The way Robert Trent Jones Jr. envisions the closing four holes at Poppy Hills, you are going to have to play some of the best golf of your round.
Poppy Hills closes with a 235-yard Redan-style par 3 (No. 15), a still daunting 439-yard dogleg right par 4 (No. 16), a 180-yard par 3 with a green situated against a ravine (No. 17) and an uphill 521-yard par 5 (No. 18).
“Poppy Hills is a great championship course,” Jones said. “It’s held national championships and NCGA championships, so it is a championship course.
“My dad – who was a master of championship courses, known as the Open Doctor – said that at the finish of a true test of golf in both medal and match play, you should have a par 3, a par 4 and a par 5.”
There will be more accessible parts of the course, such as back-to-back par 5s on Nos. 9 and 10, and the shortest hole on the course (152 yards) at No. 11, but Poppy Hills finishes with some teeth, and will test all golfers.
“A par 5 favors the long hitter, and a par 3 favors the shorter, precise hitter,” Jones said. “All the closing holes should have interesting contours to the green that are proportionate to the approach shot required. That’s what we have here at Poppy Hills.”
Poppy Hills closes with two par 3s in the last four holes, but neither will be a pushover. The Redan-style green on No. 15 slopes from right to left and front to back.
The terrain also drops off the back of the 15th green.
The 16th hole was always one of the toughest on the back nine, demanding a strong drive around a bunker on the right, and an approach to a green surrounded by bunkers. The bunkering around the green has changed, but the challenge has not.
“No. 16 is an honest par 4, pretty much as it was before,” Jones said. “We’ve moved the bunkering to the front and center of the green, borrowing a little bit from the 10th hole at Pasatiempo’s bunker pattern.
“You can play a strong second shot at the flagstick left, you can work it off the slope to the left, but you still have to carry the bunker. If the flagstick is right, it’s a dangerous shot because there is a deep ravine there.”
The 16th hole played as the No. 4 handicap before the renovation.
The green on the 17th hole has been pushed right to the edge of a ravine, adding an element of danger to the 180-yard par 3.
“No. 17 is a sweeter par 3, but it can be dangerous, because on the right side there is a ravine that comes into play,” Jones said. “If you hit the shot right, you’re going to lose a stroke, as well as your golf ball.
“On the other hand, the green is fairly large, and if you play safely away from the ravine, you’re going to have to work to get down in two putts.”
The finishing hole is an uphill par 5 with a green that will be well-protected by bunkers, as well as the lone, iconic pine tree that looms in front of it.
“No. 18 is fairly similar to before,” Jones said. “It’s a double dogleg up the hill toward the old location of the green. We’re just refining the shots, making it reachable in two for the strongest players who are precise in their tee shots, and a true three-shot par 5 for the club players.
“If you birdie that hole, you’re going to win that match.”