Best 18 in the Triangle:
The Front Nine
By Henry A. Lister, PhD
Writer & Photographer, GOLFHOLES.COM
USGA Course Rater
What criteria are used to choose a “best” hole? Certainly, such a hole should be fun to play. But more importantly, there should be more than one way to play it. For example, the first hole at St. Andrews has 5 routes, each dependent on the conditions of the day.
There is a distinction in the Triangle between “classic” (pre-1975) and “modern” (post-1975) courses. Classic courses can be played by pitch and run as well as aerial approaches. Modern holes often force golfers to carry hazards, moving the ball from one target area to another. While I am partial to classic courses, I have found several modern holes worthy of this Best 18 list. Holes only from daily fee, public access courses were considered. The par on this front nine is 37, with a slope of about 139 - relatively hard for the bogey golfer.
1ST DUKE - It looks simple enough; simple left dogleg, downhill, with an open front to the green. But golfers find more trouble here than can be observed on this great opening par 4. Let your guard down from the start and you’ll make a big number.
2ND HILLANDALE - This par-5 only looks easy; flat, slightly dog-legged, and only a little creek to cross. Yeah, right! It’s only the second hole and all your bud’s who are warming up on the range are watching you. Golfer’s with steady demeanor get par here.
3RD LOCHMERE - This par-3 is not for the faint of heart, especially if the pin is set on the right side. A miss to the left will have you hitting out of the sand TOWARD the lake. A miss right and you’re sleeping with the fish. The tiered green is no picnic once you’re on the green.
5TH THE NEUSE - This short par-4 will ruin any golfer’s score who hits to the right. What looks simple demands concentration, consistency, and smart play, or walk away shaking your head.
6TH UNC FINLEY - The short par-5 is not especially picturesque, but the unguarded green front rewards the golfer who takes the challenge to reach the green in two. Not particularly long but straight with a long green that slopes away in the back, this hole demands good shots just to par it.
7TH THE CROSSINGS - The forced lay-up off the tee means a longer approach than normal to the uphill green. The sloped fairway makes it hard to keep the tee shot to the right, where it needs to be. Most golfers are relieved to score a bogey 5 here.
11TH THE HERITAGE - The cross-bunkering that defines the split, narrow fairways demands an accurate tee shot. If you are not intimidated by carrying shots over bunkers, then this is an easy hole. But all of them are deep and penal, so a bogey 5 is a real possibility if you get in one.
16TH WILDWOOD GREEN - This par-4’s trick is recognizing that the bunkers are 30 yards in front of the green. With a tee shot in the middle or on the right side, you can fly the bunkers and your ball can roll onto the green. Otherwise, you can get psyched out of par.
17TH DEVIL’S RIDGE - The namesake hole! Good tee shots and straight iron-play here are mandatory or you will face nasty choices if you miss the green on your second shot. More golfers come away from this hole with stories for the 19th hole than just about any other hole around.