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When One Hole Means A Lot

Does one hole a golf course make? Of course not. But a single hole—the par-four 3rd at Royal Dornoch, the iconic layout in northern Scotland—has undergone a notable renovation. As reported by the British magazine/website Golf Course Architecture, the third was reworked by architect Tom Mackenzie, who says, it “used to be a fearsome driving hole,” but houses built along its left side forced golfers to the right, avoiding the series of bunkers down that side of the fairway that gave the hole its character and distinctive look off the tee. To restore the hole, the fairway was widened and the bunkers relocated even further right. (The photo above, from the club’s website, shows the bunkers before the renovation.) “[The 3rd] has become overpowered in recent years," Mackenzie told GCA. "Even relatively short drivers are going straight past the bunkers." To Dornoch’s members, he wrote, the bunkers “were adjusted so that they will test the better players much more… whereas once they dominated the thinking of these players. The fairway has been slipped over to the right by about 25 yards… and the valley on the left is now punishing, which will encourage golfers to play the hole to the right more.” A relatively simple change—work began in the fall, was completed in December, and will be unveiled next month—says a great deal about what’s happening to classic architecture.

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