Among the most memorable holes we’ve played in fourteen years of Greenspan is the 16th hole at Old MacDonald. Known as “Alps,” it’s a long par 4 with a fairly sizable hill on the left side of the fairway, which makes the green blind to all but the longest drives down the right side. Blocked-out players aim their second shots over an aiming stick at the top of the mountain — and hope they guess their distance right.
The hole garnered a fair bit of commentary. I’ve heard it called the worst hole at the entire Bandon complex. (For my money, the 16th at Pacific wins that award hands down.) I heard Rob Stonesifer mutter that the 16th wasn’t “a real golf hole.” I remember it not because I didn’t like it, but because it began my and Joel Aro’s great unraveling in our fourball medal match against Stefan Gran and Greg Cheever. One of them — I believe Cheever — birdied it after a laser-like approach over the aforementioned aiming stick, while we could manage no better than my own three-putt double bogey after actually having a peek-a-boo look at the green with my approach shot. Two holes later, we walked off the 18th green with a half in a match we led from the start.
To the uninformed, the aforementioned mountain is nothing more than a huge mound. As it turns out, however, there was a method to Jim Urbina’s madness. He modeled this hole after the 17th at Prestwick (also known as “Alps”), site of the first British Open, twenty-four others, and a likely destination for many of us during our 2012 Scotland trips. One blogger even did a full entry comparing the Old Mac and Prestwick Alps holes. There are also versions of Alps at Fisher’s Island and National Golf Links (more), both rated among the top 100 courses in the world.
Call it cool, call it awful. Just don’t call the 16th at Old Mac an accident. I, for one, am looking forward to playing its Prestwick inspiration. Here’s hoping I can manage better than a six.