Course keeps you thinking, challenges shot-making ability
Your first decision comes before your first swing.
Hole No. 1 is a 277-yard par 4. There are a series of bunkers left, trouble right, a pond in front of the green and a creek behind the putting surface. And the green is just a tad bigger than your kitchen table.
Move on to No. 3. Elevated tee box, hard dog-leg left, creek just beyond a fairly tiny green. The distance is 339 yards, but it’s potentially reachable because of the elevation change and distance saved by carrying a brush-covered hill.
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“People try to get it close, but it’s a tight shot,” pro Matt Ennis said. “Not many try it. You have to hit it almost perfectly and you have to hit it so high to a small area.”
Quail Hollow is a unique blend of holes that brings the golfer’s decision making into play. The front nine is almost two different courses. The first five holes are for shot makers who put away the driver and can determine correct yardages and targets. On the final four holes, the terrain is fairly wide open and forgiving and driver becomes a realistic option.
The course was designed in the 1970s by Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge, and opened under the name “Shamana.” Ennis remembers it well.
“When it first opened I was a junior golfer and it was kind of an upper-end course,” Ennis said. “All that sage brush on the hillsides was just off the fairway so if you hit it off the fairway it was gone. Super challenging.
“Over time we went through some changes and it’s much more playable. Several holes were changed so people could get around in 4½ hours.”
Getting it around still requires a great deal of thought and execution. It’s less than 6,350 yards from the tips, but it’s not the kind of course you try to overpower.
“It’s target oriented, the greens are small with a lot of slope,” Ennis said. “A lot of people who first play it love to play it again so they know where to hit it. We’re close to downtown and people like it because there’s some scenery and different shots with the elevation changes.”
Take No. 2, a 180-yard par 3. The tee box and green are elevated, but the rest drops into a valley that swallows up shots with improper distance and/or direction.
“Definitely one of the signature holes,” Ennis said.
No. 5 is another placement-style hole with a pond on the right. The massive horseshoe-shaped green shares a putting surface with No. 18, but they rarely cross paths. There’s a sand trap between the two that helps keep approaches from straying too far.
“That’s such a big double green, we can put the hole both in front or back and we have so much room there that it’s nice,” Ennis said.
Three of the closing four holes on the front are par 4s that range from 380-410 yards.
The par-4 10th features a drive to a landing area that can’t be seen from the tee box. No. 11 is another risk-reward par 4 that pays off if your drive from the white tees clears a sizable pond. The par-4 12th is just 376 yards from the blues, but a water hazard essentially surrounds the landing area.
The 14th is just 295 yards, but it’s severely uphill. Expect an uneven lie on your second shot to a green that is the only level surface on the hole. The 15th is a quality, downhill par 3, but judging the yardage is tough with the wind and elevation change.
The 16th, a 521-yard par 5, plays uphill for the second half to a sliver of a green that is literally 10 paces wide. There’s another dramatic elevation change on the par-3 17th, but the best is yet to come on No. 18, a scenic 428-yard par 4 with a pond along the right and the unique double-green.
“You’re probably up there a little higher than you think you are,” Ennis said. “You get a chance to hit one off the cliff and swing for the fences.”
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