Colonial's No. 3, 4 and 5 offer challenge
Dealing with length as well as tight turns and trees make start to round a tricky task
FORT WORTH, Texas -- When the 1941 U.S. Open arrived at Colonial Country Club, club founder Marvin Leonard wanted to be sure his course was up to the challenge of hosting the national championship. So he asked golf architect Perry Maxwell to redesign Nos. 3, 4 and 5 on the course. Maxwell's work has stood the test of time.
Golfers know even 70 years later that when they tee it up to start their rounds Thursday at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, trouble lurks very quickly with a fitting name of the "Horrible Horseshoe." They don't call it the "Fun and Easy Horseshoe."
There are plenty of courses with difficult finishing holes. But it's rare to see a trio of challenging holes so early in a round.
"You want to get off to a good start through 1 and 2 and sustain that through 3, 4 and 5," said Jim Furyk, a U.S. Open winner whose best finishes at Colonial were runner-up showings in 1998 and 2007. "It's a challenge. You can get through there at 1-over and feel like you've played well. If you get through there at even par, you feel even better and feel like you can go on and have a really good round."
Several factors give the holes a high degree of difficulty. The most noticeable is the length. The par-3 fourth is a 250-yard behemoth. Both par-4s -- the third and fifth -- play around 480 yards. Mix in tight turns and large trees on the par-4s, and they play even longer.
"The big, developed trees make it tough to cut the corner, so you're forced out to an area with a long second shot," said Adam Scott, who is trying to win the "Texas Slam" with a victory at Colonial. "If you do challenge anything and go wrong, a big number is out there."
That's particularly true on No. 5.
"You stand up there and all you think about is the Trinity River running down the right side and you don't want to cut too much," said former Baylor golfer Jimmy Walker, who played the hole for the first time Tuesday.
But there's a big ditch to the left, and if you're too far left, it makes the approach shot extremely difficult. A narrow green and landing area don't make things easy, even if placement off the tee is perfect.
"It's just brutal," David Toms said about No. 5. "It's a tough tee shot. Nobody wants to leak it right, so they end up hitting it left, and you are not in a very good spot over there, as well. It's just overall a tough hole."
The fifth is consistently the toughest hole on the course every year. But the fourth isn't far behind. Rarely do PGA Tour pros walk up to a tee and face a par-3 that could play as long as 250 yards.
"It's 250 yards," Scott said. "You don't have to do anything to make that hole hard."
But it's a small green that is tiered. By having to hit the ball so far, it's difficult to stop the ball on the green. And there isn't a big area to run the ball up to the green, either. No one in the history of the tournament has hit a hole-in-one there, and there aren't many birdies lurking.
Furyk was quick to give the third hole its due. He said the tee shot might be just as difficult as No. 5, despite no water issues.
"You've got to land it in the fairway to have a shot at that green," Furyk said. "It's just tough like the ones after it."
That makes getting off to a good start maybe even more important at Colonial than at other places. And there is room to do that. No. 1 is a par 5, although the bunkers make it difficult to hit the green in two. A wedge for the third shot gives golfers the best shot at birdie.
Furyk said you don't want to think about having to birdie the first hole or two just because of what is waiting for you shortly after the round begins.
"You never do that because it's a negative way of looking at things," Furyk said. "If you make two pars, you don't want to think that's a bad thing. But you'd like to get off to a good start and you have a par 5. As a golf professional, you have to take advantage of the par 5s to play well. It's early in the round; you still have time to make up for it. But if you can get through those three holes in even par, you feel like you've beaten the field."
Richard Durrett is a reporter for ESPNDallas.com.