It’s my ninth column of the season, so it makes sense to me to talk about great ninth holes.
When it comes to talking about great ninth holes, the first question to cover is a general one — what makes the hole great?
Level of difficulty?
Variance of scores?
The history of the hole?
I happen to think it’s a combination of them all.
For me, the most important factors are a great design and an opportunity to bring a variance of scores into play. I don’t necessarily care if it’s a great par 5 that offers a chance for eagle or if it’s a really difficult par 3 that brings double or worse into play.
The key for me is that the finishing hole offers a chance to make up ground.
Take for example number nine at Muirfield Village, the great par four with water in front. It’s not too long, so strategy is more important than distance. There’s water in front of the green so bogeys and doubles are in play. And the green complex is difficult to chip to, but can lead to birdies if you hit it in the right spot.
Add all that together and you have a really great ninth hole that can yield anything from a birdie three to an “other” of seven or eight.
Don’t get me wrong though, the other factors are important as well. When talking about “surroundings,” I don’t know if you can find a more beautiful hole than the par four ninth at Pebble Beach.
Or if you could top the history of the great par four ninth at Augusta National?
Or find a more difficult hole than Oakmont’s ninth when played as a brutal uphill par 4.
On a local level, we’ve got some great number nines as well. I think the finishing holes on each of Mill Creek’s four nines are great.
For someone who hits a draw, I thought the ninth hole on the second nine was one of the hardest par fours I’ve ever played. Now that it’s been changed, it’s a little easier for me, but it’s still a challenging par four.
Three of our local country clubs (Youngstown, Tippecanoe and Lake Club) have par three finishers over water.
Avalon Lakes has a really great par four ninth that brings water in play on the tee shot and the approach shot.
And Pine Lakes has a nice par five that big hitters can try to hit in two.
But for me, there’s one number nine in the area that tops all the others — the uphill par four ninth at The Muni is probably my favorite finisher in the Valley.
From the back tees, the hole is 430+ yards, so it’s plenty long enough. The fairway is tree lined so you have to hit it straight.
The approach shot is a challenging mid-iron shot to a green that’s so elevated you can’t really see the base of it.
And the green itself has enough slope and break in it to drive even the best putters crazy.
If you hit two perfect shots, birdies can be made. But it doesn’t take much to make bogey.
And if you really struggle, double or triple is always a possibility.
Add to that the history of the Muni (Jones, Bellino, Simon, Porter, Ciminelli are just some of the names who spent countless hours at the Muni) and the surroundings of the hole (beautiful old houses down on Gypsy lane and the old Muni clubhouse sitting on the hill behind the green) and hopefully you can see how I formed my opinion.
It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through this summer’s columns. As we make the turn to our back nine, we have some exciting topics on the horizon.
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time, he sells commercial insurance for Huntington Insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at firstname.lastname@example.org