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Harbor Ridge Golf Club

Today I snuck away for about three hours (including driving time) to play Harbor Ridge Golf Club in Harborcreek, PA. It was about 50° and overcast, but there was no rain. The course was soggy but quite playable, and the greens, despite the moisture, were still putting at about 10 on the ol' stimp. Only nine holes are currently open, and so I played them twice.

The course gets off to an inauspicious start with what I would consider to be a poorly designed hole. The par five measures 538 from the gold tees and doglegs to the left about 100 yards from the green. Almost no fairway is visible from the tee. You primarily look at a fairway bunker to the right side of the fairway and a line of trees to the left. The fairway slopes to the right. There are no obvious structures to aim at, and on the first tee, golfers may not know how they're hitting the ball that day: a punishing hole that doesn't look good or set up for any shot isn't a great way to start a round of golf.

At any rate, I hit my driver to the right and into some fairly thick rough - rough that's not visible from the tee due to swales and bumps in the land. I found my ball and punched a 4I into the left rough, leaving myself about 110 yards to the green. I hit a pitching wedge to 25 feet and tapped it close for a two-putt par. I practice putted for awhile and admired the contours of the green. The greens, I would find throughout my round, would hold good shots but would repel others. They were rather firm despite the wet weather - true to the links style golf this course wishes to emulate. Thick, swaying rough, open green fronts, and mounds left and right.

The second is a 347-yard par four up a gentle hill. I hit a 3W just into the left rough and left myself about 75 yards to the pin. I played a beautiful shot to two feet and made the tricky, slippery putt that broke four inches left for a birdie. One under on a course I'd never seen before - sweet!

The next hole, a 165-yard par three, plays over a retention pond to a wide but shallow green with massive mounds right. A bail-out area of sorts is to the right, and the left-front bunker saves a pulled or hooked shot from going into the water. The pin was middle-right, and so I aimed at the right edge of the green and hit a 6I a tad thin. I came up about five yards short of the putting surface and putted to about six feet. I burned the edge with the par putt and tapped in for a bogey. Back to even.

Four is a great match-play hole. A par four measuring only 258 yards, the hole is divided into three sections: the tees are back and about 25 feet below the fairway. The green sits another 25 feet above the fairway and has large mounds behind it but no real trouble around the green or short (besides the hill between the fairway and itself). You can go for the green, but the height differential virtually guarantees you'll be playing a funny second shot, or you can lay back in the fairway and go at the green with a wedge. This hole would be great at match play simply because you can't see exactly where either the tee or approach shots land: is your opponent five feet from the cup or did his ball kick over the green and into the swales?

I played a weak 2I to the right intermediate cut and a PW to about thirty feet. I rolled that up to two feet and sunk the putt for a par.

The next hole is a rather interesting hole: a 502-yard par five. The map shows this rather well: you hit your tee shot to a fairway, and your second down to a plateau over a big chunk of water. The teeing area and first section of fairway are a good 25 feet above the second portion. Not quite understanding the lengths, I hit a 3W off the heel into the left rough and left myself with a long shot to clear the water. I smacked a 2I and it cut a little, barely clearing the water. I had a ¾PW into the green and bladed it, as I am wont to do on an occasional fraction swing. I chipped it to 20 feet from a nested lie in the rough - not my best effort - and missed the par putt.

Six is a short par four at 335 yards. Like the first, I wasn't sure where to hit my tee shot, but a tree beyond the center of the fairway seemed to mark a good line. I heeled another 3W and found myself in the left rough with no idea where the green was. I drove ahead, found a line, and hit what I thought was a good 8I. I must not have hit it as well as I thought, as I found myself 20 yards shy of the green, pitching over a bunker to a green sloping away from me. My lie wasn't very good, either, as the ball was nestled down between clumps of grass. I laid open my LW a little bit and made a good descending blow. The ball popped just onto the green, skipped, checked, and then released to the hole. I sunk the three-footer for a par.

Seven is a gorgeous 352-yard par four. Water cuts in from the left and cuts diagonally across the fairway from left to right (i.e. closer on the left than the right). I hit a solid 3W from the tee and nearly drove the ball into that crossing hazard, finding myself on a sidehill/downhill lie. The approach is beautiful: the green sits slightly uphill and is surrounded by mounds, heather, and a bunker. The green is divided into a left and a right half by a large slope, and the pin was back right. 100 yards to the pin, I choked down on a PW and played it back in my stance a little. The ball hit about 10 yards short of the pin and skipped back to within five feet of the hole. The putt was tricky, with the mounding behind and around the green, but dropped.

Eight is a pretty par three measuring 169 yards. By now, the greens crew had finished spraying the tees with some green liquid (the tees had plenty of grass, but perhaps they were overseeding for the winter, or spraying grub killer or something). In other words, I think I had 169 yards. I pulled a 6I, landed the ball pin high (front pin) and the ball skipped to about 25 feet past the hole. I slid the downhill putt about three feet past, but made the come-backer for a par.

