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Oak Park C.C. - 5th - 414 yards - par 4
Published in the 10/27/17 newsletter
Donald Ross is famous for maximizing the natural features on his design sites. One fine example can be found at Oak Park Country Club. At Oak Park, Ross built the fifth hole around a small, narrow creek to create one of his more memorable and interesting par 4s.
Off the tee players, the creek presents several options and questions because of its meandering nature. As you can see, the creek cuts diagonally across the fairway, before running down the left side and juts back across again. The creek forces you to decide to layup or go for it. The layup calls for about a 250 yard tee shot or shorter to setup a mid-iron approach to the green. From the back tee, it’s a 285 yard carry. As a result, the bold play over the creek is an option only for the long hitter.
Layup: Your ideal layup is up the left side. But the left-side layup isn’t riskless. If you leave your drive short or too-far to the left, you’ll run the risk of finding the water. A 245-265 yard shot on the left will yield an ideal angle to approach the elevated green and roughly 160-180 yards.
Playing safer to the right takes most of the risk out of the hole. But the right-side approach will yield a longer approach shot from a tough angle.
Going for it: Only a few can pull off this option (Chadd from Deer Park, JB Holmes, etc.). Going for it requires a 285 yard carry over the left part of the creek. The diagonal nature of the creek makes the carry longer the more right the tee shot ventures. The reward is a mere flip wedge. If you can pull off this drive, you’ll have an excellent birdie opportunity.
The green sits on a natural perch and rejects shots short. The green is very subtle with predominant slopes from back to front and left to right. Missing on the right side if much worse than left because of the natural land.
This creek plays a starring role at Oak Park CC's 5th hole even though it is merely 2 yards wide. In the Pro V1 era, most par 4s measuring around 400 yards require only a wedge approach. Ross' clever use of the creek ensures the integrity of the 5th remains, requiring a mid-iron approach for almost all.
Moraine C.C. - 7th - 326 yards - par 4
**Originally Published in 10/20/17 newsletter**
Located in Dayton, Ohio, Moraine is a Alex "Nipper" Campbell design that was recently masterfully restored by Keith Foster. The full review of Moraine will be out in the next week or so. You’ll have to wait to hear me rave about it, but as an appetizer let's take a deep dive on the short par 4 7th.
The 7th hole’s tee shot plays off of a massive ridge. The hole is much shorter than the listed 326 yards.
Meanwhile, the long option can yield eagle putts and tap in birdies with a good drive. It also carries the risk of finding one of the deep greenside bunkers that flank either side of the green or worse the surrounding fescue.
The green is long and narrow with a great deal of back to front slope. Keeping the ball below the hole is paramount and when the wind blows it’s a tough target to find.
The psychological impact of the 7th is spectacular. It tests a player's appetite for risk and reasoning. A layup shot with a mid to long iron will yield a wedge from the fairway with regularity. A scratch or better player will have a birdie putt 80-90% of the time if they lay up. Despite those convincing odds, the allure of the eagle putt is persuasive and can entice players to go for it. The aggressive play will yield more easy birdies but also brings disaster into play.
Sand Hills Golf Club - 18th - 467 yards - par 4
Sand Hills Golf Club is a course that tests a player's appetite for risk on every hole. It's final examination comes in dramatic fashion with the memorable long par 4 18th.
From the tee: Two 30' fairway bunkers rest on the left side of the hole and carry an intimidating presence. The fairway spans nearly 70 yards and gives players plenty of space but forces a decision, left or right. The heroic play up the left side yields a shorter approach with a better angle to the green. The safe play is up the right side but leads to a longer approach shot to a green that runs away from players. Miss a little too far right and a bunker or native grasses add another level of difficulty for timid play.
Approaching the green: Elevated high and above the fairway it's semi-blind nature brings added challenge. The green orients and rewards approach shots from the left side of the fairway. It also slopes from right to left, adding more reward for finding the left side. For every yard off the aggressive left line a player goes, the more difficult their approach shot becomes.
**Coore & Crenshaw created a similar hole, the 15th at Streamsong's Red Course.**