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The Templates: Tillinghast’s Great Hazard

A profile of the Great Hazards built by A.W. Tillinghast and other Golden Age greats

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While the most famous golden age architects to feature template holes, Seth Raynor and C.B. Macdonald were not the only ones to use them. Another golden age architect, A.W. Tillinghast dabbled with template holes himself. While Tillinghast didn’t use as many templates or use them as often as Macdonald and Raynor, the few he did have were strategic designs used to examine aspects of a player’s game. Let’s take a look at TIllinghast’s Great Hazard template, a par-5 design that he used regularly, and one that some of today’s great architects have added to their repertoire.

Origins

Unlike the majority of Macdonald’s template holes, the Great Hazard is  Tillinghast’s own creation, not a rendition of a famed hole in the British Isles. It was first used at Pine Valley when Tillinghast convinced George Crump to use the design on the famed 7th hole.

While some Great Hazards are still intact and used masterfully, others have been altered to keep the strategy relevant with today’s longer flying ball. Unfortunately, many Great Hazards were eliminated to cut maintenance budgets by uninformed greens committees.

Strategy

Used on par-5s, the Great Hazard typically comes into play on a player’s second shot. Tillinghast strategically places a series of bunkers or mounds that cut into the preferred landing area in the fairway. The Great Hazard puts pressure on a player’s tee shot, as a poor tee shot may require them to lay up short of the hazard. A layup brings a long third shot into the green. Those who hit a good tee shot will typically have an easy time carrying the bunker.

On some of Tillinghast’s Great Hazard designs, the bunkers and/or mounding are placed on a diagonal, making one side a shorter carry than the other. The shorter carry brings with it a tougher approach shot to the green, while players who successfully carry the longer side of the diagonal are rewarded with a great angle to approach.

Pine Valley – 7th – 638 yards – par 5

The first and most famous rendition of Tillinghast’s Great Hazard is at 7th hole at Pine Valley. Affectionately known as “Hell’s Half-Acre”, this hole is a true three-shot par-5 runs. It was conceived at the height of the Philly School of Architecture at when George Crump would regularly brainstorm ideas with legendary architects like Tillinghast, George Thomas, William Flynn, William Fownes and Hugh Wilson. To maintain the great strategic design of the hole, Pine Valley has lengthened the hole significantly over the years.

The first challenge of the 7th at Pine Valley is to hit the narrow fairway as a missed fairway leaves almost no chance of carrying the Great Hazard. As put by a member, “missing the fairway will lead to a pitch out 9 times out of 10.” A drive that finds the fairway will allow for an attempt over the giant bunker, typically with a long-iron or hybrid, and a rare birdie chance at the tough Pine Valley.

From the back tees, the fairway runs 340 yards before the treacherous bunker begins and 300 yards from the members tee. The bunker itself is approximately 160 yards long.

The green is fronted by another deep bunker which makes approach shots tough from anywhere. The approach is especially difficult for those who have to lay up short of the Great Hazard. From that position, a player will be left with a 215 yard uphill approach where they are blind to the green – a difficult task. Those who succeed in carrying the bunker on their second shot will be left with a shot from under 150 yards to the tricky green.

"Hell's Half Acre" from the tee - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The 7th at Pine Valley from above - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The imposing Great Hazard at Pine Valley - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Bethpage Black – 4th – 517 yards – par 5

Another famous example of the Great Hazard is at the par-5 4th hole at Bethpage Black. Here Tillinghast mixes in a double dogleg par-5 design with a diagonal Great Hazard. Once again, the drive is critical. A good one will set up a much easier shot over the diagonal bunker, while a tee ball that finds the rough forces the player to decide how much of the bunker to try to carry. From the tee, it is evident that the best angle of approach to the green is from the right side of the fairway, but that angle requires a significantly longer carry over the Great Hazard.

The world class 4th at Bethpage Black - Photo Credit: Graylyn Loomis @grayloomis

The ideal approach angle into the green is from the right side - Photo Credit: Graylyn Loomis @grayloomis

A look at 4th hole from Google Earth

Philadelphia Cricket Club (Wissahickon) – 7th Hole – 553 yards – par 5

Tillinghast’s home course, Philadelphia Cricket Club, features one of his finest designs, the Wissahickon course. The 7th hole on the Wissahickon features a  Great Hazard that rests 340 yards from the back tee. To make things even more difficult on the player, Tilly placed bunkers in the landing area on both sides of the fairway. Find one of those bunkers and a layup short of the Great Hazard is likely. The green is protected by an extremely deep bunker which makes approaching it from distance extremely difficult.

A great aerial look at Phliadelphia Cricket Club's Great Hazard - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

A look at the 7th from right of the fairway - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The deep bunker that fronts the 7th green

Somerset Hills C.C.  – 9th – 521 yards – par 5

Sitting just 265 yards from the tee box to the left bunkering, the 9th hole at Somerset Hills features a unique and very reachable Great Hazard. It’s easy for a good tee shot to reach the bunker from the tee and spoil a chance to get home in two. To carry the hazard, it’s a robust 315 yards, making it attainable for only the longest of long players. A good tee shot down the left side will leave a chance to get home in two. For those who have to lay up, the fairway kicks hard to the left, leaving a difficult approach into a green that slopes severely into the left bunkers.

