COVINGTON - Local golfers have the pleasure of being able to play one of the best holes in the Atlanta area, as the par-4 No. 17 hole at The Oaks Course was part of the Lexus Dream 18.
"Mark Harmon of CBS Atlanta was the brainchild of the idea. Then he got together with other media people and sat down and reviewed and played courses," Oaks director of golf Dick Schultz said. "When they came here, they had a great time, that's what they're telling me. They really thought 17 was one of the best par 4's they played. It's our No. 1 handicap hole. We're honored to be chosen and we appreciate it."
What sets No. 17 apart from some of the others is that it combines all the aspects of golf at the same time. To the right is out of bounds, a lateral hazard is on the left and water must be crossed to get to the green.
What makes No. 17 the No. 1 handicap hole at The Oaks is the visual deception.
The green is elevated about 10 feet above the fairway, which adds to the yardage but because of the distance from the landing area it's hard to see the elevation, so few golfers actually take it into account.
Also adding the deception is the large grass bunker on the front left of the hole, which makes the flag look closer than it really is.
"A lot of people stand over the ball and feel like they have enough club. They have that visual, but they have to take into account the elevation changes and the visual concept of the bunker that makes it look closer," said Schultz, who designed the hole. "It's the largest bunker on the golf course. I'd say that eight out of 10 people leave it short."
While hitting the ball short is not good, hitting the ball too long is also a disaster.
If you're over the green, it's a very difficult chip shot to a green that's moving away from you.
"There have been a number rounds of golf that have gone the wrong direction on that hole. We had the club championship about seven or eight years ago, and the gentleman that came up was actually in the lead, even though he didn't know it at the time. He took a 13 on it," Schulz said. "Needless to say, that's not his favorite hole."
The best way to tame the hole, according to Schulz, is to hit your ball down the right side of the fairway and allow the slope of the hole to move your ball toward the center of the fairway, leaving you the best chance to attack the green.
Distance is also critical. Hit the ball too long and it could roll into the rough leaving the player with a downhill lie or the ball could roll into the water.
"I started hitting a 3-wood off the tee," he said. "You sacrifice a little bit of distance for the accuracy. My target is to be within 10 yards of that 150 (yard) post. It's a challenging hole."
Some of the other Dream 18 holes include Bear's Best (hole No. 6), Reunion Country Club (No. 5), Woodmont Golf and Country Club (No. 7), Trophy Club Atlanta (No. 8), Chateau Elan Golf Club (No. 14), Cobblestone Golf Course (No. 15) and Celebrity Golf Course (No. 18).
"We had a group from Dunwoody about a month ago and they paid us the highest complement. They said there's not a better golf course in the area, from a conditioning standpoint or a price standpoint, that's not a private club. That's the complement your looking for," Schulz said. "I very seldom get a negative comment about the course. I may get a negative comment about how they played or the high grass since we have a sort of links look on some of the holes and their ball got swallowed."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.