The fourth hole at Stonebridge Golf Links is the first of the course's very diverse, interesting par-3s. It's also home to the course's namesake footbridge. Sure, it's not quite as historic or glamorous as Augusta National's Hogan and Nelson bridges -- and you're typically crossing it only if your tee shot settled woefully left or short -- but the footpath has a bit of charm nonetheless.
Glistening in the Hauppauge sunshine, the stone bridge is the only landmark that's easy to discern on #4, a 198-/178-yard redan par-3 wedged tightly between two neighboring holes and the densely treed course perimeter. Standing on the tee, players -- especially first-timers -- may need an extra moment or two to make sense of their surroundings. Factoring in two large trees left of the green, a partially disguised water hazard running up near the foot of the green and the #5 tee (and tree line) to the right, the target appears tiny and inaccessible. In reality, there is some breathing room deep, but very little margin for error overall. Two invisible sand traps make that margin even smaller.
Named simply "Redan," (all Stonebridge holes are named to pay homage to famous Seth Raynor, C.B. Macdonald and Charles Banks designs) #4 is actually a reverse redan with some -- not all -- of the design's typical characteristics. The putting surface is out of sight from the tee, but instead of running diagonally away from the player, the green is rounder in shape. A raised slope on the green's left side propels balls toward the flatter right half.
Unlike greens on a true firm-and-fast links course, Stonebridge's soft surfaces will accept and hold long, high-trajectory shots. Here, players can attack the pin without much worry about careening through the green and into trouble. The trade-off, however, is a demand for precise distance. That may sound self-explanatory, but the cluttered view of the hole can be deceptive when it's time to pick a club. Reeds lining the water hazard obscure the stream's uncomfortable proximity to the surface. And trees way beyond the back of the green convince you that long is wrong, even though there is indeed room to miss. All in all, even just a tad short means a plunge into a small, potentially awkward bunker or, worse, a dip in the water. Shots off the right side could fly out of bounds.
The more traditional short-left route, using the slope to guide the ball down to the bottom of the green, is a safer option, though some may lack the feel for this type of shot. A low running tee shot toward the apron should skip through to the green, catch the slope and funnel down in the cup's direction. Shorter hitters can also use the apron as a bailout area.
Risks are present in this direction, of course. The softness of the turf could be a detriment here, as it's difficult to gauge the bounce and roll to be expected over the feeder slope. Also, missing the green entirely on the left side is major trouble. You'll have to pitch blindly onto the green and back down the slope, with overhanging trees disrupting the matter. A bunker looms deep left, too.
The safest miss is long. Like the green, a clear patch of short backside rough is hidden from the teebox. Getting up and down for par is always possible, and a decent chip on should net no worse than bogey.
Stonebridge's redan does exactly what a redan is designed to do -- make players weigh risks vs. rewards and execute a shot with precision. Confident players who can drop a hybrid or long iron onto a small target -- while avoiding the looming hazards close by -- should pencil in a par or better when the flag goes back up. Shorter hitters and those possessing a creative (and accurate) touch can get there too, with a little help from gravity.
For more on Stonebridge, check out the course flyover.
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