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Tillinghast Imprint on Long Island's Southward Ho Country Club
Golden Age architect A.W. Tillinghast is regarded as one of the game's most prolific designers with work on some 265 courses to his credit. He designed such venerable courses as Winged Foot, Newport Country Club, Quaker Ridge, Baltusrol, San Francisco Golf Club, Bethpage and many others.
Known for his ability to create outstanding features that became iconic as well as distinctive, two of these, the "Hell's Half Acre" hazard and "Reef Hole," have never been seen on the same Tillinghast design - until now.
Golf architect Ian Scott-Taylor and Tillinghast authority and biographer Philip Young made a historically significant discovery at Southward Ho Country Club in Bay Shore, N.Y. Both a Reef Hole and Hell's Half Acre hazard are very much in evidence at this 1923 Tillinghast gem, which notably is his only true seaside links project.
"Long Island's Southward Ho presents two unique golf holes that no other Tillinghast course has today," said Scott-Taylor. "This is an astonishing discovery and the club was unaware of its good fortune in having preserved the original design of Tilly's remarkable par-3 'Reef Hole' while possessing vestiges of the devilish 'Hell's Half Acre' great hazard."
According to Tillinghast expert Young, the genius of the Reef Hole design allowed golfers of various skill levels the chance to score par by approaching the green from four different routes, with only one being a direct single shot to the guarded green. "In this single-hole concept, the brilliance of Tillinghast's ability to design a hole to be playable for the average or lesser player, while also challenging the talented one, stands out for all to see," explains Young.
"Southward Ho's 14th long par-3 'Reef Hole' is a fine example of Tilly's template and every significant required feature of this innovative hole design can be clearly seen here."
Tillinghast's "great hazard" at Southward Ho is equally important to students of classic golf course architecture. He coined the phrase to define a specific style of large hazard and he also invented one of the great examples of a "great hazard" which Tillinghast called the "Hell's Half Acre Hazard." The name originated from a notoriously dangerous and unsavory area of Philadelphia, and the city's Hell's Half Acre was the last place any decent person would want to find themselves.
A true "Hell's Half Acre Hazard" incorporates a combination of numerous mounds; rough of all sizes and types; sand both in regular bunkers and/or waste areas; scrub grasses and/or bushes, especially on the outer portions; and it would range in size from 20 to 60 yards in length and always cross the entire fairway from one side of the rough to the other.
"When Ian excitedly informed me that he discovered Southward Ho had a 'Reef Hole' and we subsequently visited the course with club members and officials, I was astonished to identify and verify that they also were in possession of a 'Hell's Half Acre Hazard,'" said Young. "That Southward Ho has these two incredible original Tillinghast signature design features on its course makes both the course and the club unique and most special. It's a discovery of great magnitude and exciting for all admirers of Tillinghast's work."
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