Tryall Club’s Five Closing Holes Once Again Likely to Upset Several Contenders in the 56th Jamaica Open
Any golfer competing for the first time in the Jamaica Open Golf Championship now through October 31, at spectacular Tryall Club just outside Montego Bay, would be well advised to listen to those in the know about the unpredictability of the course’s closing holes.
The stunning 18-hole, 6,836-yard layout at Tryall was designed in 1958 by the renowned Texan golf course architect Ralph Plummer and it superbly combines the island’s hilly terrain with other natural elements for a unique golfing experience.
While Tryall offers a challenging and memorable experience for golfers of all skill levels, its five closing holes are deceptively difficult and are all too often decisive in determining the eventual winner of the Jamaica Open.
“There are fine margins between scoring well here and not scoring well at all,” said Ewan Peebles, the Director of Golf at Tryall Club.
“The first 13 holes are high-caliber golf holes and very, very gettable. The last five holes are all par-4s and they are all demanding. There are some elevation changes, some swirling winds and a bunch of other things going on. Several players at the Jamaica Open who have got it to five, six, seven or even eight under after 13 holes don’t break par on those last five holes. They may not necessarily look like 430, 440 or even 450-yard par-4s, but you’ve got to play your absolute best golf of the round on those last five holes to carry a good score into the clubhouse. And if you happen to play those holes very well, you are overtaking people left, right and center. Last year in particular provided a very interesting finish to the tournament between the defending champion Michael McGuire and the guy who actually won it, Patrick Cover.”
Cover won the tournament in 2022 for the second time in his young career, firing a 2-under 70 in the final round to win by four strokes over compatriot Josh Anderson. Maguire, the 2021 champion, ended up a further shot back in third after closing with 68. Cover had previously finished top in 2019, the first year that the Jamaica Open was held at Tryall Club. Anderson has vivid memories of last year’s tournament finish.
“Michael made triple on 17 and that’s the only reason I got into second,” said Anderson, who signed off with a sizzling 65 last year. “Michael was right there in the mix chasing down … but I played very well down the stretch. I was trying to post a number just to see. I think I was like two or three back when I posted that 65, and then I had to wait it out. You just don’t know what’s going to happen coming down that stretch. If you hit a bad shot, you could make a double or a triple quick on 17 or 18 if you’re not careful. With the crosswind, you can hit out right.”
Anderson totally agrees with Peebles’ assessment of the closing five holes being deceptively difficult. “I think the golf course is very scoreable for the first 12 holes but coming in it’s so wind dependent and a lot of the holes coming in are dead across or into the wind,” said Anderson. “That’s the big challenge – with the wind and some narrow tee shots – so you’ve really got to be controlling your golf ball with the wind, which is always the most challenging thing in golf. When there’s wind and what-not involved, controlling the spin and the flight. I definitely agree with that statement.”
Asked which was the trickiest hole on that closing stretch, Anderson replied: “It’s a toss-up between 17 and probably 15. Fifteen is the hardest hole because it’s a tough tee shot and it’s dead into the wind. I personally can’t really hit driver there because the further down you hit it, the narrower it gets because there’s a basic landing area. Especially this year, they have the fairways really pinched in, and the rough is brutal this year. It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays but I think 15 probably the hardest hole.
“Seventeen is difficult because it does get narrow the farther you hit it, but if you lay it back, the green is very tiny and you don’t want to have, in my opinion, more than 160 (yards) into that green into the wind. You’ve got to position the right spot. You can have a putt on that green and not two-putt so you kind of want less yardage and have more control so therefore you’ve got to kind of push it down and challenge the dead-cross wind off the ocean.”
Scott Summy, the owner of the Jamaica Open’s presenting sponsor Aqua Bay Club, is also aware of how tricky the closing stretch can be at Tryall. One thing he looks forward to every year is asking the winner how he navigated the challenging layout, knowing full well that he is likely to get a wide range of answers.
“I am part of the trophy presentation so each year I try to spend a little time with the player who wins it and I have a certain set of questions that I ask,” said Summy. “What was your strategy this week? What made the difference in you winning this week versus others? And it’s great because one year somebody will tell me, ‘I bombed my driver and everyone else was hitting irons and three-woods off the tee to try to control it and I just let it loose because I really controlled my driver well and I had a lot of wedges in because I hit the driver so well.’ And then the next year, the guy that wins tells me, ‘I stayed away from my driver. The worst thing you want to do on this course is hit a driver. I hit my three-iron and my fairway wood or my three-wood off the tee and that helped me win.’ When you’ve got that kind of input that’s totally opposite of the other, that to me tells me you have a great championship golf course on your hands because there are different ways to attack it.”