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A Great Golf Hole: 4th at St. George’s Golf & Country Club
November 18, 2021
By George Waters, USGA
Golf course architects pay careful attention to a design’s visual elements, but keeping some features hidden can also have powerful strategic and psychological impacts. The par-4 fourth hole at St. George’s Golf and Country Club, on Long Island, is a wonderful example of how varying degrees of visibility can create strategy and interest – and plant dangerous seeds of doubt in the golfer’s mind.
The tee shot plays uphill to a mostly blind landing area, with the canopy of a large oak on the horizon providing the only hint of the green’s location. Playing up the left side of the fairway offers the best chance for a good look at the green on your approach. From the right, the green is mostly hidden by fairway contours or a group of large mounds covered with native grasses.
The approach shot must navigate one of the more formidable green complexes you’ll ever encounter, with shaggy mounds and a shallow bunker short of the green and a series of deep, hidden trench bunkers surrounding the entire surface. These layered defenses make approaches difficult to judge and turn recovery shots from almost anywhere around the green into an adventure.
A smooth swing on the relatively short approach can be hard to come by with the fear of invisible trenches lurking – a classic example of how an unseen hazard can be more unsettling than one in full view.
You never feel completely comfortable on No. 4 at St. George’s. The fearsome defenses of the green complex invade your thoughts from the moment you step on the tee and varying degrees of visibility throughout make for plenty of anxious shots. It’s a hole that gets the last laugh more often than it should, and after playing it once you can’t say that you didn’t see it coming.