Course Applies a Finishing Touch


The 18th hole at Newport Beach Country Club has been home to several of the Toshiba Senior Classic’s most memorable moments.

It’s where Gary McCord and John Jacobs both made eagles during a thrilling 1999 playoff; where Hale Irwin made a birdie to cap a course-record 62 in the final round for a one-shot victory in 1998; and where Bob Murphy made an 18-foot birdie putt from off the green that extended his nine-hole playoff with Jay Sigel in 1997.

But now the competition’s final acts will be played out on a renovated stage.

Last spring, the 18th green was moved slightly to the left and elevated about 18 feet. It is now guarded by three large green-side bunkers and flanked by rolling mounds.


About 100 yards from the green, the fairway begins to slope down and two fairway bunkers were added 50 yards from the green.

The changes will prompt different strategies--and perhaps even more excitement.

In past years, even shorter hitters wailed away from the fairway trying to reach the 510-yard, par-5 hole in two shots. Balls that landed short ran along the fairway and still had a chance at making the green.

Not anymore. By elevating the green and adding the bunkers, designers made sure balls that land short will stay short, leaving tricky wedge shots.

“Longer hitters are still going to be able to reach the green in two,” said Paul Hahn, the club’s head professional. “But for the shorter hitters, the second shot is going to become more of a position shot.”

Defending champion Allen Doyle is among those waiting to see if the changes result in higher drama.

“Will it be quite as exciting if as many guys can’t get home? Maybe,” Doyle said. “. . . You do have a little bit of change there and you did have such excitement in years past that it will be interesting to see.”


Spectators will benefit from the renovation because the elevated green has produced an amphitheater-like setting, providing more--and better--viewing vantage points.

And there should be plenty of head scratching and talking between players and caddies.

The biggest decision will be made in the fairway after the tee shot. With bunkers 40 yards short of the green on either side of the fairway, a bunker in front of the green, and two bunkers behind the green, players won’t want to miss the green short or long. Slopes on either side of the green will leave difficult chip shots.

Golfers who opt to lay up will have to stay short of the 100-yard marker, where the fairway starts heading down.

“A downhill lie to an elevated green isn’t the best scenario,” Hahn said.

The decision to change the hole was made by the club’s members, who wanted to add more character and challenge to the course. They also decided to level some tee boxes.

Hahn said storms earlier this month wiped out six trees on the course. A vandal took down another.