Hollywood Golf Club
Twelfth hole, 460 yards; A spectacle from the tee, this hole once had fifty-seven bunkers on it (i.e. this single hole had more bunkers than the entire course at Augusta National when it opened!). A majority of the bunkers remain to this day. Travis wasn’t a long hitter but he was accurate and this hole favors such a person. Only the man who hits the fairway can have a go for the green in two by carrying the nest of cross bunkers for his second. Not surprisingly given that this hole heads straight toward the Ocean, the last fifty yards and the front of the green are both wide open. Travis clearly is giving the golfer every opportunity to hit a low wind cheater, a shot that he thrived on when he won the 1904 British Amateur at Royal St. George’s.
Thirteenth hole, 335 yards; A clever dogleg left hole where it is most helpful to know the day’s hole location before hitting one’s drive. If it is left on the somewhat V shaped green, the golfer wishes to drive long right to the outside of dogleg. Conversely, if it’s right, the golfer ideally positions himself shorter off the tee and closer to the inside of the dogleg. Regardless, the hoped for birdie never seems to materialize as often as one might wish on a hole of this length. For any course to be considered great the requirement for finesse is essential and this hole is a sterling example of that need being met.
Fourteenth hole, 440 yards; Thanks to tees being moved back by ~ forty yards at the third, sixth, ninth, twelfth, eighteenth and here at the fourteenth, the two shots holes at Hollywood are just as strong today as they were in Travis’s day of hickory golf. Given that the golfer knows that a stream fronts the green, the pressure is on for him to get away one of his best drives of the day. Only by avoid the large bunkers off the tee and finding the fairway does he entertain any notion of carrying the fronting diagonal hazard and reaching the green in two. A hight point of Rees Jones’ 1998 restorative work occurred at this green when Jones expanded it by 30% back to its original size.
Sixteenth hole, 475 yards; At the time that it opened, only Oakmont and Pine Valley (depending on how one classifies a ‘bunker’) had more hazards than Hollywood in the United States. Approximately eighty bunkers have been lost with the passage of time but only a few of them would truly dictate play today. Here is one such case and hopefully, future club boards will allow Rees Jones to restore the diagonal bunkering that dictated the strategy for the second shot at the sixteenth (cross bunkers that were once 60 yards shy of the third green is another example). Such hazards are important on a course where many of the holes run predominately in an east/west direction due to the elongated nature of the property. Without such central features, the sailing is too clear up the playing corridors, meaning that the holes can become too straightforward in nature.
Seventeenth hole, 195 yards; Relative to the vast majority of courses built during the Golden Age, the club deserves to be proud how well preserved the course is. Still, times change and why not avail itself of such improvements? One such welcome addition in the past year has been the introduction of native areas. While old photographs show the plethora of bunkers that Travis employed to the give the course its inland links feel, restoring all the bunkers is not practical as a) many would no longer influence today’s play and b) doing so would needlessly increase the course’s maintenance budget. The club has found the perfect solution with the introduction of tall grasses native to the area. Their different colors add welcome texture while the sight of wispy grasses bending in the wind accentuates the links feel that Travis strived to replicate. Broome is pleased with the progress so far, remarking, “These naturalized areas contain grasses which require less water and fertility inputs while providing an aesthetically pleasing contrast on the golf course. They require almost no mowing and offer a cost savings in the long run.”
Eighteenth hole, 445 yards; A little over an hour up the Garden State Parkway in Springfield, New Jersey, A.W. Tillinghast built some of the best holes at Baltusrol on the Upper Course. Holes like the fourth and fourteenth aren’t among the heaviest bunkered on the property as they didn’t need to be: Tillinghast let the topography present much of the challenge. Such holes simply weren’t possible on the flatter Lower course so Tillinghast resorted to man-made features (i.e. bunkers) to provide the playing interest on the Lower. Similarly at Hollywood, the modest rolls throughout the property meant that Travis largely had to create the golfing quality in each hole. Hence, his finished design ended up with 220 bunkers but more importantly, all the bunkers (coupled with the greens) meant the course was chock full of character despite being routed over modest topography. Like Tillinghast, Travis prided himself in knocking character into each and every hole and the strong eighteenth caps off the course in a fitting fashion. One can readily imagine Travis hitting another of his laser straight drives, then likely hitting to the green first and holing a putt with his magical center-shafted Schenectady putter, assuming of course that he hadn’t closed out his opponent well before now!
Starting with the work carried out in 1998 by Rees Jones, Hollywood has made significant strides in returning the luster to this important and highly regarded design. First, the course has been seamlessly stretched to over 7,000 yards. The addition of several new back tees like at the third and fourteenth actually reduces the walk from the prior greens, which is always a neat feat to accomplish. Second, the course is regaining its open links feel from Travis’s day. Tree plantings from the 1960s and 1970s are being slowly – and thoughtfully – removed. In turn, playing angles are being recovered and as is the wind’s impact on play. Third, this helps to improve the quality of the turf. Thanks to the diligent efforts of Green Keeper Michael Broome, an extreme amount of care and effort is going into deep coring the greens and to introducing sand to the all important areas just short of the greens. Travis’s design shines the brightest when the ground is firm. The end result is that Hollywood of today is once again one the five most engaging courses in the golf rich state of New Jersey to play. Importantly too, this course will remind the golfer of no other course that he has ever seen, a sure sign that it is indeed special.