Ace it like Fruithurst’s Stacy Williams did a year ago or birdie it like two players did during Friday’s first round, and one knows the feeling of temptation meeting reward.
Bounce one’s golf ball off the tree and wind up in a good spot, as three players did Friday, and one knows the feeling of temptation meeting relief.
Sky the ball across Highland Ave., as seven players did Friday, or leave it short of the hilltop green, like lots of others? Well, there’s a word for that, too.
“It’s a love-hate relationship, for sure,” said Sean Gillespie, of Orlando, Fla., after scoring a birdie on the hole. “Get a birdie, and you probably like the hole. Do any worse, and people definitely don’t like it.
“It’s a tough hole.”
ACC’s No. 16 — which is actually No. 9 but plays as No. 16 in the Sunny King — became a focus of this year’s tournament by finishing as the tourney’s most popular hole in The Anniston Star’s pre-tournament survey of players.
It also finished the voting as the second-least-popular hole, drawing almost as many least votes (16) as most votes (20).
“That hole, it’s a love-hate thing,” ACC pro Kevin Daugherty said. “People either love it or they hate it. I can see it being in the top three on both ends, love and hate.
“I feel better that it was also on the hate list.”
If one wonders how one hole can wind up on both sides of such a poll, well, picture the view from the tee box.
Resting next to the tee box is temptation No. 1, a car. Yes, this is a “car hole” for the Sunny King. Ace it, and win $20,000 toward a new car.
With that in mind, one stands about 150 yards away from the pin, which sits atop a hill so steep that one can’t see the green surface.
One can see temptation No. 2, a tent with volunteer witnesses, just in case one strikes glory with a hole-in-one.
Oh, and the 19th Hole bar and grill is there, and so is the next tee box. That tends to grow the gallery.
There’s a tree to the right, just down from the green.
Behind the green is an embankment, which runs down from Highland.
It all looks so inviting.
“It’s a different hole,” Daugherty said. “You see a lot of par-3s where the tee is elevated, and the green is way below you. This one is the opposite, where the tee sits down low and the green is really elevated.
“It makes it an all-or-nothing shot.”
Just aim for the ball washer, as most players do and Daugherty recommends. Take a chance on hitting a tad too far, because the embankments behind the green can save you.
“If you hit the green, you’re probably going to make par or birdie and move on,” Daugherty said. “If you miss the green, you’ve got issues.”
Lots of tee shots don’t quite make it up to the green. Of the first 44 players to play it Friday, only 18 hit up to the green.
“You’ve got about a 50-foot cliff just in front of the hole,” Gillespie said. “If you don’t get up there, it’s an automatic bogey, for sure.”
Yet others wind up across Highland. One player hit so far Friday that his ball clanged when it landed in the carport of the stone house.
Still others saw their ball roll down Highland.
Daugherty has seen even crazier things happen.
“I’ve seen windows busted on the 19 Hole,” Daugherty said. “That’s actually very rare, that a ball gets on the patio up there, but I have seen it happen.
“I’ve seen people bounce it off the building and it bouncing back and rolling down the green.”
Friday’s wildest shot hit the ball washer and bounced off a cart near the No. 17 tee box then rolled down the hill.
It happens to the best of them, and sometimes things turn out well.
“Garrett Burgess, the first time he won the (ACC) Invitational, about five years ago, he lands it in the road, and it bounces straight up,” Daugherty said. “It lands in the road, like, three times and ends up bouncing back onto the green about 8 feet from the hole.
“He made his par and went to win the tournament.”
Oh, did we mention that ACC No. 16 has a new twist this year.
Starting the day after last year’s Sunny King, Daugherty and crew went to work on making a two-tier green. Friday’s pin placement was near the back, on the top tier.
Daugherty said the change was designed to keep more balls on the green and allow for more possible pin placements.
“On the old green, the contours, the front half of the green sloped so much that we could not put a pin on the front half of the green,” Daugherty said.
Just one problem. Cooler-than-usual weather this past fall slowed the maturity of the grass.
“All of the other holes are in such good shape, but this one, the green is a little bumpy,” said Mike Ginn, of Anderson, S.C., who just missed a 10-foot birdie putt. “This green, you can tell it’s really young.”
That might explain why 36 foursomes came and went Friday with only two birdies, and both birdies required mulligan putts.
One belonged to Jacksonville’s Jeff Barnwell, who landed his 7-iron tee shot about 8 feet short of the hole, on the top tier.
He said he didn’t know about the green change until he walked up on it. As for the love-hate thing, count him in the love category.
“It’s a par-3, uphill, and there’s just the challenge of hitting it with people watching, even though it’s not Sunday,” he said, referring to the tourney’s final round. “Glad I got a birdie.”
Gillespie aimed his 8-iron tee shot for the back embankment, and his aim was true. His ball bounced then rolled back down to the green, about 10 feet from the cup.
He used his mulligan after getting a feel for the green.
“The putting green is a little slower,” he said, “so I put a little bit more on the putt and knocked it in there.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.