Old Crokscrew Golf Club
It’s a bear. And that’s not a reference to the architect: Jack Nicklaus, aka “The Golden Bear.”
Old Corkscrew is not for the faint of heart. Or the machismo-fueled golfer who wants to play from the tips and grip it and rip it. That’s not going to work here. This is a thinking-man’s layout that demands precise shot-by-shot planning and accuracy. Bring your patience. And a few extra sleeves of balls.
Stewart Cink has played four times—including twice in the lead-up to his 2009 British Open victory—and never broken par72 from the tips, which span 7,393 yards and carry a frightening 77.6 rating and 153 slope. Even Nicklaus was badly bitten by his own handiwork: He staggered to a 9 on the par-4 fifth hole at the grand opening in 2007.
“Hold onto your bootstraps,” general manager Mark Iwinski says of his course, which was included in Golf Digest’s 2007 list of America’s Best New Courses. “We’re known for the challenge, and I think people like that. I remember the first year, we were a little concerned that the severity of the test would be too overbearing for most of your golfers, but we found over the years that people want to come back and give it another crack.
“We tell people when they’re checking in, ‘Prepare to shoot basically six to eight shots over what you normally shoot.’ People receive that well. They say, ‘Thank you, you set us up for this in the right frame of mind.’ Occasionally, there’s a person that goes out and does shoot to his handicap and below, and it’s even that much more gratifying,” adds Iwinski.
Most of the controversy focuses on the greens—there are a disproportionate number of them that are wide but not very deep. That makes it hard enough to keep the ball on them, but there’s more: plateaus of up to 20 feet, severe undulations and fast speed.
During my round here, my best shot of the day was a 217yard 7-wood that landed on the most talked-about green—No. 14, a 12-foot-high plateau—and rolled off the right side, coming to rest 40 feet from the edge. From there a chip was impossible to a tight pin, so I was forced to putt, and that went up the steep slope, onto the green and then off the back side.
Be thankful. The course is actually easier than it was when it first opened. Scrub and underbrush have been cleared from danger zones along some fairways, some fescue around bunker edges has been removed and some rough has been added to prevent balls from rolling into the water.
The idea here is to take Iwinski’s advice: Forget about your score and treasure the experience.
There are no homes or structures on the course, which is set beside a 16,000-acre nature preserve. You wind your way through 275 pristine acres of mature cypress, oak and pine trees. I played with a birder who was as fascinated with the wildlife on the holes as the holes themselves.
It’s a Certified Audubon International Silver Signature Sanctuary. Remember that when you tally your score. And if you still have your sense of humor, go into the golf shop and buy one of its T-shirts with the slogan I GOT CORKSCREWED and a drawing of a macho-looking guy with the spiral dissecting him. Rick Weber has won the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism and two Associated Press Sports Editors awards (column writing and features), has written a book, Pink Lips and Fingertips, and contributed to three Chicken Soup for the Soul books.