About 30 minutes after you determine the best method of attack on Stonebridge Golf Links' redan par-3 -- the subject of a previous Closer Look post -- it's time to draw up a gameplan on another demanding one-shotter. This hole, Stonebridge's "Biarritz" seventh, is a design that will be new to many players when they first visit this 18-hole tribute to celebrated designers C.B. Macdonald, Seth Raynor and Charles Banks.
Biarritz greens have their roots in Europe, and a handful live on today on this side of the pond. Public golfers might not encounter them very often. They generally have three defining characteristics: an elevated green, strips of sand running vertically along the sides and, most notably, a depression or swale cutting across the green complex. Combined with typically long hole distances, these ingredients form a strong line of defense that can be lenient with underclubbed shots but merciless on off-line approaches.
Stonebridge's biarritz measures 194 yards. A hole that demands an accurate tee shot forces you to pull off precision with your longer clubs in hand. (Note: The scorecard lists the back-tee distance at 234 yards, but I don't recall a teebox in use from that length.) Perfectly struck shots will find the elevated green, followed by a birdie putt over one of Stonebridge's flatter surfaces.
But for most players, a 4-iron or hybrid to a 50-foot-wide target is a tall order, which is what makes the biarritz such a challenge. Once a tee shot sails wide of the green, the player must continue on in recovery mode. Any miss to either side will run down or plop directly into long strands of sand that run the length of the putting surface. One poor blast from well below the green -- either left short to trickle back down to your feet, or slapped long and into the opposite trap -- sets you on a bumpy road to Double Bogey Town.
[TOP: View from the back of the green. RIGHT: Thin bunkers will collect off-line shots and require an uphill escape. There's a good chance you'll need to take an awkward stance over balls near the lip since the traps are so narrow. LEFT: From the apron, a two-putt would put a strut in your step.]
The most unique characteristic of the biarritz is the swale. In this case, it's a 10-yard-long depression that separates the green from a raised apron in front (think your throat separating your chest from your face -- with a nostril as the hole location). Here, the grass on the apron and in the swale are shaved down close to green height, making the apron both a short bailout area and an extension of the putting surface. One way to challenge the hole is to play short with a more manageable club, then putt down the swale and back up onto the green. Not exactly the type of putt you can practice before the round, so don't go this route banking on a two-putt.
Of course, even the bailout area has traps -- literally. The apron is also paralleled by the same type of bunker strips that border the green. So while playing to this closer target may take the edge off the tee shot, the penalty for inaccuracy here is much worse. An awkward diagonal bunker shot from below the hole will have to hurdle the sidehill and still clear the swale to get to the green.
[RIGHT: A miss into one of the front bunkers sets up a difficult diagonal sand shot.]
The biarritz at Stonebridge is unlike almost all par-3s the public golfer will encounter when traversing Long Island courses. Most players will step up with their long irons and go for the gusto no matter the danger involved. Some will explore the available options and the unique contours. If you find yourself unencumbered by time constraints or trailing groups, take a few extra shots and see what works. Send a runner through the slope and onto the green. Sky a hybrid and try to keep it straight. Practice out of the four narrow bunkers. At least you'll be prepared for your next encounter.
For more on Stonebridge, check out the course flyover.