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GRADE “A” ARCHITECTURE

Tamarack Country Club (1929)
14th Hole / “Road Hole” Par-4 / 448 Yards Greenwich, CT
Architect: Charles “Steam Shovel” Banks

The name Charles Banks may not be in the memory banks — no pun intended — for most golfers but his collective work in golf architecture still commands a powerful impact to this day. One of his best efforts exists in Greenwich, CT — just a stones throw from the New York Stateline.

Tamarack CC is blessed with eye-catching land — plenty of movement with an engaging routing that takes golfers to all corners of the property.

Banks was a teacher at the Hotchkiss School before going into golf design and he learned his craft from his relationship with Seth Raynor who was mentored by the father of American golf — Charles Blair Macdonald.

The impact of Banks is clearly seen with several of his efforts in the greater New York metropolitan area. Banks would replicate famed holes from the United Kingdom and his work often involved steam shovels carving out deep trenches for flanking bunkers with putting surfaces positioned high above them. Hence the nickname “steam shovel.”

The 14th hole at Tamarack does not have any real elevation change but the challenges are nonetheless rigorous. The tee shot must be played with great care. What appears to be a wide landing area is misleading. Several trees occupy the far left area in the distance and any tee ball missing the fairway on that side will need to pay proper respect to the intruding canopy. Down the entire right side is a water hazard which is completely unforgiving. The landing area also narrows just a bit with the lengthier of plays from the tee at roughly 280 yards. Prevailing wind during the prime playing months is often assisting but can also blow across the hole pushing misplayed shots closer to the hazard.

The putting surface is quite large with a range of subtle contours. The right side narrows down considerably with the same water hazard lurking nearby in the manner of a kindergartner clutching his parent on the first day of school. The slightest push with the approach will meet a swift and stiff penalty.

There is a solitary bunker to the left of the green and it provides a “donut” appearance with a circular piece of grass positioned in the center of the sand. Those who pull their approaches left face a daunting task to escape — most especially if the pin is cut close to that side.

The 14th is called “Road Hole” yet bears scant resemblance to the most famous 17th hole at The Old Course at St. Andrews. Tamarack went through a clear updating by the involvement of New England-based architect Brian Silva and the totality of the effort is most refreshing — capturing all the key details Banks embraced. The 14th hole is a winning example of how a hole on flat terrain can be just as riveting as those blessed with more land movement..

To the credit of Banks and the involvement of Silva — the 14th hole is like an honest judge. You must make your case through sound execution for nothing less than that will suffice.

 

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Photo Courtesy: Mark William Paul Photography

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