Saturday, July 11, 2009
1. Routing: 9
Returning nines, each with an internal loop, and many holes virtually roll off/roll on to the next tee.
2. Quality of shaping: 8
The ground features tend to be soft and sharply contrasted with the aggressive bunkering throughout. The course has 84 steep bunkers, with meaty zoysiagrass faces that make these
hazards look like fists that are pulling you down.
3. Overall land plan: 9
Ideal rolling terrain, with 60 feet of elevation change across the site. A modest 12,000-square-foot, Southern Acadian-style brick clubhouse is surrounded by transplanted oaks and appears comfortably settled without excess. It looks out onto the course, with the 12-acre practice ground (and extensive short-game area) in a corner of the property.
4. Greens and surrounds: 8
Greens are large, averaging 7,500 square feet, with steady rolls rather than abrupt decks and plateaus.
5. Variety and memorability of par 3s: 8
Holes run the gamut, from a wedge-length 14th hole inspired by Riviera Country Club to the long, slightly elevated 17th, where an exceptionally deep green allows for safe or bold play by anyone.
6. Variety and memorability of par 4s: 7
The strength of the course is its long par 4s, especially the 488-yard fifth hole, where there are plenty of options off the tee and two distinct ways to deal with the pond down the left side.
If there’s a weakness, it’s the two shortest par 4s, with the tightly hazarded 330-yard seventh only pretending to be driveable and the 383-yard 12th offering a putting surface and singular greenside bunker that are inexcusably busy.
7. Variety and memorability of par 5s: 9
It’s easy to overlook the grace of the opening hole, a par 5 with water lazing down the length of the left side. The slightly uphill sixth hole is brilliant for its presentation of offset bunkers at each landing area. The double-dogleg 13th comes off as confused for its initial tightness and for its overshaping near the green. But all is forgiven thanks to the genius of the long 15th hole, with massive bunkers, lots of diagonal offsets and a green that offers enticing hole locations close to bunkers and falloffs.
8. Tree and landscape management: 8
The trees are part of the strategy, with none more beguiling than the eponymous fallen oak on the 18th hole – which allows for a low, run-up escape if you’re under it, as I was.
9. Conditioning: 10
Superintendent Matt Hughes has cultivated impeccably consistent turfgrass (TifEagle Bermudagrass greens; 419 Bermudagrass fairways, tees and roughs), in part, to the amazing drainage.
10. “Walk in the park” test: 9
No waterfalls. No signature holes. No nonsense.
Fallen Oak debuted on the 2009 Golfweek’s Best modern list at No. 55 and arguably is underrated there; it certainly is among the top 3 of the 40-plus Fazio courses I’ve ever played.