Every Hole at Pine Valley Golf Club
Golf Digest Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde takes you on a hole-by-hole journey of Pine Valley, the #1 golf course in America.
Released on 12/14/2017
[Jerry] It's almost as hard to find Pine Valley
as it is to play it.
The number one golf course in America,
as ranked by Golf Digest,
is not on the cliffs of Pebble Beach,
or off the fashionable shores of the Hamptons.
It's in Southwest New Jersey, off the interstate.
You head to the Clementon amusement park and take a left.
Those railroad tracks on your right,
are reminiscent of how George Crump,
the founder and amateur architect
discovered the prehistoric terrain
on the way to Atlantic City.
It was his vision that became and remains Pine Valley.
This is Every Hole at Pine Valley.
The first is a majestic opener,
classic risk reward off the tee
with a sandy hazard on the turn
that reaches out and grabs a fade.
It sets up an approach shot
that must be straight and hold high.
Left, right, or long, and you may be happy
to make a double bogey.
[dramatic rhythmic music]
The second is the longest,
most treacherous 368 yards in golf.
Church pew bunkers run up both sides of the fairway
to a rising hill with a lunar scape of sand pits.
You can only see the top of the flag stick.
The green is even more perilous.
A missed shot is a death sentence.
As the members say, welcome to Pine Valley.
[dramatic guitar music]
The par-3s here have been called the best set
of short holes in the world.
Here's the third, 198 yards from the tips,
over the gnarliest topography, to a skull shaped green.
Jay Sigel once seven-putted it in the Crump Cup.
Four is the longest par-4 on the course at 499 yards.
Half of it a blind carry off the tee,
trundling over a hill with short across bunkers
to an immense green that runs away from you.
Keep in mind, the clubhouse is in play.
Every tee shot presents a new challenge
and the most difficult might be at number five,
the Frankenstein of par-3's.
Gene Littler made a newspaper 7 on this hole
in a match against Byron Nelson for the first episode
of Shell's Wonderful World of Golf,
which comes as no surprise to any golfer
who misses it right.
The new complex of bunkers set into the hill,
left of the green, is where many players hit it today.
From there, they skull it over in Littler territory,
before picking it up for their own newspaper 7.
[dramatic guitar music]
The new championship tee at number six
restores the full value of its heroic cape design.
On most of the holes, just a pretty good shot
is of no use at all, Crump said.
He wanted a course that would test the best players
to their limit and make them better.
The seventh is the longest hole on the course,
636 yards from the back with Hell's Half Acre, the hazard,
at its mid point.
You might say there are no bunkers at Pine Valley.
Pine Valley is one big bunker
with occasional patches of grass.
There also are no rakes at Pine Valley.
Golfers are asked to smooth their deepest foot prints,
but otherwise the sand is left
to be tended by wind and rain.
Its right about now, you notice the water tower,
decorated as a Dutch inspired windmill.
Today, it doubles as a halfway house
for beverages, and snacks, and a handful of ibuprofen.
Tom Watson's favorite hole is the eighth.
Stretching only to 326 yards, with two greens,
the wedge approach, side hill, downhill, off a thin lie,
to an uphill spit of slopey green,
with a false front is wicked.
Often overlooked are the greens, massive on some holes,
postage stamps on others, frozen waves, rumpled blankets,
elephant burial grounds, impossible to read
without advice from the club's famously quirky caddies.
The aim of a putt may be 90 degrees
from a straight line to the hole.
Green speeds reach scary-fast at tournament time,
as quick as 12 to 13 on the stimpmeter.
The 458 yard ninth has two greens as well.
A recent renovation here returns the left
to an infinity green with only sky behind it,
making the approach even more intimidating.
The most recent Fazio changes throughout the course
involve tree removal, opening up the visuals
and exposing more sand.
Tees were moved back, holes got harder,
George Crump's vision endured.
Then there's the hole we've been waiting for.
The short tenth, only 142 yards from the middle tee,
a bowl of Breyer's Ice Cream, but wait,
what is that darkened aperture short-right?
It's the bottomless pit,
known in-elegantly throughout the golfing world
as the Devil's Asshole.
No golfer has ever walked past it without stopping to stare
into its gravitational pull.
It's said Pine Valley is the only course in the world
with 18 great holes, not an indifferent one among them.
Each is a separate masterpiece, like the lovely 11th here.
Framed apart from all the others,
a snowman waiting to happen,
and upon playing the course only once,
you can remember every hole distinctly.
The 12th hole is a drive and pitch,
but most golfers can't help themselves
from taking too aggressive a line off the tee.
Hit it anywhere but left,
and Pine Valley might yield it's easiest birdie.
There have even been a few holes-in-one on this par-4,
one by a caddie.
Pine Valley blends all three schools of golf design,
heroic, penal, and strategic, over the whole course,
often on a single hole.
For rugged grandeur, 13 may be the best of the best,
486 yards, first to a perched landing area on the right,
then a long second sweeping left,
with death or glory at hand.
Today, it takes me three to get on it too.
14 on any other course, likely would be its signature hole,
but just one of 18 at Pine Valley.
From a complex of elevated tees,
it plays downhill over a beach bunker to an island green.
When you walk off, invariably there's a call of fore,
as incoming balls bomb the 15th tee from behind.
The bridge there is a famous one.
Legend has it that Bobby Jones in 1930,
came to Pine Valley to practice for the final leg
of the Grand Slam at Merion.
He was in a slump until this hole.
When he set foot off the bridge,
he said, it was magically,
as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
The slump was over and he went on to win the amateur
in golf's only Grand Slam.
It might have been 15 that the other Jones, Robert Trent,
had in mind, when he called Pine Valley
the most difficult course in the world.
For most of us, this par-5 requires
four full shots and a putt.
Is it unfair at times, maybe so,
but isn't that the ultimate test.
Can a player hit a good shot,
only to be crushed by a horrific result,
then still find it within him or herself
to rise to the occasion of the next one.
Where to aim your tee shot on 16 decides your fate.
Pine Valley will not be
for the novice or the timid player,
said Tillinghast, a member.
George C Thomas said, Pine Valley's charm is the thrill
of surmounting its varied hardships.
Countered Bernard Darwin, The right of eternal punishment
should be reserved for a higher authority.
The round nears the end
with a delicate dog-leg right, the 17th.
Kind of a sister hole to the second,
make sure your drive is on the short grass.
The approach is uphill, over craters of bunkers
and you wanna keep your putt
below the hole to have any chance.
Then a brute of a finish,
arguably the finest 18th hole anywhere.
The tee shot is elevated, a long carry from the back.
The second shot is over sand, and water, and sand again,
upward to the home green, where golfers bloodied and bowed,
doth their caps and shake hands.
The round is done, repair to the clubhouse.
I think there's a nobility to the place,
owed in part to its scale, 600 plus acres,
and if you haven't had enough,
this men's club has a 10 hole short course,
and the best practice range in captivity.
You will never forget it or any of its holes,
all the days of your life.
Pine Valley, the greatest golf course in America.
[dramatic guitar music]