Composite Notebook

The Broken Tee Society's best 18 of 2021
Ballyneal

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Editor’s note: In the few months since the launch of our Broken Tee Society Discord server (free to join for all TGJ members), we’ve watched our members come together to create everything from pro golf betting pools to regional meetups to full-fledged golf trips. Yet another passion project: They spent most of December compiling the 2021 Broken Tee Society composite 18-hole routing. Members put the best holes they played this year to a series of 18 community-wide ballots, and the results of the voting are below.

No. 1: Dedham Country & Polo Club
Dedham, Massachusetts
417 yards, Par 4
Donald Ross, 1915/Brian Silva, 2018

Dedham Country & Polo Club is widely recognized as a Seth Raynor design, but its opening par 4 certainly doesn’t adhere to template theory. That may be because Donald Ross created it as the original No. 7 when Dedham was just a wee nine-holer.

The current bunkering has a much more Raynor feel. Credit this to Brian Silva, whose 2018 renovation aimed to bring all holes—original or otherwise—in line with Raynor’s style.

What does it mean to you? A tough opening tee shot that must jump a burn and stay short of strategically placed cross bunkering. No gentle handshakes in the Broken Tee Society!

No. 2: Somerset Hills Country Club
Bernardsville, New Jersey
201 yards, Par 3
A.W. Tillinghast, 1918

Unlike Raynor, A.W. Tillinghast looked disdainfully at the template work of his friend C.B. Macdonald. Except when he implemented his own templates or grabbed an idea from his fellow trailblazing designer.

The members at Somerset Hills are better off for this happy hypocrisy, as their second is a fantastic example of a Redan.

Mimicking the original at North Berwick, Tillinghast added a row of cross bunkers to muddle the view to this iconic right-to-left green. Tillinghast’s could draw the ball, which contributed to the artistry here.

No. 3: Royal County Down Golf Club
Newcastle, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
475 yards, Par 4
George Combe, 1907

A popular misconception regarding “strategic” golf is that if you hit your tee shot to the right spot, you get all the prizes. Let the third at Royal County Down set you straight.

Want the shortest approach into this beastly par 4? Hit to the right of the fairway, and enjoy the blind approach! Ah, so you’d rather see the flag? Go left, and hope you have the muscle to get home. True strategy means weighing wins and losses.

Two geniuses toiled at RCD—Old Tom Morris and Harry Colt—but this masterpiece belongs to George Combe, the club’s version of Pine Valley’s George Crump.

No. 4: Fishers Island Club
Fishers Island, New York
412 yards, Par 4
Seth Raynor, 1926

The fourth at Fishers Island is a case study for Raynor’s balance in serving both minimalist and maximalist masters to create fluid golf holes.

He took no issue creating steep, clearly artificial surrounds for his putting surfaces, especially with many of his punchbowls. Such is the case at Fishers, where he built this bowl up from flat land.

At the same time, he moved almost no dirt—including refraining from creating even a single bunker—across the rest of the hole. Just a tee shot to the top of the hill, following a beautiful stretch of coastal terrain.

No. 5: Lahinch Golf Club
Lahinch, Co. Clare, Ireland
154 yards, Par 3
Old Tom Morris/Alister MacKenzie, 1892

Let’s test your love of minimalism. How do you feel about blind shots? How do you feel about blind shots into par 3s?

The shortest hole on the BTS Composite is the world-famous Dell, a tester from Old Tom requiring a 155-yard poke across a dune into the titular hollow. Today’s players struggle with suspense, hence why the European Tour installed a video feed so pros could watch their balls land during the 2019 Irish Open.

Modern discomfort with the Dell indirectly led to another one-shotter on this route. Read on.

Photo: Christian Hafer

No. 6: Eastward Ho!
Chatham, Massachusetts
455 yards, Par 4
Herbert Fowler, 1922

Given the quality of the land at Eastward Ho!, it seems anyone could create a phenomenal course on this stretch of the Cape. Don’t give yourself so much credit.

Fowler reportedly spent days riding the property on his horse, learning from his work in the UK that the more time you spent finding a course, the less time you spent building one. No. 6 is case-in-point: A strong tee shot flows down a waterslide fairway, and then climbs back up to a cruel false-fronted green.

