Victoria National

9th hole, 540 yards: An intriguing hole made by the split fairway for the lay-up second shot and an unusual green shape, the 9th lets its hole location dictate the proper play (and the golfer glimpses the day’s hole locationas he walks to the 1st tee). When the hole is front right, the player must take the narrower and riskier right side of the fairway for his second to have a reasonable chance to get his third close to the hole. In such circumstances, if the player plays down the wider left side, his pitch must be fitted between the front bunker and the water beyond that shallow part of the green. A rear hole location is also particularly nervy, with the water beyond. It is interesting how trouble beyond a green is often a bigger test of a player’s nerves than trouble short of the target. Fazio also successfully used the split fairway for the second shot on other three-shotters built since Victoria National, namely the 9th hole at Pinehurst No. 4 and the 17th at the University of North Carolina’s new Finley course.

Plenty of options on the split 9th fairway, as seen from the clubhouse.

14th hole, 445 yards: Along with the 16th, the 14th best illustrates how Fazio delivered the sturdy challenge that Friedman requested. After theforced carrytee shot is negotiated, the player faces an even harder shot: along, uphill approach to a wide but only moderately deep green. In fact, the far left of the green is a mere 13 paces deep.The front left is protected by a huge, rough drop-off while a ball landing in the fairway short and right of the green will often roll back a full 40 yards to the bottom of the hill. This is exactly the type of hole that has been absent from Fazio’s more recent work, as the adjective ‘playable’ never enters the player’s mind as he fights his way to a five (and is quite happy to do so as well).

As seen from the 14th tee, the rows of spoils heaps on the left show what the architect faced.

15th hole, 535 yards; A fine example of how technology won’t obsolete Victoria National’schallenge. Yes, the hole appears reachable in two based on its length and the big hitter delights to find that his tee ball may even gain extra yards from a downslope. The rub is that this downslope plagues the golfer for his approach shot and hitting a wood or long iron from a down slope that must a) carry a lake and b) stop on the green is not exactly the strong suite of many a golfer, despite changes in technology.

J.P. Morgan blasts another one, hoping to the reach the 15th in two off a tricky downslope.

Looking back up the 15th hole, the slope of the fairway is what will keep even the best golfer honest.

17th hole, 430 yards: A hole that combines quite successfully two different ‘looks’ and themes, the 17th offers an heroic tee shot daring the player to come as close to the water on the right as possible to afford himself a shorter approach and the better angle. The green is reminiscent of the 17th at Royal Melbourne (West) with its sprawling bunkers on the right and a ‘safe’ area to the left. The authors often think of this approach when critics mistakenly categorize Victoria National as an ‘all or nothing’ target course with little strategy.

Looking back down the twisting 17th, the Tiger will try and carry the lake off the tee and be left with only a short iron in while the weaker golfer can lay back in the crook of the dogleg and be left with a long iron approach.

18th hole, 405 yards; Though similar from the tee with the 17th in that the water is on the right, the holes play entirely different. In the case of the 18th, the greenside bunker is on the left, and if the golfergoes toofar through the dogleg, he is faced with a miserable approach angle over the left greenside bunker and back toward the lake.

The challenging dogleg right 18th provides a stern finish. Should the golfer lay back off the tee so that he doesn't have to carry the left greenside bunker?

Why does Victoria National work so well? First, it occupies anarresting site that allowed for an interesting design without depending on much earth-moving for its features. Second, the architect had the job that all designers hope and pray for – to build a course for a private club and have to answer to only one man. Third, the architectspent plenty of time on site with a direct result beingthe number of interesting playing angles. Rarely do such factors all come together. They did for Fred Jones and Pete Dye at The Golf Club, but thisis the exception rather than the rule.

In the end, Fazio and Friedman created a course that reflected its environment – rough around the edges. With only 27 acres of fairway, the course requires good golf, and a low round is immensely satisfying. This is only appropriate, as the former residents of the site did not come there for fun – they had a job to do, just as the player who steps on the first tee has.

The End