STRANTZLATES (Part II): One Giant Leap for Golf Course Architecture
Updated: May 13
If you haven't read our first episode of STRANTZLATES: Template Holes of the Next Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture, then we suggest clicking that link and getting caught up! We'll let that story serve as our primer and pick right up where we left off.
To recap, we covered four Strantzlates in our previous story:
#1 | THE GOLF SLAP| The Anti-Ross, an overly intimidating opening hole
#2 | ISLAND | par threes playing to an island green, just not always around water
#3 | AUTOBAHN | Strantz's take on the classic Road Hole template
#4 | AUDACITY | Cape and Reverse Cape Hole's that are as brutal as they are beautiful
Now that you're all caught up,
"You wanna ring the bell?"
We'll tee things off this time with an original Strantzlate!
STRANTZLATE #5 - INFINITY
Theory: Any type of hole (though typically a par-3) that features a green in the shape of the universal sign for 'Infinity'. Green sites are often chosen - or created - on the edge of a hazard, such as a creek, lake or massive bunker.
Strategy: Most of these Infinity Greens are placed in perilous locations requiring a full carry of whatever distance or your ball may not quite make it beyond this hole (Buzz Lightyear pun intended). If the green aligns with the tee box in a "north/south" manner, distances can change by 2-3 clubs when playing consecutive days, making the local knowledge gained obsolete.
Examples: The 12th at Tobacco Road is easily the most widely photographed specimen of the Infinity Strantzlate in the wild. The 7th at True Blue, initially featured in our fake example at the beginning of the story, belongs to this family as well as the 12th at Royal New Kent and 9th at Caledonia. Courses are shown below in order in which they were just listed.
While the above examples highlight the traditional par three usage, Tot Hill Farm's Infinity Strantzlate is the par five 16th. The original 16th green at Tot Hill - arguably one of Strantz's most majestic creations - was one of the three greens destroyed in the 2005 flood of Betty McGee Creek. When rebuilt, it was moved left and thus lost much of its intended character (and challenge).
Below you'll see a 2010 Google Earth image of the current green with overlays in black and blue showing where there original green once sat. Look closely and you'll see a red line that shows where the cart path and bridge once crossed Betty McGee Creek. Sadly, the 11th green suffered a similar fate as the bridges/cart paths were rebuilt for some reason over pre-existing greenpad. Next, you'll see the clearly defined Infinity green shape - and how dangerously close to trouble it sits - from Tot Hill's original Pro Caddy Book. Finally, a rare early photo - one of the few surviving photos of the original 16th green at Tot Hill that we've ever seen - shows how far right the flag could once be placed (photo credit to golfholes.com). Sadly, the rock wall ledge in the photo that formed the creek bank now lies mostly in the creek bed; a casualty of flooding and neglect.
Click on any of the photos to view them full-screen (mobile viewing note: mobile browsers typically bring you to the first image in the story when you tap an image. We know it sucks, so you might want to revisit on a desktop when you have time).
Perhaps the inspiration for the Infinity Strantzlate comes from the 17th at Pebble Beach. The 'greatest meeting of land and sea' provides advantages nearly every other course in the world cannot afford, but the utter beauty and challenge of said hole is impossible to ignore.
STRANTZLATE #6 - WESTMINSTER
Theory: Seth Raynor had his own signature take on the dogleg, perhaps unimaginatively calling it 'The Prized Dogleg' template. Raynor chose this idea as his most difficult par four on the course, calling it a, "Par 4, Bogey 6". In a similar vein, the WESTMINSTER Strantzlate awards its blue ribbons to some of the most brilliant (and difficult) doglegs ever created!
Strategy: The bark might be worse than the bite from this big dog. Contrary to the Autobahn Strantzlate, length is of no concern here. Often, the tee shot LOOKS daunting, but options are often plentiful to secure a less painful route for those not challenging the boundary. These holes are easy pars disguised as hard double bogeys - just how Raynor laid out the original theory. The drive is the easy part however, as the greens are typically surrounded by deathly sand tombs or massive greens that deflect shots to places where 3-putts are the norm.
