Playing Advice | The Eight Holes on The Bend, The Bay, and The Bog
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. These holes may not demand that golfers pull drivers from their bags, but they assuredly will punish a player whose first swing doesn’t produce a quality shot.
Fortunately, Michael Carroll—Willowbend’s Director of Golf—is at the ready to offer guidance where it’s needed. Here, he shares best practices for how golfers can play Willowbend’s eighth holes with style and success.
THE BEND – HOLE 8
Measuring 572 yards from the back tees, the final par 5 on The Bend is a beast, albeit one that can be conquered, so long as you avoid its pitfalls. Given the hole’s length, it’s imperative that you play from the short grass as much as you can—second and third shots will only be more difficult if you’re out of position and your ball is buried in the rough. Carroll still advocates that players tee off with their drivers, so long as they have moderate control over them. “The most penal mistake on this hole is swinging too hard and hitting it offline in either direction,” he says. “You still want to tee off with the longest club in your bag, but you don’t need to get every inch out of it.”
For those golfers playing the forward tees—even more so than for players teeing it up farther back—Carroll urges them to always be thinking about their next shot. “Any shot that misses your intended target compounds the length of this hole,” he says. “It’s already a long hole playing it right down the middle, which is why this hole is all about using the longest club that you’re confident in.”
THE BAY – HOLE 8
Racecar drivers are trained only to drive what they can see, which is to say that they’re conditioned to be aggressive but to never make assumptions about what’s around a corner or over a hill. Golfers should adopt a similar mindset when they reach the eighth hole on The Bay. The par 4 is quite diminutive—certainly based on the scorecard’s listed yardage—but players who get greedy and try to bite off too much of the corner on this sharp dogleg to the right may end up traveling down the road to high scores.
“The smart play for most players is to leave the driver in the bag and use a fairway wood or long hybrid and aim for the bunker at the far end of the fairway,” says Carroll. “The bunker on the right is the ideal target line.”
Taking a conservative approach off the tee will position most players to be aggressive on their second shot, especially since the large green can accept both high shots and low running approaches. Just make sure you really study the green when you’re assessing those forthcoming putts. “It helps to know the subtleties of this green to make a putt,” Carroll points out. “You don’t see a lot of movement when you walk up and look at the putting surface, but as you inspect it a bit more closely, you’ll see that there’s more subtle movement in the green that will affect the line of a putt.”
THE BOG – HOLE 8
The eighth hole on The Bog is Willowbend’s siren call. As one of the shortest par 4s at the club—and a hole that also plays exceptionally straight—it tempts players to pull drivers from their bags. “It’s absolutely drivable for long hitters,” Carroll says of this hole, “and that’s arguably the worst decision that you can make.” As Carroll acknowledges, only the most accurate of drives will offer a desirable payoff. If you’re offline, even just a little, the result will almost assuredly be a lost ball—most likely one that meets a watery grave.
“Finding the fairway is really critical here,” says Carroll, who advises teeing off with a long iron or a hybrid. Even a shot over 225 yards from the back tees will carry the risk of reaching the water. That advice also applies to the forward tee player. It’s all about hitting the longest club in your bag that you can confidently control. “You want to make sure your approach shot to the green is undisturbed and hit from the fairway,” he says, “because this is such a gettable hole.”