This column runs in the Saturday Golf Guide. We’d love to hear what some of your favorite holes are from area courses. The best responses will be used on an upcoming edition of our Sunday Game Plan section.
I must admit I’m a grip-and-rip kind of guy. Hitting a tee shot on the screws and seeing the golf ball wind up in the middle of the fairway well past the shots of your playing partners is an adrenalin rush.
It can be deflating, as well, when you get outdriven.
But it’s all part of the game.
I know our local professionals and golf instructors will remind me it’s best to “drive for show and putt for dough.” And I know they’re correct. Success in the short game, especially if you’re deft around the greens, is how you score low.
Still, there is no more sacred club in my bag than my driver.
With that in mind, it should be no surprise many of my favorite holes to play on area courses are par-5s.
I like holes that challenge you, make you think and make you take risks.
These are the holes that have humbled me — don’t ask for my scores, some of those I’ll take to the grave — and the ones I’m ready to be challenged by again.
No. 5 — Par 5, 429 yards
To score low, you better go long.
On the shortest of Westview’s three par-5s, strategy comes into play on your second shot. Needing to carry an 80-yard wide lake that fronts the green, you must decide whether to go for the green or layup.
That depends on how well you hit your drive.
Leave it in the fairway and no more than 200 yards out and the decision is simple — go for it. Miss right and trees will block your angle to the green. Miss left and you’ll be hitting out of thick rough. That makes laying up and playing for birdie or par more reasonable.
It all depends on how low you want to go.
Arrowhead Heights, Camp Point
No. 11 — Par 4, 406 yards
It’s the ultimate risk vs. reward hole.
Set up as a dogleg right, the hole plays almost like a horseshoe with a high bank on the left side of the fairway to keep your ball in play. A good drive typically leaves you a mid-range iron to the green.
Here’s the catch.
Anyone believing they are long enough off the tee can take a shot at the green. By adjusting your stance, you create a straight shot at the green. By doing that, though, you have to carry a finger of water and several rows of small trees.
There’s the risk. The reward, if you clear the hazards, is you might carry to the green or at least be within a chip shot of the hole. That makes birdie always possible.
So, do you have the guts to try it?
Spring Lake Country Club
No. 1 — Par 4, 283 yards
One of the most aesthetically pleasing holes you will find.
You tee off with a flower-filled bank in the background and the club’s signature fountain flowing to your left. The fairway is wide enough and deep enough that most tee shots leave you with an angle to attack the green.
Just don’t snap hook your tee shot into the parking lot and through the back windshield of a Honda. Ben Marth can tell you it’s tough to get up and down from there.
With a creek running in front of the green and the road to the clubhouse behind it, you have to be precise with your approach shot. If you miss the green long, you’ll be left with a tricky chip shot that runs away from the hole.
It’s the definition of picture perfect.
Quincy Country Club
No. 13 — Par 3, 114 yards
The shorter, the easier, right?
Not in this case.
With four bunkers surrounding the green and a creek running in front of it, the hole demands accuracy with your short iron or pitching wedge. With bushes and hazards behind the green, there is little margin for error.
The challenge is to not be intimidated by the surroundings. If you stay focused on your swing, and not the hazards you could wind up in, sticking the tee shot and netting a par is possible.
No. 10 — Par 4, 374 yards
Here is where accuracy takes precedence over length.
From an elevated tee, the hole is hidden behind a treeline. To attack it, you need to drop your tee shot into the bottleneck of the fairway, which cuts through the woods. It will leave you a short iron to an elevated green that is fronted by a deep ravine.
Miss left and you take the green out of play on your second shot. Miss right and you can still find the short grass, but you’re left with a more challenge long iron shot.
Regardless of where you play your second shot from, judging distance is critical. With a green that slopes slightly back toward the ravine, you need to play your ball far enough back on the green to get a decent roll on the putt.
Three Pines, Ewing
No. 9 — Par 3, 123 yards
No hole in the region is probably more hated or more loved. It’s certainly the most talked about. And typically, the question asked when you finish a round on the nine-hole course is, “How many balls did you lose on No. 9?”
The infamous island green has humbled some of the best golfers and made weekend warriors feel like pros. Others just get plain lucky to have their ball ricochet off a railroad tie and wind up on the green.
Trust me, it does happen.
It’s the perfect hole to end your round because the elation or aggravation it creates makes you want to call it a day.
Mosswood Meadows, Monroe City
No. 8 — Par 5, 490 yards
The tee shot is everything.
Facing a row of trees about 40 yards in front of the tee box, you have two options. Pound the ball through the gap like the hole is designed for, or carry your drive over the trees and play it up the right side of the fairway.
Either way, there are hazards.
By shooting the gap, you’re bound to leave yourself a lengthy second shot, taking eagle out of play. By carrying the trees, you bring the bunkers on the right side of the fairway into play. Avoid trouble off the tee and you still have a crowned green to deal with, making it one of the tougher holes to score on.
Deer Run, Hamilton
No. 16 — Par 4, 362 yards
The back nine at the Hamilton course has some uniquely challenging holes, like No. 13 — the only par-5 in the area where hitting driver off the tee is discouraged. Yet, no hole values shot-making like No. 16.
A slight dogleg right keeps the green out of sight off the tee and forces you to play a slight fade to avoid hitting into the pine trees than line the left side of the fairway. Trees to the immediate right keep you from trying to cut the corner and go straight for the green.
A shallow creek runs in front of the green, meaning you can’t run a worm burner close. You need to get some height with your approach shot if you want to score low.
Jackson Park, Palmyra
No. 2 — Par 5, 477 yards
Play this hole enough and you’re bound to see someone walking on the far side of the railroad tracks in search of an errant tee shot. It might even be you.
It has been me.
The tracks run down the left side of the hole, which curves like a banana from tee to green. But with room to bail out to the right, keeping the ball in play isn’t always an issue. Attacking the green can be.
With mounds surrounding the green, don’t expect your ball to get on a roll and trickle its way to the putting surface. You have to be accurate, although if you miss long, you should be able to get up and down.