No. 7: Hankley Common Golf Club
Surrey, England
183 yards, Par 3
James Braid, 1923

Many of the holes featured thus far are established stars, so it’s nice to see a less mainstream design on the card. For No. 7, we look to the English heathland and find a brilliant par 3 in a more indie rock vein.

No. 7 at Hankley Common was one of many new additions drafted by James Braid during his visit, and remains the signature hole. The listed yardage is 183, but at least one additional club is required for this dramatic uphill tee shot to a two-tiered green.

Hope the Dell you faced two holes ago prepared you for the blind landing area on this one!

No. 8: Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club
Holyoke, Colorado
515 yards, Par 5
Tom Doak, 2006

Finally, it’s time to bow up. The first par 5 in our routing comes via our first modern architect, where we turn to this acclaimed long hole at Tom Doak’s Colorado masterpiece.

It’s reachable at 515 yards, even as it travels uphill. The sandy soil base in East Colorado is both blessing and curse: Sure, you get plenty of bounce, but you may find yourself begging for less as your Titleist bounds towards the lengthy cross bunker.

Naturally undulating land means you could hit the same second shot a dozen times and find a different lie awaiting you each time.

Photo: Christian Hafer

No. 9: Erin Hills Golf Course
Hartford, WI
165 yards, Par 3
Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry, 2006

The third par 3 on the front nine may be the best at Erin Hills. Your primary concern on this shortish hole is the green, which largely moves away from the player, requiring even less club than its downhill tee shot suggests.

Most eyes, however, will go directly to the collection of seven large bunkers surrounding the raised putting surface.

Fun fact: This “bonus hole” only joined the club’s championship 18 when the original No. 7 was removed in the lead-up to the 2017 U.S. Open.

Photo: Christian Hafer

No. 10: Pasatiempo Golf Course
Santa Cruz, CA
437 yards, Par 4
Marion Hollins and Alister MacKenzie, 1929

Look, we’re not trying to start any beef between the Bay Area courses and Los Angeles classics. But there are barrancas, and there are capital-B Barrancas. The back-nine opener at Pasatiempo features an epic carry over what some cartographers would categorize as a medium-size canyon. The farther you dare to skirt along the left side, the shorter your approach. Your second shot contends with a bunker cluster buried in its own intimidating trench.

Alister MacKenzie is a GOAT herder, but he shouldn’t get all the credit here. Whether you already know how Marion Hollins shaped golf in the Bay Area or not, Katie Hafner’s feature from No. 17 is required reading here.

Photo: Kohjiro Kinno

No. 11: Shoreacres Golf Club
Lake Bluff, IL
346 yards, Par 4
Seth Raynor, 1916

Remember back at No. 4, where we talked about how Raynor used natural surrounds to frame his fairway? Well, sometimes he didn’t have sublime coastline to work with. There’s a natural dropoff to the right of No. 11 at Shoreacres, but Raynor sharpened it to dramatic effect.

As with No. 10 at Pasatiempo, flirting with disaster will result in the better approach scenario. Although you’ll face a forced carry to the green from anywhere in the fairway, the cliff’s edge offers a better angle to all areas of this sizable green.

Once again: Raynor doesn’t need a template to succeed.

No. 12: Los Angeles Country Club (North)
Los Angeles, CA
388 yards, Par 4
George Thomas, 1927

The tightest vote for any hole in the BTS Composite: LACC North and Streamsong Red were tied, so we called in an anonymous but qualified expert. After acknowledging his admiration for both, he ultimately crowned Los Angeles king.

Although not as Hollywood as the last two holes, there’s still danger for those who hug this dogleg too tight, as the left side of the fairway shrugs off indifferent tee balls. Stay in the short stuff and contend with an approach over two bunkers to the world’s most literal kidney-shaped green.

The bunkers owe their current appeal to Gil Hanse, who restored George Thomas’s original aesthetic.

Armchair golf course architects hold several tenets as irrefutable truths. Among them: Links golf rewards the ground game, and vertical hazards are distasteful. No. 13 at North Berwick has little interest in such ideals.

The tee shot must contend with two fairway bunkers to get a reasonable line into this small, skinny green. How else do you plan on sticking one close while also carrying the centuries-old stone wall that hugs the right side of the putting surface?

Smile and shake your head. It’s an old-world quirk that, like so many things at North Berwick, will never be reproduced on modern courses.

