Friday, January 27, 2012

Crandon Golf Course Review

Crandon Golf Course 
Key Biscayne, Florida, United States

Architects: Robert Von Hagge & Bruce Devlin (1972)

Yardage: 7,354 Yards, Par 72

Rating/Slope: 76.5/151

My Quick Review: Interesting 'tournament style' greens but overall a disappointment with too many doglegs, bizarre mounding and a shortage of ocean views.

My Thoughts
The drive to Crandon GC is gorgeous.  Crossing over the Rickenbecker Causeway, I was treated to phenomenal views of downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay.  I had no idea if the golf course was any good, but hopes were high for at least a few jaw-dropping vistas.
View from Causeway
'Tournament Greens'
I have no idea if the golf course was designed with the intention of hosting professional golf tournaments in mind, but it certainly felt as though it was.  Many of the greens had little fingers and/or bowls.  On many greens I got the sense that Devlin/Von Hagge were thinking, "ok, Thursday pin on that finger on the left side of the green, Friday pin is the bowl at the back of the green..."  The greens were very formulaic.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, as some of these fingers/bowls make for some very fun pin positions, but it is something that should be noted.

Repetitive Doglegs
On many holes (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 11, 13, 15, 16) the fairway doglegged around a series of bunkers/trees.  These holes look almost identical from the tee.  In each case the hole doglegs much more than it appears, and in each case taking an aggressive line gets you in trouble.  BORING! Below are the tee shots on a few holes, see the similarities?
1st Tee
2nd Tee
7th Tee
15th Tee
16th Tee
Bizarre Mounding
Framing was a very popular design style in the 1970s, and unfortunately, Crandon is plagued with many framing mounds.  Almost without fail, the greens are backed by bunkers benched into artificial mounding.  The intention is to give each hole a sense of isolation, but the result is a completely unnatural and artificial greensite.  A good example is below:
Mounding behind 12th Green
Runway Tees
This is not a huge one, but I am a fan of golf courses that differentiate the difficulty between sets of tees by using both length and varied teeing angles.  Donald Ross did an exceptional job of using different teeing angles at the Biltmore Resort Golf Course, but the runway teeing style used at Crandon does not do this at all.
A 100-Yard Long Runway Tee on the 13th
Scorecard Information

Holes to Note
Hole 3: Par 3, 193 Yards

After a forgettable start to the round, the 3rd hole is one to remember.  The tee shot on this par-3 requires the golfer 'thread the needle' and carry a water hazard to try to find a green that looks almost un-hittable.  There is a lot of visual deception here as the green is much larger than it appears, and the water hazard ends some 40 yards short of the green.  The green is also surrounded by bunkers, none of which are visible from the tee.
3rd Back Tee View
3rd Back Tee View Zoomed
The 3rd green is a good example of what I meant by 'tournament green.'  The green is interestingly shaped with a tongue front-right, one back-right and a bowl back-left.  So there you go, you have your Thursday-Sunday pins covered -- each of those sections and one centre pin.
3rd from Behind -- Note the Gaps in the Trees, those are the Teeing Areas!
Hole 8: Par 3, 140 Yards
This is an amazing par-3!  Somewhat reminiscent of Donald Ross' volcano green on the par-3 6th at CC of Buffalo, this green is one you shouldn't miss, but are in big trouble if you do. Visual intimidation is a big factor in the design of this hole -- though the green is large, the obvious penalty for missing makes this a nerve-wracking tee shot.  A very wide teeing area allows this hole to be played from a wide array of angles.  A tee shot from a point in-line with the centre of the green gives the golfer much more room to miss than one from either the left or the right.
8th Tee
Shots landing short will absolutely not bounce onto the green...
In fact, anything landing on the front 1/4 of the green is no good as there is a large false-front
Shots missing right will carom into this bunker leaving a very difficult recovery...
And missing long-right leaves an equally difficult recovery...
Lastly, missing left leaves a difficult pitch from a grass bunker...
The green is fairly flat, but it is hog-backed, making it even more difficult to hit.  Shots landing near the left or right edges of the green will kick off the green.
A remarkable golf hole.  Aim for the centre of the green and make sure you don't mishit it -- no problem, right?

Hole 11: Par 4, 450 Yards
OK, so most of this hole is ho-hum, but the green is one-of-a-kind.

With bunkers left and water right, this is not the easiest tee shot, but there isn't a whole lot of thinking either.  Anything in the fairway works.
11th Tee
The approach is played over water and bunkers to yet another push-up green.  With water right and bunkers short and left, there's nowhere to miss.
11th Approach
The green and surrounds are really interesting.  First is the bunker left of the green with a huge mound in its centre.  I called it the 'nose bunker' for obvious reasons.  I don't know that I've seen a bunker like this before.  Shots at the left edge of the green will kick into the bunker thanks to some very good mowing lines.
The 'Nose Bunker'
Shots will Collect into the 'Nose Bunker'
The green is an inverted Biarritz, with a centre portion that is raised several feet above the front and back lower portions.  I have never seen a green like this before.
11th Green from Front of Green
11th Green from Behind
11th Green from Left
Hole 12: Par 3, 187 Yards
This is a very difficult par-3, especially if the wind is blowing.  The edge of the green is only one-yard from the water's edge, and bunkers long prevent the golfer from bailing-out.  Get your yardage and line right...

12th Tee
12th Short of Green
 The 12th hole is a perfect example of the bizarre containment mounding found everywhere at Crandon.  On the bright side, the mounds gave me a nice spot to take pictures from...
12th from Behind
Hole 18: Par 5, 555 Yards
Ever wanted to tee-off from a chute like the 18th at Augusta National?  Well, here's your chance!  The tee shot on the 18th at Crandon may be the most difficult I have ever seen.  Trees and Biscayne Bay guard the right, it is a 250 yard carry over water to reach the fairway, and there is water left -- and the chute through which the golfer must hit the tee shot is unbelievably narrow.

18th Tee
18th Tee Zoomed
I was quite disappointed that even though Crandon is on an island, there are no views of the water.  Well, at least not until the 18th.  Though the water is not in play, there is a cut-out of the trees that gives way to this exceptional view of the Bay and downtown Miami:

OK, back to the golf.  The second shot must avoid the trees right and a bunker 100 yards short of the green on the left.  As far as I'm concerned, the bunker is unnecessary -- the hole is hard enough as is, but it is there and must be dealt with.
18th Second Shot
18th Approach
The final green is another example of a 'tournament green'.  The green snakes around bunkers short-left, short-right and long-right.  From the fairway, it is impossible to see the green shape.
Green from Front
Green from Right
Green from Behind
Green from Left

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