NORTON, Mass. – Opinions have ranged from simply bad to downright awful this week as players have gotten a look at the redesigned 12th hole at TPC Boston.
From Dustin Johnson to Paul Casey, players have questioned why officials had Gil Hanse redesign the 12th and 13th holes. In specific, they have taken issue with a collection of fairway bunkers on 12 that first force players to carry the ball more than 260 yards but no further than 300 yards, where a pair of principal’s nose-like bunkers await.
On Thursday at the Dell Technologies Championship, Hanse explained the need for the tinkering and the philosophy behind the changes.
“Part of what we didn’t like about the two holes was the distance from 12 to 13 tee. It was a big jigsaw puzzle,” he said. “What we came up with is connecting that ridge, and looking at where that landform fell and how it made sense naturally.
“It would be right where the longest hitters that, if we kept that all fairway, would be catching that downslope and going all the way down and have a 70-, 80-yard advantage over guys who couldn’t hit it that far. The concept was just stop the fairway.”
Hanse and his team originally shaped a wide fairway that he said felt too “spacious,” which led to the bunker complex that is now in the middle of the fairway at around 300 yards off the tee.
“The expectation was it would take several rounds for these guys to learn how to play it and how they wanted to tackle it,” he said. “Unfortunately, some of the early reaction came after one practice round.
“The conversation we’ve had with three or four players is, 'Listen, just give it three or four rounds. Try to figure it out.' If we build a golf hole that the players can figure out after one round, then we probably haven’t done our job challenging them.”
Hanse also adheres to the philosophy of pacing a round, with difficult stretches of holes followed by scoring opportunities. Under this concept, the idea was to create a more demanding hole at No. 12, which played the 12th-hardest last year during the Dell Technologies Championship, that put players in position to hit a long- to mid-iron approach shot.
Hanse also pointed out that while the fairway is relatively generous from 250 to 290 yards off the tee, it narrows to about 31 yards wide from 300 to 339 yards, which is where the fairway drops dramatically into a wild area that’s dotted with rocks.
“This golf course, rightfully or wrongly, has always been characterized as a bomber’s golf course,” said Hanse, who lengthened the 12th by 50 yards. “So when you’re making alterations, you have that in the back of your mind, and you don’t want to be seen increasing that advantage. We felt like the positioning of these hazards gives the average guy room to hit the ball. But as you want to push around 330, it gets more narrow.”
Hanse, who received widespread praise last year for his work on the Olympic Golf Course in Rio, is no stranger to player pushback. In 2012, Luke Donald inadvertently tweeted a criticism of Hanse’s work at TPC Boston before deleting the tweet; he later apologized.
“If you are going to put your work on this stage, there are going to be opportunities for guys to criticize. We want to build holes that are interesting and require thought and learning to figure it out,” Hanse said.