The Dunes Golf Links - Hole 6
There’s been a lot of comment, and yes, controversy, about Hole 6 at The Dunes – a long, downhill par-3 to a broad green somewhat cringing behind a bosumy central hill, and with the rear of that green pretty closely defined by a reedy water hazard. There are several tees laterally, but the hole can measure over 200 metres from the back central tee. This suggests to the unthinking that a long iron or even wood is needed, when a 6-iron or 5-iron fed down the left side or the right side smooth ’channels’ (depending where the pin is set) will allow most golfers to find the sanctuary of the green. Whilst I’ve seen very fine golfers fly the ball over that hill into the green centre with enough suck so that it stops, most golfers trying that will be fishing out another ball for the drop-zone at the hazard.
Let me tell you the story about the birth of this unique golf hole which not only spells out how it was conceived, but explains something of how an architect’s mind works during the crucial course routing phase.
Hole 6 at The Dunes started life, according to the then site contours, and in my mind, as a par-5. From the present tees, you drove down into a vast amphitheatre, the flattish valley floor ending out at 300 metres or so at the brutish steep high dune ridge which now examines the drive on Hole 7. (As an aside here, the hills which now define Hole 6’s right side and rear of the water hazard were all introduced by me and the team – it was all flat and low here – and we cut that tranche through the dune ridge to allow golfers to actually walk comfortably to their balls on Hole 7)
Those of you who have followed descriptions of how I feel par-5 holes can be designed short enough to be interesting and rewarding to most golfers, whilst examining the best and most powerful players, will see immediately how this dune drive-limiting element works; the longer the drive on the intended par-5 Hole 6, the sharper and more daunting the second shot would have been to a totally blind valley and green setting – a drive really close into that dune would need a mid-iron second at best to clear it!
However, my thinking had to be that whilst that dune line, certainly with a softening slot cut through its top, was reasonable when negotiated from a fixed position, tees set so that the valley beyond was readily attainable, it would have been haphazardly dangerous when examining second or third shots from god-knows-where in the valley after the wide range of drives one could envisage: a white stone on the crest would have been meaningless for wide-out drives. I say this as someone who can readily accept the occasional blind shot in the round of golf, even enjoy it, as a future article will detail.
So, Hole 6 was finally planned as a downhill par-3, with Hole 7 a blind-drive par-5. Now, I had a phone call from the man building the new 6th green, which went something like this:
“Tony, how would you feel about not having the bunkers behind the green?”
“Don’t be mad, Barry – those bunkers are the key strategic demand in the golf hole – little hill in front, bunkers behind, two slots for the bounce – down approach. That’s what it’s about. Just read the drawings!”
“How would you feel about deep water back behind!?”
Never ever trust engineering site advice, in this case, the geophysical studies which showed clearly that the water table under this section of the site was (minimum) 2.8 metres below the flattish ground levels. It wasn’t, it was 1.1 metres under, at best. What to do? The owner of the developing course, a man not given to wantonly spending money, led the decision making, supported by me, let it noted, not to elevate the entire green setting and surrounds, but to exaggerate the water hazard behind the huge green, so it would be clearly seen from the ridge-top tees, and complete the golf hole like that for play, somewhat on a “suck it and see” basis.
Making it a par-3 freed up the routing quite significantly, so it had an important role in the final golf journey at The Dunes; Hole 1 became now a long par-4 in lieu of its original scope of a short par-5; Hole 5 was allowed to then have its tee as far back on its spur as possible, and its green extended way past the transverse dune to form a wonderful par-5 instead, and Hole 7, which might originally have been a dune-to-dune fine strong par-3, nursed into existence the funnel valley for the present exciting par-5.
So there’s Hole 6. It’s still there, essentially as first fashioned. Who knows what lies in store for it? And remember, some, many golfers love its eccentricity.