GRADE “A” ARCHITECTURE |
Thousand Hills Golf Resort
9th Hole / Par-4 / 460 Yards – Architect: Bob Cupp (1996)
Thousand Hills is squeezed into a tight amount of acreage but credit the late Bob Cupp for a crafty architectural design. The 18-hole layout features 9 par-3 holes because of the limited amount of land but there’s one particular hole that’s truly memorable.
The 9th starts from an elevated tee – producing an amount of anxiety as players cannot see the landing area. Being able to align oneself correctly and to trust your swing is crucial ingredient when teeing off.
There’s room to the left as the hole bends ever so slightly to the right. Containment mounding exists on both sides but it’s not that high to save hapless tee shots sprayed too far to either side. Keeping one’s tee shot down the left side completely opens up the view of the green for the approach shot.
The green sits behind a 10-foot high wall with Wildwood Creek cutting in front. The view is both striking for its natural beauty and daunting to the golfer because of the clear hurdles one — both literally and figuratively one needs to climb.
Golfers who can both hit for distance and placement get an added benefit in having an approach shot played from a fairly level lie. Those unable to get near the bottom of the descent with their tee shot face a significant challenge in playing one’s approach from a slightly downhill lie to an elevated target. Given the hole’s overall length and the intersection of several strategic demands — the smart play for many is to forego the green with one’s 2nd shot and opt to lay-up just in front of the green for a far easier short pitch.
Echoing Clint Eastwood’s admonition from one of his Dirty Harry movies — “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
Failure to hit one’s approach shot both accurately and with sufficient distance can mean a quick and high number on the scorecard. The green is sloped from back-to-front and the leading edge is not sealed off so any misplayed shot — from the fairway or for those going too long can mean punishing jeopardy.
There is a rock wall behind the green and some players opt to use that wall as a backstop and hope to bounce one’s approach off of it to the green. Such a play is often problematic the sheer uncertainties.
Three bunkers are cut short and to the right for those harboring thoughts that a missed approach shot to that side can find a safe haven. There is also a lone bunker to the left which clearly can help protect pulled approach shots to that side.
The 9th at Thousand Hills is a superb usage of the naturalness of the existing terrain. For golfers the need for clarity with their respective game plans is crucial. Great holes elicit clear choices — golfers then have to honestly decide if their respective abilities are up to the tall task in achieving high level execution when called upon. Sometimes a “smart” bogey is far better than achieving a score that requires more space than the scorecard can provide.