Examples: True Blue #2 (first two pics), Royal New Kent #16 (pics 3-5), Stonehouse #7 (not pictured), Tobacco Road #16 (pics 6-7), Tot Hill Farm #14 (pics 8-9 from approach and green with tee shot shown above), and finally the monumental Monterey Peninsula CC #15 (final three pics).
Every good dog show has to include a 'LARGE BREED' category. Well, may we introduce you to the 600+ yard par five 13th at Bulls Bay. Most of the 'doglegs' at Bulls are just slope induced or feature the bending of fairways around hazards. Most hazards would not obstruct the flight of even a poorly struck shot since they typically don't involve trees.
Instead, the 13th is a massively long par five that requires two bombs to reach an angle where you can attack the green, which sits behind a creek, in front of and beside pot bunkers, while at a 90 degree angle from the fairway. Here are the three progressions from the ground as seen by John Stevens & Ryan Henesey during Iron Maverick II.
Bulls Bay's 13th mimics the 17th at Royal New Kent so much so that they're practically sister holes. Yet Bulls version is more pronounced in its dogleg(s), especially in the third shot. Even Bryson might be 'blocked' from a go at the green by the protruding peninsula of forest, reminiscent of the western coastline of Africa from above. It's 602/585 from the back two tees by the way. Evolution & fit, my friends! Evolution and fit!
For comparison's sake, here are a few looks at the 17th at Royal New Kent...
One could imagine if his career was not so abruptly and sadly shortened, we would have seen the par five version develop into its own Strantzlate?
STRANTZLATE #7 - CROSSCUTTER
Theory: A par three playing to a diagonal green like a Redan, but instead of a bunker on the short side, a creek or pond cuts across the front of the green, creating memorable birdies for the brave or double bogies for the unwisely bold. An undeniable Strantz template that appeared to be one of his favorites.
We'll look at the first two attempts that Strantz made at the Crosscutter, which he must have liked a lot since he used it at each of his first three designs in a very similar way. Caledonia's eleventh (1994) and the seventh at Royal New Kent (1996) will be our prime examples here. The aerials point out the same snaking creek with trouble deep left (water vs swell), as well as a tadpole tail of a fairway short and right for bailouts.
Another interesting fact about these two holes is that they point due north. No rotation was necessary when pulling these from Google Earth. The same can't be said for the others, so perhaps this was just blind coincidence. Or maybe not...
Strategy: Middle of the green usually works... We say 'usually' only because Strantz's greens are anything but usual. You can attack pins, but you better be good to do it. As with Redans, the farther back the pin goes, the higher too goes the risk. With water replacing sand, you're adding a number to every shot that finds the hazard, making double bogey a greater probability than a sand save for par on a traditional Redan.
As Strantz evolved his vision, he even added a hint of Biarritz at RNK's version as this photo clearly depicts...
Other Examples: Chronologically, we see four more examples: Stonehouse 3, True Blue 16, Tot Hill 15, Bulls Bay 7 (in order L to R desktop or Top to bottom mobile).
At Stonehouse, the same Strantzlate crosscut creek held true, but the green ballooned away from the hazard, perhaps to allow for more forgiving pin placements. True Blue kept the green size from Stonehouse, but flipped to a reverse Crosscutter and big open water. The tadpole tail is pronounced with the dormant grass surrounding the over-seeded fairway portion.
At Tot Hill, Strantz brought the creek back into play and went back to the greenshape previously used at Caledonia and RNK. The creek is teased, but it "S's" back around the green to the right rear, while bringing the giant mounding found at the rear of Royal New Kent's 7th to the front. This creates one of the most intimidating pin placements you'll ever see back left.
Finally at Bulls Bay, Strantz returned to the open water, creating a railroad tie bulkhead that elevates the green and taunts the player while the ball is airborne. It provides drama and second guessing throughout the shot's duration. All of the examples are shown clockwise (top to bottom mobile) in order of listing.
Stonehouse and Tot Hill had the advantages of being played from the elevated tee down to a punchbowl on hilly terrain, while Strantz brought the Earth up to create the visually imposing shots at sea level - perhaps explaining the use of big water versus the creeks found on the others. The 14th at Tobacco Road would also fit this mold, but with the absence of the pronounced tadpole tail, it clearly belongs in the Infinity Strantzlate.
