Seminole Golf Club is one of America’s most historic and exclusive private clubs. It’s a bucket-list course for many, as the 1929 Donald Ross design sits along the Atlantic and meanders through Florida’s dunes.
Much of the club’s contemporary history is intertwined with the legacy of Bob Ford, who for the last 20 years has been the Head Professional. Ford’s career is unmatched in the club pro ranks. At one point, he was the head pro at both Seminole and Oakmont – splitting time between two of the top-ranked courses in the world. How’s that for a resumé?
During his time at Oakmont (1975-2016), Ford helped conduct seven major championships (4 U.S. Opens, 2 U.S. Women’s Opens and 1 PGA Championship). So he’s no stranger to prime time golf. However, Seminole is. TaylorMade Driving Relief marks the first time that TV cameras will be inside the gates at the revered layout – which was restored to much of Ross’ original vision by Coore & Crenshaw in a 2016-18 renovation that also lengthened the course.
“We're trying to beat this virus and that's our major focus,” says Ford, a member of TaylorMade’s Presidential Advisory Board. “But it’s also special for all of us who’ve experienced Seminole to be able to share it with those who haven't.
“Inspired by our Club President, Jimmy Dunne, we leapt at the opportunity to be involved and give back during this COVID-19 crisis. It was an easy decision.”
In preparation for this Sunday’s charity match, we’re taking you hole-by-hole at Seminole. We couldn’t ask for a better guide than Bob Ford himself.
Let’s get ready to tee it. Here are descriptions, strategies and predictions directly from Ford.
Hole No. 1 | Par 4 | 405 Yards
Before I took this call, I just sent Rory off the first tee with a 6-time Super Bowl Champion and another major winner. So I’ve got a fresh feel for how those guys will play it. Off the tee, it will be a driver hole. Typically, it's an east wind behind the player’s back, so they'll come close to driving the green. They should all come within 30-50 yards of the green and it's just a pitch shot from there. When these players are pitching the ball, there's not much that can stop them.
Hole No. 2 | Par 4 | 480 Yards
We have a new tee on No. 2 that forces a 225-yard straightaway carry over water. These players could clear it with a 6-iron. They'll have no issues off the tee. It's another downwind hole, but it plays to an uphill green. They'll have 8i-PW into a green that’s very severe and very difficult. It'll be tough making birdie there.
Hole No. 3 | Par 5 | 555
No. 3 is a dogleg-right par 5 with about 320 yards to the turn. This'll be back into wind a bit, but they shouldn’t have issues making it to the bend. There was a big grove of trees through the fairway, but we removed them during the renovation. Now when the players arrive at the bend, they'll be left with a 6i-8i iron into this this par-5 green. Like the prior hole, the green is very severe. The only pin locations are front-left and back. That's it. It's very undulated. Once they get on the green, they'll have their hands full.
Hole No. 4 | Par 4 | 495 Yards
No. 4 is a 495-yard par 4 that plays south-to-north. During the winter, with a northern wind, its plays extraordinarily long. However, the eastern wind this time of year will help them turn it over right-to-left leaving them with a short iron or wedge into the green. Which I know sounds crazy, but these guys are the longest hitters on Tour.
This is a pretty flat hole, virtually no elevation change. But, again, the greens here are incredibly tricky as a generalization. They’re firm, they're fast and you never stick a tee in the ground to fix a ball mark. They're all tabletop runoffs, so the ball is constantly in motion and running off the sides.
Play to the middle of the greens. You really can't shoot at too many pins. That’s also the case at No. 4.
Hole No. 5 | Par 3 | 205 Yards
No. 5 is the first par 3. It's 205 yards and totally surrounded by bunkers. Most likely it will be a left-to-right wind during Sunday's round – which will make for a difficult shot with 6i-7i for those guys.
Hole No. 6 | Par 4 | 390 Yards
No. 6 was Hogan's favorite hole. He loved to practice down there. The green is an hourglass shape and it's surrounded by bunkers. It sits on a 45° angle compared to the direction the players hit from. It's probably an iron shot off the tee and then a very short iron into the green, but it's difficult to hold regardless of what club you have in your hand. Not many people control their iron shots well enough to hold that green, which is what made it a favorite location for Mr. Hogan. Even back then when the greens were stimping 7 or 8, you had to be precise in order to keep it on the putting surface.
Hole No. 7 | Par 4 | 430 Yards
Hole No. 7 is 430 yards, and we didn't have anywhere to go with that tee to make it longer during the renovation. It's probably 330-340 yards to the water off the tee, so if they catch this downwind they could drive it in the penalty area. Most, if not all of the foursome, will opt for 3wd and a wedge into this green. I expect a lot of birdies on this hole. The green's pretty receptive and it's pretty flat, not much to it. Elevated tee, wide fairway, short iron. Easy hole.
Hole No. 8 | Par 3 | 265 Yards
No. 8 has a new tee box that it shares with the second hole. This allowed us to stretch the hole from 235 yards to 265 yards. We’ve recently added new sod to the teeing area for No. 8, so we may end up playing this one from the old length of 235. Even at 265, watching these guys hit 4i and 5i is just incredible. There’s usually a touch of helping wind and it's a big green. You can even bounce it on. I wouldn't call it a birdie hole, but I don't think they'll have much trouble with it.
