This older Robert Trent Jones design features many of the design ideas that made Mr. Jones famous. Aircraft Carrier/Runway tees. Solid par three's. Forcing the player to work the ball both ways. Mr. Jones takes heat in some circles due to his later work, much done by associates, but his earlier work where he was most involved is generally very high quality. That is certainly the case here.
Variety of Design: Very good. Great variety in yardage for all holes. Par three's range from well over 200 yards to 169 yards playing significantly downhill. Par five's from from the reachable sixth playing 485 yards to the fifteenth playing 634 yards. Par four's are also solid, ranging fron the 466 yards tenth to the 337 yard eighth. Directional variety is perfect at six right, six left, and six straight. The course also does a great job routing the course up and down the hills. The only negative is that all the par 3's play over water. 8 1/4 out of 10
Flow of the Course: This course does little to really invigorate the golfer on the front nine. The holes are solid, but there is just "something" missing. On the back, the course keeps plugging along, nothing bad, until one gets to the fifteenth tee. From there, the course builds to a very good finish. Fifteen is a very difficult long par 5, followed by a short par 3 to an island green. The view from the sixteenth tee of the green below the player and the seventeenth fairway spanning up the hill in the distance is extraordinary. From here the player is faced with two difficult par 4's to finish out the round. So the finish is top tier, but the rest of the course lacks a bit. 7 out of 10
Course Conditioning: The course was maintained very well. Played in mid-March on the winter rye overseeding, the fairways were solid throughout and not overly damp. The night before play, there had been a large rain storm pass over, but the course still played rather firm and fast. The greens were also as firm as could be expected given the rain and ran nicely fast and true. 7 1/4 out of 10, likely 1/2 point or so better in peak season
Ease of Walking: This course gets downgraded on walking due to the hilly nature of the site and also the small size of the site results in some odd transitions. But for a person of reasonable fitness, this course should not be difficult to walk. 6 out of 10
Atmosphere: Very good atmosphere here. The course is old and traditional and seeing horse drawn carriages on the way in gives it a slight boost. The reasonably high ranking of the course also does not hurt, being top 50 public according to Golf Digest. 4 1/2 out of 10
Total: 70 3/4
Holes to Note
Hole #1: Par 4, 402 yards
This hole is not an exceptionally difficult opener, but it's no cake walk either. The hole doglegs to the right and the player can choose either side of the fairway, depending on the second shot he desires. The play down the right side will leave a shorter approach over a greenside bunker while the play down the left will yeild a slightly longer shot but will open up a longer angle of the green and allow for a possible run-up shot, depending on conditions. Solid opening hole.
From the tee, the player may be tempted to go over the tall trees in the distance. While it would be possible to carry these trees, there is little value to be had in that with additional trees lining the fairway beyond that. The RTJ aircraft carrier tee is visible here.
This player chose to play down the right side for the shorter shot. The opening left of the bunker is visible and flat enough to accept running shots, should the player decide that is the best option for him.
Hole #2: Par 5, 498 yards
This hole gives the player a chance to make a birdie early in the round. 498 yards is very reachable even for modest hitters and with the hole doglegging to the right, some of that can be cut off. The best play for all golfers, going for the green in two or otherwise, is down the right side or the fairway.
From the tee, the player is again confronted by trees down the side of the fairway. The best play is to hit the tee shot as closely to them as possible and even perhaps attempt to fade the ball around the corner a bit.
In a perfect world, the golfer can end up here. This will leave roughly 200 yards to the green. As you can see, that is over water. The shot is also complicated by being played off a downhill lie. Players had better have full confidence in the shot before pulling the trigger here.
Hole #7: Par 3, 206 yards
Mr. Jones seems to have learned from his early partner, Stanley Thompson, how to work par three's into the routing. Mr. Thompson is known to have said he liked picking the par three sites first and working the course from there. That certainly seems to be what Mr. Jones did here. This is a fantastic par three playing over water, though the water should not come into play being 60 or 70 yards short of the green, to a generous green. Depending on the hole location, the player may be able to play conservatively towards the center of the green and fade or draw the ball either way in order to avoid the bunkers fronting the green.
Hole #12: Par 3, 188 yards
Another fantastic par 3. This one truly plays over the water out to a green and angles left to right away from the player. This hole simply gives the player limited options to make an aggressive play because poor execution will result in another shot over the water only slightly shorter than the one before.
Hole #15: Par 5, 634 yards
By far the longest par 5 on the course and the only one not reachable in two shots. Two bunkers flank the fairway in the landing area. From the tee, the player simply needs to hit the fairway. No attempt to the green in two shots is possible (even Bubba Watson would have great difficulty cover 634 yards in two shots) but the player will find himself at a significant disadvantage is playing his second shot from the rough. The second shot needs to be played down the right side of the fairway in order to open up the length of the green and take the green side bunkers out of play as much as possible.
From the tee, there is little that can not be seen. Simply play the tee shot down within the confines of the fairway and move along.
Obviously this player did not know how to play a shot to the fairway. From the bunker it becomes difficult to advance the ball down the fairway far enough to leave a short to mid-iron into the green.
This shot is coming into the green from the preferred angle, but from the rough. The two front greenside bunkers are visible here. This is a very difficult hole and the start to a difficult closing stretch.
Hole #16: Par 3, 169 yards
This hole is one of the earlier island green designs, being done before later designers turned the hole into a cliche. The green is large and well defended with bunkers. In truth, the bunkers likely as as much to save the player from finding the water with slight misses and hazards. This hole certainly allows the player to attempt something aggressive and make a birdie. The seventeenth hole works it's way up the hill in the center of the image below.
Hole #17: Par 4, 435 yards
From the tee, the hole does not appear to work uphill as much as was evident in the view from the sixteenth tee. The best play off the tee is up the right side of the fairway. The hills that are visible in the right side of the image below can be used as kick-slopes if the player desires. From the right side, the length of the green is open to the player. This hole will not give the player any breaks on the incoming stretch, he will need his best here.
From the tee, the green is visible in the distance and the hole looks decievingly flat. The best play is up the right, possibly using the hills to propel the tee shot forward.
Hole #18: Par 4, 444 yards
The closing hole here plays level off the tee then downhill to the green and doglegs significantly to the left. The player can choose to play right or left off the tee. The play to the left will open up the length of the green, but the green is not very wide and any shot missing the green left will quite likely result in a ball in the water. Playing right off the tee leaves the player with a longer approach to the green, but gives more directional cushioning.
From the tee, the fairway spreads out in front of the player nicely. He must choose between right or left depending on what he desires to leave for his second shot.
This player chose to play down the right side. From the right-center of the fairway, the green angles away from the player left to right and the steep hill long of the green will filter balls down to the pond between the green and clubhouse. Very solid closing hole with potential for great play and disaster.
Overall, this course gets off to an average start. Though the holes themselves are very solid, there is little flow, little excitement, early in the round. However, the stellar finish makes up for that somewhat and in the end you have a very, very solid golf course here. 6 out of 10.