BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – (Editor’s note: What follows is the sixth installment of a ten-part series dedicated to identifying Lebanon County’s top ten golf holes, which last appeared 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.)
Augusta National Golf Course in Georgia first made the concept of ‘Amen Corner’ famous, or vice versa. But did you know that the Lebanon Country Club is home to its own version of ‘Amen Corner’?
After navigating LCC’s front nine and making the turn, players are faced with a ‘birdie’-able par-five tenth hole. But things turn noticeably more challenging after that, in the form of the 417-yard, par-four 11th and the 196-yard par-3 12th hole – geographically, LCC’s southwest corner.
By the time players have survived Number 12, they have been heard to exhale audible sighs of relief – some even falling to their knees in gratitude. For it was through the grace of God – or a well-struck medium iron – that those players have emerged from Number 12 with their scorecards reasonably intact.
Not only is Number 12 the country club’s most challenging par-three, it may be the toughest par-three around.
“After you get past 11, the golf course doesn’t relent,” said Sean Smyth, LCC’s head golf professional. “It challenges. Knowing one little bad swing adds two strokes to your score, and having to hit that shot again, can be intimidating. And when you play a tough par-three well, it gives you some inspiration.
“Get by it, and now you can score,” Smyth continued. “Players might be thinking, ‘If I can get by 12 with a good score, I can better myself at 13, 14, 15.’ Sometimes I try to survive 12. But 12 giveth and 12 taketh away.”
“Number 12 is a semi-long par-three with OB down the left,” said LCC member Chris Gebhard, who recently finished second at the Lebanon County Amateur, “and some punitive bunkers all along the right edge of the green.”
From an elevated tee to a sunken green, Number 12 gives the illusion of being shorter than it really is. But at 196 yards, there aren’t too many longer par-threes locally, requiring a six- or seven-iron on the tee, or even a smaller wood.
“I would say for the average golfer, they would use a fairway wood or a hybrid club, or potentially a higher iron,” said Smyth. “Longer guys will use a seven or a six-iron, and I’ll hit anywhere from a six to four-iron, depending upon conditions. And Number 12 is a hole that can be with wind or without wind.
“There’s out-of-bounds right next to the green, and four bunkers,” added Smyth. “One of the them (bunkers) is very deep, and if you’re in it, good luck. If you don’t hit the green, it’s a tough up-and-down. At one time, more than 50 years ago, it was a par-four.”
Lebanon Country Club’s signature stone wall serves as the out of bounds to the left, while the bunkers are divided with one on the left and three on the right. The narrow approach area to the medium-sized green precludes players from bouncing their tee shots onto the putting surface.
“A lot of times when you get to a par-three, it’s little more than hitting a pitching wedge,” said Smyth. “You need a longer iron on that hole. There’s the rock wall and bunkers on the left and if you’re long, you’re not going to have a very good chip. That’s what separates it from the other par-three at The Club. At 12, you’ve got to hit a good shot to get on the green. Although I have heard a story where someone hit the wall and made a hole-in-one.
“For me, a great hole has to look good,” Smyth concluded. “A good-looking hole visually adds a lot. It’s got to look like an awesome hole. Even before you hit a shot, you can walk up and say, ‘This is a good looking hole.'”