Playing Advice | The Ninth Holes on The Bend, The Bay, and The Bog
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.
Nevertheless, the final holes on The Bend, The Bay, and The Bog can still be confounding, which is why we sought the advice of Willowbend’s Director of Golf. What follows is Michael Carroll’s expert guidance, which by itself won’t make these holes easy, but it will give you the best chance to finish each nine strong.
THE BEND – HOLE 9
Despite the fact that the second half of The Bend’s ninth hole plays slightly downhill, the medium-length par 4 often plays longer than its yardage thanks to a prevailing headwind. The lone pine tree just off the left edge of the fairway is a good target line for all players (except those playing the forwardmost tees), Carroll says, though he’s quick to add that if a golfer hits a very accurate tee shot, the tree could be in play. “If they can keep it on that line,” he instructs, “a drive that’s hit in the general direction of that tree will open up the right side of the hole.”
Players who start the hole from the red or green tees, however, will want to aim their drives farther right of the tree, since their proximity to that pine makes the tree far more reachable. But the real challenge on this hole, Carroll observes, is the green complex. Not only is the putting surface complicated, but the green is surrounded by sizable mounding. “Missing this green even slightly results in a chip or pitch with an uneven stance and lie,” he says, “but the throat of the putting surface is accommodating and the green will accept a low-running shot.”
THE BAY – HOLE 9
What you see isn’t always what you get, and the ninth hole on The Bay is a perfect example of that. “When you first stand on this tee, it looks like you’re hitting down a chute,” Carroll acknowledges. That’s especially true from the back tees, which are even more elevated. “But when you get down to the fairway,” Carroll continues, “you discover that it’s relatively accommodating.
There is trouble left and right of the fairway, but as Carroll points out, those penalty areas are only in play if golfers hit a very long, and very errant tee shot. There’s no advantage to being left or right off the tee, so long as players can hit it far enough to reach the corner of this subtle dogleg to the left. With that in mind, any drive that finds the fairway is in good shape on this hole.
Players who tee it up from the forward tees, however, must be more mindful of those aforementioned penalty areas, because they will be in play. More specifically, Carroll suggests that forward-tee players use the right side of the tee box when hitting their first shots on this hole, as that vantage point presents an angle that opens up more of the fairway.
THE BOG – HOLE 9
At only 500 yards from the back tees, the ninth hole of The Bog is fascinating, particularly because there are so many ways to play it. From those back tees, it would appear that the safe shot is to the right, aiming at the lone tree in the fairway and avoiding the collection of fairway bunkers at the inside corner of this dogleg left. While safe in some regards, that strategy introduces other risks. For starters, it lengthens the hole, making a layup more daunting, simply because players will have a longer iron or possibly hybrid in their hands for that shot. It’s also possible—though not probable—for players who take that line with their tee shots to end up partially stymied by the tree, itself.
“A lot of players will try desperately to avoid the bunkers at the corner,” Carroll acknowledges. “But those traps aren’t a bad miss because they’re not that deep.” Moreover, players who take on those bunkers—even if they end up in one of them off the tee—will have a 50-yard advantage over players who choose to play safely down the right. And if a player has the length to clear the traps, this short par 5 can effectively play like a medium-length par 4.
For golfers playing from the forward tees, Carroll advises aiming at or just to the left of the tree, which shortens the hole a little while still taking the sand out of play.