Circumnavigating Forced Carry Golf Shots

When it comes to forced carries, our locale is obviously not alone. In this cliché filled article, we present an epilog, or, how desperate times call for desperate measures: ways in which disadvantaged golfers battled the ‘nearly impossible’ designs of ruthless architects.

Let’s start with the tale of a famous Chicagoan, more precisely, the former golf writer for the Chicago Tribune, Charles Bartlett. Bartlett was the first ever secretary of the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA) which was founded in 1946; Bartlett served as secretary for 21 years until his death in 1967. Beginning in 1954, as an annual prelude to the Master’s Tournament, the GWAA held their own golf championship in Myrtle Beach, SC.

From 1954 to 1987 this tournament was an 18-hole round held at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club. From 1988 through 2005, an expanded 36-hole tournament took place with the first round rotating among other Myrtle Beach courses, with the final round always at The Dunes Club.


Dunes Club 13th Hole

The Dunes Club was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., and features as its signature hole, a long par-5, that carries the nickname ‘Waterloo.’ “We are honored to be recognized for having one of the most memorable and most photographed golf holes in the State (SC),” Dennis Nicholl, Dunes Club head professional has stated.

“The 13th hole at The Dunes is a hole you either love or hate. But the more you play it, the more you gain an appreciation for Jones’ classic design.” Only the longest hitters can challenge the green in two shots, and more good rounds have been wrecked here than on any other hole on the course.

Famous golf writer Dan Jenkins once said of the 590-yard horseshoe-shaped layout that hugs Lake Singleton on the right that the “only way to reach the green is to charter a boat.” Amazingly, in this unusual design, golfers actually hit their tee shots in a direction away from the green. The ‘chartered boat’ idea is merely fantasy, but Mr. RTJ’s design did leave a slight bit of ‘wiggle room’ — a narrow six-foot wide piece of fairway at the far end of the lake.

Charles_Bartlett_PlateIn April of 1960, Bartlett was again playing in the GWAA championship at The Dunes Club. In previous years Bartlett had posted bad scores on ‘Waterloo’ by dumping shots into the lake. Proving that where there is a will, there is a way, Bartlett attempted to outwit the architect and stay dry on Waterloo by playing a calculated number of controlled shots around the lake.

But past memories, old age, and total fear of the lake disrupted his plans. He selected a “mid-iron” to start the hole but dribbled one off the tee; he hooked his second shot into heavy rough … and never found it. He went back and hacked another one into the heavy rough again, then took two or three shots to finally get to the corner of the lake.

Still clinging to the use of a ‘safety club’, Bartlett hit another hook into heavy rough, and another, and another, but was advancing closer to the green. When he finally arrived at the severely sloped, double-tiered green, Bartlett was so frustrated that even his putter failed him, as he stroked one of his putts which rolled off the green.

Bartlett’s score totaled 22 that year on Waterloo and a memorial plaque is placed on the tee of #13 hole; in his seventh attempt at Waterloo Bartlett may have lost another battle, but he managed a slight personal victory by not hitting a single ball into the lake!

Posting a score of 22 on a forced carry over water might be ‘dreaming the impossible dream’ to golfers like one Angelo Spagnolo. In 1985, Golf Digest held a tournament to determine America’s Worst Avid Golfer; the publication received 627 nominations (self-submissions and nominations by ‘friends’).

Four finalists were chosen and were paired together at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, FL. The foursome included one golfer from Illinois, Jack Pulford from Moline. Jack, who dressed in Fighting Illini colors of orange and blue and sported a golf bag to match, brought his golf professional along from Moline.

But also in the gallery as a ‘spectator’ was Jack’s ex-wife who told Golf Digest that she was there to watch Jack make a fool of himself. Pulford and his three competitors’ scores were tightly bunched at the top, make that the bottom, of the leaderboard through sixteen holes. But the forced carry to the island green at #17 proved to be the deciding factor, when Angelo Spagnolo, a grocery store manager from a suburb of Pittsburgh and a 52-handicapper, could not get an airborne shot far enough to reach the island green.

Spagnolo sent a seemingly endless stream of balls into the lake surrounding the 17th green, and eventually resorted to putting his way around the walkway in an effort to finally get to the green. Angelo was so bad that even one of his putts on the walkway went into the water, causing him to be booed by his young son.

Spagnolo’s score on #17 was an incredible ’66’; it was then that the “wheels came off a little” and caused him to score a ’22’ on the 18th hole for a total of 257 for the round. Angelo’s score was 49 strokes beyond the closest competitor in the group and was named America’s Worst Avid Golfer.

These two episodes can teach us that necessity is the mother of invention –or– if the front door is locked try going around to the back door.


Greg Miles

Greg Miles has been a writer following golf in Chicago since 1990. For the past 30 years he has been a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and currently is classified as a GWAA "Life Member". He played his first round of golf on his 11th birthday, and since then has played more than 7,300 rounds of golf in his lifetime at 517 different courses. He has interviewed more than 280 golfers across all the professional tours along with famous celebrity golfers. Additionally, he is a member of several other competitive and honorary golf associations, as well as the Golf Nut Society.

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