Nine is also a pretty hole, with houses and a bunker right, marshy looking heather to the left, and a small green with water, a bunker, and some mounds up in the distance. I cut my 3W just a bit too much and found myself in the rough just short of the bunker to the right. I had 150 in and just barely pulled the ball a bit too much, winding up in the bunker left of the green. I had my LW, and didn't feel like walking back to the cart, and so I played a fairly poor bunker shot out of super-fluffy sand to the fringe. I had about sixteen feet but missed that and made bogey.

Front nine totals: 37 with 15 putts. Three bogeys, two birdies. The "back nine" would be less interesting.

One/Ten: 3W off the tee this time, but still to the right. Another 4I to nearly the same place as the last time, but a 9I to the green this time. A 9I which didn't skip at all, leaving me a very bendy 40-footer. I put it to four feet and made the short one for another par. I dislike this hole a great amount.

Two/Eleven: I played a different set of tees this time (further back) and hit a solid 3W that didn't roll at all, leaving me an 8I into a very tricky breeze. It ballooned and came up well short. I played a knockdown 8I for the heck of it and the ball ended up two yards from the first. Both shots (I played my first, of course) left me with a tough pitch over the corner of a bunker to a pin about four paces on the front of the green. I laid open my LW just a little and carried the ball the right distance but to the right, leaving myself an eight-footer that broke about eighteen inches. I canned it for a par save.

Three/Twelve: The breeze had stiffened, so I played this hole with a 5I this time and teed up just a bit further back. I reasoned that long (grass) was better than short (water). I hit a ball towards the bail-out area that didn't draw at all, leaving a little chip that I played well to six feet. The putt broke more than I thought and left me a tap-in bogey.

Four/Thirteen: I played this hole nearly the same way as the last time: 2I, PW. This time, though, I bladed the PW just a bit and left myself with a tricky pitch from a downhill lie off a mound to a green sloping away from me. I pulled it off beautifully, bumping the ball into the fringe a few times before it popped onto the green, and sunk the two-footer for a par.

Five/Fourteen: I figured I'd play a driver this time, removing any doubt about the second shot. I draw it a bit too much (which was OK by me) and found myself about ten feet behind a tiny little tree. The tree was right in my line, though: I went back and forth on hitting a cut or a draw around the tree: a draw would go further but, if I hit it straight, would get wet. The cut wouldn't go as far and would have to be fairly pronounced, as I was just a little more right of the tree than left. The wind was coming across from the right, and I ended up hitting the cut because it's easier to smother a draw out of the rough than it is a cut. The shot came off beautifully, leaving me only a ¾LW to the green. I've yet to give my LW enough practice time to know whether this was the right club, so my first shot came up 15 feet short. My second (just to see) went 15 feet beyond the hole. Both were online and makable. I played out the first (again, of course) and made par.

Six/Fifteen: With a better idea of the line in mind, I hit a driver just over the bunker to the right and well up the hill. I hit a tire track that had solidified somewhat and the ball kicked straight right, leaving me with a funny lie in the rough. I absolutely skied the PW a little to the right and came up five yards short of the green. I played another beautiful pitch shot to about four feet and sunk the par putt once again.

Seven/Sixteen: Having learned of the distances on the last hole, I hit a solid 2I up the right side of the fairway and left myself with 120. I hit a PW to the middle of the green and just barely missed the putt for a birdie. I tapped in for par. I putted again for the hell of it and made the putt. Grrrr.

Eight/Seventeen: having learned that the 6I was a good club the last time, I teed the ball up a little higher this time to promote a higher shot with less skip once I hit the green. The ball did just that, hitting the green within three feet of my shot the first go-round (I could still see where the ball mark had been before I repaired it) but stopped 10 feet or so from the hole. I barely missed this putt as well, tapping in for a par.

Nine/Eighteen: I hit a choked down 3W down the left-hand side of the fairway - an ideal spot - and left myself with another 8I to the pin. I hit the shot off the toe just a bit and the shot came off unusually: it started right and drew back quite a bit as a ball does when you hit it with a driver or 3W. Unusual. It also came up about 40 feet short of the pin and just on the front fringe. I putted to three feet and holed the par putt.

Totals on the back: 37 and 15 putts, identical to the front. Eight pars and one bogey on the back, two birds, three bogeys, and four pars on the front. 74 with 30 putts.

This course, when complete, will be a gem. The first hole needs some work, and a few other holes need some alignment work (or something to aim at). Familiarity will help, as well, and membership options will be available after the second nine is complete. Their goal is the end of next year, but the girl in the pro shop said that was rather ambitious because "they want the back to be as good as the front."

At 6500 yards from the tips, this course places a premium on accuracy and planning. When it's playing firm, it should offer a good amount of roll and the option to run shots up. I may play here again on Sunday with my high school golf coach. This may be my home course next year, though perhaps I'll choose something with membership options (like Downing or whatever).

I took a photo of the bunker on the right-hand side of the seventh green with my cell phone's camera. The bunkers had hundreds of footprints: I didn't examine them, but many bunkers were too far from existing homes to lead me to believe they were dog paw prints.

harbor_ridge_footprings.jpg

I shrunk the photo and turned it greyscale in Photoshop. The v600 takes passable photos but is far from great.

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