Friar’s Head

13th hole, 495 yards;A superlativehole in every respect as it is both fun and challengingfor every level player. Plus, from an architectural perspective, it is one of the most interesting holes on the course to play, though it occupies some of the least interesting property. The13th playstoward the dunes, with the backdrop preparing the player forthe final transition from the field to the dunes.This subtle transition is adesign attribute sorely missing from Spyglass Hill and other courses that suffer from split personalities.The13th’s interest was created through the use of central hazards in the 60 yard wide fairway while its enjoyment for all golfers was ensured by leaving the last fifty yardsto the green open.

The further central bunker on the left may look small withinthe generous fairway but the land forms do nothing but encourage balls to run toward it.

A bunker sixty yards shy of the green hinders a running approach from the left but the golfer who can split the two central hazards off the tee has a clear look at the green. Much attention went into making sure that the green's backdrop was as natural and appealing as possible.

Great care was taken in exposing and incorporating (and creating where necessary) subtle land movement throughout the fairways at Friar's Head.

14th hole, 535 yards; The last of the three shotters is also the last transition hole as the golfer remains in the dunes from here to the finish, producing an exhilarating stretch run. As with thefamously bunkered 16th at Shinnecock Hills, the golfer who can carry the hazards in a straight line from the teehas the shortestdistance to the green as well as the best look.As he bails left off the tee away from the hazard, his angles become progressively worse for his second shotand his second shot becomes blind as it must clear an exposed dune in the distance.

As with the 7th, the tiger golfer may have a crack at the green in two but the challenge becomes very exact at the green complex, thanks in part to a five foot fall from the back right to the front left of the green.

The false front sends many a ball that just creeps onto the green down into a nine foot hollow at the green's base. Note the dramatic fall in the green from the back right to lower left.

15th hole, 460 yards; The view from the tee captures the intent behind Friar’s Head in two critical ways. First, if anything, man has done nothing but expose andenhance the natural beauty of the site. And second, the fact that this is one of thefew really good views of Long Island Sound during his round tells the golfer that Coore & Crenshaw were after the best golf holes first and foremost. Undoubtedly, other architects would have routed several more holes in the dunes. To do so,such architectswould likely havepillaged the land as they bulldozed it into a more ‘workable’ form. Not so with Coore & Crenshaw and the show of restraint brings to mind MacKenzie’s effort at Cypress Point Club. If the quality of the golf wasn’t placed first, Cypress Point would have lost much of its appeal years ago.

The thrill that comes from standing on the 15th tee is inescapable.

16th hole, 385 yards; The green dictates the play of the hole as it isthe second smallest on the course (thesmallest is the 17th) and it features apronounced back to front slope. The exacting nature of the approach provides the incentive to have a go from the tee to hit past or even carry the shoulder of the sand dune that juts into the fairway at the 230 yard mark. The golferwho elects to lay back from it, or even to its side, faces a tough approach, given the green’s defenses.

Best not to get greedy with the approach to the 16th. Sand right and behind and a slope front and left to kick balls away make the 16th green an elusive target.

This view from the right illustrates the tiny target of the 16th green.

17th hole, 145 yards; Having found so many of the holes as they now play today, Coore never worried too much about the 17th as he recalled Pete Dye’s adage that a one shotter can be built anywhere. In this case, there was a natural plateau that had been usedyears agoassmall dirt parking lot for people picnickingalong the bluffs. Cooreknew it would make for a fine green site. Throw in the wind, the change of direction, and the trees and their effect on the wind,and the author believes that this small 3,300 square foot target will be missed more timesthan one may think.Just as with the 17th and 18th at Sand Hills, its modest length is the perfect complement to the Home hole, which is the toughest par on the course.

The plateau that is now the 17th green was already there. Note the

18th hole, 450yards; A humongous finisher. The deep bunkers down the left are the best one can hope for should one’s ballhook in that direction. Though the hole is over dramatic terrain,Coore & Crenshawmassaged the land in the hitting area to make it less abrupt and provide the golfer with plenty of width so that good golf can be played. The green is the most exposed on the course and the golfer will never tire of judging the wind’s effecton the approach shot.

Beautifully cut from their surrounds, this pair of bunkers guard the inside route home off the 18th tee.

The thrilling approach to the Home hole.

From the months it tookto find the best routing towhen thecoursewas ready for play, Bakst gave Coore & Crenshaw the time they wanted/needed andhe was careful not torush the creative, free flowing process that would allow the best course to evolve on site. Bakst’s commitment to finding the best holes was evident when he was toldby his land planner that the clubhouse location behind the proposed 18th green and 1st tee was too small. Undeterred, he went to a second land planner whoconfirmed that there was indeed enough room. Bakst immediately told Coore to press ahead with the routing as planned.

The end result of this process and of having so many talented people on site formore than2 1/2 yearsisthat each holeisfull ofcharacter, the character of which highlights the naturalattributes of this uniquesite. Coore & Crenshaw’s approach at Friar’s Head brings to mind the words of Willie Park, who wrote that:

A golf architect must approach each bit of country with an absolute open mind, with no preconceived ideas of what he is going to lay out, the holes have to be found, and the land in its natural state used to its best advantage. Nature can always beat the handiwork of man and to achieve the best and most satisfactory results in laying out a golf course, you must humour nature.

Similar with Park’s nearby architectural masterpiece at Maidstone Golf Club in East Hampton, man will never tire of tackling the challenges laid out at Friar’s Head as theyare widely varied and based in nature.Such courses represent the zenith of golf course architecture,withman’s carefulinteractionwith nature yielding an environment that both invigorates and inspires.

If more owners and architects would learn from the patience that was demonstrated at Friar’s Head, thena second Golden Age of architecturecould be finally entered.

The End