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Course Enhancements | A New – But Still Familiar – Friend

When golf members return to Willowbend and tee it up on The Bend course this spring, they’ll quickly discover that a familiar friend has benefited from a much-needed facelift. Over the years, the short par-4 third hole has become exceedingly difficult, especially off the tee, as a beech tree near the end of the fairway has grown so large that players have recently been forced to hit their drives to a landing area down the right side of the fairway that’s less than 10 yards wide.

We’ve long admired the work and philosophies of golf’s Golden Age architects, and it was Alister MacKenzie’s beliefs about course design that ultimately convinced us that the third hole needed a redesign. “The ideal hole,” MacKenzie wrote in 1933, “is surely one that affords the greatest pleasure to the greatest number.”

Construction starts on Bend #3.

Left Is Now Right

To assure that the greatest amount of pleasure is had on the third hole, we determined that a major shift was necessary. The best golf holes are ones that provide golfers with multiple options, where different strategies can be employed with an equal chance of success. That’s what the third hole on The Bend course needed.

We started by building new tee boxes and repositioned them farther to the right, closer to the row of homes that run down that side of the hole. We also removed trees down the left side. Both of those tasks allowed us to widen and redirect the fairway, angling it more to the left. We also relocated the hole’s lone fairway bunker, moving it from the left side of the short grass to the right, about 260 yards from the back tees.

Now, players have options. The aggressive golfer can take the bold approach to hit a longer drive to the left of the tree. A well-struck shot carrying at least 220 yards (from the member’s tees) will catch the slope and trundle down the hill, leaving only a short pitch shot onto the green. Conversely, those who prefer to take a conservative approach can hit a mid to long iron (or hybrid) to the right of the tree—so long as they can stay short of the bunker. Both options provide unobstructed views of the green.

But make no mistake, the third hole remains a challenge because it now forces players to not only make a choice with their tee shot; they also have to execute it.

New trees with the start of new bunker in background.
The new brick paver cart path is starting.
Rough grade and new tee boxes.

Going Out on a Limb

While we cleared out some trees on the left to widen and reposition the fairway, we also added trees down the right side of the hole to provide a better buffer between the golf course and home sites. Members will notice that trees were also added down the hill on the left, which basically extends the tree line and improves the views that golfers have from the tree and the fairway. Don’t worry, those new trees are not in play.

One tree, however, still remains in play. We weren’t about to cut down that big beech tree at the center of this hole—it simply adds too much character and strategy. Instead, we gave it a generous trimming. Just don’t be led astray by that tree’s streamlined appearance, it’s still an imposing obstacle that you won’t want to be stuck behind.

The beech tree is getting a haircut.

Your New Adventure Awaits

So what can you expect when you play the reimagined—but still familiar—third hole? Think of it like a restored muscle car that’s been discreetly modified along the way. The third hole on The Bend is now that ’68 Mustang that you’ve always loved, only it’s now equipped with power steering, air conditioning, and all-wheel drive. In other words, now you can actually enjoy driving it. We think you’ll enjoy your drives off the tee on the third hole a lot more, too.

Which option will you choose?

“It’s going to be like playing a new hole, but it’s a hole that still feels familiar. It’s going to offer a different experience, and like with anything new, there’s a feeling of adventure that comes with that.” – Matt Klida, Willowbend’s Director of Agronomy, who oversaw the redesign project

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