Photo: Tom Shaw

No. 14: Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Dunes Course)
Pebble Beach, CA
166 Yards, Par 3
Seth Raynor, 1924/Tom Fazio/Jackson Kahn Design

What’s the best course on the Monterey Peninsula? Cypress Point, or maybe Pebble Beach. What’s the area’s best par 3? No. 16 at Cypress, or maybe No. 7 at Pebble. Well, our Members deemed neither of those holes worthy of inclusion in this layout. That honor goes to No. 14 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Dunes course.

Originally routed by Raynor, many architects have since messed with the aesthetic of this hole, but none were foolhardy enough to tinker with its placement along the rocky shoreline. Most recently, Tom Fazio and Jackson Kahn Design renovated the course to emulate MacKenzie’s work just down the shore at Cypress.

Photo: Mike Gibbons

No. 15: Ballybunion Golf Club (Old)
Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, Ireland
209 yards, Par 3
Unknown, 1926

We figured one blind, Irish par 3 might have been enough, but the appetite for quirky golf within the BTS appears boundless. That’s how we find ourselves a short way down the coast from Lahinch at Ballybunion Golf Club’s Old Course, where the only thing more sinuous than the fairways is the club’s architectural lineage. Lionel Hewson laid out the original nine here, and Tom Simpson gets credit for a major 1936 facelift, but the exact parentage of the world-famous 15th is lost to history.

Whoever is responsible for the hole, it’s a cracker. It’s not entirely blind (the putting surface is only partially obscured by a small dune), but at 200-plus yards compared to the Dell’s 155, a bit of help is welcome. Complicating matters are the two-tiered green and the fact that this shot often plays into the prevailing Atlantic winds, so prepare to take anywhere between one and four extra clubs.

No. 16: Pasatiempo Golf Course
Santa Cruz, CA
392 yards, Par 4
Marion Hollins and Alister MacKenzie, 1929

A few firsts: Pasatiempo is the first (and only) club to feature two holes within the 2021 BTS composite course. Second, No. 16 at Pasatiempo is the only hole that has been highlighted both in this collection and as a TGJ Yardage Book feature.

With good reason, as this is one of MacKenzie’s most infamous creations, requiring both power and finesse—a forced carry to a cascading, tri-tiered waterfall of a putting surface. Tiger Woods notably two-putted here during the 1996 Western Intercollegiate. Unremarkable, until you realize that he also hit a pair of chips.

Pasatiempo
Photo: Mike Gibbons

No. 17: St. Andrews Golf Club (Old)
St. Andrews, Scotland
455 yards, Par 4
Allan Robertson, 1848/Old Tom Morris

One measure for gauging a hole’s architectural strength is how it holds up during match play. No. 17 at the Old Course, the renowned Road Hole, sets a remarkable standard both in terms of strategy and history. 

The yardage and suggested par seem unreasonable for the average player, and that’s the point. Match play was the game where Allan Robertson created what is now identified as “Road.” If you’re brave enough to hug the path and challenge perhaps the world’s most famous pot bunker, the point could be yours. If you fail, your opponent will take the casual route, and secure what could be a match-winning hole. 

Editor’s note: Steven (@topo123 on Discord) nominated this hole, along with the 7th at Hankley and North Berwick’s 13th. A hearty congratulations on going three for three!

No. 18: Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, CA
536 yards, Par 5
Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, 1919

Golf began along the sea, and the 2021 BTS composite ends there. It’s fitting to end on a course that’s hosted six U.S. Opens (with two more, one for both men and women, slotted in the next decade), plus a PGA Championship. 

You don’t need to be Jack Neville to figure out how to route this one. Nearly 550 yards of shoreline—even if you don’t send one seaward, the crashing waves and salt spray may distract you from the task at hand. An eagle can be had, as can a triple. No matter the score, the memory will be permanent. 

Is Pebble the best public course in the United States? Maybe. Does it have the best closing hole in the game? At least for 2021’s composite course, the Broken Tee Society has spoken.

Photo by Kohjiro Kinno

Final Scorecard

Quirky. Unconventional. Bold. Fun. Whatever your interpretation, our par-68 layout looks a bit funky on paper—and that’s just the way we like it. Many thanks to BTS Member and TGJ Contributor Matt Chominski for creating the scorecard.