This is part 2 of an on-going series in which The Sand Mountain Reporter’s sports editor Ron Balaskovitz seeks to tackle the toughest holes on each of the five golf courses in the Sand Mountain area. For other entries in this series, please visit sandmountainreporter.com and search for “Sand Mountain’s Hardest Holes.”
PART ONE: Eagle’s Nest in Lake Guntersville State Park
Just south of downtown Boaz and off Highway 205 is Clear Creek Golf Club, formerly known as Boaz Country Club. At first glance, this park-style course looks friendly and inviting for golfers, but it challenges the players and their hitting skills.
From the back tees, Clear Creek extends for 6,559 yards and plays as a par 72. One of the first things you will notice is that the course has no bunkers, which helps learner players avoid the problems that come with shots walking out of the sand. But the lack of bunkers is made up by water that comes into play on more than a third of the holes and some of the smallest and hardest-to-hit greens in Alabama.
If you’ve heard of The Postage Stamp at Royal Troon, which features one of the smallest greens in major championship golf, you will have an idea of the greens at Clear Creek. Only you can do it 18 times, so every approach and par 3 requires pinpoint accuracy, with even decent shots ending up right off the green and leaving difficult little chips or fairway putts to save a par.
Hole 1, 356 yards, No. 3 handicap hole
Get ready to play in Clear Creek, literally and figuratively. Without a driving range, the first ball you put on the field counts. And it’s an intimidating tee at the start, with a narrow slide guarded by trees and out of bounds to the left, and a line of tall pine trees about 50 yards from the tee that open to more woodland to the right behind them. Needless to say, a good tee shot is a must and a tough start to the day with little warm up. From there the hole goes steeply to the left to a little green that can be a blind approach if you don’t hit it far or just enough from the tee.
“It has a dogleg that is a really tight fairway,” said Clear Creek manager Trey Hodgens. “It’s hard for right-handed people to hit him from right to left, it makes the tee difficult, and there is a big tree if you block it on the right. But when you get your tee shot on the fairway it’s not too difficult, you still have OB with the cart sheds, but when you get a drive past the trees that ends it’s a tight little opening shot but it opens and You can definitely do a birdie or par. “
My tee shot was just on the left, past the last tree on the left of the landing area, leaving me 95 yards behind. A smooth gap wedge landed safely about 15 feet to the left of the hole. I left my birdie putt on the relatively flat green for a moment, leaving a slight tap-in and opening par.
Hole 5, 431 yards, No. 1 handicap hole
Ask someone at Clear Creek what the hardest hole is and there’s no debate, it’s hole 5. It’s the longest par 4 on the course, plays easy uphill and features a hell of a green with one of the craziest slopes out there You will see it at every course. And with the layout of the course, it almost always plays into the wind. The tee is fairly open, but even a good long tee leaves a long second shot into a green that requires perfect placement.
“In the days of the Boaz Country Club, it was a par 5,” explained Hodgens. “They hit the back of the pump house, but the owners moved it to a par 4 in 1994. The green makes it so difficult, it’s so wavy, there is a big hill on the side. It is really a par 5 green and is difficult to hit, especially from 150 yards or more. If you want to give preference to the right, it’s easier to chop up the hill than down. “
After a perfect run through the middle at 170 yards, I didn’t really miss my second shot. Missing about 10 yards to the left of the green, with the pin up on the left and the one flat spot on the green. My next chip passed the hole and made me hold my breath … and stopped just before I tumbled down the hill, leaving me a 12 foot view of uphill at par. I just burned the left edge and tapped a bogey that felt better than usual.
Hole 13, 416 yards, No. 2 handicap hole
Similar to hole 1, the 13th requires absolute precision from the tee, which is made difficult by the fact that it is the second longest par 4 on the course, leaving only hole 5 behind. The entire right side of the hole is flanked by woods and a creek which makes the course an obstacle, while the left side of the tee is guarded by trees, including one perhaps 150 yards from the back tees so that players can get one straight Hit the ball to be in the game. As if that weren’t already difficult enough, the right side narrows the closer you get to the green, and plays itself as a tricky second shot that goes downhill to the green. Don’t miss to the right as you approach, or the slightly crowned green will make your ball rush into the creek.
“It’s a very tight tee,” remarked Hodgens. “You have a forest on the right and we play it as a danger, but that doesn’t make it any easier. You don’t want to lose it right. Left is fine, but you risk getting blocked by the trees. Again, hitting a straight shot gives you a good view of the green, but that’s a deceptive shot because it’s downhill. The right side creeps in and narrows the closer you get, and if you miss on the right it jumps into that creek on the side. You see a lot of people who think that they will chip there, but it’s in the forest, it’s a difficult hole. “
My drive wasn’t precise, hit the tree just off the left side of the fairway, but got a slight rebound and landed in the fairway about 225 yards from the hole. A decent 4-iron got me about four feet from the front left side of the green. From the moment my chip left the clubface, it looked good, landed right on the green and rolled towards the hole, breaking slightly to the right, which was a “Get in the hole!” from me … and keep an inch from going in, which gives me a tap-in par.
Total Score on the Three Hardest Holes: Two pars, one bogey for one-over-par on these three holes, with a total score of 82 for the day.
Open all year round, Clear Creek has a pro shop with equipment, snacks, and beverages, plus tables and TVs to enjoy after your round, and a covered deck overlooking the 18th green. For more information about the course or to arrange a tee time, please call the Proshop at 256-593-5501.