May River Golf Club
South Carolina, USA

Eighth hole, 555/535 yards; For the first time at May River, the golfer faces one of the most time honored design elements in golf course architecture, namely a central bunker. Central bunkers force decisions from golfers that otherwise would not need to be made. In this case, if the golfer hopes to reach the green in two, he needs to fit a drive left of the central bunker. Otherwise, for those treating the hole as a three shotter, they may elect a three wood off the tee to take the central bunker out of reach or take the safe – but longer – route down the right. Central bunkers surrounded by nothing but fairway come into play again at the tenth, twelfth, and eighteenth holes, and all the holes are better for it.

A perfect drive left of the central bunker leaves the thrilling prospect of carrying this long bunker and reaching the eighth green in two.

Most golfers lay up right of the two hundred and fifty yard long bunker, leaving this attractive ninety yard pitch to the green. As seen above, some of the indigenous plants around the creeks and in the bunkers prevent perfect visuals. This welcome feature adds an element of mystery that is uncommon for a flat course.

Ninth hole, 470/445 yards; Golf course design was at a low point from 1955 to 1990 with a primary culprit being how greens were defended. Aerial approach shots were demanded with monotonous regularity as greens were frequently bunkered both left and right. With creativity and shot options snuffed out, the game became boringly one dimensional. How or why this happened remains a mystery. The Old Course at St. Andrews set the standard by being fiercely bunkered in the middle of its enormous greens while lessening its challenge toward the right of the greens. Alister Mackenzie embraced the concept beautifully at Royal Melbourne of having a hazard on one side of the green only. The ninth at May River serves as a ‘how-to’ in building an interesting green complex. The approach is frequently into the wind off the May River and from two hundred yards. Thus, it was paramount that the green accept a running approach shot; otherwise, the hole would overwhelm all but the strongest. Lipe also proudly points out that the interior green contours help feed approach shots to reach hole locations behind the right bunker.

The dark green color of the clubhouse compound was carefully selected to help it meld into the background. The sprawling greenside bunker on the right is the obvious hazard to avoid but that can leave the golfer with…

…this ticklish recovery from the left. The short grass in front and to the left of the ninth green allows this long two shotter to play well for all skill sets of golfers.

Tenth hole, 555/520 yards; A host of playing angles make the tenth a special three shotter. According to Lipe, ‘The tee shot for those wanting to play it as a three shot hole is down the left away from the right fairway bunker complex, thus setting up a second shot again left of the large pine. This route leaves a more difficult approach shot into the green, but there is a lot of fairway and it represents the safest par. But, for those with a birdie in mind, the challenge begins on the tee shot. Those that can carry the right bunker gain help as the fairway gathers to the right of the center bunker, thus opening up the green for a running approach shot. The fairway contour also allows for a tee shot to “feed” and run below the central bunker and find that same right portion of the fairway, if carrying the bunker is not possible. In that manner, there are two ways to get to the A position off the tee. Even if the green is unreachable because of wind off the May River, playing short of the green on the right opens up the easiest approach shot/pitch and makes birdies a real possibility. Of course, that approach also brings in the risk of the river on the right. Also, for veterans, when the pin is back left behind theleft greenside bunker, the best play on a second shot could be long left (still fairway) past the bunker and pitch back into the slope. That would be easier than from the front right most of the time. Just another wrinkle depending on the pin location.’ The permutations of things that can happen on this hole make it a love/hate affair. Carry the creek in two and all is well. However, get gummed up in one of the well placed fairway bunkers off the tee and the hole bears its teeth.

Playing angles galore off the tenth tee. Golfers treating the tenth as a three shotter play left of the central bunker seen in line with the crooked, one hundred year old loblolly pine tree. Golfers wishing to reach the green in two are better served playing right of the central bunker as the green opens up from that angle.

The second shot is intimidating as it calls for a forced carry over a creek that bisects the fairway 150 to 100 yards from the green. The fairway on the far side is only partially visible.

After only a few rounds, the golfer comes to trust the fact that there is plenty of fairway on the far side of the creek. The pushed-up green makes the golfer keen to have only a short iron approach. Also, as is evident above, the approach angle is always better from the right i.e. closer to the hazard.

Apart from showing the tenth hole’s beautiful surrounds, the purpose of this photograph is to highlight the tenth green’s close proximity to the May River, which is the windiest spot on the course.

Eleventh hole, 170/145 yards; The long slender green is set at an oblique angle to the lake, calling for a high soft fade. The golfer is near the windiest point on the course (the tenth green) so doubt over the wisdom of a high tee ball crowds in, especially given the depressingly certain fate for any tee ball short or right. Relief comes in two forms. First, the placement of the tees swing out to the left, giving each forward tee a better angle down the length of the course’s longest green. Second, the bunker viewed behind the green is actually fifteen yards behind it, so those that play safely long over the pond have a pitch or putt from a short grass hollow. Thus, the hole actually plays easier than it may first appear. Another attribute of the hole is its flexibility with club selection varing by as much as four clubs depending on the day’s hole location on this forty-nine yard long green.

This view from behind the eleventh green highlights the different playing angles from the various markers. The back markers are toward the tall pine in the left of the photograph, creating a tough angle over water to a narrow green. Conversely, the long green is more accessible from the forward tees which are in line with the tallest pines in the middle of the photograph.

Twelfth hole, 400/360 yards; Similar conceptually to the waste bunker at the nearby sixteenth at Harbour Town, the fairway bends left around a230 yard long bunker that runs all the way to the green. In lieu of the dominate tree that dots the fairway at Harbour Town, the Nicklaus design team used a central bunker 130 yards from the green to create indecision as to what club/angle to take from the tee. Bold drives that finish left of the bunker leave the golfer with but a pitch. However, as soon as that central bunker snares the golfer, look for the member to re-evaluate his strategy the very next time he plays the hole. In this manner, the hole and the course stay fresh.

The twelfth fairway gently rises with the central bunker visible to the right on the horizon.

The twelfth green comes into view as one crests the slight incline. An approach from here is a bit left of ideal. The closer one is to the central bunker, the better the view of the green.

Thirteenth hole, 470/410 yards; An effortlessly attractive hole, this two shotter features eight bunkers seemingly strewn in a random manner down the length of the hole. Just like the Club, there is nothing forced or cluttered upon the landscape. One of the prettiest sights on the course is looking back down the fairway in the afternoon.

The view from the tee shows how peacefully the free flowing thirteenth rests upon the land.

The fairway bunker in the foreground masks the one in the shadows, which is actually the one that is more in play. The wonderful green complex sits in a saddle.

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