Hole No. 9 | Par 5 | 545 Yards
The par-5 ninth has a new tee box that lets us stretch it close to 560 yards if we need to. During the Pro-Member, I watched Rory drive it into the left fairway bunker. What happened next was nothing short of amazing. He pulled 3wd and knocks it right in the middle of this tiny little green. It was an unbelievable shot over trees. The hole is not as easy as he made it look, but it’s a definite birdie chance. The green is tiny and extremely sloped on the front half. But with these guys, I expect birdies and eagle looks on No. 9.
Hole No. 10 | Par 4 | 425 Yards
No. 10 is likely a stinger or a long iron down to the 150 mark. There's water on the left in the landing area about 260 yards from the tee box. Players will typically hit irons to avoid it and leave themselves with an approach of 150 yards – which for these guys is just a pitching wedge. There's also water left of the green and we'll probably use the left hole location to try to entice them a little bit. It should be a fun hole.
Hole No. 11 | Par 4 | 465 Yards
No. 11 we stretched back to 465 yards. It's 240 to carry the water – which they can probably do with a long iron as it typically plays downwind this time of year. Their approach will be a wedge into a very elevated green by Florida standards, which makes it a partially blind shot. They'll see the upper part of the pin, but that's about it. They’ll still be hitting a wedge most likely, so I expect lots of birdie opportunities.
Hole No. 12 | Par 4 | 370 Yards
No. 12 is a little more intriguing. It's a 370-yard par 4 with an elevated tee box and it will play slightly into the breeze. During Pro-Members, I've seen Rory hit it green high on this hole. Just bombs it. We never thought of this as a drivable par 4, but for these guys it's pretty close. They'll hit little pitches, chips or bunker shots into an incredibly difficult green. It's one of the great, great short holes on the golf course. In the skins formant, I can imagine these guys being aggressive and pulling driver on this hole.
Hole No. 13 | Par 3 | 170 Yards
No. 13 is a 170-yard par 3 that plays straight towards the ocean and likely straight into the wind. For this caliber of player, 170-180 into the wind is probably 6i-8i. It's a reverse Redan design, so it runs away from you on the right side and is very well bunkered. It's one of the really fun golf shots on the course.
Hole No. 14 | Par 5 | 510 Yards
Nos. 14 and 15 are a bit unusual in that they’re back-to-back par 5s. No. 14 is only 510 and it plays straight downwind. Because they drive the ball so far, the left water comes into play at about 360-370 yards. These guys might be hitting 3wd off the tee leading to 8i, 9i or even a wedge into this par 5. The green is difficult, you have to hit a good shot to put yourself in position to capitalize. I expect lots of birdies and some good looks at eagle.
Hole No. 15 | Par 5 | 555 Yards
No. 15 comes back the opposite direction. We’ve got a new tee box and it plays 555 into the wind. As a side note, Rory was 9-under through 14 a couple of months ago and came to 15 where he didn't carry the water with his tee shot and hit it into the penalty area.
Then in another Pro-Member, I watched Rickie Fowler and a major champion both hit good looking tee shots that didn't make it across the water. It's only 250 to carry, but into a heavy wind all three of those balls splashed.
The fairway is split by bunkers and trees in the middle of it, so you can choose to go right or left. The right side is the shorter side. The fairway is approximately 60 yards wide, but because there's water, bunkers and it's that long, it appears narrow from the tee. Once the players hit that part of the fairway, it's a long iron into a pretty ordinary green.
Hole No. 16 | Par 4 | 410 Yards
We like to think that 16, 17 and 18 are three of the finest finishing holes in the country. No. 16 is typically back into the wind. It's a dogleg right and with the correct wind conditions blowing in off the right side, it may be drivable. It's going to be hard to get it on the surface, but they can get it into a green side bunker. I expect that they'll pass on the dogleg and aim right at the green. But if they had to play straight away, they'd hit a long iron into the fairway and follow that up with a 9i or wedge. The green is severe, and they need to be careful. No. 16 could be a pivotal turning point in the match.
"You're posing, watching your shot land on the green. You pick up your tee smiling, and the caddie hands you a sand wedge."
Hole No. 17 | Par 3 | 185 Yards
No. 17 is a diabolical par 3. The wind will be off the ocean and it plays north-to-south. There's one option, you must hit it in the front-left quadrant of the green to make it stop. If your ball finishes on the putting surface, you feel like a rock star. It's only 175 yards, so these guys will be hitting mid- to short-irons, and they're obviously very good. But you can't lose concentration because it's a difficult shot.
This is one of our most photogenic holes, because you can see the beach and have a beautiful ocean view. Then you hit the tee shot and you're not always happy with the results. You're posing, watching your shot land on the green. You pick up your tee smiling, and the caddie hands you a sand wedge.
Hole No. 18 | Par 4 | 445 Yards
Both 17 and 18 play along the ocean and offer a pretty good ambiance as far as finishing holes go. No. 18 is a dogleg left and because the wind typically blows left-to-right off the ocean, it can be a bit of an awkward tee shot. I don't expect the 30 mph winds we see in the wintertime, and the wind is really what makes this hole challenging. It'll be another short-iron approach into a relatively flat green, but it's elevated. Once they get to the green, they'll find some subtle breaks even though it appears flat. I'm guessing they'll figure it out and we might see a birdie or two here.