Don't Run the Gantlet -- Spike It!

I have two reasons for not answering Gary Van Sickle’s call to come up with a name for the last three holes of the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass: 1) I hate contrived nicknames for course features. 2) I don’t need another reason.

Note that I said “contrived.” I’m fine with “Amen Corner” because that wasn’t coined by a p.r. firm. The great golf writer, Herbert Warren Wind, simply pulled it out of his Smith-Corona to describe the 11th, 12th and 13th holes at Augusta National -- no fuss, no pretense -- and people started using it.

I like “The Road Hole,” “The Churchpew Bunkers” and “The Postage Stamp” for the same reason. Those nicknames were coined by the golfers who played St. Andrews, Oakmont and Troon, and they have passed the test of time.

Compare that to “The Bear Trap,” the term used to describe the closing holes of PGA National. I was there the year they sprung the Trap on those of us covering the Senior PGA Championship. The new name came with a press kit -– “The Toughest Three-Hole Stretch on Tour” -- plus glossy photos and slides and a statistical analysis of how the holes had played in earlier tournaments.
There was even a press conference with course designer Jack Nicklaus. And just in case you missed the endless shilling for the nickname on the tournament telecasts, they installed a plaque on the 15th hole warning, “You are entering the Bear Trap!” (Did I say a three-hole stretch? Make that four!)

I expect marketing folks to create and promote their brands, but I’d like them to stop at the first tee. Otherwise, we’ll soon see “The Coca-Cola Bear Trap” or “The Burma Road, presented by Japan Airlines.”

Gary apparently feels the same way, because he spiked all the entries, including his own (“The Bermuda Triangle”) and NBC’s (“The Gantlet”).

Good call, Gary.

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by Kevin Cunningham