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Old Mac: By the Book

BANDON, OREGON l Hang around golf course architect Tom Doak long enough and you will learn that if he really likes something (he doesn’t pass approval easily), he will use the word “cool” to describe it.

“That’s a cool hole.” “That’s a cool green complex.” “That’s a really cool blowout bunker.” You get the idea. His global knowledge of golf holes is truly encyclopedic and the memory of his mind’s eye is photographic.


One of the coolest things about his newest course, Old Macdonald, which Doak co-designed with Jim Urbina, is the caddie yardage book. Doak wrote it. You can’t buy it in the pro shop. But on a recent trip to owner Mike Keiser’s Bandon Dunes Resort, Global Golf Post obtained a bootleg copy.


Imagine, for a second, playing the Old Course at St. Andrews and having, in your possession, Old Tom Morris’ yardage book. (Morris didn’t officially design the Old Course, but he knew it better than anybody else). The Old Macdonald caddie yardage book includes a capsule description of each hole followed by intricately detailed drawings of each full hole and that hole’s green complex. The more you know about geology, cartography and topology, the easier it is to decipher Doak’s code.


If you are fortunate to get to Old Macdonald, hard by Oregon’s ocean coast, don’t worry about these complexities. The caddies will be fluent in Doak by then. But until that time, check out this inside preview from the man Keiser chose to co-design this homage to C. B. Macdonald, who is widely acclaimed as “The Father of American Golf Architecture.”


What follows is a briefly excerpted comment from Doak on each Old Macdonald hole along with the hole yardage (middle tees) and par and appropriate precedent holes that influenced Macdonald or influenced those who studied him. It’s impossible to ignore the massive influence of St. Andrews, where the Open Championship will take place in two weeks, on Macdonald.


1. Double Plateau: Par 4, 332: “This is my favorite opening hole that we’ve ever built … Straight up the middle is fine, but a drive up to the plateau on the right or wide to the left gives a better look at the green surface.” Precedent: National Golf Links #11, Yale #17.


2. Eden: Par 3, 161: “Based on the 11th at St. Andrews, judged by many in Macdonald’s day as the ideal short hole.” Precedent: St. Andrews #11, National Golf Links #13, Mid 20 Ocean #3.


3. Sahara: Par 4, 345: “…You can get near the green if you dare flirt with the big tree on the left.” Precedent: Royal St. George’s #3, National Golf Links #2.


4. Hog’s Back: Par 4, 472: “The tee shot is up onto a narrow ridge that falls away sharply to both sides.” Precedent: Lundin Links #17, National Golf Links #16.


5. Short: Par 3, 121: “…The green target is divided into several distinct areas and it is essential to find the right one to avoid a circus lag putt.” Precedent: Royal West Norfolk #4, National Golf Links #6, Chicago Golf Club #10.


6. Long: Par 5, 520: “…The dominant  bunker 100 yards short of the green is modeled after Hell Bunker on the 14th at St. Andrews.” Precedent: St. Andrews #14, National Golf Links #9.


7. Ocean: Par 4, 345: “…We were sure Macdonald would have moved heaven and earth to site a green on the dune ridge overlooking the Pacific.” Precedent: None.


8. Biarritz: Par 3, 170: “…A wild green with a deep swale running through the middle of it.” Precedent: Yale #9, Piping Rock #9.


9. Cape: Par 4, 352: “A sharp dogleg to the right, with bunkers and gorse on the inside keeping you honest to the tee shot.” Precedent: National Golf Links #14, Chicago Golf Club #14.


10. Bottle: Par 4, 440: “…Two sets of fairway bunkers narrow the driving zone.” Precedent: Sunningdale (Old) #12, National Golf Links #8.


11. Road: Par 4, 445: “The line of the fairway and green here are almost identical to the famous Road Hole at St. Andrews.” Precedent: St. Andrews #17, National Golf Links #7, Piping Rock #8.


12. Redan: Par 3, 205: “The most imitated hole in the world is the par-3 15th at North Berwick. The plateau green runs away from a high shoulder at the right front to back left.” Precedent: North Berwick #15, National Golf Links #4, Chicago Golf Club #7.


13. Leven: Par 4, 319: …The hole is almost drivable, but the green falls away dramatically from the base of a big dune at its front left.” Precedent: Lundin Links #16, Chicago Golf Club #5, National Golf Links #17.


14. Maiden: Par 4, 297: “…The original Maiden hole (Royal St. George’s) was a blind par 3 over the dune which Macdonald sharply criticized.” Precedent: None.


15. Westward Ho!: Par 5, 482: “…The heaving contours of the fairway are like ocean swells.” Precedent: National Golf Links #18.


16. Alps: Par 4, 433: “…Our version is faithful to Macdonald’s hole except that we left a narrow open approach for blind shots from the left.” Precedent: Prestwick #17, National Golf Links #3.


17. Littlestone: Par 5, 515: “One of Macdonald’s most daring ideas came from the par-4 16th at Littlestone, England.” Precedent: Littlestone #16, Lido #4.


18. Punchbowl: Par 4, 426: “Many greens on Scottish links were hidden away in natural bowls between dunes.” Precedent: Chicago Golf #12, The Creek #6.


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