The Pit’s popularity crosses a broad spectrum of player abilities. It is fair and negotiable for average players, “but when its tournament time” Maples says with a knowing look “we can tuck those pins in some cool places. My favorite line that describes The Pit is ‘Purgatory at its best.’”
This catchy label left by one critic is more than just a hook to reel in players in an ultra-competitive region. It’s an accurate microcosm of the course’s dual personality. The course has some sharp teeth, but is fair. Experts have their hands full from the back tees (and a longer set is close to completion), yet amateurs find it negotiable. The course features all of Maples’ trademark classic elements, but contains modern variations and twists on the theme. “One of the biggest changes [that added further originality and fueled conversation] was the addition of scrub and waste bunkers. They weren’t in the original design.”
The addition of waste bunkering was a twist ahead of its time, giving truth to the moniker “A Dan Maples Original” and surely the watery Amen Corner is aesthetically pleasing and heroic, but the boldest statement at The Pit may be its shaping. Gentle natural rolls and sweeps please the eye and frame the hole. “I wanted the course to be like a Japanese garden. Every hole is its own little window or grotto” Maples says.
Shaping is one of the biggest concerns to Maples because it gives the course its personality, its statement of identity. In this regard, Maples is not afraid to experiment. “At Little River Farm which is right nearby, I had a unique challenge. I had three months to build the entire course. Just three months.” Faced with the hardest of hard deadlines Maples quickly “thought outside the box” and crafted an interesting solution.
Tune in tomorrow to see how he did it. In the meantime, here is some intereting Q & A.
AWITP: What public courses do you really like and recommend?
Dan Maples: Dunegrass G.C. in Old Orchard Beach. It’s a great seaside course. Plus it’s in Maine. Wailea – Orange in Hawaii. Cherokee in Knoxville, TN. I renovated the Donald Ross original design there.
AWITP: Let’s assume Phil, Ernie, Vijay and Tiger all decide they are fed up with talking and speculating and put up $1,000,000.00 of their own money each in a one hole, winner take all shootout that will be televised nationwide. Which of your public golf holes would you select for them to play?
Dan Maples: I’d pick number 12 at The Pit, the par three with water from tee to green. People have said that’s my 17 at Sawgrass. It’s 199 from the back tees and that target looks awfully small from back there. The shape of that green is the key.
AWITP: That’s a terrifically designed par 3 because from one set of tees it tests accuracy and from another, the one off to the side, distance control.
Dan Maples: Exactly, the senior tee, the one completely in the water is off to the side with a completely different angle. But the pros, from that back tee, even if it’s a 5 or 6 iron, that’s a tough shot. And then the green is pitched severely.
AWITP: Do you use computers extensively in your work?
Dan Maples: No, I can’t stand them, but we use them as a necessary evil. They take your imagination away from you. And you have to learn how to run it rather than it learning from you.
AWITP: Do you have a tip for average players?
Dan Maples: Here’s a good one. When you can’t sleep, mentally practice your putts or visualize good shots. It builds confidence and comfort. Be the ball! Just like in Caddyshack.