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Bay Hill Club & Lodge

The Loop

The Loop

That 17th Hole

May 11, 2007

Golf is not a fair game, so why build a course fair? Pete Dye

Tiger's comment early this week that the 17th hole at the Stadium course was "gimmicky" and his suggestion it might make a better eighth hole has won allies. First, count the owners of the record 50 golf balls that landed in the water there yesterday. Add Brandel Chamblee who on Golf Channel called the hole "unfair." Geoff Shackelford, in his blog, asks whether it's a better match play than stroke play hole. And many readers do. In short, if you can pile on a golf hole, the piling on No. 17 has begun.

Which only makes one want to defend it.

First, can you really imagine the Stadium Course with this as No. 8, with the nines reversed? Yawn.

Second, is this the only quirky penultimate hole at the site of a serious championship? What about that one where you hit over the hotel and then play off a road or maybe play backwards out of an eye-high bunker?

The fact is, the Players will one day be considered a major championship partly because of its course's architect. This is Pete Dye's legacy. And when Pete is no longer around to build ferocious golf courses, this one will be revered.

As a whole, the Stadium Course gives a player plenty of options. Holes 1, 2, 5, 9, 11, 12 and 16 offer very distinct options. But with two holes to play, it says, "Okay, no options here. Hit the shot." For guys of this talent level who practice hours and hours a day, it ought to be doable.

Reminds me of that article we did in 2001 where our John Hawkins, tour pro Mark McCumber and a second amateur tested their aim on 17. They were surprisingly successful as I remember.

Someone said once that Augusta National would be stronger if it finished at Amen Corner. Put the clubhouse behind 13, or 15 for that matter. The Stadium Course, in the auto racing nomenclature the tour seems to fovor, ends with a hairpin and the finish is riveting. Sure, fans like car crashes and 17 gives you plenty. But 16, 17 and 18 offer bold "drivers" a chance to overtake the leaders and and assure that no one coasts to the checkered flag.

We like that, too.

—Bob Carney