He's seen the pictures and watched the videos but even they didn't adequately prepare Steve Carroll for when he came face-to-face with Royal St George's legendary trap
It actually frightens you from the tee. This imposing sandy scar is carved into the very heart of the dunes – but championship golf’s biggest bunker is even more intimidating when you’re stood right under it.
The Himalaya at Royal St George’s, that dominates in its home to the right of the fourth fairway, is the stuff of legends.
It’s a ‘coffin’ for the members and, sitting at about 230 off the tee for us mortals, it’s a cliched card-wrecker in the most obvious sense. But only when you get up close do you really understand how difficult it truly is.
I’ve seen the pictures in magazines and watched players flail about in it on YouTube. They do not – cannot – reflect the scale of the monster that awaits players as our NCG Top 100s Tour gets under way in magnificent fashion this week.
Standing at more than 40 feet deep, and 25-feet wide, people look like pinpricks from the bottom. Just check out the picture of NCG’s Alex Perry, no slouch in the height department at nearly six-foot-four but barely visible from the depths, and you’ll see what I mean.
There are no delusions of grandeur for those sucked into this golfing Venus Fly Trap. Escape must be the only thought and, yet, it is by no means assured. So look into your bag and resist every heroic thought your brain is offering. Pick out your most lofted club, give it your biggest swing, and pray.
Or dig a hole and bury your hopes.
This bunker’s genius, though, lies not only in the calamities that befall those who enter its surrounds. Try as you might to shut it out from the tee, there it is – a yawning chasm – and that feeling is there not just for the handicap hackers but for the professionals who really should send their tee shots soaring over its summit in search of the fabled Elysian Fields behind.
If this is the first time in a few years that you’ve cast eyes on a hazard that’s simultaneously decried as a circus act and hailed as an architectural marvel you’ll notice something different.
Once walled in by wooden sleepers, the slats adding another impregnable layer of defence, those artificial supports are gone.
“It’s not a gimmick anymore,” says Royal St George’s head greenkeeper Paul Larsen. “We’ve made it a proper natural dune bunker and it’s more in keeping with the golf course.”
‘Proper’ doesn’t adequately describe this masterpiece. It has spawned many imitations – one of which was the source of an April Fool’s joke that continues to catch out google watchers – but the original continues to be the best.
Be assured, if you ever tee it up at Royal St George’s, Himalaya will be waiting.
Have you faced Himalaya and prevailed, or did you come a cropper in this monstrous sand trap? Let me know how you got on in the comments, or tweet me your memories.
Royal St George’s is sold out on NCG Top 100s Tour. To view the rest of the schedule, and book your place at some of Britain’s finest golf courses, click here.
More from NCG Top 100 golf courses in England
Visit the NCG Top 100s homepage for more rankings, more opinion, more arguments, pods and blogs.