An aerial of the 9th at Somerset Hills - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Somerset Hills 9th from the tee

Somerset Hills Great Hazard from the side - Photo Credit: Somerset Hills Country Club.

Baltimore C.C. (Five Farms East Course) – 14th – 603 yards – par 5

At Baltimore C.C.’s Five Farms East course, Tillinghast employed the Great Hazard in a similar way to the 7th at Philadelphia Cricket Club. However, the land at Baltimore C.C. sits on a much more dramatic piece of the property. The 603 yard par-5 14th rewards a player who carries the hazard on his second shot with a downslope that will lead to a mere flip wedge in. This green sits up on a plateau and instead of a bunker, Tilly uses the natural slope as a defense to a low running shot.

The Great Hazard on Baltimore C.C.'s 14th - Photo Credit: Matt Frey @MFreyPGA

A different season at the 14th - Photo Credit: Tyler Petrovich @thetravelinggolfer

Baltimore C.C. Five Farms East Course's 14th from Google Earth

Baltusrol Golf Club (Lower Course) – 17th – 647 yards – par 5

One of the more famous examples of the Great Hazard lies at the major championship rich Baltusrol Golf Club. The 17th on the Lower Course is littered with greenside bunkers and also employs a series of Great Hazard bunkers in the fairway. With a good drive, the bunkers are no problem, but a poor drive creates quite the predicament. The Great Hazard’s bunkering runs diagonally with the longer carry on the right side, and often force players to lay up short.

The 17th at Baltusrol's Lower Course - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Baltursrol Lower's 17th hole from Google Earth.

Fenway Golf Club – 3rd – 520 yards – par 5

A Tillinghast gem in NY, the 3rd hole at Fenway Golf Club is considered a Great Hazard, but it is unique to all others mentioned in this article. This hazard doesn’t stretch across the fairway. Instead, Fenway’s Great Hazard obstructs only the right side of the fairway, leaving the left side open for those who want to play it safe.

Fenway's par-5 3rd from the tee, great hazard on the right - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Looking back at Fenway's 3rd from the green - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The 3rd at Fenway from Google Earth

Ridgewood C.C. (Championship) – 3rd – 588 yards – par 5

A recently restored Tillinghast treasure, Ridgewood Country Club has a gem of a Great Hazard. Sitting in the middle of the par-5 3rd, the Great Hazard named “Gorilla” wrecks havoc. Tilly didn’t even use bunkering, opting for a series of mounds and deep rough instead. When you couple the Great Hazard with OB left along the left side and a hole that’s nearly 600 yards long, the 3rd hole at Ridgewood is a bear of a par-5.

A look at "Gorilla" from the fairway - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The 3rd green from behind at Ridgewood - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

A look at Ridgewood's 3rd from Google Earth

Ridgewood C.C. (Championship Routing) – 13th – 586 yards – par 5

Ridgewood has not one, but two Great Hazard holes on its property! The second sits on a par-5 named “Muckle” and is the 13th hole on Ridgewood’s championship routing. This hole runs slightly downhill and uses a series of mounds and long rough to bisect the fairway. To get over the Great Hazard in two shots requires 410 yards of distance, a tough task if you miss the fairway with your tee shot.

The tee shot on the 13th at Ridgewood

A look at the back half of the 13th - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The 13th dubbed "Muckle" - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

National Golf Links of America – 9th – 540 yards – par 5

A non-Tillinghast golden age example of a Great Hazard is the 9th hole at C.B. Macdonald’s National Golf Links of America. This hole is Macdonald’s Long template, which typically features cross bunkers that cut into the fairway. At NGLA, Macdonald stretched the bunkers all the way across, creating a Great Hazard.

A look at NGLA's 9th from the tee - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

A closer look at the bunkering at NGLA's 9th - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

NGLA's 9th hole, whose bunkering resembles a great hazard

Quaker Ridge G.C. – 14th –  576 yards – par 5

At “Tilly’s Treasure” Quaker Ridge, the 14th is an excellent example of the Great Hazard. The bunkers angle so that the left side is the preferred route to the green while also being the shorter side of the hazard. However, the entire left side of the fairway is guarded by bunkers. This forces the player to decide if they want to play it safe down the right. This decision creates a slightly more difficult angle and longer shot into the green. Clearing the cross bunkers requires 480 yards in two shots and plays uphill. Needless to say it’s quite the challenge.

A look at the Great Hazard at Quaker Ridge - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Approaching the Great Hazard at the 14th - Photo Credit: Quaker Ridge Golf Club

The 14th at Quaker Ridge from Google Earth

Swope Memorial – 9th – 477 yard – par 5

Along with Bethpage Black, Swope Park in Kansas City is a rare A.W. Tillinghast municipal course. Swope is in desperate need of a restoration, but the bones of a great golf course still remain. The Great Hazard 9th is extremely short given today’s technology. Long players can carry the Great Hazard, but it could lead to an odd downhill lie. Shorter players need to layup with an iron or hybrid and then play a mid-iron to wedge distance for an uphill shot. At only 477 yards, don’t judge this hole by the scorecard – big numbers lurk.

From the green back toward the Great Hazard at Swope Memorial's 9th - Photo Credit: Swope Memorial

The great hazard at Swope Park from Google Earth