The Sink Hole: chasing aces in Kentucky

  • Sink Hole
    Daniel Smith

    The Redan fourth hole on The Sink Hole at The Club at Olde Stone

  • Sink Hole
    Daniel Smith

    The undulating green on the nine-hole course’s opener

  • Sink Hole
    Daniel Smith

    Greenside slopes are in places designed to maximise the opportunities for a hole-in-one

  • Sink Hole
    Daniel Smith

    On the sixth hole, a putter might be the best club for the tee shot

  • Sink Hole
    Daniel Smith

    Holes range in length from 35 to 160 yards

  • Sink Hole
    Kevin Childers

    PGA Tour players such as Brooks Koepka (pictured) have tested out the new layout

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Jerry Lemons, a golf course architect and president of Golf Links Inc, has created a unique new nine-hole par-three layout, The Sink Hole, at The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

The club, which was developed by Jim ‘Scotty’ Scott in 2005, opened an Arthur Hills-designed course in 2006. But for some of the senior members of the club, and Scott himself, the 7,300+ yard design (which can in fact also be played from as little as 5,000 yards) can occasionally be too much of a challenge.

Scott decided he wanted to add a shorter, more playable layout to the property. In 2018, he purchased a 12-acre parcel of land located behind the club’s learning centre, close to the eleventh hole. Scott turned to Lemons to transform the site into something unique, which would take its name from the numerous sinkholes that feature on site.

“I had been a member at Olde Stone for about five years, so when they started talking about who was going to design the new par-three course, my name was the first one that came up,” said Lemons. “Scotty had given us the direction that he wanted a golf course that could be walked, was fun to play, and would have the opportunity for numerous holes in one. Within a 24-hour period, we had walked the property, completed a routing, staked it out, made some adjustments and gotten started.”

Georgia-based contractor Course Crafters began construction in November 2018 and completed work in May 2019. The club opened the new course in the first week of September 2019.

“From a construction and design process, it was a team effort by so many people, [golf course superintendent] Wyatt Warfel and his staff were particularly instrumental in building the golf course,” said Lemons. “We gave Course Crafters a blueprint concept and it evolved to become the most fun, exciting and creative golf course we could do on this little piece of property.”

The layout contains various elements from template holes, including a Biarritz green at the seventh, a fourth hole modelled on North Berwick’s Redan, and two greens with a Punchbowl feel. “The longest hole around 155-160 yards, while the shortest is number eight, which can be played from 35-45 yards,” said Lemons. “It was designed so that if you wanted to, you could use your putter from your very first shot. We were able to do lots of fun stuff here that you wouldn’t normally do on a typical golf course.

“All the greens are huge with a tremendous amount of undulation. They’re around eight or nine thousand square feet each. If you miss the green, you’ve hit a really bad shot!

“Because of how the fairways and hitting areas near the greens were shaped, you could literally drop a ball from the back of the previous green and play into the next green. There is so much flexibility. You can also play a little cross-country golf if the crowds are thin.”

“Initially, the vision was to help our juniors, ladies and older members as an outlet to play, given that the main course is quite challenging,” said Kevin Childers, the director of golf at the club. “However, the nine-hole layout has been enjoyed by everyone. There is always a fun atmosphere, we see a lot of family golf and a lot of new people to the game, which were a couple more reasons why it was built. It is such a special place… it is more than just nine little tee boxes and nine greens.”

“We see a lot of juniors and plenty of guys having a gamble, too,” said Warfel. “We’ve held some couples events, which were fun to see as they are always enjoyable.”

“It speaks volumes to the passion of the people that were part of the project and the short amount of time it took to build it, that the end result has been this special and amazing,” said Childers.

Expert coaching led by PGA Tour director of instruction Jeff Pierce brings a number of PGA Tour players to the club, including multiple Major winner Brooks Koepka, Scott Stallings, Harold Varner III, Tommy Gainey, Jason Kokrak and Sam Ryder. “When the nine-hole course first opened, Brooks was out there testing it and loving it,” said Lemons. “It has got a little bit of pedigree already.”

“I tell everyone of those guys before they show up on property that we have the best short game facility in the world now,” said Pierce. “It’s fun when you consider it as just a course, but when you think of it as 15 acres of any shot you can possibly imagine... there’s nothing we can’t simulate, from slopes at Augusta to bunkers at Sawgrass, we have everything they’ll ever see.”

Both Childers and Warfel say that “wow” and “amazing” are the reactions that they hear most often from members, guests and Tour players alike.

Olde Stone set out to track the number of holes-in-one that were being hit on the course. But Childers says they quickly gave up: “There are certain pin positions on those greens that warrant many opportunities for a hole-in-one.”