What are the golf world’s greatest hazards?For this issue, we put that question to con-tributing editor James Finegan, one of the game’s most seasoned and well-traveled writers. His list is hard to argue with, covering as it does both the famous (the tee shots on sixteen at Cypress and seventeen at Sawgrass) and the relatively obscure (the Great Sea Rushes at Royal North Devon).
For me, the really fun thing about Jim’s list is the memories it evokes of times I’ve encountered, succumbed to and then, on occasion, conquered these and other such hazards. Besides the challenges that Jim details, my heart has been stopped, and my soul elevated, by these shots in particular:
The tee shot on the Cape Hole (number five) at the Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda. This long par four doglegs left over a tidal pond and challenges you, from a towering tee box, to bite off as much as you dare. Legend has it that Babe Ruth carded an eleven there after swatting a couple of sleeves into the water. Blast one down the fairway on this hole and you feel like you’ve hit a home run at Yankee Stadium.
A similar shot on the par-five twelfth at Old Head in Ireland. The carry isn’t as great, but stand out on the exposed tee box with the wind howling (as it always is) and pound one out by the stone marker and your Guinness afterward will taste great no matter what number ends up on your card.
The approach on eighteen at Carnoustie. I’ll never forget hitting my second into the Barry Burn in front of the green, only to watch in amazement as the ball hit a rock, bounced out and landed in a greenside bunker! Imagine how different Jean Van de Velde’s life would be if he could say the same.
The point is that hazards are one of the primary things that make golf great. They give us stories to tell. They make the sport unique: What other pursuit, outside of rock and mountain climbing, deliberately seeks the most difficult route?When they say "Golf is life" or "You learn a man’s character on the course," that’s part of what they’re talking about: how you respond to the hazards put before you.
Or, put more simply: What fun would golf be without them?