7th Hole; 208 Yards
Standing on the tee, the words “moment of truth” hit you like a heavyweight’s punch. A few feet in front of you, a small lake spreads out. On the far side, the green begins nearly at the water’s edge. There is no stress-free place to miss. Long is woods, short is wet. Tiny aprons of mercy lie left and, even tinier, right. The only solution is a high shot that will descend like a parachute, harder to do from the longer tees.
BEST SHORT PAR-4
7th Hole (Meadow); 336 Yards
“The magic of short par-4s,” says architect Michael Hurdzan, who created Neshanic Valley with lead designer Bill Kerman, “is that they allow average golfers to feel like they’re pros.” Flying a drive past the fairway bunker on the right is not just a Walter Mitty fantasy. It sets up a short-iron approach, just like the Tour pros often get to hit. The 7th may be short, but it isn’t defenseless. The green is Neshanic’s smallest, its subtle front-to-back slant makes it hard to hold, and approaching from the left side of the fairway is no picnic.
16th Hole; 402 Yards
This dogleg-right bends around trouble almost impossible to ignore. Depending on which tee you play, you’ve got water on your right and, ahead of that, a vast ungroomed waste bunker, a veritable Death Valley. The safe play is a drive up the left side, leaving you, however, a long way from the green. If you trust yourself to boom a mammoth shot under pressure, aim right, over Death Valley. Reach the fairway (quite a poke) and you’re almost home—if you can spin your iron shot to hold the elevated green.
14th Hole; 535 Yards
Architect Robert Trent Jones was a master of the risk-reward par-5. His 14th at Hominy Hill is a classic example. A good swath of water fronting the green forces a high aerial approach. Presuming you land two good shots in the fairway, you have to decide whether to risk going for the green on your third. Make it, and you’re putting for birdie. Fall short, your ball lies in a watery grave and your next swing, still from the fairway, counts as your fifth.
BEST CLOSING HOLE
439 Yards (Par-4)
Every 18th hole ends a round, but the best ones can electrify a fading foursome just when the only thing they are looking forward to is refreshment at the 19th hole. At Knoll West, the level 18th fairway looks friendly, and there is even room to miss on either side. But the high, shallow, diagonally placed green is a huge poke away, and you don’t want to approach from anywhere but the fairway. Land short and left and a deep bunker below the green gobbles you up like a junkyard dog. Come in a tad long and you’re hacking out of hillside shrubs from which the ball usually skitters clear across the green and disappears into the maw of the bunker.