Chevron Championship’s new layout – and pond jump – more daunting
Poppie’s Pond lives! Well, kind of.
The traditional champion’s pond leap was believed to be a thing of the past when news broke that the Chevron Championship would change venues this year, moving from its longtime former home of Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs, California, to its new permanent digs at The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas.
But come Sunday, the newest Chevron winner will still have the option to jump.
The club recently dredged a portion of the large lake that sits just off the 18th green at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course, between the ninth and 18th holes. According to someone with knowledge of the work, the area used to only be a few feet deep, and the removal process added some depth while cleaning out weeds, rocks and surprisingly a lot of construction debris, from concrete to metal. A small dock and ladder also were installed, as was some netting to help keep wildlife, mainly alligators, out – though gators aren’t as prevalent that far north compared to parts of the Houston area closer to the Gulf of Mexico.
Still, a potential plunge into murky lake water, though much safer now, will be a stark contrast from the manmade pool at Mission Hills.
“I’m not really sure,” defending Chevron champ Jennifer Kupcho said when asked if she’d make the jump should she successfully defend. “I think there might be snakes in the water here, so might be a little interesting.”
Nelly Korda, who is from Florida, seemed a little braver: “Hopefully. We’ll see. But yes, I would.”
Added Lydia Ko: “If that happens, it’s definitely a good worry to see if you all can fit on the deck. ... The water is natural, so it’s a little dirtier.”
Here’s a look at the new 18th hole at the Chevron Championship and the dock constructed should a player decide to make the celebratory jump into the water. I’m told the water has been dredged and pylons have been submerged about 50 feet out with gator netting to protect the area. pic.twitter.com/cEgBdjPhL1— Amy Rogers (@TheAmyRogers) April 18, 2023
Aside from the risk-reward 19th hole, the other 18 holes, designed by Jack Nicklaus, couldn’t be more different, Korda says, than Pete Dye’s Dinah Shore course.
“I can’t compare the two,” Korda said.
For one, the Nicklaus Course, which hosted the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur won by Will Zalatoris, will play much longer: 6,824 yards, up from last year’s highest played yardage of 6,751 yards at about 400 feet more elevation and with no humidity.
“It’s really long, I would say,” Kupcho said. “In the desert, we were hitting pretty short clubs in, all of the par 5s were reachable. Most of them are reachable out here, but I think we’re going to have a lot of long irons into the par 4s, and the greens are definitely a lot trickier versus in the desert they were pretty flat and pretty easy.”
Korda noted that water is more in play around the Nicklaus, which is decidedly harder off the tee. Said Ko, comparing it to a U.S. Open layout: “I thought I was going to run out of balls before my [practice] round ended.” Georgia Hall, who called the Nicklaus “a better golf course,” added that the change to Bermudagrass will have the biggest impact on the greens, especially from a grain standpoint.
“You have to think a little bit more around this golf course,” Hall said. “You can’t really relax on any hole because there’s always something about a hole that’s very different. Just mostly on the greens, in Palm Springs I thought it was quite simple to read the greens, no grain at all, but now we have the grain, I heard it’s going to be a little bit windy, as well, and a lot of factors come into play.”
The same could probably be said of the new jump into Poppie’s Pond.
“I don’t know if anyone is going to jump in that lake,” Hall said, “but we’ll see.”