Loch Lomond Golf Club
How often have you heard the expression, ‘if Pebble Beach wasn’t on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific, would it really be a special course?’ The same erroneous comment could be made about Loch Lomond. Situated in one of the world’s prettiest spots, some people claim this magnificent setting unduly influences people’s judgement of the course itself.
To this, we say nonsense. Because the setting and the location are so special, the architects spent heaps and heaps of time at this site getting the small points exactly right. By doing so, Tom Weiskopf and Morrish avoided the trap that many ‘name’ architects fell into during the golf construction boom of the 1990’s as they raced from one project to the next, stamping out course after course, and capitalizing on the hot market. The quality and originality ofsuch architects’ work invariably suffered as they neither studied nor maximized the nuances of the land.
Not so with Tom Weiskopf and Morrish. Tom Weiskopf even moved his family for two summers into the Garden Cottage near the 3rd tee so that he could devote his entire energies to this project. The story of Tom Weiskopf almost perishing in quicksand at 6:00am in the marsh on the 14th hole summarizes the enthusiasm that he brought to this special undertaking. Given the ten years it took for planning approval,he wasn’t going to squander the opportunity.
Thanks to the energies spent during the design and construction phase, the architects imbued character into each and every hole. Take the 12th hole for instance. Some people say that this hole with its bunkerless green is the least distinctive on the course. The authors would hastily disagree because of the well nigh perfect green complex. The green is angled away from the golfer in a similar manner to the 12th at Augusta National. Instead of a creek, the golfer faces a 25 foot deep gully. The left third and right third of the green features a false front, encouraging the golfer to be well up on his approach. The rub is that the middle back portion of the green that appears as the safe miss to the golfer in the fairway falls away at the rear. Any approach shot must be well judged to stay on the putting surface and the more you play it, the more you appreciate this fact.
Tom Weiskopf and Morrish avoided another trap that frequently snared many architects in 1990s: pushing everything to the side. In a false quest for fairness and playability, many architects pushed all trouble to the sides of holes. With the trouble only at the sides, courses became bland as they lacked strategic options. This is emphatically not the case at Loch Lomond.
Tom Weiskopf and Morrish do a particularly fine job of laying a variety of hazards and obstacles directly across the golfer’s path. Examples include an existing three foot stonewall on the 2nd that they restored and incorprated into the design of the hole, a bunker in between the flag and golfer for your second shot on the long par five 6th, a bunker in the dead middle of the fairway on the 9th, a lake in front of the long approach to the 10th green, a gulley in front of the 12th green, streams across fairways on the 13th and 16th holes, and a marsh on the 14th hole. Numerous decisions are the result, and often the day’s hole location dictates the best strategy.
Take the 9th hole for example with the bunker in the middle of the fairway. When the hole is left, the golfer is best to drive to the right of this fairway bunker. In that manner, he has a clear look at the flag with hopes of getting his approach close. However, those who drive left of the bunker are quick to find that the carefully constructed shoulders of the bunkers will shrug off an approach shot from that angle. Conversely, with the hole on the right hand portion, the opposite strategy holds true.
Why don’t more courses feature such strategic holes? Firstly, there is a reluctance to having genuine fairway bunkers. That is mistake one. Secondly, in this particular case, getting shoulders of bunkers to integrate into the strategy of the hole requires an immense amount of on-site time by the architect. Tom Weiskopf and Morrish did this at Loch Lomond and it is what ultimately separates it from their best work.
Holes to Note
Fifth hole, 190 yards; The green complex is the equal of the setting as you play toward Loch Lomond‘s edge. Beautifully bunkered left and right, the slope of the green makes an up and down from the left hand bunkers almost impossible. The long green steps down half way back and the hole location can make as much as a four club difference.
Sixth hole, 625 yards; Not as easy a hole to design as most would think. Sure, every architect dreams of laying out holes along Loch Lomond but a semi-straight shoreline is hard to which take full advantage. A curving shoreline is preferable as certain strategic options may suggest themselves. The architects in this case wisely 1) left a twenty yard buffer between the fairway’s edge and the Loch, 2) left stately old oak trees periodically down the right hand side of the hole to break up any linear hint and 3) placed a bunker directly in between the tee and the green right where your second shot would like to land. Combined with the small raised green complex, the architect’s have strategically and beautifully maximized their opportunity.
Seventh hole, 440 yards; A very clever sucker hole, the golfer actually wants to stay to the outside of this dogleg hole as the green opens up from there. The largest bunker on the course guards the right hand side of the green. With the Loch and Ben Lomond in the background, the architects built the largest bunker on the course. A complex of smaller bunkers would seem out of scale with the glorious surrounds.
Ninth hole, 340 yards; As previously discussed, this hole (along with the short 8th) stands as a how-to hole: how to turn a relatively flat area into a fascinating hole.
Thirteenth hole, 560 yards; Reminiscent of the downhill 10th, the architects built in a lot of elasticity. Whether it is into or down wind, seven fairway bunkers always make the golfer think where he is trying to go off the tee. If you land in one, carrying the creek some 170 yards ahead will prove difficult. And carrying the creek by as much as you can has a distinct advantage given the angled nature of the green. The further back in the fairway you lay up, the worse the angle into the green as you have to contend with several ominous green side bunkers, all on the left side. Why more architects don’t incorporate similar strategy into their three shot holes remains a mystery.
Fourteenth hole, 310 yards; A daring two shot hole, the concept for which Tom Weiskopf and Morrish are famous for incorporating into their courses. A 245 yard carry over the marsh and creek is likely to see the tee ball bound onto the green. Otherwise, the golfer can play left into the fairway provided. The architects encourage you to ‘have a go’ as the approach from the safe route is none too easywith a deep greenside bunker with which to contend.
Eighteenth hole, 430 yards; A final example of architectureliving up to a setting. Loch Lomond is on your left on this classic Cape hole and the right to left pitch of the fairway encourages the golfer to stay as left as possible where a flatter stance is afforded. Easier said than done and even Tom Lehman, an excellent driver and eventual champion, bailed into the right hand fairway bunkers in all four rounds of the 1998 Loch Lomond World Invitational. Tom Weiskopf and Morrish’s best work is saved to the very last as the three tiered home green is one of the finest green complexes built since WWII. Numerous thrilling hole locations are afforded, with the back right saved for most special occasions.
Loch Lomond was always going to be a special course given its unique location, which is perhaps equaled – but never bettered – by any inland course. Lyle Anderson and one of his companies partnered with DMB to provided unfailing support as owner during the crucial stages. However, the ultimate success of the course was dependent on how well the interior holes away from the Loch were designed. And thanks to the time spent on site by the architects, the inland holes were imbued with character and strategic options rarely found in modern architecture. When combined with the holes along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, you have an enchanting course as special as its setting.