BY JEFF FALK
QUENTIN – (Editor’s note: What follows is the eighth installment of a ten-part series dedicated to identifying Lebanon County’s top ten golf holes, which last aired on Lebanon Sports Buzz in the summer of 2016. Based on an informal survey of the locale’s top amateur players, the countdown strives to feature the ten truest tests of golf, rather than naming the most popular or most difficult holes.)
Some golf holes require one or two shots to yield a good score. Number 12 at Fairview Golf Course, a 372-yard, par-four, dogleg left, requires three – or four or five.
From an elevated box, players are asked to hit a precise tee shoot a couple of hundred yards into a narrow opening. On their approach, those same trees provide coverage for the putting surface. And once they get there, golfers are faced with a slim, challenging green.
Players with the intention of scoring well better be prepared to execute every facet of their games. That ‘no rest for the weary’ approach is what makes Number 12 one of the finest golf holes in Lebanon County.
“It’s a great placement-shot golf hole,” said Matt Cecil, Fairview’s head golf professional. “It doesn’t require length. It requires precision and accuracy. It’s a hard dog-leg to the left, and it requires a well-placed tee shot. If you hit it too long, through the dog leg, you’re blocked by trees again.
“On the approach, you have a mid- to low-iron into a narrow green that is two-tiered,” Cecil continued. “And it’s a difficult putting hole. It has all the tests. It’s not a bomber’s hole. It’s a true test for all golfers. It’s an even playing field for all players standing on the tee box.”
There was a time when those bombers could take out a driver on the tee and hit their first shot high above the trees guarding the hole, hoping to land their initial shot somewhere around the green – thus cutting off the corner and taking the dog-leg out of play. But with the maturation of those trees, more and more that is a riskier proposition.
“You can do that if the tee box is in the right place,” said Cecil. “You can hit driver over the trees. But you could hit a bucket of range balls from there, and one would end up in play. In driving, that would be a ten out of ten on the difficulty scale.
“I’m not surprised it was chosen,” Cecil added. “Hole Number 12 is the most difficult or most challenging hole at Fairview. If players can get through 12, there’s smooth sailing the rest of the way.”
By taking the conventional route, golfers have a 40-yard window in which to land their drives. Too short, and their shots to the green are blocked by trees. Too long, and their second shots are blocked by trees. A well-placed drive typically leaves 140 to 150 yards to the middle of the green.
“You have probably 40 yards from the left rough to the right rough,” said Cecil, an assistant coach for the Lebanon Valley College golf team. “You could probably hit your tee shot further to the right, but the further you go, the further your approach shot is going to be. Players are usually hitting anywhere from a five-iron to a five-wood (off the tee) to put it in that position.
“I think it’s one of the more difficult greens we have out here,” Cecil added. “It’s a narrow green, and it’s two-tiered.”
But on Number 12, if players think getting on the green is the entire battle, they should think again. A sharp and well-trained putting eye is now required.
“It depends on where the pin is,” said Cecil. “If the pin is in the front, you can birdie that hole. When the pin goes to the back of the hole, you’re hoping for par.
“A very good golf hole is a high risk/high reward hole where there’s a safe play,” continued Cecil. “But if you’re going to take a risk, you’re going to get a lot out of it. But also, when you get to the green, there’s going to be a putting test. To me, that’s the making of a good golf hole, something that will make you think on the tee box.”
Built in 1955, Fairview Golf Course has been owned by Jim Jones’ family since 1961. For many years it has been the home of the Cedar Crest high school golf team and has proven to be the training grounds for many accomplished former Falcons, including Cecil.
“I think Fairview has the reputation of being a very fair golf course that is always well maintained,” said Cecil. “It gives a fair test to all golfing abilities. It’s not overly long, but it requires you hit the right shot to score well.”