Sunset Hill Golf Club
|Red (W)||35||1929 yards||33.1||100|
|White M: 63.0/106||437||145||112||272||290||272||428||280||122||2358||4716|
|Red W: 66.3/100||337||145||108||251||235||187||306||243||117||1929||3858|
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A Short Course, But Hardly Short on Challenges
Sunset Hill Golf Course may well be the toughest short course that I’ve played anywhere. It’s not an executive track, but rather a standard mix of par-3’s, 4s and 5s. Considering this was designed (and initially owned) by the great Gene Sarazen as his own practice course back in the 1930’s, the sometimes extreme challenges here should come as no great surprise. Sarazen, among the greatest players worldwide in the twenties and thirties and inventor of the modern sand wedge, later opened Sunset Hill GC up for public play.
What makes this course difficult? Simply put, the layout sports an array of difficulties that just keep on coming: tall hills followed but dells, steep downhill tee shots; narrow, pitched and curving fairways that are sometimes bordered on one side by thick woods; scattered trees and a few strategically-placed ponds; undulating, very small greens that are often set upon hills or knolls, and that may have falloffs in back. It’s worth emphasizing that every fairway has lots of ground movement, and gauging the slopes takes a good deal of knowledge. Some of the uphill and downhill shots will be extraordinarily difficult to hit in regulation, such as at the par-3 second or par-4 fourth. And some tee and approach shots–to add to the difficulty–are blind. The sixth fairway, about as bearish to hit as any I’ve played, curves a bit left but sweeps downward markedly from its high right side, where it’s guarded by two massive conifers. If your ball bounces too far left, you’ll never set eyes on it again (it has found the dense woods, marked with hazard stakes). The first fairway, the tightest and most threatening of any with OOB to the right, starts the round off on a tense note. It was clear to me, after playing this course for the second time over a span of some 40 years, that Mr. Sarazen could get the demanding practice he required here along the way to becoming one of the top-ranked golfers of all time.
While Sunset Hill is challenging, you can manage a good score if you’re hitting the ball relatively straight and to the right spots. But ignore the course’s low slope rating of 106: much of that comes from its short length, far more than its numerous hazards.
The one caveat that must be mentioned is the tight-packed holes, making the chance that another golfer’s errant shot may land in your fairway higher than normal. Keep your eyes open at all times for this, and be cautious when moving from one tee to the next, as some weave around a bit and may cross another hole.
BEST HOLE: Eight
This fantastic short four-par gives you all you can handle over 278 yards. The landing zone on this heavily undulating fairway is blind and set over a hill; it is a relatively small but flat area amidst upslopes all around it and a pond to the left. Then the fairway climbs straight up a tall hill to the green fronted with a pot bunker. The green undulates rather wildly, making two putting a tall task.
ANOTHER STANDOUT: Seven.
An uphill par-5 of 438 that plays about 460. The drive favors a fade to the tight fairway, but this cut-shot cannot be overplayed. To make this a two–shotter, the second must be near-perfect because the green is tiny and set upon a very rounded knoll that will reject slight misses. To add to the difficulty of hitting this green, the putting surface slopes from front to back, away from the fairway. It’s meant to accept a wedge, not a long approach. Beware of the looming road behind the green if you go for it in two.
Decent greens, but overall the course is in fair condition now. The fairways and rough are mostly dried out and in places have little or no grass. The tees are small and show heavy use.
While I like this layout, the rating reflects an average score because of current conditions. The course should do better with more rain. Landing areas are not all that receptive now because fairways are dry and hard. Also, some of the bounces from the fairways into the greens, I noticed, were exaggerated.
Although short courses are too often synonymous with easiness and sometimes mistakenly thought of as suitable for casual players only, this is certainly not one of those tracks. It should keep most golfers absorbed in a simple mission: making pars.