Continuing through our process, most of my “first pass” favorites were also selected by the nominating committee. But a few were overlooked and worthy of mention. As is often the case, this week’s edition is prominently affected by topography.
St. Bonaventure ~ 472 yard Par 5
Alright, I took a little leeway with this one. As SBU is only a 9-hole offering, the 2nd also functions as the 11th hole. This is another great example of the 1/2 par hole, where a par can feel like a missed opportunity. At 472 yards and all downhill, length is not the primary factor in getting home in two. However, what makes this hole exciting is its continuous rightward bend around the Clubhouse, nearly forming a “C” shape.
In your “average” golf hole, hitting a fairway makes you consider “how far left or right of center can I hit this?” However, the best holes often feature angled drive zones, which provide an additional dimension to the game. The “center” of the fairway changes, depending on your intended line and drive distance.
On top of this, the ideal landing area is visually obscured by the large hill hosting the Clubhouse. Many students who have played an aggressive line have left their mark on the Clubhouse over the years. However, those who play safely away from the inside of the bend will often drive through the fairway into the far side evergreens. Throw in a hump-back fairway that kicks toward the outside trees, and this is one of the best driving challenges in the area.
Once on the fairway, the hole continues to dive gracefully to the right to the inviting green below. Some larger trees on the right may require you to shape your hybrid or long-iron for an eagle opportunity, but you can also unleash your creative side and punch a low runner onto the green. A truly fun Par 5 which provided years of enjoyment to me during my studies.
Sheridan ~ 331 yard Par 4
This one may fall into the “love/hate” category of holes, and I have certainly had my share of both over the years. This short par 4 features a decision to lay up short of a pond some 200 yards from the tee, or try the heroic carry to leave a simple pitch (or eagle putt for the bombers).
What makes this one even more interesting is the trade-off decisions within the lay-up strategy. The fairway features significant undulations, with the flattest lies closest to the pond. If you’re afraid to “cut it close,” and lay back 30 yards short of the water, you may face an approach with a ball a foot above or below your feet. Even after you navigate the watery hazard, three-putts are an omnipresent risk on this sloping green.
River Oaks ~ 409 yard Par 4
This Desmond Muirhead offering is a marked dogleg-left off the tee, before climbing to an elevated putting surface. The measured length of the hole presumes a most conservative route, and the temptation to shorten the hole by challenging the inside of the dogleg is ever-present. However, the penalty for failure (and hitting the neighborhood kids’ clubhouse) is a 2 stroke penalty and the opportunity to try again. Miss right, and the trees on the outside corner may preclude your approach. Again, the angled landing areas in the drive zone provide greater interest.
As always, an elevated green eliminates some visual reassurance, adding mental challenge to what may be a straightforward shot. In particular, the placement of the front and rear bunkers give a sliver-like appearance to the severely-sloped green. Missing above the pin often assures a three-putt.