BY JEFF FALK
(Editor’s note: What follows is the fifth installment of a ten-part series dedicated to identifying Lebanon County’s top ten golf holes, which last appear 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.)
NORTH CORNWALL – So exactly what are the characteristics and ingredients that make a golf hole great?
It should penalize errant offerings. It should make a player employ different clubs – more than say just a driver, wedge and putter. And it should involve some degree of risk/reward.
In short, it should force a player to think, and consider both strategy and consequence. After all, golf is a thinking man’s game.
Leave your mind in your bag on the 416-yard, par-four 17th hole at Royal Oaks Golf Course, and it won’t take long to find yourself in a heap of trouble.
“I think 17 is a great risk and reward hole,” said Matt Olore, Royal Oaks’ Director of Golf Operations. “It’s one that can be a real game changer if you’re playing a match.
“Numbers 2, 4, 9, 14, 15, 16, there’s quite a few tough holes out here,” he added. “Those holes make you think.”
On Number 17, a player’s mind races from the time he or she draws back his driver – in this case Olore employed a three-iron with respect to the small stream that runs through the hole – until the ball hits the bottom of the cup. And Number 17 presents itself at a point of the round when a player might be dragging a bit physically and mentally.
“Any time I make par on 17, I’m going to take it,” said Olore. “Could’ve I hit it better off the tee? Yes. Could’ve I got closer to the hole? Yes.
“That’s a par hole,” Olore added. “Just take your par and be happy. If you birdie, it’s a bonus. I’d take a par there seven days a week, and twice on Sundays.”
Though he didn’t get all of it on this particular day, Olore’s three-iron from the tee traveled about 230 yards and came to rest just in the rough on the right side of the fairway. From there, he knocked a six-iron to the front left portion of the green, some 25 feet from the stick.
Olore needed two left-to-right-bending putts over a fairly flat surface to record his ‘4’.
“If you hit a good drive, you’re OK,” said Olore. “You’ve got to hit a good drive, but if you do, you have 80 to 90 yards to the flag. I think the emphasis is more on the approach shot, depending on where your tee ball is, how you played it off the tee.
“It’s a good sized green,” Olore continued. “But the bunker on the right side really hides it. You should probably play for the middle of the green, and hope.”
Built in 1992 and located directly east of the Lebanon Country Club across Oak Street, Royal Oaks has, over the years, gained a reputation for being a risk-reward course. The par-71 layout measures 6,747 yards from its back tees.
“From being behind the counter, I haven’t heard anything negative about the course, except that the rough is a little high,” said Olore. “They (players) seem to enjoy the golf course. There’s a lot of challenges out here. It’s not a grip-it-and-rip-it course, by any means. It appeals to a lot of different players.
“The best way for people to experience it is to come out and see it,” concluded Olore. “And see if they can beat my par.”