Date: February 16, 2019
Author: Mike Clayton

CLAYTON: Great 18th at The Grange

Last week at 13th Beach there was some debate about the length of the women’s course with the suggestion being 6000 meters was too long especially in a tournament where their scores might be compared with the men.

This week at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open The Grange’s West Course is longer by about 80 meters (6082m) bringing to mind again American commentator Brandel Chamblee’s recent contention women’s courses are far too long and something closer to 6000 yards in the old money would be more appropriate.

The leaders after two days in Adelaide were the Taiwanese Wei-Ling Hsu and Swede Madelene Sagstrom at 10 under par. With a two over par cut it would seem the course was set up perfectly and a long way from being too onerous for many of the best players in the world.

The course is playing well, offering up a mix of iron shots into the greens, two proper three shot par fives (5 and 13), the reachable 1st and with the 10th within two shots unless the wind is against. Likewise the short holes ask for variety of irons (more even if the 12th is into the wind) and it’s precisely how a course should play for a championship.

Unusually for an Australian championship course the West finishes with a short par four and one could make the argument it’s at least as interesting to end a round as the traditional long two-shot hole. The men’s tour is at Lake Karrinyup and the 18th hole there is another example, as are the finishing holes on the sandbelt at Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Metropolitan, Huntingdale, Commonwealth, Spring Valley, Victoria, Woodlands, and Yarra Yarra.

They all ask for two accurate long shots although they all now play shorter for the best men than their original designers envisaged. Most have added back tees in an attempt to keep up with the innovators but the short four to finish at Grange asks an equally interesting question.

The tee shot is wide enough to make hitting the fairway relatively simple but the green is angled in a diagonal from left to right with the right guarded by short bunkers and the left by rear bunkers catching anything fractionally pulled or over-hit. The final element to the green is the ridge cutting across the middle, sweeping marginally under-hit pitch shots down to the front. Only the most precise wedge leaves a reasonable putt for a birdie.

Coincidentally the finishing holes at Royal Adelaide and Kooyonga are quite similar length holes asking equally thought-provoking questions.

The most famous finishing hole in golf is likewise a short par four and, over the centuries, the 18th at St Andrews, despite it’s seeming simplicity, has authored it’s share of drama in The Open Championship. There are any number of great long fours to finish but to avoid building something shorter to meet some imaginary convention is a mistake.

The best of the Australians after 36 holes was Hannah Green. Not as well known as either of her junior contemporaries Minjee Lee or Su Oh, Green is nonetheless almost in their class and only wanting for a couple of years experience on the LPGA.

She played well last year at Royal Adelaide, finishing 3rd, and as a result moved much of the stress of worrying about the following year’s employment. She hits the ball properly, plays sensibly and much can be expected of her this season.

Where the next lot of young Australian women is going to come from is the next question. I watch with some dismay as women’s amateur golf is played off tees meant for average club members when the only way to stretch out the next generation and force them to sink or swim is to play longer, more testing golf courses.

A few years ago at Lake Karrinyup, Lee and Oh played a big amateur event and both were close to 20 under par. One of the committee called me (we are the club’s architects) and suggested the course was ‘too short.’ 

It’s true it was too short but behind the women’s tee was an extra thousand meters at least. If we want to produce players capable of competing with the best in the world those who arrange the courses for the bigger amateur events would do well to use at least a few hundred of those thousand meters to stretch them out a bit.