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'Ridge' recognized: Palmetto Golf Club's 7th hole named one of America's best

Jun. 5—Golf Digest magazine recently revived a popular feature from decades ago that ranked the best golf holes in America.

That list had to be updated to include world-class holes from courses built since the last ranking in 1999, and those joined so many of the usual suspects from the publication's ranking of best courses over the years.

Augusta National. Pine Valley. Pebble Beach. Cypress Point. Shinnecock Hills. Oakmont. Merion.

And Palmetto.

Palmetto Golf Club's par-3 seventh hole, the appropriately named "Ridge," checked in at No. 91 in Golf Digest's list of "America's 100 Greatest Golf Holes."

"Alister MacKenzie remodeled Palmetto's bunkers and greens in 1932 when he was completing work 20 miles away at Augusta National, but he wouldn't have had to do much to the dainty little seventh with its elevated putting surface platformed into a wooded hillside," reads the magazine's description of the hole.

The seventh, listed at 139 yards but also capable of being stretched to 180 for tournaments like the Palmetto Amateur and Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate, is visually striking and can also give the player a sense of fearful apprehension — there really isn't anywhere safe to miss, especially to the right.

"You're perched up on a hill, and you're hitting it to another elevation, and it's just a little, tiny target," said USC Aiken golf coach Michael Carlisle, who was one of many local golf figures to nominate No. 7 for the Aiken Standard's "Greens of Dreams" series in 2018 that highlighted the best golf holes in the area. "You know when you start that thing a little bit right, you're going, 'Oh, crap.' Your odds of getting it up and down from below the green are not very good. The bunker to the left is not a bad place to be, but if you get left of the bunker and it sticks on a hillside, once again you've got a shot that's just as hard as if you missed the green way right. To me, it's just a small, small target."

That's hard enough with a wedge in hand — even more so when the tees are all the way back to make precise placement slightly more difficult with a longer club. Ridge lived up to its stingy reputation in March at the Palmetto Intercollegiate, yielding only 24 birdies across three rounds to the field of 73 players compared to 43 bogeys, 14 doubles and a pair of triples.

"Well, how many par 3s do you know that people go, 'Well, if I miss the green left, that's pretty good'? Hold on, wait a second," Palmetto director of golf Brooks Blackburn said for his "Greens of Dreams" entry. "What happened to hitting the green? But you're hitting into an area that's probably 15 yards wide. For most guys, when you're hitting anywhere from an 8-iron to a 5-iron, it's pretty difficult to say, 'Hey, I want you to hit it to a 15-yard area.' Most people aren't that accurate. Definitely a great par-3."

Don't just take Blackburn's word for it — Bobby Jones once called No. 7 the best medal-play par-3 he had ever played.

Players in the Palmetto Intercollegiate, Palmetto Amateur and Southern Cross routinely talk about their strategy starting with safely navigating the first seven holes, keeping the bogeys to a minimum until scoring opportunities arrive later in the round.

Any post-round discussion of birdies and bogeys often starts with No. 7, which is a hole where a par feels like a birdie anywhere else on the course. The University of South Carolina's Ryan Hall birdied it twice on the first day of the 2022 Palmetto Intercollegiate, which contributed to a six-shot lead and eventual five-shot victory.

"It's a hole where if you hit a good shot, you're gonna have a good look at birdie," said PGA Tour pro Matt NeSmith, who also nominated Ridge for the "Greens of Dreams" series. "If you miss it in the correct spot, you're not gonna really struggle that much to make par. But if you miss it in the wrong spot, there is no chance you're making par, almost."