For the longest of times, architect Tom Doak had the idea of trying to accomplish what is rarely done in golf a layout played both ways. Many might not realise this, but the famed Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland was played as a reversible direction. Every other week from 1872 to 1904 the Old Course entertained players by going in different directions. After 1920 the practice became less commonplace even though the 1886 British Amateur was completely contested in the reverse direction. Among the reasons was the wherewithal to spread the play over the turf areas, encounter different wind patterns and add a clear variety to the overall experience.
Doak was fortunate to have an owner in Lew Thompson who gave the talented architect the green light to move ahead and turn concept into actual reality.
Although the putting surfaces average approximately 9,800 square feet at The Loop, it is often the angle and nearby land forms that provide a totally different perspective when approaching them. The green size for the combination of holes here is 5,600 square feet and therefore more exacting in terms of approach angles. Being in the right position can matter a great deal.
The par-5 6th on the Black features a very generous landing area and for those able to marry length and direction the thought of reaching the green in two is certainly possible.
Favouring the right side with the 2nd is much preferred but there is a solitary pesky bunker that must accounted for. Doak created an elevated green that runs diagonally and slightly away from the player. Those missing to the left side will encounter a maddening false front; those playing from that position will need to decide what type of 3rd to play a delicate lob shot from tightly woven fescue grass or a much safer ground option.
The narrowness of the green is quite pronounced on the left side and there is a rear bunker that is challenging to play, especially when a ball finishes near and of its edges.
Playing from the far right side provides a better angle, but the elevation of the green in concert with the tightly mown fringe and collar areas allows for the slightest mishap to be accentuated and run further away.
Many a player leaves the green in total bewilderment when a birdie is not accomplished, but word to the wise the 6th does not provide charity - only smart and well-executed plays reap the dividend.
The 12th on the Red plays a mere 312 yards and on the face of that alone would seem to mean a ripe scoring opportunity to seize. The hole starts with an angled tee shot - the more one can stay down the right side, the simpler the approach is.
Strong hitters can seriously entertain getting to the green with a big drive, but a single right side fairway bunker requires a 270-yard shot to do so. As you near the right side fairway bunker the fairway begins to taper in noticeably from both sides. Those who stay down the left side will be free of the fairway bunker, but the angle from that side is fraught with peril. The green is elevated and wider in the front and then narrows to the rear with more pronounced falls-offs to either side. When the pin is placed in the deepest area it takes a jeweller’s exquisite touch to nestle a soft pitch to remain on the green.
The elevated green simply repels indifferent play. Securing par when the green is missed will clearly test one’s fortitude. For a hole with such a short distance listed, one would think a low score should be a fait accompli – that is hardly the case here without the shotmaking to back it up.
What’s interesting is that the course in question is called The Loop. You can actually play the course in reverse. Each day the actual 18-hole course played is flipped.