Appeared in Summer 2012 LINKS.
WITH THE U.S. OPEN upon us, it’s appropriate that we examine one of the designs of “the Open Doctor,” Rees Jones. Although he’s known for renovating venues like Bethpage, Congressional, and Torrey Pines, Jones has almost 100 original designs to his credit, including The Golf Club at Briar’s Creek in Johns Island, S.C., just south of Charleston near Kiawah. Routed through scenic wetlands and ancient live oaks, the 7,117-yard layout is a stern test of golf with many memorable and challenging holes, none more so than the 576-yard 18th. It’s as good and picturesque a closer as you’ll find anywhere.
Set hard against wetlands on the left, the hole has sweeping views across the marsh of the Kiawah River. The strategic values are just as invigorating. “The viable shot options are what make it so good,” says Jones. “Each shot really requires the golfer to weigh the choices. An ideal tee shot hugs the edge of the large sculptured bunker guarding the left side of the first landing area, allowing the aggressive hitter to go for the green, which is set on a peninsula jutting out into the marsh.”
With a big bunker by the green on the same line, Jones made it much more tempting to go for the green in two than it otherwise might be. “It gives you a much deeper target,” he says. “It enables the good player to really try that shot because it gives him more latitude to miss short and not get wet.”
For those who choose to lay-up, the cluster of live oaks down the left presents golfers with two choices. “One option is to play with a wedge to the left side of the fairway on the edge ofthe marsh short of the trees. This leaves an all-carry shot of about 150 yards over marsh and bunker. The second alternative presents an open avenue of fairway to the green, but the distance must be calculated properly to position the ball between the live oaks and the large bunker at the far end of the fairway. By laying up in this direction, the golfer has to carry only a small portion of marsh and can reach the receptive part of the green over a fairway approach.
“The 18th is a fitting finish for a round at Briar’s Creek,” adds Jones. “With everything on the line, there’s nothing better than a risk/reward finishing hole."