Golf courses are like houses. The order of the holes and the types of challenges they create mimic the flow of the rooms and the arrangement of the furniture.
While watching the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in Virginia Water, England, I discovered what I consider a course with wonderful feng shui.
Wentworth has something you almost never see – it closes with two par-5s. It made for delightful viewing, and I’ll bet it makes for even more enjoyable playing.
Both of Wentworth’s closing holes are classic risk/reward. The 17th has the hedge and out of bounds to the left, and the 18th requires clearing the winding strip of water in front of the green.
That means that the leaders are never safe and the chasers are never out of it. Two-shot swing? It could be a four-shot swing … or more.
As each player navigated the back nine, he had to be thinking, “Just hang on. I still could go eagle-birdie on 17 and 18.”
That’s my kind of golf course. Sure, the back nine at Wentworth is par 37, but that means there are three par-5s – three places to make hay.
Every golfer who can hit the ball reasonably well should savor par-5s. They’re the only times in our great game where you can have what amounts to a legal mulligan.
Hit a bad drive? Just chase one down the fairway to give yourself a good look on the third shot.
Hit a bad second shot? As long as you can reach the green with your third, there’s time to recover.
And, most of the time, the third shot is a short iron or less. It might even be a putt for eagle.
It’s why I’ll never understand rating par-3s as the easiest holes on a course and putting the par-5s among the toughest.
If I play the par-3s in even par, I’m happy with that. But that’s just average for the par-5s. Ideally, I want to see a birdie or two there.
Speaking of par-3s, the back nine at Wentworth has another oddity: It begins with a par-3. For some reason, you rarely see that, especially on the front nine.
The only course I’ve ever played that began the day with a par-3, as far as I can recall, was Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland. But it requires exactly what you don’t want: a long iron to a tight green with out of bounds close in on the right. So much for opening with a nice, free-swinging drive.
But at least it’s different. It’s like the magic of the two oldest ballparks in Major League Baseball, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. They both have distinctive oddities – the Green Monster and Pesky Pole at Fenway and the ivy-covered walls and curving dimensions at Wrigley. That’s what makes them so beloved.
The finish of the BMW event showed exactly why the closing back-to-back par-5s make Wentworth much more exciting.
It was close to the end, but Billy Horschel’s tap-in birdie at 18 won it – only after Laurie Canter hit uneven shots around the green on both of the last two holes to turn excellent birdie opportunities into pars.
I wouldn’t want every course to close with two par-5s, just as I don’t want every ballpark to have a Green Monster or ivy-covered walls.
But how about a little more variety out there? I can think of a few courses where it would be nice to knock out a wall and move the sofa.