Forget Pete Dye. Forget Robert Trent Jones Jr. A bogey golfer
named Steve Richardson has designed the toughest golf hole in
America. Devil's Island, as the hole is called, is Richardson's
contribution to the old saw about golf's being 90% mental, 10%
Devil's Island is a narrow, comma-shaped dogleg left culminating
in a bridged island green reminiscent of the 17th green at the
TPC at Sawgrass. From the blue tees it measures 11 inches.
You will be, should you order this latest offering from
Richardson's company, Stave Puzzles of Norwich, Vt., which makes
beautiful, difficult and expensive jigsaw puzzles. For a greens
fee of $895, you'll receive a box containing 225 hand-cut
mahogany-backed puzzle pieces, including four stand-up palm
trees and Stave's signature clown, who is holding the flagstick
to a mystery cup you must discover to master this truly devilish
Be forewarned: A 220-yard carry over water will seem like a chip
shot compared to this tabletop teaser titled Hole-in-One, for
the layout is one of Stave's so-called two-way trick designs.
You'll struggle for hours assembling the fairway, rough and sand
traps, the confoundingly similar blue water pieces and the tiny
island green that is connected to the mainland by a
three-dimensional arched bridge.
Then the real sport begins.
Each puzzle includes a sleeve of Titleist golf balls bearing an
image of the Stave clown, and a handful of tees inscribed STAVE
PUZZLES--GUARAN-TEE-D TO DRIVE YOU BUNKERS. The challenge
appears on a plaque inside the box: "Can you get the Stave golf
ball to fit in the hole on the island green?" Trouble is, there
is no hole on the island green.
"I called this Devil's Island because puzzlers will be
imprisoned by conventional thinking," says Richardson. "To
unlock the cell door, so to speak, you've got to make a leap of
faith." Richardson mischievously refers to himself as Chief
Tormentor in his mail-order catalog and in letters to his
happily frustrated customers.
Golf lovers interested in less mentally punishing designs can
select one of Stave's more conventional--but still
challenging--puzzles. These include versions of such famous
holes as the par-3 16th at Cypress Point, the par-3 7th at
Pebble Beach and the 11th hole at Augusta, and of two imaginary
layouts: St. Duffer's Golf Club and Lighthouse Links. These
larger puzzles range in size from 430 to 1,000 pieces (the
largest are 20" x 25" when assembled) and cost from $1,430 to
$2,595. They also feature such unkind cuts as stack cutting
(slicing multiple layers with the same pattern, which means that
any number of pieces might have more than one mate), split
corners, false edges and so-called double-whammy pieces:
adjacent, noninterlocking edge pieces held together by a third
Those willing to tee off into the unknown will want to ace
Devil's Island by successfully reconfiguring its trick fairway,
trick green and trick water sections. Don't expect much
caddielike advice here other than to replace your divots
carefully. As always Richardson will dole out tips to desperate
hackers, and he promises something more substantive than "Keep
your head down."
The author completed "Hole-in-One" in the time it takes to play
two conventional rounds of golf.
COLOR PHOTO: RICK FRIEDMAN Finding the cup is the key to unlocking Devil's Island, says Stave founder and designer Richardson. [Steve Richardson placing golf ball on tee in puzzle]