This post is the second in a series that will dive deep into the design and outstanding features of the individual holes of Kearney Hill Golf Links, one of my two home courses in Lexington, Kentucky. This course, built by Pete & P.B. Dye, represents some of the most interesting, most challenging, and most fun golf architecture in central Kentucky. It is a public golf course, owned and operated by the City of Lexington, and it’s worth getting to know a little better. I hope you enjoy it.
The short par three second hole at Kearney Hill, named Baby 3, is as close to straight-forward test as is to be found anywhere on the course. The hole plays significantly downhill from 165 yards from the championship tees, and only 115 from the front tees, with lots of teeing ground to choose from in-between.
The challenge appears simple at first blush: just hit the enormous green and don’t three-putt, and move on. However, there are any number of ways that the simple looking hole will trip up an unsuspecting golfer, and birdie is much more elusive than one might imagine for a short par three hole.
The elevated tee box exposes the tee shot to the prevailing wind, which will be in the golfer’s and slightly left to right. The hole doesn’t require a difficult forced carry over a hazard per se, but managing shot height, trajectory, and lateral shaping with a short iron in hand and the wind pushing a ball towards a large bunker is nothing to take lightly.
The green is enormous for a hole of such short length. The putting surface is guitar pick or teardrop shaped, measuring 40 yards deep front to back. Such depth of the green means that the pin position and the wind could result in up to a three club difference between the actual yardage and playing yardage for the tee shot.
The green is 27 yards wide at the widest point near the back, but spans less than 10 yards wide at the front of the green, hemmed in by the corners of bunkers on either side. The hole is framed by three bunkers, the two largest of which nearly converge near at intersection of the approach and the green, making anything even remotely qualifying as front pin position almost impossible to attack without absolute precision.
There’s one bunker behind the hole, separating the green from the containment mounding and tee complex for the third hole, but it rarely comes into play, except to perhaps catch a skulled shot heading off of the putting surface. A smaller bunker lying adjacent to the green’s back left corner has been sodded over, making the miss over the green slightly less penal.
From a strategic standpoint, the miss past the hole is the safe play, while attempting to play short of any flag only invites trouble. Reinforcing this notion is the fact that the high point of the green is the very front, and the entire surface slopes downward towards the back for the full depth of the green.
There are small shelves on the green on the front or middle right and in the back left quadrant, with some significant tilt from right to left from the middle of the green to the back. For such a large surface, the breaks tend to be subtle rather than obvious, and controlling speed on or across one of the more pitched portions is of paramount importance.
A keen observer will note that between the left bunker and the green there is a tiny catch basin. It is there that the middle portion of the green drains, and that observation indicates which way putts are going to break through that portion of the green. Likewise, the two back corners of the green are also low points to which the green will drain, which thus providing small hints at which way a putt may break through those sections.
If one does find their tee shot in one of the bunkers, up and down is a reasonable result, as the bunkers are extremely shallow, inviting a player to consider a variety of bunker shots. The really treacherous shots around the second green are those from the containment mounds, where long, thick rough requires a forceful swing with no meaningful backstop, other than the bunker on the opposing side, to stop a ball caught thinly.
The trouble on the second hole is obvious, and given the short distance to hit the tee shot, it ought to be a fairly simple, straightforward challenge. However, the combination of the elevation change with the wind, and the fact that the green slopes away from the tee, present enough of a challenge to make a golfer think twice about club and shot selection.
In classic Dye fashion, the battle for the second hole is in the golfer’s mind. It truly is a hole where less thinking is more: hit the green, hit the green, hit the green. If it requires an extra club or a different shot shape, so be it. Hit the surface, hit two good putts, and move on.