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|The approach on the opening hole at King's Creek Golf Club requires a good drive and then a deft touch. (Kiel Christianson/TravelGolf)|
SPRING HILL, Tenn. -- Sometimes words like "lake," "river" or "creek" are thrown into golf course names simply for poetic effect.
King's Creek Golf Club is not one of those courses.
A creek -- more like a small river -- runs through the entire track. When asked how many holes the creek wends through, past or around, Assistant Pro Neal Phillips just shook his head and answered, "A lot."
No kidding. By about the 12th hole, the guys in my foursome no longer referred to the omnipresent water hazard (which comes into play on 13 holes, by the way) as "the creek," but rather as "that effing creek" (more or less).
For this reason, the best advice for first-time visitors to this 6,807-yard Arnold Palmer design that opened in 2005 is to choose your tee boxes wisely.
"The tips are only 6,800 yards, so people think they can handle it," Phillips said. "But remember, it's a par 70."
Even from the 5,665-yard white tees there is plenty of trouble -- and plenty of fun -- to be had at King's Creek.
There are six par 3s, including three that are more than 200 yards -- the longest stretching to 241 yards from the back tees -- at King's Creek Golf Club. And the par-5 seventh hole plays 615 yards from the back. Another interesting feature is that despite having a par of 70 and six par 3s, King's Creek still has four par 5s.
This said, even the white tees bring lots of trouble into play for longer-hitting, higher handicappers (consider my seven golf balls that ended up in "that effing creek"). Also, taking driver off the tee, or even 3-wood, often results in a lot of half-wedges over "that effing creek" or one of 49 bunkers to greens. And those greens are no pushover, either.
"There are lots of subtle ridges that you have to be on the right side of," Phillips said. "And, of course, avoid the 49 traps."
Apparently, there used to be nearly twice as many bunkers at King's Creek, but due to maintenance trouble associated with periodic flooding of "that effing creek" the number was whittled down.
Nevertheless, the only strong criticism I had of the overall design is that so many of the bunkers are (a) extremely wide and (b) steep-sided. On a public-access course, sprawling, steep-sided bunkers pose two playability problems.
First, average golfers, after traipsing out to their balls, are not terribly proficient at raking 10-plus yards of sand smooth. They get rushed or peeved, and they just tend to quit. And if they don't, the time they spend raking can slow play. Of the eight or so bunkers I was in, my ball was at the bottom of a footprint in at least six of them.
Compounding this problem were the almost uniformly steep sides on most of the bunkers. On many, there was no clear low side to enter from, and, as a result, players had to slide/jump down the sides, collapsing the sand in such a way as to make raking almost impossible, even if the effort had been put forth. Twice my ball ended up in a footprint like a small cave under the steep lip of the trap.
Aside from this bunkering issue, King's Creek is an excellent strategic course. If you know where to hit it -- and how far -- you can avoid "that effing creek" (or at least, that's what I kept telling myself while reaching into my bag for yet another ball).
The conundrum of choosing the correct set of tees is epitomized at the first hole. From the tips, the par-4 opener is a hearty 430 yards, and anything but a strong drive will leave a mid- to long iron over "that effing creek" to a shallow, wide green framed by bunkers.
From the white tees, however, the hole is only 358 yards, and a big drive might even run all the way to the water. I chose 3-wood, thinking I was being prudent, but still drove my ball to about 70 yards out. One misjudged lob wedge later, and I'd had my first introduction to "that effing creek."
King's Creek Golf Club's par-4 12th is another hole where local knowledge would be useful for picking the right club off the tee. Here, the tips reach 434 yards, the blue 377 and the white -- recommended for most first-time visitors -- just 348. Take driver off the tee from those white tees, and your ball can roll all the way down the downhill fairway to the tall weeds along "that effing creek" or even into the water. And again, if you don't lay up off the tee, you'll be faced with a half-wedge over "that effing creek" to another wide, shallow, sand-circled green.
Don't let the relatively short yardage and benign course and slope ratings of King's Creek Golf Club fool you. This is a thoroughly enjoyable track where smart, strategic play is rewarded. Thanks to "that effing creek," even big hitters will have trouble overpowering it, no matter which tees are chosen.
Along with the aforementioned issues with the bunker designs, the only other consistent criticism I heard from a group of first-time players on the course when I visited was about the lack of yardage markers. In fact, there were practically no yardage markers anywhere to be found, which slowed play for players without range finders and made those critical club choices very difficult.
King's Creek also offers full practice facilities and is home to the Nancy Quarcelino School of Golf. The Bermuda grass fairways and bent-grass greens were in fairly good condition, considering the extent of the spring flooding that had occurred just a couple weeks previously. And the rates make King's Creek a Nashville-area favorite.
Just stay out of "that effing creek."
May 31, 2013
Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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