Springville Country Club is “that” course that folks pass by on their way to ski country. It used to receive more glances, before the 219 extension (what is it, 3 miles long?) was opened behind the fast food district, taking travelers on a different trajectory. Springville recognized a few flaws in its setup in the late 1980s and took steps to remedy them. Additional land north of the course was used to construct new 7th, 8th and 9th holes, allowing for the elimination of two holes on the front (old 4 and 5.) The old 13th and 14th were reworked, opening up vistas and utilizing slope properly, solidifying the integrity of the routing. Since the project was completed in-house, utilizing the talents of superintendent Roger Bugenhagen, more work could be done for less money. Unlike other unfortunate area renovations, this one turned out magnificently.
Holes 1-3: 392, 507 & 177
Since the back tees at SCC extend only to 6338 yards, we’ll use them as the baseline for this review. The first hole at Springville escapes a chute of trees and demands a precise, left-to-right trajectory if a short iron approach is desired. Too much length and through the fairway, into a pond, you go. The approach should favor the middle-left, as a bunker guards short right. A grass swale to the left complicates things, but either option is better than long. The putting surface is wide, with a variety of segments.
Getting the ball from one segment to another is challenging and reveals one of the strengths of this golf course. Hole #2 is a long march across the flattest part of the course. A bit of fairway undulation holds your attention, but this hole is a veritable playground for the longer hitter. The putting surface is protected on each side by sand and has a front-back spine that separates left from right side. Although not as tilted as the first green, this one punishes errant whacks while allowing putts to be made by the astute. The third hole is a somewhat-mundane par three, albeit in a canopied setting. It plays toward the middle of the golf course, to a well-protected putting surface. It takes a very good swing of the club to reach the green, a tilted little number that makes rolling the ball a challenge. Come to think of it, it’s not so mundane, after all!
Holes 4-6: 308, 405 & 414
The fourth hole at Springville is a throwback to another era. Two cross bunkers demand a well-struck drive of 230 yards to carry to the second half of the fairway. A layup leaves an 8 or 9 iron to the green, while a rip can chauffeur you all the way to the elevated putting surface.
A seeing-eye (elevated back) bunker protects the front left while a recessed (fairway level) sand pit guards the right. A precise (distance-wise) approach is demanded by this hole, as a short par four should. Number five plays fairly straight, along a bunker-less fairway, to a green that slope uniquely from front to back. Approach shots that come in hot will shoot off the back of the putting surface. Strategy is to take one less club, play to the front a lower shot and run it in. The sixth hole at Springville accepts a left to right tee shot, to take advantage of the slope. An approach from the left side of the fairway is ideal, to open up the view around the right, green-side pond. As with most putting surfaces at Springville, a running approach is an option, albeit only half as much on this hole. The smallish green banks back to front and offers a few interesting rolls.
Holes 7-9: 496, 149 & 424
The second three-shot hole on the course, as with its predecessor, is quite reachable in two. Before hitting your tee ball, take a moment to glance eastward, to take in the entirety of the valley. The view is a nice reminder of the topography from which Springville CC was carved. Back to the seventh. The par five nearly demands that you think about hitting the green in two; unless you can float a 200-yard approach in, over a pond, consider the lay-up. A drive that carries or skirts the right-side bunkers will bound down to a second fairway shelf, offering a terrific look at the putting surface. For a lay-up, the best angle in is from the left side of the fairway. The green resembles its predecessor, with spine (albeit without the bunkers.) The eighth is a fine par three that carries a wetland corridor. It plays with a middle to short iron, to a sizable green bunkered front left and back right.
The better trajectory of shot moves in from right to left. The ninth hole, a dogleg right, returns to the clubhouse in solid form. There is no viable shortcut, although the ideal play skirts the fairway bunkers on the inside (left) corner. After the challenging run of holes 5-7, the 8th and 9th rank anywhere from manageable to birdieable.
Holes 10-12: 359, 495 & 168
The play away from the clubhouse is more gentle than its front-nine counterpart. A long iron or hybrid will get you within short-iron range, while a driver will put a wedge into your hand for the approach. A large bunker obliterates the left-side drive zone, forcing play subtly to the right. Unfortunately, from the right side, the approach is more challenging, as the greenside bunker to port extends out into the entry zone. As with #1, a false front appears on the putting surface, creating the first of multiple quadrants on the green. Number 11 is the third reachable par five hole at Springville. In fact, it’s not until you reach the home hole that you encounter a true, three-shot hole. This recognition does not mean that #11 is a pushover. A creative dip in front of the green swallows any less-than-perfectly judged-and-executed approach. The green is surrounded by bunkers, backed by a tree-filled hollow and guarded by sentinel trees. The putting surface is not large and is no less wicked than others. Nuanced slopes reveal themselves after your first putt goes astray. The change from the subtle 11th to the dramatic 12th is astonishing. A drop-shot par three that plays 1-2 clubs less than its yardage, 12 is one of four holes that play east-west. Its green is the narrowest on the course, is protected by sand on both sides and a massive chasm on the right.
As the ball rises toward its apex, preceding its hopeful descent toward the target, it’s had to not feel a sense of breathless awe. Enjoy this hole.
Holes 13-15: 427, 180 & 352
The new thirteenth hole offered the greatest improvement on the course, and that’s saying a lot. While the 90-degree fourth and the claustrophobic fifth were wisely abandoned, the 13th was characterized by a pair of unavoidable trees, a magnetic pond, more chasm and a nearly-unhittable green. In other words, it was a par five that imagined itself Attila the Hun. In its place is a proper dogleg left, a strong two-shot hole, with an interesting green sighted at the end of the fairway. The 14th hole is an uphill par three, angled differently from its predecessor, with a dynamic view of the retired Chesapeake and Ohio Railway train trestle over Zoar valley.
The hole demands a true mid to long iron shot from the tips, to a two-tiered putting surface again marked by bunkers and a bit of a false front. Number 15 is reminiscent of #4, a short and straight par four. Replacing the cross bunkers is the uphill aspect; the challenge comes in hitting the additional club up the rise, past the whale-sized bunker on the front left, to a green that sits deeper than anticipated. Fifteen is the type of hole that often leaves experienced golfers scratching their heads, wondering how they made bogey on a wee two-shotter.
Holes 16-18: 342, 196 & 547
The 16th hole is a memorable anti-penultimate hole. The drive does one of two things: lays up to a point 240 off the tee and 100 yards above the dell green; or gambles and goes longer, challenging the green in one, Bunyanesque strike. The green is nearly as narrow as the neighboring 12th and sits at an angle to the approach zone.
This corner of the course contains the two most memorable holes. Number 17 is the third of the flat-zone par threes (#12 being the exception.) It demands the longest club of the one-shotters and is played between greenside bunkers (there is a pathway that leads a runner to the putting surface.) Eighteen, the home hole, is a fairly-benign, dogleg left that demands three solid strikes to reach the green. The drive zone is pinched by four bunkers and a rogue sand pit obstructs passers-by some forty yards short on the right. The fairway is wide enough to forgive a bit of carelessness on both the drive and the approach, but the third (to the green) needs to be more precise.
Holes 19: 198
Unlike other area courses, Springville has a true 19th hole. The original course configuration ended on a par three and the wise renovators opted to keep the one-shotter as a tie breaker. It’s a challenging little hole where par usually wins the bet.