IS there any better hole than the short par-4? Well designed, they can tease, tempt, confound and humble.
In Melbourne we’re fortunate to have a number of great examples.
The 10th West and 1st East at Royal Melbourne. The 1st and 15th at Victoria. The 3rd and 4th at Woodlands. The 8th at Long Island. 6th North and 7th South at Peninsula-Kingswood. The 17th at Commonwealth.
But few are as subtle or as beguiling as Kingston Heath’s little 3rd.
At only 269m it’s barely the same length as an average drive on the PGA tour, but with its tiny tilted green rejecting anything but the perfect approach shot, it continues to demand your attention.
Unlike many of the world’s great short fours, the 3rd gave Dan Soutar virtually nothing to work with.
It’s flat, the ground is heavy and there was no obvious green site or natural features to take advantage of.
So whilst his design and the subsequent bunker scheme by Alistair Mackenzie was first class, the genius of the 3rd really came as a result of brilliant construction and, for this, we should be eternally grateful to Mick and Vern Morcom.
So what makes the 3rd such an interesting hole? Well it starts, of course, with the green.
Like so many of the game’s greatest holes the 3rd green balances the knife-edge between interest and fairness.
With enough tilt to reward those who have played to the correct position on the fairway but at the same time inflicting equal punishment for those who are out of position.
Judging the ball flight and spin is also critical. With the steep slope from back to front, simply being in the correct position on the fairway isn’t enough.
The trick is to execute the perfect pitch, with enough flight and spin to stop the ball but not so much that it runs back to the front of the green.
The fairway is shaped a little like a bottle – wide at the tee end and narrow at the green.
Bunkers positioned on the left guard the best angle into the green and everything from a driver through to a mid iron is a legitimate option from the tee.
When combined with the pin position, weather and your own confidence this makes club choice all the more confusing and any time you can put doubt into the minds of the golfer you’ve done your job as an architect.
With the World Cup coming to Kingston Heath next month year it will be interesting to see how the little 3rd fares.
The format should add to the interest, with the combination of four-ball and foursomes matches resulting in a wide of variety of aggressive and cautious play.
By the week’s end it will hopefully again prove that a well-designed sub-300m hole is just as relevant today as it was 100 years ago when first played with hickory and haskell.
Photo: Justin Falconer
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mike Cocking is an architect and partner with one of Australia's leading golf design firms - Ogilvy Clayton Cocking Mead. Click here for OCCM's website
Mike is currently spending his time at Peninsula – Kingswood CGC on major course improvements – a project especially dear to his heart, having joined the club as a 15 year old and representing the club for almost two decades.
After completing a Bachelors degree in Environmental Engineering in 1998, Mike gained a scholarship with the Victoria Institute of Sport's golf program.
Over the next few years he represented Victoria and Australia in various team events, winning a number of major competitions including the 2000 Victorian Amateur Championship. Travelling extensively for competition play also allowed Mike the opportunity to seek out and study many of the world’s best courses.
His passion for the game and his inquisitive nature fuelled his interest in golf course architecture, and in 2000 he launched his career as a designer. Major projects have included redesigns at Bonnie Doon (Sydney), RACV Healesville, RACV Torquay and Royal Canberra.
Mike is also a keen artist and a selection of artwork can be found on his website.