Grade “A” Architecture
12th Hole / 163 to 133 Yards / Par-3
Architect: Charles “Steam Shovel” Banks (1931)
One of the great equalizers in golf and a frequent inclusion in the arsenal of any golf architect is the insertion of the short par-3. The lack of distance allows more golfers, of varying handicap levels, an opportunity for success since yardage is not the primary differentiator.
The 12th is one of four superb par-3 holes at The Banks Course at Forsgate Country Club — located in Central New Jersey — just off exit 8A of the New Jersey Turnpike halfway between New York City and Philadelphia.
The man responsible for the design of the course was Charles Banks. The Yale graduate started his career as a teacher at a private prep school at Hotchkiss in Connecticut. Banks had the good fortune in being introduced to Seth Raynor — a civil engineer who had been involved in rebuilding the school’s golf course. Raynor’s life intersected with Charles Blair Macdonald, the father of American golf, who created such iconic courses as National Golf Links on Long Island and the Chicago Golf Club.
Banks left his teaching position and began to work with Raynor. With Raynor’s passing in 1926, Banks accelerated his golf design involvement — finishing projects already started and creating a number of his own designs — several which dot the Garden State golf landscape.
Forsgate Country Club was the brainchild of owner John Forster, an insurance executive who lived in Northern New Jersey and worked in New York City. The name “Forsgate” is a combination of his last name and that of his wife’s family name of Applegate.
The 12th features a main tee area which drops slightly to a putting surface possessing an internal “horseshoe” design. The championship tee is set further to the right and is not as pronounced in its elevation. The championship tee also presents a far different angle to the green.
The putting surface falls off on all sides with steep drop-offs leading to surrounding bunkers. Banks earned his name “Steam Shovel” for good reason — he moved significant amounts of earth in creating massive greens with creative internal contours featuring deep bunkers offsetting the targets.
The challenge at the 12th is selecting the correct club and being able to land the ball in the right section depending upon the daily pin location. The flagstick can be placed in numerous areas — within the horseshoe and often outside it. When the pin is cut to the far corners or just beyond the center area of the horseshoe the wherewithal to both land the ball and keep it near the hole requires a deft touch.
Often the prevailing during the peak summer months is behind the player which only adds to the challenge in selecting the appropriate club and marrying the shot with the correct trajectory. Any approach pulled or pushed can find the menacing bunkers that surround the green. Going long can be even more demanding when the pin is cut in the far rear area.
Players unable to land near the given pin location will often find a vexing putting green with an array of twists and turns to bedevil you.
The 12th at Forsgate is one of four brilliant par-3’s at The Banks Course. Each varies in their requirements and arguably, the four are second only to the collective qualities of the par-3 holes found at the acclaimed Pine Valley Golf Club — the Garden State’s tour de force world ranked layout.
The concept of the “short” par-3 is a common element found at many courses but few do it as well as the 12th at The Banks Course. The opportunity for success is certainly within the boundaries of most players but rest assured the bounty the 12th provides is never given but always earned.
Photos courtesy of Forsgate Country ClubWHAT'S YOUR REACTION?