LICKDALE – (Editor’s note: What follows is the third 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.)
There’s not too many better feelings in golf than standing on the tee of a long par-four or par-five with your biggest club in your hand. And then pulling it back, taking a healthy swing and watching your ball go out long and high and straight.
Some amateur golfers live to hit the perfect drive. But what if a hole penalized a player for hitting such a drive?
If there’s one hole locally which can deter players from hitting the so-called ‘perfect drive’, it’s Monroe Valley Golf Course’s Number Ten test. That’s the feature that makes the hole one of Lebanon County’s finest.
“It probably is our best hole,” said Randy Barlet, an assistant golf professional at Monroe Valley. “You’ve got a pond down there 300 yards off. It (the fairway) is down hill and it can roll in there (the pond), and then you’ve got an elevated green. You’ve got a small target. Actually, that, handicap-wise, is the fourth hardest hole on the golf course. But in my opinion, it’s the toughest par-four we’ve got.
“A lot of guys are just happy with a five (bogey),” added Barlet. “I’d say it’s our signature hole, either that one or number 13.”
From back tee to green, MV’s Number Ten measures 440 yards, a hefty distance for Lebanon County par-fours. But that length is a bit deceiving in that a nice portion of the fairway slopes down hill into a water hazard.
For the average player, a well-struck drive could conceivably roll into the pond – or at the very least, that’s the notion that resides in the back of one’s mind. But because of Number Ten’s length, a poorly hit drive could bring the water into play on the approach.
“The green is a small target,” said Barlet. “Plus, if you don’t get down there far enough, you’re hitting five-iron in. If you do, you’re hitting eight-iron in. And there’s out-of-bounds behind the hole.
“There are more over-par scores on that hole than just about any other on the course,” continued Barlet. “I’d take a five for sure. Oh my gosh, it is definitely not a birdie hole. Ninety percent of the guys who take a four there are happy.”
Beyond the pond there is a small landing area that is ‘approachable’, but narrow. The green, which is surrounded by three large sand traps, is bigger in the back than it is in the front.
“Off the tee, there’s out-of-bounds to the left,” said Barlet. “You hook it, you’re done. To the right, yeah there’s a lot of room. Your drive sets up that hole. If you don’t hit a good drive, you’re going to have a long day on that hole.”
Constructed in 1968, Monroe Valley is the longest golf course in Lebanon County. Over the years, the 7,000-yard, par-72 course has gained a reputation locally for being fairly open and straight, but also for emphasizing a player’s versatile iron play.
“The original lay-out is the way it is now,” said Barlet. “Three years ago, it was changed back to its original layout. It’s a long course. For young guys, that’s why they like to play it. It’s tough. Plus, there’s always a wind coming out of that valley.”