From the par-5
first, the fairways terrace steeply down between Monterey cypresses to the
murky lake and, except for a brief climb back to the clubhouse on No. 8, the
course winds back and forth across the lowlands.
The Lake Course
measures 6,679 yards. The players will learn rather quickly—probably after the
drive on No. 2—that this is true yardage. The ubiquitous fog sees to that. It
fills the air with distance-destroying dampness and soaks into Olympic's lush
fairways, virtually eliminating roll—12 yards would be the maximum roll on an
average drive. To illustrate, let's take No. 11. In a sense this level, nearly
straight par 4 typifies the frightening honesty of the Lake Course. It measures
429 yards. Relating it to one's home club, this might mean a drive and a short
iron. In point of fact the 11th requires an accurately positioned, well-hit
drive, followed by a two-iron or three-wood to a two-level green guarded by
deep traps. That this is a strong par 4 can be attested by the scores in the
Open: in four rounds the best players in the U.S. took 185 bogies and only 189
pars on this deceptively normal-looking golf hole.
There are other
par 4s as exacting as the 11th, or more so. The 457-yard 5th is a sharp dogleg
to the right from an elevated tee. One must shade the right just a trifle to
avoid an over-long second, but not enough to catch a huge eucalyptus which
guards the corner. Additionally, as Sam Snead found out on three occasions in
the Open, a tee shot hit too lustily, and with not sufficient fade, will run to
the deep rough, making a second shot to the green extremely difficult. To quote
the melancholy statistics of the Open again, there were 194 bogies and only 168
pars on the fifth.
normally a par 5, has, as in the Open, been made a 4. But in deference to the
amateurs the length is 425 rather than the unfair 461. Still, it is uphill all
the way into a persistent wind, making a birdie nearly impossible and a par
But don't get
discouraged. There is an easy par-4 hole on the Lake Course; the 282-yard 7th.
However, the fairway is tight, and a scrubby impertinent pine, about 180 yards
out on the right fairway, stands ready to catch errant, drifting drives. And
the small, two-level, well-trapped green calls for exacting pitches.
There are few par
5s left in the U.S. that long hitters can't reach in two strokes. One of them
is the double dogleg 16th on the Lake Course. It is a third of a mile long—603
yards. The average amateur, after hitting two stiff woods, must then play a
full four-iron to a tightly trapped green.
The Lake Course
finishes, dramatically, with a short 337-yard par 4 which is shaped somewhat
like a gravy ladle. One drives blind to the bottom of the narrow fairway, then
pitches sharply back up to a steep, plateaued green. Surrounding the green are
abrupt cliffs which form a convenient amphitheater for spectators. Ten thousand
of them during the 1955 Open sat in on the most compelling drama in
California's golfing history. They saw Ben Hogan come in to this green a
certain winner and cheered the tired champion for five minutes. They heard
about a man named Jack Fleck, who was still out on the course. And, an hour
later, they watched in amazement as Fleck calmly tapped in a seven-foot putt
for a birdie 3 and a 67 round which tied him with Hogan. Still unbelieving,
they returned the next day and sitting on the same bank, saw Fleck defeat Hogan
in the playoff.
The Lake Course
has its lore. Hogan and Fleck and the 1955 Open saw to that. It also has its
detractors who contend that the doctoring-up of the course for the Open was too
drastic; if so, the amateurs face a rough week. For with the exception of a
more favorable cutting of the rough (the main rough will lie outside a 60-inch
width of two-inch-high grass) the course is much the same.
itself will decide whether Olympic is too much golf course for a U.S. Amateur,
but the brief detailing of a recent round on the Lake Course by the man who
should be this year's favorite might be revealing. Last Monday, Harvie Ward,
the 1955-56 National Amateur champion (he sat out 1957 under USGA suspension)
played the Lake Course from the back tees under near-tournament conditions.
After parring No. 1, the handsome, likable North Carolinian stood on the second
tee and looked out to the 423-yard 2nd. "This is a long course, all
right," said Harvie, "but you know, I think position is more important
than distance from the tee. I'm going to play this entire round with a spoon to
prove it. Maybe I'll have to use a longer club on my second shots but, if it's
only the difference between a three- or four-iron, or a two-iron or a wood,
I'll be better off." Ward dropped a ball on the ground, took his spoon and
drove it 240 yards to the middle of the dangerously sloping fairway. He was
home with a four-iron and down in two. On No. 5, the most difficult par 4, his
spoon shot, slightly faded, stopped in the middle of the fairway perfectly
positioned for a long iron to the green. So it went hole after hole. On the
603-yard 16th, Ward first drove with his spoon, then hit a practice second with
his driver. It went 40 yards past the spoon shot but hooked into the left rough
leaving no alternative but a recovery shot back onto the fairway. However, his
second spoon left him a four-iron to the green. For the day, Ward, playing in a
stretch corset to protect a pulled muscle, had five birdies, two bogies and a
double bogey for a fine 69. The Lake Course can be played. But it takes a
disciplined game and a good deal of thought.