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Inside his Ontario home, Dan Croutch decided it was time to create something. He wasn’t sure what or how, but after seeing an advertisement of the Golden Tee Design-a-Hole Contest on Twitter, he thought maybe it was worth submitting an idea.
Before he crafted a hole that will be featured in Golden Tee 2017; before he won his very own Golden Tee Home Edition; Croutch got some of his inspiration from an unlikely place.
While he’s always enjoyed the game out in bars—playing his first game “a long time ago,”—more recently Croutch has been hooked to Golden Tee Mobile. “I love being able to play the game whenever I have a spare moment,” Croutch said, “right on my smartphone.”
As he worked on improving his game in this new realm—using his index finger rather than his palm—he began designing “The Knee,” a name that didn’t come until after his concept was complete.
The goal in mind was never to create a par-5 that looked like, well, a knee. Instead, as Croutch dove deep into the creation process and began putting the final touches on the idea, he noticed the resemblance.
“Once I had the tees and green, the rest of the design came together,” Croutch said. “It wasn't until I took a step back that I noticed it kind of looked like a bent leg.”
Part of the initial creation process was built around combating a design that would make both big and short hitters think about their shots. He began by crafting a green that would offer up just enough risk; not an island surrounded by water, but a shapely green with a bunker nearby and some slope to punish the shots that were slightly off.
From there, he built backward. He knew he wanted two fairways and some hazards in play. Nothing major, but the kind of small details that generate thought on every shot—the kind of hole that could fit on any course.
The big decision came when he approached the tee box and really the tee shot. This is where his thought process kicked into high gear.
“Golf design has become challenged by the power players have off the tee these days,” Croutch said, looking at the industry as a whole. “My inspiration was to create a hole that would present a challenge to long hitters, without leaving shorter hitters at a disadvantage.”
The two fairways on the design gives players options, depending on playing preference, tee box, wind and even pin placement.
The strategy here will change regularly: do you go for the second fairway, risking a shot in the water or sand? Or do you sit back and give yourself a shot into the green but perhaps a more difficult one?
That’s the question you will have to ask yourself this fall once “The Knee” is added to the 2017 rotation.
“There is a ton of risk versus reward,” Croutch added. “Laying up seems like a safer option, but there is still a lot of stream and bunker to get over, particularly if you want to have a close approach. It's a lot of course management before you even swing the club.”
At first glance, nothing about the design screams scorecard meltdown. If you want to play safe, smart and for birdie, you can do that without much issue. Even an attempt at eagle won’t necessarily mean a wildly crooked number.
There are ways to slop this up, without question, but it’s the subtleties of Croutch’s creation—the way one will have to tweak their approach, even if only slightly—round to round. That’s the sign of a truly great golf hole.
“The Knee” will now find its home in 2017, a decision the Golden Tee team is currently working toward. The process of recreating it in the game is already underway. Soon, Croutch’s design will be played by the masses facing a decision off the tee.
They will have to decide if the risk is worth the reward.
“It's still hard to put into words,” Croutch said. “I'm excited that my design will be in bars and arcades around the world played by hundreds of thousands of players. I can’t wait to see how they tackle it. I can't wait to play the hole myself. It's definitely something I'm proud of.”