Managing the golf course’s two toughest holes
can go a long way to a good score
Aspen Lakes is both beautiful and enjoyable. But it is not the easiest of layouts, featuring some of the most challenging holes in Central Oregon.
Such holes help give Aspen Lakes its reputation as one of the country’s hidden gems.
Of course, choosing the correct tee for a golfer’s skill level is critical to enjoying Aspen Lakes. But more than that, approaching the golf course’s toughest holes with the correct strategy can can go a long way toward actually lowering your score.
“You have to remember that there are holes you can challenge and holes that you really shouldn’t,” says Rob Malone, Aspen Lakes’ director of golf. “If you challenge a hole that you shouldn’t, that’s where you will get your big numbers.”
From PGA Tour players to everyday recreational golfers, sometimes the goal should be to avoid a disaster rather than to make a par.
Knowing just what holes to play conservatively at Aspen Lakes takes some experience. But we can help. Here is a breakdown of the two toughest holes by handicap at Aspen Lakes.
No. 5, 469 yards, par 4 (No. 1 handicap)
The long par-4 fifth hole can confound golfers, needing two near-perfect shots to have any chance of reaching the two-tiered green in regulation. Making matters even more challenging, the fifth is canted from right to left from fairway through the green, often sending decently placed shots toward the left rough.
A perfect tee shot up the fairway’s right side puts the approach some 150 yards from the green. But with a bunker right and a slanted fairway, such a shot is easier said than done.
“It’s difficult to get it there, because as it hits most of the time it is going to bounce and kick to the left-hand side,” Malone says. “You could actually land the ball on the right-hand side of the fairway and still end up in the rough on the left-hand side.”
And that can leave a long approach from a thick rough made more difficult by trees down the left side. And the green is not particularly easy to navigate either, as it is somewhat shallow and fronted by swells that can stop an approach short or kick a ball forward through the green.
The key is to not overdo the second shot, compounding any problem created by the tee shot. If you can find the A-position than a more aggressive approach may be warranted. But many players may find safety in a generous bail out area short and right of the green. From there the green opens up and gives golfers their best chance to save par.
If not, well, sometimes a bogey is just fine.
No. 14, 479 yards, par 4 (No. 2 handicap)
The par-4 14th hole truly presents golfers a lesson in accepting the challenge the golf course presents. The fairway is bisected by a scraggly native area filled with wildflowers some 260 yards from the white tees and nearly 290 yards from the back.
High-level players will struggle to make the 290-yard carry needed to reach the second section of fairway. And with a lay up, a long iron or more will be needed to reach the relatively shallow green. Shorter hitters, all of whom will be forced to lay up, will struggle to reach the green at all from the upper fairway.
“Fourteen is just difficult,” Malone says.
Before you ask, no, the native area is not going away. It sits on bedrock that makes it nearly impossible to remove. Instead, accept your fate on the 14th.
A decent layup will leave more than 200 yards to the green. Instead of firing for the pin, players would be wise to hit short of the green.
Yes, sometimes hitting the green in regulation is not the best play.
“You can hit a great drive, and you can hit a good second shot and still not be on the green,” Malone says. “Then it’s managing where you end up with your pitch and chip, so hopefully you have a short uphill putt because you stayed below the hill.”
The key is to stay below the hole.