Thursday 20 June 2013

Sand Hills Golf Club (Back Nine)

The approach on the long and right-to-left sloping tenth hole appears more difficult owing to the approach being hidden behind the shoulder of a ridge. 
The architects cleared a wide swath of native vegetation to provide a generous feeder slope into the green.
The eleventh features a gruesome bunker on the inside of the dogleg, however, its visibility has diminished over time due to the strong winds displacing the exposed sand.
The backdrop to the eleventh green is nothing but endless blue sky.
The fairway at No. 12 is 95 yards wide, however, overly aggressive drives flirt with a deep bowl in the fairway which makes the approach more complicated, especially to a right hand hole location.

Another subtle green, angled ever so slightly to the direct line of play.  The front right bunker guarding the green is set on a diagonal, demanding players know how far they can carry their approach shots.
Nothing but a crisp long iron will suffice at the par three thirteenth where the surrounds repel weak shots and the bunkers right are ominously deep.
The short par five offers some respite after the difficult preceding hole.  Drives hugging the left side bunkers can catch a speed slot that greatly reduces the length of the hole and provides a better angle.
The tiny fourteenth green is pitched back-to-front and provides a shallow target for approaches played from the right side of the fairway. 
The journey back home starts at the fifteenth tee, the furthest point west on the property.  The right hand bunker dominating the view is a short carry, but offers an ideal line to navigate the hole. 
Even from the right edge of the fairway, a left pin is hard to see, hiding behind a sprawling blowout bunker.
The par five sixteenth asks plays to carry the massive blowout bunker in order to catch a slope and gain some additional yards.  Less aggressive drives have lots of fairway to hit, but add pressure on subsequent shots.
Approach shots played into the 16th green from this angle have to successfully negotiate a diagonally set fairway bunker.  The bunkerless green moves left-to-right with the existing landscape.
The green on the short one-shot seventeenth gets narrower at the back and sits perilously close to a quartet of deep bunkers. 
Two massive blowout bunkers guard the left side of the eighteenth hole.
With a small gallery at Ben's Porch watching play finish, the final approach is long and plays substantially uphill. Thankfully, the closely mown surrounds of the home green gather approaches towards the hole.
The overall experience at Sand Hills Golf Club is unparalleled.  The staff were warm and hospitable and the food was phenomenal.  The clubhouse, cabins and atmosphere of the entire facility is understated, a logical extension of the down-to-earth nature of the Nebraskan population.  There is simply nothing stuffy about the place.  The development of this golf facility is sustainability at its finest and a testament to future generations on the benefits of selecting the right piece of land and not overextending yourself with unnecessary extras.

It is hard to imagine never getting the chance to revisit this masterpiece, but I will always cherish my day there.  The golf course provides ample room to play and swing aggressively from the tee, but is certainly no pushover.  While you may never lose a ball or incur any penalty strokes, the golf course can easily erode a good score by doling out long strings of bogies, especially in high winds.  The majestic beauty of the sand hills is awe inspiring, and Sand Hills Golf Club comes as close as any I've seen to weaving itself seamlessly into the native landscape.  

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