STRANTZLATE #8 - APOLLO
Theory: If man makes it beyond Earth and golf is still being played, these are the types of holes you'd likely find on the surface of the Moon! They're just flat out artistic, outrageous and uber-creative. You'd also forgive the Apollo 11 team of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin if the Eagle landed in one of these locations. They'd probably have had a similar reaction when stepping off the ladder! No restrictions in the design, but non-artists need not apply. The Apollo Strantzlate is unequalled in artistic skill and overall aesthetic.
Strategy: Sit back, enjoy the view, take some pics, then go for broke because there are only a few of these holes on Planet Earth. They're all par threes and all feature massive greens with even larger features. Make a memory, then frame the picture along with the scorecard!
Examples: You could argue that ALL of Tobacco Road could easily be confused for the Sea of Tranquility, there are two standout holes that come to mind first when considering sites for the next Moon landing. The second of three one-shotters on the front nine, the sixth, is a personal favorite from just about every angle! With virtually unlimited options on the teeing grounds and angles, you can attack the wide green with confidence with a trusted distance.
And... since the front nine also features the El Camino par-3 routing, we're throwing in the 6th as the Strantzlate from that course as to not double up.
The 17th at TR on the other hand, plays off a high dune down into an impact crater containing perhaps the most unique and widest green in the solar system (Google Earth puts it around 85 yards wide!). It's also probably the narrowest, pinching to just over 10 FEET in one spot and 'ballooning' to no more than about 20 yards in its widest.
If you've played it, you believe it. If you haven't and you don't believe it? Ok, here...
Only about two-thirds of the green are even visible from the top of the Ripper tees (tips). Best of luck if the flag is tucked behind the grassy dune on the right!
Other prime examples of this Strantzlate include True Blue's 14th, "Strantz's Back Yard" 13th at Tot Hill Farm and the daunting 14th at Bulls Bay. Here are a front and back look at each - remembering that Strantz designed his holes with a 360 degree view in mind.
"Our Last Hole"
THE best-in-class (or out of this world since we're talking about the Heavens) example of the Apollo Strantzlate is poetically the last hole Mike Strantz ever built. His magnum opus if you will. We're setting our gaze on the 11th hole on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
If you are unaware of the story behind this hole, then you MUST read Jay Revell's moving piece, The Maverick Lives On. Fair warning though... you may want to make sure you have a tissue close by if you haven't read Part II of that story - or are unaware of the significance of it - especially as you reach the section entitled "Our Last Hole".
[NOTE: We saved this one for last so you could quickly click over to Jay's story after you finish this one!]
Teeing off from the highest point of the lower portion of the Shore course - not to mention waves crashing off the Pacific to your right and the views of Cypress Point in the distance - the player must feel like they are standing shoulder-to-shoulder on Mt. Olympus with the Sun God himself.
Set amongst the rocky outcrop, the tee boxes give way to equal parts sand and turf below, framed by wind-bent Cypress trees. Maybe one day we'll be fortunate enough to get out there and see it for ourselves.
The PGA Tour's best - along with the celebrity contingent playing the in the 'Bob Hope Classic' - get to see this beauty every year.
The Shore Course is firmly entrenched in every 'Top 100 Courses' ranking on the planet and Mike's work will (hopefully) forever be preserved along 17-Mile Drive. The photo of the 11th is one every photographer hopes to have the best light of the year for and is undeniably the image that comes to mind when thinking of MPCC.
The beauty, strategy and artistic value of this hole hold up against anything else out there, but looking at the above photo knowing it was the last hole Mike and Forrest ever built together... well, if that doesn't make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, what will?
We're two-thirds of the way through! We've got four more to unveil in the next chapter, which will be sure to push the conversation (or debate) forward. You can be sure to keep the conversation going in the meantime on social media! Be sure to hit our Instagram channels @GolfCrusade and @StrantzFantzClub or give us a share on Facebook if you like what you've read so far!
As a reminder, all of the artwork displayed on this page is available for purchase through Mike Strantz Design's Art Gallery.
Until the next round...
BMAC & Dooner
The Golf Crusade