As we mentioned in our introductory posts, as we’ve aged (like a fine wine, we might add) and turned into a dad, golf has become a more prevalent aspect of our sporting lives. So, for no one’s enjoyment but our own, we’ll start a series golf course reviews. But fear not! This won’t be some boring article in Golf Digest that discusses the intricacies of course design for two reasons – one is I don’t know anything about course design and two, if those things bore us, they’ll definitely bore you.
Instead, we’ll provide some information on the course based on how your average hack (notably your author) actually experiences the course. We have extensive expertise in where the trouble spots are on each course, which hole is stupid because we lost three golf balls into Ralph’s backyard and which hole is the greatest hole ever conceived because we miraculously shot par on it.
The first course in our series is Black Creek Club in Chattanooga, TN. Why Black Creek? Because it’s the course that we get to play for free due to our side job, and we just social distanced there yesterday so it’s fresh in our minds. If you’d like to read a really golf nerdy description of the course, it’s architect and his influences, you can click here. Otherwise, let’s jump right in.
Due to Coronavirus, the driving range is closed, so no chance to warmup. When we used to roll out to the golf course after we woke up around 1pm, this wasn’t as much of an issue. Now, it’s a problem. Let’s head to the first tee!
#1 – A relatively straightforward par 4, there are houses lining the right side of the hole. As a warmup, we drill two of them with golf balls to make sure they’re awake. Now that we’re loose, we get the round started with a smooth double bogey. Stupid game.
#2 – A tough par four that doglegs (technical term for turns) left. There is a fairway bunker that comes into play if you attempt to cut the corner with your drive. It also comes into play if you try to hit your drive straight but pull it left like you’re trying to hit a double down the third base line. Also, apparently hitting out of wet sand can be a challenge.
#3 – As we reach the tee box of this par 3, we mention that we should try to avoid hitting in bunkers as we have on the first two holes since we are apparently incapable of hitting the ball out of said bunkers. Naturally, we hit into a greenside bunker. Great news though – we get out of the bunker with no issues. Bad news…it goes into a different bunker.
#4 – Par 5 into the prevailing wind, but finally a decent drive to get us started. Promptly followed by chunking a 3 wood, which is likely the only thing that kept us from hitting into another bunker. Bogey.
#5 – Short par 4 with a small ravine that guards the green. Probably our best played hole of the day with a 3 wood into the fairway, wedge onto the green and make the birdie putt. Always good to peak 25% of the way into your round.
#6 – Long par 5 that’s just a stupid hole. About 100 yards from the green there’s this ridge, so you can’t see the green, but there is a bullseye in the trees beyond the hole for you to aim. The green is approximately the size of football field but it’s shaped like a bowl so everything funnels down to the middle. How drunk was the guy who designed this? We get a par. Great hole. Love this hole.
#7 – Difficult par 3 with a green that’s almost impossible to hit. Rather than try to do it, we just hit into a hazard that’s to the right of a massive bunker on the right side of the green. Fortunately, we’re able to hack it out of the hazard into the bunker. We enjoy the bunker so much, we hit it a few more times while we’re in there. Mark it 8, Dude.
#8 – Shortish par four – driver, wedge, 2 putts, par. Par is boring so we’ll do our best to avoid them moving forward. Apologies.
#9 – One of the harder holes on the course, hit a great 6-iron into the green over the water hazard that protects the front of the green. Really pleased…so pleased in fact that we stay on the green for 3 putts.
#10 – Great drive, wedge onto green, 2 putts. Again. Sorry.
#11 – Par 3 down a huge hill. Probably 50 yard drop? I have no idea the exact measurements, but that sounds far right? If so, that’s how far it is. Fortunately, I hit the ball over the green…into a bunker. Three chops in the sand, several four letter words later, we’re on the green. If I could murder a golf club, my sand wedge would be dead.
#12 – For our money, the hardest hole on the course. Long par four with a creek that runs through the length of the hole, which, fortunately, we hit our drive into the banks of the creek. Really just enjoying nature and all it has to offer since we’ve been quarantined so much.
#13 – Another tough hole. Gets even tougher when you yank your drive into the woods. If we take a Coronavirus mulligan, we shot par on this hole. Not sure if they’ve worked Coronavirus into the local rules yet or not though. Waiting to hear back from Judge Smails.
Black Creek, as a whole, is a good walking course. Located in the Lookout Mountain Valley, you have nice views and relatively short distances from green to tee. However, we’ve reached the point where the course tries to break you. You’ve just played the two toughest holes on the course back to back and it forces you to hike up a hill to get to the next tee box. You can go the long way on the cart path, or you take the makeshift steps. Would guess it’s about 50-75 steps, but it feels like a thousand. We take the steps to punish ourselves.
Ok, we’re on 14 tee. We set a goal to shoot a score of 20 on the last 5 holes, which is two par 5s, two par 4s and a par 3. I wasn’t a math major, but that would require we shoot 1 under par for these par fives. Who said your goals should be achievable?
#14 – Hit a great drive which sets us up to go for the green in two. Pull out the trusty three wood, but don’t catch it great, and it ends up…where else…in a bunker. We hit a terrible bunker shot which miraculously hits the lip of the bunker and hurdles forward and rolls onto the green. We two putt for par. So you’re telling me there’s a chance.
#15 – A short, downhill par 4 with hazard along the left side of the fairway. Play it safe and punch a 3 wood into the fairway. Pull out the gap wedge, hit a high draw that lands and cozies up about 3 feet from the pin. Birdie. It. is. happening.
#16 – Pull our tee shot left and looks like we might have some tree issues. As we get to the ball, we realize we’re going to have to keep our approach low, under the branches and hope to roll it up onto the green – links style. To take a moment to brag, the hooded 6-iron we hit here was pretty amazing. Par. Still alive – 1-under with two holes left.
#17 – For the architecture nerds out there, the green on 17 is a biarritz. For the people actually reading this, that means the green essentially has a massive gully in the middle of the green. Today, the pin is located on the back portion of the green, which means you must fly your shot over the gully. Good news, we take out about a foot of dirt behind the ball and our shot never even makes it to the green. We can still manage part with a wedge and a putt. Shot is in the air…looks great…hits the top of the incline of the gully…and rolls back to the bottom. Ok…two putt for bogey and we just need birdie at the par 5 18th. Or don’t. Double bogey. The dream is fading.
#18 – Par 5 where if you hit a good drive, you have a chance at reaching in two. We do not hit a good drive. But, we lay up and have about 90 yards to the flag. Hit a good wedge, have a chance at birdie to play the last 5 holes in even par. Wait…nevermind…it went into…you guessed it…a bunker. The dream dies with (another) double bogey.
Black Creek is fun course, that doesn’t play real long so it’s great for the average golfer to play. When it warms up and the rain stops, the course gets pretty firm and plays more like a links style course, as the ball can roll for days and forces you to be a bit more creative than your average golf course. There is actually very little water on the course, and generally, the fairways are pretty wide. The course’s major defense is…you guessed it…bunkers.
Over the course of this round, we managed to avoid bunkers on 11 of the 18 holes. We played those 11 holes in 4-over par. We played the 7 holes with bunkers in a lot more over par than that. So, the lesson, as we shared on the 3rd tee box…don’t hit into bunkers.