Is switching nines a good idea at your golf course?
As I review more and more courses, I continue to stumble across clubs where I believe a switching of the nines would be a wonderful change.
In June, I came away from the Donegal Golf Club firm in my belief that the nines should be reversed. Donegal, a fine Irish links in the northwest of the country (click here and here for my reviews), loses some of its steam on the back nine. The final nine holes suffer only when compared to the more compelling and scenic front nine. Why not save your best for last, building a crescendo and letting the golfer leave on a high note? When I pressed him, Donegal head pro Leslie Robinson admitted there has been some talk of switching the nines, but it doesn’t sound like it’s under serious consideration. I didn’t see any downfall.
I walked off yesterday’s round on The Jackal at Mt. Brighton in Michigan with the same feeling - the nines should be switched - but for different reasons. The Jackal’s first impression is a mixed one. The view from that first tee box on top of the ski hill is so wonderful, yet an astroturf tee with an obtrusive safety net guarding the right side of the tee box spoil much of it. Players get up there and immediately grumble.
Even so, that’s not the No. 1 reason I’d make a change. It’s this. The first five holes are absolute monsters. They destroy a player’s round before he or she is even warmed up. The second tee features a carry of 160 yards or more to a narrow fairway with thick tree cover and wetlands on both sides. The third hole, the No. 1 handicap, requires two hazard-jumping shots. The fourth tee shot is just as tight on a par-5 that doglegs left. And the fifth finishes at a peninsula green (see the photo above). The nearly blind approach shot at No. 5 is almost a guaranteed lost ball for first-timers who don’t know where the bail out zone is located (short and right).
My foursome lost at least 10 balls through those first five holes and some players in the group struggled to crack a smile the rest of the day, even though the course settles into a much nicer rhythm from there.
Switching the nines does provide some quirks - the third tee shot must carry 216 yards over a pond (are you warmed up by then?) and the finishing hole would end up being a par-3 instead of a great cracker of a par-4 that it is currently - but I have to believe the benefits outweigh the concerns.
I’m convinced more courses would have happier customers if they switched their nines. I’ve come to realize after more than 500 courses played, the original intent of an architect isn’t always right.
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