August 20, 2014
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- Players call the fifth hole at Ridgewood fun to play, but it can also prove challenging . (Courtesy of Ridgewood CC)
It’s been called the “five-and-dime” since the days of the Great Depression. And even in today’s sophisticated age, Ridgewood Country Club’s fifth hole still can pick a guy’s pocket every now and again.
The 291-yard dogleg constructed by A.W. Tillinghast stands as one of the first classic drivable par 4s, long before such holes became fashionable. Soft conditions allowed it to yield nine eagles when The Barclays last visited in 2010, though driver isn’t always the best option.
The alternative, in fact, could be as low as a 6-iron off the tee.
“I think it’s awesome,” Phil Mickelson remarked. “It’s such a narrow green that you’ve got to drive the ball extremely straight, and the green is challenging. If you’re hitting a wedge, it’s not easy to get it close. I think those holes are some of the most fun holes we play.”
The hole, usually listed as No. 6 on the “Center” nine of Ridgewood’s 27-hole complex, does get a place among Golf Digest’s top 500 holes. It gets its nickname from none other than Byron Nelson, who as an assistant pro would hit 5-iron off the tee and pitching wedge (10-iron) onto the elevated putting surface.
That’s still the calculated play, though even the PGA TOUR’s “long enough” hitters might find the lure of the green too tempting. Only one par 4 this season is shorter: No. 16 at Sheshan International (WGC-HSBC Champions) measures 288 yards.
“You’re going to get some guys that are going to go for it,” Steve Stricker said. “But you’d better be pretty precise because the green is very narrow.”
The putting surface, measuring less than 2,200 square feet, is considered one of the smallest in championship golf. It’s also set diagonally from the tee, sloping from high left to low right.
Six steep bunkers surround the green, though those on the right are relatively safe. The challenge comes with a miss on the left, requiring a delicate downhill recovery.
Finally, a line of trees prevents golfers from taking a straight shot at the green’s upper levels. The ideal play is a high left-to-right fade that somehow lands softly.
“If you miss it off the sides,” Stricker said, “you’re going to be in trouble.”
With a cool summer creating fast-and-firm conditions at Ridgewood this week, it figures to be tougher to hold the green with a driver than four years ago when No. 5 gave up 132 birdies in addition to those nine eagles. Just 30 plays made bogey or worse.
A more practical barometer would be Ridgewood’s 2008 numbers, when No. 5 yielded 110 birdies and two eagles, ranking as third-easiest of the week.