Forget Pete Dye. Forget Robert Trent Jones Jr. A bogey golfer named Steve Richardson has designed the toughest golf hole in America. Devil's Island, as the hole is called, is Richardson's contribution to the old saw about golf's being 90% mental, 10% physical.
Devil's Island is a narrow, comma-shaped dogleg left culminating in a bridged island green reminiscent of the 17th green at the TPC at Sawgrass. From the blue tees it measures 11 inches.
You will be, should you order this latest offering from Richardson's company, Stave Puzzles of Norwich, Vt., which makes beautiful, difficult and expensive jigsaw puzzles. For a greens fee of $895, you'll receive a box containing 225 hand-cut mahogany-backed puzzle pieces, including four stand-up palm trees and Stave's signature clown, who is holding the flagstick to a mystery cup you must discover to master this truly devilish hole.
Be forewarned: A 220-yard carry over water will seem like a chip shot compared to this tabletop teaser titled Hole-in-One, for the layout is one of Stave's so-called two-way trick designs. You'll struggle for hours assembling the fairway, rough and sand traps, the confoundingly similar blue water pieces and the tiny island green that is connected to the mainland by a three-dimensional arched bridge.
Then the real sport begins.
Each puzzle includes a sleeve of Titleist golf balls bearing an image of the Stave clown, and a handful of tees inscribed STAVE PUZZLES—GUARAN-TEE-D TO DRIVE YOU BUNKERS. The challenge appears on a plaque inside the box: "Can you get the Stave golf ball to fit in the hole on the island green?" Trouble is, there is no hole on the island green.
"I called this Devil's Island because puzzlers will be imprisoned by conventional thinking," says Richardson. "To unlock the cell door, so to speak, you've got to make a leap of faith." Richardson mischievously refers to himself as Chief Tormentor in his mail-order catalog and in letters to his happily frustrated customers.
Golf lovers interested in less mentally punishing designs can select one of Stave's more conventional—but still challenging—puzzles. These include versions of such famous holes as the par-3 16th at Cypress Point, the par-3 7th at Pebble Beach and the 11th hole at Augusta, and of two imaginary layouts: St. Duffer's Golf Club and Lighthouse Links. These larger puzzles range in size from 430 to 1,000 pieces (the largest are 20"x25" when assembled) and cost from $1,430 to $2,595. They also feature such unkind cuts as stack cutting (slicing multiple layers with the same pattern, which means that any number of pieces might have more than one mate), split corners, false edges and so-called double-whammy pieces: adjacent, noninterlocking edge pieces held together by a third piece.
Those willing to tee off into the unknown will want to ace Devil's Island by successfully reconfiguring its trick fairway, trick green and trick water sections. Don't expect much caddielike advice here other than to replace your divots carefully. As always Richardson will dole out tips to desperate hackers, and he promises something more substantive than "Keep your head down."