Golf's movement to speed up the pace of play is likely to suffer a setback this week, with the CareerBuilder Challenge returning to the Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif.
The Stadium Course ranks eighth in Golf Digest’s America’s 20 Toughest Courses, ahead of nine U.S. Open courses.
It was used once in the tournament, in 1987, and getting the amateurs around was problematic, resulting in rounds of six hours and banishing the course from the rotation.
Recall Tip O’Neill, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives, unable to extricate his ball from the 19-foot deep bunker left of the 16th green in the ’87 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. “He put his fourth — and fifth, and sixth — shot into the bunker,” Shav Glick of the Los Angeles Times wrote. “He tried valiantly to blast out, but each time the ball hit the side of the cliff and rolled back to O’Neill’s feet. Finally, his answer was to pick up the ball and fling it up and on to the green.”
In the Skins Game later that year, Arnold Palmer failed in his one attempt to get his ball out of the same bunker. He picked up.
“The deepest pit I’ve seen since my financial situation in the 1980s,” Gary McCord wrote in his book, Golf For Dummies.
Also joining the rotation at the CareerBuilder Challenge is the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West, which on the difficulty scale for amateurs wouldn’t trail the Stadium Course appreciably.
Among its most prominent critics was Greg Norman, who played there in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in 1993. “It’s disgusting,” he said in this New York Times story by Larry Dorman. “It doesn't even make you want to play golf. I didn't enjoy this golf course. There are too many sharp angles.”
Dorman, meanwhile, experienced his own frustration in a recreational round there. From the middle of the fairway on one particular hole, he hit what appeared to be a perfect shot, only to have the ball come up about a yard short of the green and tumble back into a deep bunker.
Later, he queried Nicklaus about the difficulty of the bunker there.
“What club did you have in your hand?” Nicklaus asked.
“An eight-iron,” Dorman replied.
“You’re supposed to hit the green with an eight-iron,” Nicklaus said.
Good luck to the amateurs this week.