The outcome of the SMBC Singapore Open could hinge on the 18th at Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong Course, one of the most deceptive and decisive finishing holes in championship golf.
Past tournaments have been decided on the par-five hole and Andrew Johnston, General Manager/Director of Agronomy at Sentosa Golf Club, believes that could be the case again when the SMBC Singapore Open returns from January 28-31 after a three-year absence.
“The 18th is a special golf hole,” he said. “Serapong is one of those great golf courses that almost every hole is a signature hole. Every one of them has its own personality in so many ways and is memorable. You do not forget any one of them.
(When I think of) the 18th – so many things go through my mind. I think about Angel Cabrera hitting his 400-yard tee shot and that six iron from 200 metres – can you believe it, 200 metres – to go up on top of Vijay Singh and win in 2007.
“I think about (three-time winner) Adam Scott making some of his victory putts there. Ian Poulter bringing home his championship there.
“The 18th is a very deceptive golf hole, because from the tee it looks big and it is big but once you get up onto that first landing area and you are looking at your next opportunity to the green, it looks as if there is nowhere to hit your second shot because of the bunkering.
“Although there is tons of room up there it is very deceptive. And it is one of those golf holes you know if you hit the right tee shot, you have an opportunity to get there in two.
“And if you get there in two then you have the chance to get that eagle and (possibly) a two-shot swing. That is a huge deal, especially on the finishing hole.”
The Singapore Open was staged at Sentosa Golf Club from 2005 to 2012 and Johnston said that by and large the players will find similar conditions to those years.
“They can expect the same Sentosa Golf Club that they always see. Fast greens, firm and hard, great conditions, firm bunkers,” he said.
“We are really excited about the event coming back. They can expect what they saw the last time they were here.
“We have made a couple of updates, a couple of changes to the golf course. So there will be some small surprises but for the most part it is the same Serapong that it is known for.”
He added that the biggest difference players will notice is the new tee complex on the third hole.
“Since 2012 we have added a few lobes in a couple of bunkers and softened a couple up. The sixth hole, in 2012 we played it for the first time as a redesigned golf hole. And the bunkering in the fairway, we have softened it slightly,” he said.
“But the biggest change, the best thing we have done, is we have restructured the tee complex on the third hole.
“The third hole now has a much longer championship tee. As big as the Serapong is, it is still limited with the driver. There is still only five or six holes where the guys can take their driver out. So the third hole was one of those places where we could pull the tee back a little bit and put a driver back in their hands.
“First it depends on how it gets set up for the event. Because now we have lots of options, there are seven tee complexes on that hole now. We can shorten it up or we can take it all the way back, there is a lot of options on how it sets up.
“It is a dog leg left but the landing area is that elevated landing area and then that long downhill slope to the green. With the tee up, the guys were hitting a much smaller club because you have to stop the ball up on that upper layer.
“With this new tee now they have the chance to put the driver back in their hands. Or they could use a hybrid or three wood – depends on really where they want to land the ball and use that strategic play on that next shot in.”