The Signature Holes of Four Seasons Golf Courses
From sunny seaside holes to vertigo-inducing cliff-top tees, Four Seasons signature golf holes define the character of some of the world's best courses.
There have been famous golf holes ever since the earliest Scots teed it up, but it was 1948 when the late Robert Trent Jones invented the signature hole concept. The famed golf course architect realised that one stunning signature hole could showcase an entire 18, adopting the slogan “Give your course a signature.” The world’s greatest course designers have done just that, with signature holes at Four Seasons golf courses from the West Indies to Hawaii.
The home of the PGA Tour’s HP Byron Nelson Championship recently got a $10 million redesign. The total refurbishment brought in new grass, greens, irrigation and drainage, reshaped all 100 bunkers and updated several holes. Perhaps the only thing unchanged is the signature 18th hole. This 429-yard par-4 doglegs left around a corner guarded by the 45-foot-tall “Byron’s Tree,” and the second shot must be played along or over a pond, with a waterfall short of the green. Resort guests also have another signature choice, the opener on the recently renovated Cottonwood Valley course. The first hole boasts a green in the shape of Texas, an Oklahoma bunker and even a Gulf of Mexico water feature.
Jack Nicklaus has designed thousands of holes worldwide, but he described the “Tail of the Whale,” hole 3B at Punta Mita, as his best. It is the world’s only green on a natural ocean island, a rocky offshore atoll that demands a nerve-racking tee shot from the beach over nothing but crashing surf. Reach it during high tide, and you will be shuttled in an amphibious golf cart. 3B is a microcosm of Nicklaus’ design, which takes full advantage of its peninsula locale: Eight holes are on the water, and all have ocean views. Because the long par-3 plays 194 yards, often into the wind, Nicklaus built a gentler inland alternative, 3A, giving Punta Mita 19 great holes.
These twin resorts share facilities, doubling the golf options. The Challenge at Manele has more coastal exposure than any course in Hawaii, with ocean views as far as the Big Island, but none equal the jaw-dropping par-3 12th, playing over an inlet that is a 202-yard abyss of roaring surf. The mountainous Experience at Koele is equally impressive for its wooded slopes and elevation changes, and few golfers will ever see as extreme an example as the par-4 17th, where the tee shot into a gorge falls 25 storeys.
“Roller-coaster ride” may be a golf cliche, but it is one well earned by this Robert Trent Jones II course as it climbs up and down along the slopes between a towering volcano and the clear blue waters of the Caribbean. Dramatic ruins of a sugar mill behind the second green are unique and impressive, but it is the 15th that stands out as a signature hole: It stretches 663 yards from the back tees, a very long hole made even longer by the forced carry of 240 yards across a stunning river gorge just to reach the fairway. The reward for getting over the gorge and finishing the hole is increasingly stunning ocean views as you head straight for the coast, emerging suddenly from the thick rain forest vegetation onto a scenic plateau when you (finally!) reach the green.
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