Hole 7: Par 4, 310 Yards
The tee shot — uphill, blind — is intimidating but not really dangerous. Just carry the ball more than 150 yards, avoid the dense grove to the left, and make sure not to hit up on the group ahead of you. Even if you lose your drive to the right, toward OB, a tall fence and a taller stand of eucalyptus will likely kick your ball back into play.
The left side of the fairway offers the best angle to the green, but the right side isn’t a bad place to be, either. A scoring hole.
Hole 8: Par 4, 424
If you arrive at the eighth hole feeling good about your score, don’t get comfortable. The next two holes, a par 4 and a par 3, play more like a par 4.5 and a par 3.5. They are also, unfortunately, rather bland, especially compared to Jack Neville’s clever and beautiful designs on the back nine.
From the eighth tee, you can either hit a fairway wood down the chute, or you can try to fly the trees — and the houses — to the right.
The safe option off the tee will leave you with a very long, blind approach. Even if you play the rest of the hole well, you might still walk away with a 5.
Hole 9: Par 3, 218 Yards
This is a bad hole. But unlike the boring second, the par-3 ninth is bad in fun, interesting ways.
First, the tee box is aimed about ten yards right of the ideal line. To stay on target, you have to align left of where the tee markers and mowing lines point, and persuade your subconscious not to open your shoulders through impact. Watch out for a double cross; your ball may end up on Del Monte Boulevard.
Second, the green complex is poorly designed. Not long ago it received, as Adam Clayman puts it, a “facelift,” and the surgeons botched the job. The orientation of the green — diagonal to the tee with an opening front left and a grass bunker front right — makes a low, running cut the optimal shot, but tall trees on the left prevent that play. Unless you’re lucky or wonderfully precise, you can get to back-right pins only if you fly it all the way there. From 218 yards. Into the wind.
Why set a green at a diagonal if players can’t shape their shots into it?
So yes, the ninth is a bad hole. In a way, though, I enjoy its badness. I like that there is a hole on my home course — one of my favorite courses — that has the capacity to anger me.
But I also like that once I leave the ninth green, I head seaward and start what must surely be one of the best sequences of holes in American golf.