Jerry Pate knows golf. He's got eight wins on the PGA Tour, including the 1976 U.S. Open, and he's an accomplished course designer. Throughout the season, he'll be stopping by Devil Ball to offer an inside-the-ropes look at the week's upcoming course. Today: Ridgewood Country Club, home of the Barclays and the first stop in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
In 1974, I won the United States Amateur Championship at Ridgewood Country Club. This course, designed by A.W. Tillinghast in 1929, is a difficult championship test that places a premium on the proper execution and placement of each tee shot, especially on its par threes.
Tillinghast wrote in his article "Judging Courses by Low Scores," "My own observations in checking the play over such courses of mine as have been the scene of National and Sectional championships, have made me firmly convinced that the character of the one-shot or par 3 holes has more to do with checking the assaults of the 70-breakers than any other factor ... the short holes on championship courses should be the most feared of any, and any player who cracks 70 should face fear and conquer it if his performance is to be rated a truly great one."
At Ridgewood, the second hole is a medium length par three of 190 yards. The green sits left to right with a fronting bunker on the right. Deep bunkers lurk on the left side to punish any shots not properly shaped. The green slopes severely from back to front, with subtle interior contours which make it difficult to stop a long birdie putt close to the hole.
The eighth hole is slightly longer, a par three of 217 yards that plays some 50 feet downhill. Like the second, the green is guarded by deep bunkers on the front and both sides. The green slopes away from the players which makes holding the green extremely difficult. Getting up and down from the deep rough behind the green is also a challenge.
The tenth is a long par three of 230 yards. A gapping cross bunker protects the front hole location while bunkers left and right protect each side. Should you miss the green, par will be a challenge.
The fifteenth, the final par three, is a short hole of 155 yards. The tiny green is guarded by massive bunkers on all sides. Precision is demanded on this hole and it is likely that a two-shot swing could occur as the tournament concludes on Sunday.
I am sure that Tillinghast's design at Ridgewood will test the best players in the game as they did during the 1974 U.S. Amateur.
Jerry Pate has been designing golf courses for more than 30 years. His portfolio of work includes Old Waverly Golf Club in Mississippi, site of the 1999 United States Women's Open; Trump National Golf Club Colts Neck (formerly known as Shadow Isle) in New Jersey; Kiva Dunes on the Alabama Gulf Coast; and Rancho La Quinta Country Club in California. See more of his work at www.jerrypategolfdesign.com.