tee shot? Try Baywood's 14th
BY BRAD MYERS / The News Journal
LONG NECK -- It wasn't designed this way in the original plans.
It was changed by a guy who is not a golfer, a guy who admits: "Honestly,
I didn't know what I was doing."
But what Rob Tunnell did to the 14th hole at Baywood Greens Golf
Course has made for one of the most memorable holes anywhere.
He created the scariest tee shot in Delaware.
Many island greens popped up on new courses after the 17th hole
at the TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla., received so much attention
on television in the early 1980s. But the 14th at Baywood Greens
has a rarity -- an island fairway.
Take away the water, and it's not a hard shot. The island is 40
yards wide and 90 yards deep. The distance to the island ranges
from 99 yards from the women's tee to 181 yards from the championship
tee, so it's not too far.
"You should be able to make it with any kind of decent swing,"
said Brian Barrows, Baywood Greens' head professional.
But Barrows is a pro. He makes a decent swing every time. We wanted
to see how the average golfer fares, so we parked a cart on the
14th tee on a Friday morning and watched eight foursomes play through.
The bottom line: 18 tee shots found land, 14 found water.
The reactions ranged from nonchalance to relief to disappointment
to rage. But everyone left with a memory.
Art Serody of Mars, Pa., found the island with a 3-wood.
"I'm pretty happy about it," he said. "I wasn't very
comfortable standing over that ball, looking out at all that water."
As Serody was speaking, playing partner John Lechmanik of Arlington,
Va., was flailing his arms wildly after dribbling a 3-wood off the
tee into the water.
"It's a hard shot," Serody said. "And playing with
this guy doesn't make it any easier."
Dave Diefenderfer of Newark was waving the white flag as soon as
he pulled up to the tee.
"I'm just going to start up at the drop area and hit my third
shot from there," he said. "That way you don't lose a
For the cautious, there is a generous fairway to the right that
allows golfers to avoid playing to the island. Not that anybody
2 to 3 percent at the most go to the right," Barrows said.
"I'd be surprised if anyone does it."
Not with your friends watching. Rick Wilson of Ellicott City, Md.,
couldn't believe Diefenderfer's approach.
"You going for the island?" he said. "Oh yeah, you
got to go for the island. C'mon!"
Diefenderfer's 3-wood landed safely. He would be hitting his second
shot from the fairway.
The next group up was the only foursome we witnessed to land all
four tee shots safely on the island. But Steve Smith of York, Pa.,
picked up a new nickname when his low 5-wood shot skipped across
the water and stopped in the fairway. From now on, his golf buddies
will call him "Skippy."
Ann Feldman of Hollywood, Fla., was on vacation and playing the
hole for the third time in a week. She took the safe route to the
right the first two times, but decided to go for the island after
her husband, Barry Schulman, told her she could take a mulligan
if she didn't make it. She made it.
Schulman, however, wasn't as fortunate. He pumped two 3-irons into
the water before going to the drop area.
"It was the right shot," he said. "I just hit it
fat both times."
Feldman and Schulman are typical Baywood Greens customers, players
from far away who have rarely played the course. This is a resort
area, not far from the beaches, and that is one of the things Tunnell
had in mind when he designed the hole and the course.
"It was just purely aesthetics," Tunnell said. "A
lot of the things we did were to make the course pretty, make it
different and memorable."
Tunnell, managing partner of the Tunnell Companies, wanted to build
a golf course to enhance the value of a community he was developing.
Architect Bill Love drew up what Tunnell called an "initial
But Love left the project, and Tunnell decided to make some changes.
He was not a golfer, but it was his money, his land and his bulldozers.
He could do what we wanted.
"We started off real conservatively," Tunnell said. "The
first hole is exactly what the plans said. But I changed the second
hole to add more water, and we just went from there. I love water,
and we needed dirt to build the golf course."
That's what created the 14th hole. The original plans called for
no water on the hole. But during construction, head shaper Larry
DeWitt -- another nongolfer -- told Tunnell he needed more dirt.
"We decided to dig a lake in front of the 14th tee to give
us more dirt to build the rest of the course," Tunnell said.
"I bought every golf magazine and book on golf design I could
find. I couldn't really find any holes like this, but this is what
we came up with."
The hole is a hit with Paul Lovett of Wilmington, who found the
island safely with a driver. Lovett plays the course five or six
times a year, and estimates he gets across about 40 percent of the
time. But one thing he never does is play to the right to avoid
"Go to the right? No way," Lovett said. "That makes
it play a lot longer, and it's fun to see if you can make it."
There is a drop area on the island, allowing golfers to hit their
third shots from the fairway if a tee shot gets wet. That was the
option facing Lovett's playing partner, Jack Messer of Bethlehem,
Pa., after his driver drifted right into the water.
"This is my least favorite hole," Messer said. He didn't
appear to be kidding.
Allen Long of Pittsburgh pulled a 5-iron into the water left of
the island, and quickly took full responsibility.
"That wasn't the hole's fault," Long said. "That
was the golfer's fault."
Tunnell said the hole has been played about 175,000 times since
opening in 2000. If our statistical sampling is accurate, that would
mean about 76,000 balls have been hit into the water. That's a lot
But Tunnell has the best one. When he asked his wife, Sherri, to
marry him in 2001, she wanted the ceremony to be held on the island.
The wedding was scheduled for Aug. 4, a Saturday afternoon in the
peak golf season.
"I didn't want to tell her this, but there was no way I was
going to close the course then," Tunnell said. "I was
thinking about all the revenue we would lose."
So golfers continued to play, even as a large tent was erected on
"We thought that people would see the tent and play to the
right that day, but they didn't," Tunnell said. "They
kept hitting onto the island, even with the tent there.
"But during the ceremony, we had a marshal go to the 14th tee
and make sure nobody hit onto the island. They had to play to the
right while we were getting married."
What a disappointment that must have been for the golfers. Because
you never want to pass up a shot at the island.