Wolf Point Ranch
Texas, United States of America
Third hole, 530 yards; This long fairway stretches beside a fence line for one of the paddocks. As such, left constitutes the only hard edge on the course as otherwise the rest of the design is truly free form. Nuzzo uses this edge to perfection, as the only way to reach the green in two is to hug the left where some of the tallest rough on the property resides. Be it the first or second shot, the more the golfer shies away from the challenge, the more complicated his subsequent shot becomes. Nuzzo is quick to acknowledge how Tom Doak and Bill Coore’s work has influenced him and several of the design tenets found on the third at Coore’s Talking Stick North are evident here.
Fifth hole, 425 yards; While the impressive Inferno bunker complex, cut into the hillside, dominates the eye from the tee, the real scene stealer lies ahead. Sixty yards and in from this green are found the property’s finest natural contours, vestiges of when the creek was wider. Each evening after construction, the crew gathered near the tree below for some cleansing ales. They talked about the day’s accomplishments and what lay ahead while soaking in these glorious random landforms. Ultimately, the task of imitating those random bumps, humps, and hallows across much of the property fell to Jacob Cope and Joe Hancock, a task at which they excelled.
Sixth hole, 190 yards; Nuzzo’s approach to architecture is illuminated here where he desires to do something original without borrowing too closely from holes done elsewhere. A natural shelf green-site practically screams “Redan” but Nuzzo opted out because the requisite bunkering would have artificially altered the ground too much. Instead, only a small knob was added at the right front of the green.
Seventh hole, 350 yards; Canadian golf course architect Ian Andrew visited Wolf Point in 2016 and left mightily impressed by how the course rewards bold, attacking golf that is properly applied. Andrew elaborates, ‘Right from the outset Mike lets you think you can hit it anywhere. Brimming with confidence you initially take huge free swings. A couple of holes later you realize you’re not going to have much success unless you learn to play to the appropriate places. There’s just no access to the green from the wrong side. And as the round unfolds the miss played from poor position gets worse and worse costing you more and more shots. What at first felt like complete playing freedom, slowly evolves into a subtle and complicated chess match figuring out how to access those damned greens. While half the greens feature strong slopes, dictating approach angles, the other half are among the most severe greens I have ever played. Where other greens have rolls and broad swales, these greens feature sharp ridges and narrow serpentine valleys. I’ve never seen a tighter set of strong undulations. On others sharp transitions are placed so tight to pin locations that the margin for error is very small … on an approach putt. It’s a course where set-up can take it from fun to frustration with too many tight pins. But there’s lots of great courses that fit the same description. In my mind, where it worked, it was brilliant. There were a few where I wondered if it was crossing the line between being on the edge and simply asking too much. But then again, what’s wrong with that when you put the greens in context with the rest of the course. The fairways are generally really wide, the bunkering is limited, it’s not overly long and there are limitless ground options around the greens. That balances out the demand placed at and on the greens. There are so many opportunities to score, that it balances out some intense pressure occasionally put on your game. It all works.’
Ninth hole, 585 yards; In contrast to how most architects might have declared this to be the course’s ‘signature hole,’ the ninth worried Nuzzo the most with its crescent fairway bending right around the 13 acre lake. It needed to belong to the course’s overall fabric, not feel like it was borrowed from a water-laden Florida course. Local farmers dug out the lake and built up the nearby hillock where the owner’s residence is perched (along with the first tee, ninth tee, fifth fairway bunkers and the Double Green for the eighth and eighteenth). Just the sight of water causes some consternation on the tee shot but the second is nervier as the fairway runs tight along the lake for the last 180 yards. Complicating matters is how the landing area is compressed by a mound on the left that houses two bunkers. Its origin is interesting. The author had made a faulty assumption that the two to four foot swales, dips, and hollows throughout the course had been inspired by The Old Course. In fact, Nuzzo’s first visit to St. Andrews occurred toward the end of construction with a main takeaway being how large mounds knife into the thirteenth fairway on The Old Course. He loosely borrowed that concept for the complex here to give the second shot added interest.
Tenth hole, 270 yards; Even after the rigors of the ninth, the golfer is still accustomed to room off the tee at Wolf Point. Therefore, the sudden requirement to play out over the edge of the lake is intense. Tom Simpson, a fan of the periodic insertion of out of bounds to jangle a golfer’s nerves, would certainly approve of this tactic as the lake serves the same purpose. While the risk for taking the aggressive line is high, so too is the reward. Indeed, the author witnessed Nuzzo drive the green, where his eagle putt grazed the hole.