Trying to stay the course when the course changes |

Trying to stay the course when the course changes

This weekend I played the renovated 15th hole at the Aspen Golf Club for the first time.

The old 15th, a short par-5 reachable with a mid-iron second shot, always provided a much needed respite in the middle of a difficult back nine. An almost guaranteed birdie, it was a metaphorical watering hole in a forbidding stretch of the course.

Now, it’s become a literal watering hole. Course officials have added a huge lake that runs along the right side of the fairway, from 100 yards out to the edge of the green.

To be sure, the lake hasn’t changed the length of the hole; it’s still easily reachable in two shots. But with out of bounds looming on the right side for the tee shot and water now waiting for a less-than-pure second shot, the hole’s no longer a cinch, especially under pressure.

Last year, while I was living in St. Andrews, I would frequently play the “New Course,” the lesser-known twin of the famous “Old Course” (don’t let the name fool you, the “New Course” was still built more than 100 years ago).

The first hole is a short par 4 that runs along the second fairway of the Old Course. Traditionally, the Old Course fairway is not out of bounds for New Course golfers, meaning you can hit it left and still be fine.

I never had trouble hitting the fairway. I never hit it left. But during the week of Dunhill Championship, a PGA tournament held on the Old Course, the second fairway suddenly had white stakes lining its edge – it was now out of bounds.

That week I seemed to hit every tee shot left, out of bounds. It’s as if the white stakes were magnets. No matter what I did to correct my swing, the ball still moved mysteriously left.

I have a strong feeling I won’t have the same problem at Aspen’s new 15th hole. In fact, I know I won’t. I’m going to be laying up.

Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is

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