway bunkers both left and right. The green on a diagonal from right to left offers an easier line for those who have driven right so anyone finding the left bunkers has made both a physical and mental error for there is absolutely no reason to play near them. Adding to complexity of drive this year is a new bunker up the right closer to the green than the existing sand.
Turning from left to right, the 13th is the shortest par four on the course but it is not so short to be a replication of the excellent short, drivable par fours which are more a feature of the Melbourne sandbelt courses. Rather it is a fairway wood or even an iron from the tee followed by a short iron up the hill to a green were the surface is blind.
The modern game has necessitated making par four at 460 meters for championship players and this one will be something of an unknown quantity. Normally a par five, and not an easy one, as a par four played off a forward tee it will be especially difficult but drives flying the hill crossing the fairway will earn some extra well-needed run. Mind you, the way Rory drives the ball now don’t be surprised to see him flipping short irons into what is a difficult green designed as one to come at the end of a par five.
From the back tees another difficult short hole asking for nothing more than a perfect long or middle iron. Bob Shearer beat Nicklaus in 1982 and he played with the great man on the opening two days. At the 15th he whiffed a sand shot barely getting it over the lip and into the fringe. In frustration he swiped his club into the sand and then watched the ball slowly trickle back into the bunker. The rules officials viewed the incident and were strongly of the opinion no penalty warranted and Nicklaus was in full agreement. Shearer however insisted on adding two shots to his score and forever earned the highest of marks for his sportsmanship from his contemporaries. ‘I didn’t want anyone saying I didn’t deserve to win’ said Shearer.
Another long and testing four but the new version features a green significantly less demanding target Nicklaus made back in 1977. Essentially every hole with the possible exception of the 6thheads to the north or the south and how difficult they are is entirely dependent on the winds. Into the north wind the 16th is a seriously demanding hole and one where a leader on Sunday will be delighted with a par
The tee shot here turns a little to the left and whilst not particularly difficult the green and the approach shot makes up for it. The water on the left of the green ought not to affect those who have driven truly but typically of this man-sized course it asks for very competent execution.
Back on the tee players should decide if they are going to play this water-guarded par five in two or three shots. If the choice is to play it safely the aim ought to be setting up a pitch from just short of the water beginning around a hundred meters from the green. Flying at the green with a long second is dangerous simply because of the lake on the right cutting right to the edge of the green and the hole has seen its share or great and miserable finishes.