Elastic Golf :: Not a Stretch

Scott Warren, die-hard golfer, (twitter.com/scott___warren) and  Bonnie Doon Golf Club member recently suggested the new uphill par 3, 15th hole at his home club was ‘elastic’. One day he had played from a front tee to a front pin less that a hundred meters away. The next day he played a 130 metre shot from the back tee to a pin cut at the back of the green. Elastic is good. Who of us want to play the same hole over and over?

The 8th hole at my home course, Metropolitan is a short par five easily reached for the most powerful but for me a couple of woods and, in the winter at least, a short pitch. The hole turns to the right and around the well-treed corner at about the 300-yard mark (golf is a much better game using yards!) from the tee.

Most have to play to the left and away from the bunkers on the inside corner of the hole to open a clear line for the long second and that defeats the strategy for so many. But move forward 70 meters to the Women’s tee and all can drive to the corner and playing close to the bunkers is truly rewarded with a much better line into the green. Those playing safely away from the hazards face a more difficult – and longer – approach. I think that from that forward tee it is perhaps the best hole on the course.

Certainly for me both the tee shot and the approach are more interesting and demanding than they are from the back. The members never play the hole and if you suggested playing it permanently as a par four they could think you completely insane. Of course, if it had always been played as a 400 metre par four a suggestion to move the tee back and play it as a 480 metre par five would be met with a equal measure of illogical derision. It is barely an argument worth having but having the freedom to play both holes and set the course up with a different par is surely worthwhile. It is certainly more interesting.

In the same fashion the fine par five, 14th hole at Kingston Heath is arguably as interesting a hole from a forward tee that brings the beautiful Alister MacKenzie/Mick Morcom bunkers in the dune right into play with the tee shot. Off the back tee good players simply fly the second shot far over them. From a forward tee and with a manageable carry the hole sets up one of the most strategically interesting two-shotters in Australia. Again, though the conversation barely gets to first base and it’s a pity. But, next time you play Kingston Heath go forward at the 14th and play the hole from a point where you have to consider whether to fly the bunkers – or not.

George Thomas made ‘elastic’ work brilliantly at his Los Angeles Country Club course. There he made a 2nd hole with a barranca across the front of the green that could be played as both a long four or a short but reachable par five. His ‘course within a course’ concept continued when at 7th and 11th holes he made long one shotters but added back tees so both could be played as short par fours. Both are tremendous short and reachable fours and they make for a course with multiple and elastic options. In Melbourne with perhaps the addition of only 50 meters the great 16th hole at Royal Melbourne could be made one of the best short par fours in Australia – and not just the best long par three in the country. Metropolitan’s 7th could likewise be transformed using Thomas’ long lost concept.

We need to get away from the mentality that is bound by an inflexible handicap system that is ‘anti-elasticity’ as it tries to make an exact science out of something that is anything but an exact science.


:: Mike Clayton

Michael Clayton

Michael Clayton