Playing Advice | The Sixth Holes on The Bend, The Bay, and The Bog
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. Fortunately, Willowbend’s Director of Golf, Michael Carroll, shares his insight here to help you keep the upper hand in your strategic game against the course.
THE BEND – HOLE 6
As Carroll acknowledges, many members would consider the sixth hole on The Bend to be the hardest at the club, mostly due to its length. “Even the best of drives are going to leave a full shot into the green,” he says. “Players will need everything they have in their bag to try to get home in two.”
Golfers playing from the member’s tees (or the black or gold tees) will be best served to play from the left side of the box. This opens up an angle to better access the right side of the fairway. Forward tee players should aim at the right edge of the fairway bunkers that are visible from the tee box. (Longer hitters playing from those forward tees will need to aim farther to the right.)
The green itself is largely unguarded and defined only by subtle breaks, but make sure you take enough club when hitting your approach. “A ball that flies in short is going to stop dead,” Carroll says. “A running ball will get up there, but one that lands short will roll back down and off the front of the green.”
All that being said, Carroll’s best piece of advice is for golfers to ignore what the scorecard is telling them about this hole. It may be a par 4, but most players will need three shots to get to the green.
THE BAY – HOLE 6
The Bay’s sixth hole is one that traps a lot of players into making unforced errors. With its downhill tee shot and sharp dogleg to the left, the hole entices golfers to play aggressively and cut the corner. It’s a fine strategy for those who can hit confident tee shots, but mistakes are often made when choosing the club to hit that shot. “For anybody playing the blue or black tees, driver off the tee is out of the question,” says Carroll. “No matter what line they’ll take, they’re likely to go through the fairway. And anything that doesn’t cut the corner will find the woods at the far end of the hole.”
There are two big mistakes that Carroll sees players making most often on this hole. One is trying to cut off too much of the corner. The other is bailing out, but with the wrong club. In both instances, those tee shots are likely to end up in the woods. “If you’re cutting the corner, a shot of about 230 or 240 yards off the tee is ideal,” he says. “From the back tees, a conservative play to the middle of the fairway that doesn’t cut the corner requires a tee shot of no more than 200 yards.”
According to Carroll, forward-tee players shouldn’t even think about cutting the corner. Instead, they should aim down the left side of the fairway that stretches out in front of them. “Aiming 20 to 30 yards left of the last bunker that they can see from the tee,” he says, “is going to place them in a good spot for their next shot.”
THE BOG – HOLE 6
Simply put, the sixth hole on The Bog is hard. Really hard. “This hole is a monster,” says Carroll, who acknowledges that it’s also another potential 3-shot par 4 for a lot of players.
When standing on the tee at this hole, players will undoubtedly first see the vast stretch of cranberry bog bisecting the fairway at the inside corner of this dogleg to the right and deem it to be the hole’s strongest defense against low scores. They’ll then see the wide fairway and will comfortably play to the middle or even left side of the short grass, knowing that they’ve avoided the hazard with their first shot. But as Carroll acknowledges, that strategy only makes the hole more difficult. “Any tee shot to the left of the center of the fairway is just adding significant yardage to the next shot,” he explains. And that next shot is hard enough on its own, given that it requires players to hit over the bog. “You have to play at the trouble off the tee if you want to give yourself a chance to score well.”
In particular, forward-tee players will need to play aggressively down the right side of the fairway, taking on the edge of the bog. It’s the only way to give themselves a more manageable second shot over the cranberries.
When it comes to hitting shots to the green, Carroll advises players first identify where the hole is cut that day and to make sure they hit their shots to that section of the putting surface. “It’s a deep, triple-tiered green,” he observes, “so any shot that’s not hit in the right section makes for a very tricky first putt.”