Golden Ocala's replica holes might look familiar, but aren't set up quite like the Masters
OCALA, Florida – When the LPGA first came to Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club six years ago, only two of the eight tribute holes had (...)
OCALA, Florida – When the LPGA first came to Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club six years ago, only two of the eight tribute holes had held women’s championships in the past 25 years – or ever.
Since then, Royal Troon staged its first Women’s British Open last year and majors are scheduled for Muirfield (2022), the Old Course (2024) and Baltusrol (KPMG Women’s PGA 2023). And of course, Jennifer Kupcho made history in 2019 by winning the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Many players at this week’s LPGA Drive On point to No. 11 at Golden Ocala, patterned after No. 12 at Augusta National, as their favorite tribute hole.
“It’s so lifelike,” said Laura Davies. “I’ve only stood on it once playing. I’ve stood there many a time watching the guys, but it is so similar it’s frightening. It’s very frightening actually.”
Amen Corner certainly isn’t playing as short for LPGA players as it typically does for the men at the Masters. Many women are hitting 8-iron or 7-iron into the 11th, where the winds have been swirling. Still, it’s a step up from the 6-iron Danielle Kang had in during the practice round.
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“Even with a wedge in your hand you know you have to be very meticulous on what kind of shot you want to hit with the green falling off the front, left, and the right,” said Kang. “It’s just I want those things to be in play instead of just hitting to the middle and trying to two-putt and things like that.”
The par-5 12th (patterned after the 13th at Augusta) hasn’t been reachable for most either. Jennifer Kupcho famously stuffed a hybrid to 6 feet en route to her ANWA victory. She’s been laying up every day this week.
“It’s kind of hard with my length to go for it this week,” said Kupcho. “The area around the greens and the greens being so hard it’s really hard to justify chipping when I could hit a wedge shot.”
The par-3 sixth hole, patterned after the 16th at Augusta, certainly didn’t play like it normally does for the men, who typically hit wedge into a front hole location.
On Friday, the hole played 162 yards with a front hole location and the tees placed in the back. Lindy Duncan hit a soaring 7-iron pin-high downwind and watched it bound 40 feet past the hole on the firm Bermuda green. Many players in the field told a similar tale. Cheyenne Knight hit a 6-iron that she knew wouldn’t get close. It finished 63 feet past the hole.
Ashleigh Buhai counts Royal Troon as her favorite links course and the par-3 fourth, the Postage Stamp hole (No. 8 at Troon), as her favorite replica.
“I played it pretty well in Scotland,” said Buhai, “so I think the memories come back.
“It’s pretty similar. I mean, the green isn’t as severe and maybe plays a little bit longer and doesn’t run off as much on the right. It’s a little bit more forgiving, but on the eye it’s a very cool looking hole.”
The bunkers are more forgiving too, noted Buhai, who managed get up and down for par on Friday.
Other tribute holes include No. 5 (Muirfield No. 9), No. 13 (Old Course at St. Andrews No. 17), No. 14 (Old Course at St. Andrews No. 1) and No. 15 (Lower Course at Baltusrol No 4).
The only tribute hole that Nelly Korda has played so far in its original form is the Postage Stamp. She’ll see the rest soon enough.
“So really everything is going to be a replica of Ocala,” she said, laughing.