The exclusively private club is the brainchild of Corby Robertson and he engaged architect Chet Williams, while he worked for Nicklaus design. The result is a fascinating course roughly 90 miles north of Houston and 175 miles east of Austin. Whispering Pines is isolated in the small community of Trinity and the 400-acre scenic property is bolstered from a location alongside Caney Creek and Lake Livingston.
The concept of “island” par-3 holes has been a fixture in golf architecture for quite some time - the most noted being the devilish 17th at TPC / Sawgrass. Helping matters considerably is annual coverage of The Players Championship and seeing any number of world class professionals splash their tee shots into a permanent water grave.
As tenacious as the Florida hole is - when compared to the 15th at Whispering Pines - it is merely child’s play.
The 15th commences from a slightly elevated tee area sequestered by a number of nearby trees. This positioning belies the impact of any wind. During the prime playing months the prevailing wind comes from south / southeast direction resulting in air movement contributing to balls being pushed to the right or, at times, into the players faces. Gauging club selection is always a major component and landing a golf ball on the green’s surface is akin to a fighter jet landing quickly and with total precision on an aircraft carrier deck.
From the championship tee the green provides a vexing target - just 4,028 square feet, and is protected by sand with water lurking for any seriously pulled or pushed approach. The spellbinding nature of the hole is aided considerably by its blending in with what Mother Nature provided and avoiding the sometimes heavy handed and overkill approach many architects erroneously believe is needed. The simplicity of the hole is what raises the tension, the mounting mental and physical pressure to perform at a high level. When standing on the tee, be sure to measure your breathing because the sight presented can lead to a quickening pulse and palpitations.
Williams smartly included forward tee areas, playing 126, 117 and 99 yards respectively, but from entirely different angles. The genius of the hole is that the added emphasis on elasticity smartly incorporates a range of presentations, so varying handicap levels can be sufficiently and fairly tested with the possibility of success - yet no guarantees of certainty included.
The isthmus green is not overly contoured, so for those fortunate souls able to reach the green in the regulation stroke, the opportunity for a birdie is certainly on the agenda.
There are no shortcuts at Whisper Pines' 15th hole. Just execution, at the highest of levels.
In a word - brilliant.