Typically, the nicer and more picturesque a golf hole is, the more memorable and difficult it is. A 500-yard hole that’s dotted with blossoming trees, calming waters and neatly manicured bunkers may look great in a photo, but these elements can also create some serious trouble for golfers.
There are many picturesque golf courses around our area that present the right balance of charm, length and dastardly distractions, but these three courses require a particular attention to accuracy, skill and patience.
Pottawatomie Golf Course
Stretching 489 yards, the first fairway at this nine-hole course in St. Charles involves some strategy right out of the gate. It’s tempting to drive the green in two shots, but in most cases, golfers wind up in the trees along both sides of the fairway. A shot too far to the right lands out-of-bounds.
“Decide which shot to hit into the green and play it backwards from there,” says Ron Skubisz, head PGA pro.
Skubisz suggests aiming the first shot about 180 yards off the tee. Position your second shot down the fairway, hopefully somewhere that’s one easy shot from the green.
As if the start wasn’t hard enough, the 420-yard ninth hole brings its own challenges.
“The ninth hole is the longest par-4 on the course, and by far it’s the hardest hole on the course,” Skubisz says. “It requires a fairly straight drive and a really long drive. The right third of the green slopes down into a bunker, and the left third of the green also slopes down, so you’re just aiming at one-third of the green. You need to hit a long, high and accurate shot to reach a narrow target.”
Skubisz speaks so highly of this closing hole that he believes it can compete with some of the world’s best fairways.
“If you put that hole on Pebble Beach Golf Links, in California, or on another great golf course, that course will get better,” he says.
Orchard Valley Golf Course
Hole No. 16 is a long, 551-yard trek to the green, and just for fun it has a dogleg right with relaxed waters and quiet bunkers along the way. There’s also a backdrop of houses down the fairway, along the left side of the hole. Several trees overlook the green, creating a little shade during those putts.
“The view from the tee box offers a stunning view with water and bunkers along the right side,” says Kyle Halverson, director of marketing and communications for the Fox Valley Park District, which oversees this Aurora course.
By far, the standout hole at Orchard Valley is No. 12, a 165-yard par-3. Golfers find it memorable because of one main obstacle.
“This hole has a scenic view and a water feature that hugs the green on the left-hand side,” Halverson says.
To the other side is a cart path and an outcropping of houses, with a bunker located just off the green. Accuracy is paramount from the get-go.
Many golfers unwind after their round at the clubhouse’s Orchard Valley Bar and Smokehouse, which serves locally-sourced barbecue brisket, pulled pork and smoked chicken wings, among other favorites. The bar features cocktails, craft beers, wines and small-batch spirits.
Crystal Woods Golf Course
Hole No. 5 at this course near Lakewood is a 565-yard monster that plays downhill. Hit that driver long and straight, but be careful as you do.
Position your second shot to the right side of the fairway for the best approach to the green. Overswing, and you’ll find the hard way that there’s water directly behind the hole.
“The left rough is tree lined, so players must avoid playing too far to the left to avoid hitting out of bounds,” says John Craig, golf director. “A good drive and fairway metal can usually leave a short approach to an undulating green.”
One of the tougher holes on this family-owned course is No. 12, a 415-yard par-4.
“This hole requires a long and straight drive to set up a mid to long iron approach,” Craig says.
“There’s also a two-tiered green, guarded in front by a water hazard and a green-side bunker.”