Challenges abound across the 27 holes at Willowbend, and the best ways to play each one—maximizing your chances for birdie or par—aren’t always obvious. Here, in the first installment of a nine-part series of tips and playing advice, we take a closer look at the first holes on all three courses.
On paper, the second holes on The Bend, The Bay, and The Bog don’t look that difficult, but the two par 3s—on The Bend and The Bog—are deceivingly tricky, while The Bay’s first par 4 intimidates players for what they can see and penalizes them by what’s less visible. Scoring well on these holes requires plenty of course knowledge (and some prudent advice from a trusted guide).
Willowbend’s trio of third holes are defined by one common trait: they all demand accuracy off the tee. Don’t be fooled by their length, these holes can produce big numbers on a scorecard if golfers get too aggressive. Fortunately, Mike Vidal—Willowbend’s Assistant General Manager—and Michael Carroll—the Director of Golf—share their advice on how to best navigate Willowbend’s short (but demanding) par fours.
Par fours come in all shapes and sizes, and the fourth holes on The Bend, The Bay, and The Bog offer proof with three distinctive experiences. In some cases, accuracy is paramount—we’re looking at you, Bend #4. Other times, like on The Bog, it’s all about taking conservative lines and knowing when you can (and can’t) be aggressive. And every once in a while you come across a hole that plays so long you’ll find yourself questioning if it’s really a par four. Yup, that’s what you can expect when you get to the fourth hole on The Bay.
Birdie putts and bogey saves are both common occurrences on the three #5 holes at Willowbend, all of which are par 3s. Despite their similarities on the scorecard, each of these holes plays remarkably different. You can swing with confidence, playing a shot high and aiming toward the right on the fifth hole of The Bend, for example; but you’d be better served hitting a low runner that favors the left-hand side of the green complex on The Bay. And then there’s The Bog course, where most tee shots are a hit-and-hope scenario.
In many respects, a round of golf is like a game of chess between the player and the course. The golf course always leads—each time a player reaches a tee box, they must react to the course’s first move. The hole that stretches out in front of them may require a defensive stance, or players may see an opportunity to strike and gain a significant advantage. The trio of sixth holes at Willowbend each presents a unique challenge. In some cases on these holes, a player’s response may seem obvious, but other times appearances can be deceiving.
They say seven is a lucky number. There are also plenty of instances throughout a round of golf where luck can make a difference. For the most part, however, the seventh holes on The Bend, The Bay, and The Bog don’t offer much in the way of terrain or topography where luck can play a role. On these holes, only well-hit golf shots and sound strategy will produce favorable outcomes.
Some golf holes shine for the open-ended nature of how they can be played, of how golfers can approach them. Some are forgiving off the tee, allowing players to swing away with their drivers knowing that even if they hit their first shot offline, they’ll likely have a playable second shot that could still produce a birdie opportunity. The eighth holes on all three of Willowbend’s courses are not those types of holes. For different reasons, each of Willowbend’s three eights requires a well-struck shot of the tee.
Regardless of the course being played, Willowbend’s final holes deliver many of the now-familiar challenges that have come to define the playing experience at the club. Intimidating headwinds, blind (or partially blind) shots, tricky putting surfaces, expansive water hazards, and awkward mounding surrounding the greens are all in play, though fortunately not all on the same hole.
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