Lake Chabot’s quirky 18th is perch for rarest of rare birds

You heard about it, right? The condor landed at Lake Chabot recently, and the golf world suddenly is filled with expert bird watchers.

Kevin Pon made a 2 on the 673-yard, par-6 18th hole, detailed in this San Jose Mercury News story. It’s a must-read for anyone who ever has had the privilege of playing Lake Chabot.

You deserve a gold star if you already knew that 4 under par on a hole is a condor. Most golfers were aware that 3 under – a 1 on a par-4 or a 2 on a par-5 – is an albatross, and we all dream of making an eagle (2 under) every so often.

But condor? Pon’s deuce is believed to be only the fifth condor in golf history, and the other four were on par-5s. A condor is as quirky as a par-6.

And that’s the proper word for Lake Chabot, but put a “delightfully” before it. Delightfully quirky. I love the fact that our great game is filled with quirky holes and courses. Lake Chabot is right up there with the quirkiest of them – and No. 18 might be the quirkiest of all.

First of all, I’ve got to ask: Why is it a par-6? You don’t have to be a big hitter to get there in three shots. If it were uphill, that would be different. But it is severely downhill most of the way.

The last time I played it, I hit what probably measured to be the longest drive of my life. I got all of it, and as I recall we estimated it went about 370 yards.

Don’t be overly impressed. If you can hit a hook and get it rolling, you certainly can move it 300 yards on that hole. In fact, when I got to my drive that day I wondered how it had stopped where it did. It still was on the downhill part of the hole.

Pon’s drive got all the way to the bottom of the hill, which suggests that his ball must have hit the cart path. There’s no other way a 54-year-old guy could have smacked a ball 540 yards.

The other quirky thing about that hole is that as you stand at the top of the hill, the green looks reachable in two. The slope makes you wonder if you really need a 3-wood to get there.

But it’s farther than it looks, and it goes back uphill near the green. It’s a fooler. You need to gear down a little because of the elevation, but don’t get the idea that your 4-iron will go 250 yards. Leave that to the pros.

The quirkiness of No. 18 doesn’t end at the bottom of the hill. The green is severely sloped from back to front, and it is virtually impossible to stop any putt from above the hole.

The pin has been in front every time I’ve played it, and the drop-off in front of the green is steep. You have to get there, and the tendency is to hit it past the pin.

I’ll bet most golfers will do what I did that day: on in three but too long with the third shot, and then three putts for a par. Maybe that’s why it’s a par-6 – your adventure doesn’t end when you reach the green.

Still, I wish more courses had a hole like that. It doesn’t have to be a par-6. I love it when they do something to trick up a par-4 or par-5 and make it risk/reward. Every course should have one hole that you just can’t stop talking about after you’ve played it.

It’s yet another thing that sets golf apart. In an odd sort of way, quirky is beautiful. 

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