Fearsome Foursome: The Demanding Par-5s of Maderas

Image

The view from the 18th tee at Maderas

The majority of the par-5s in Southern California are of the grip-and-rip variety that after two solid shots either result in a putt or short pitch for eagle or birdie and you usually end settling for par.

Not so at Maderas.

As a group, the par-5s at Maderas Golf Club in Poway require more precision, strategy and execution than any other group of 5s in So Cal. I’m open to other candidates, but right now this is my pick.

You don’t settle for par on Maderas’ par-5s; you savor them.

If you haven’t played Maderas, it’s a public course with country club amenities located just off the 15 past Rancho Bernardo Inn. It garnered a top 100 ranking among U.S. public courses by Golf Digest for the first time in 2013.

To quote the course’s own yardage book, “Maderas golf club is quietly tucked away amidst the rolling hills of north San Diego … (It) offers a unique combination of golf course strategy and design mastery, while taking the concept of upscale golf to exhilarating levels.”

Maderas is love at first sight to a golfers’ eyes but that design mastery can induce initial misery without a little guidance. It especially takes a few rounds to learn how to properly club the highly strategic front nine. The back nine is more open, but distance becomes the challenge as the course lengthens out considerably.

But the meat of Maderas is the par-5s, all of which incorporate a carry either off the tee or to the green. In that way, Maderas is like the Crossings, the difference being you can get away with a mistake at the Crossings more so than Maderas.

So here’s a look at a group of great par-5s that test you off the tee and then are likely to give most of your bag a workout. We’ll offer a few strategies along the way that at the least might keep you in play, which is a victory unto itself at Maderas. (Note: Yardages are given from the blue tees, fitting the 10-handicap perspective of this blog.)

 Image

No. 3, par-5, 540 yards

The yardage book says: “Inspired by nature, this is the first of several elevated tee boxes. On the second shot, lay back of the creek safely leaving a short-iron approach.”

My take: This hole is golf’s answer to bumper bowling. As long as you don’t go extreme left or extreme right, a bowled fairway will not only keep you in play but probably bring you back to center. In that sense, this is the easiest of the par-5s. It’s also the only one that’s downhill start to finish.

Less than driver will do off the tee if that helps you hold the fairway. You’re unlikely to get home in two on your second so be smart. Going for it on your second will likely land you in the ravine that’s waiting for you about 120 yards out from the hole.

I know because that was my fate once after ripping a 3-wood. I found my ball next to a boulder and made a crazy up-and-down off the boulder that I don’t care to repeat. I’ve learned to take my 6-iron/7-iron layup and like it.

The other likely outcome is carrying the ravine but being right of the green and watching the slope run your ball off into the woods OB. I’ve done that, too.

So take the layup, cozy a wedge in and take your chances on Maderas’ slick roller coaster greens. The opening four holes might be the most score-able stretch on the course if you’ve got your game together. Take advantage by being smart.

Image

No. 8, par-5, 507 yards

The yardage book says: “The Sycamore and Thompson creeks merge here, so the fairway is a must. Most will use a fairway metal or long iron off the tee. A lofted club for your second shot over the tree will you leave you a short iron to an elevated and tightly guarded green.”

My take: The par-4 5th is the No. 1 handicap. My Maderas member friends think this hole’s tougher.  Either this or the tee shot on No. 16 has to be the toughest tee shot on the course.

Sliding a drive past the tree in the middle of the fairway and keeping it from going OB left is position A, but it’s also a very tight fit. Anything less brings that huge tree into play and will likely leave you to execute some sort of knockdown shot to a narrow uphill fairway to give yourself any kind of look at the green. And anything right into the lake or right of the lake is OB.

If you get your second past the tree, then comes the aforementioned tight approach, which presents OB left and a raised bunker complex on the right. (Have I mentioned yet that par is a very good score here?)

If I hadn’t experienced a par-5 at Dove Canyon that played like hitting it down a high school hallway, this would get my vote for the toughest par-5 I’ve played in SoCal. It doesn’t help that my draw does my absolutely no good off the tee here.

Take the book’s advice here. Obviously I’ve got nothing but bogeys and scars to show for my rounds on this hole.

 Image

No. 14, par-5, 505

The yardage book says: “Blended in native hillsides and natural creek features, use caution when hitting your second shot with a fairway metal or long iron as the ravine can approach quickly. Play an extra club for your third shot as it is uphill and well guarded.”

My take: Don’t believe the yardage here. This hole plays much longer. And if you’re really want to feel what it’s like to have a lot of golf hole on your hands, try it from the 552-yard back tees.

The tee shot isn’t so much the challenge here. I’ve missed this fairway left several times and been able to get back into position. The problem is biting off enough fairway on your second to put you in reasonable position for a very difficult approach over a ball-swallowing canyon.

The green is elevated, thus the extra club, but I advocate one more. You can only afford to be short here if you find the bailout left, which I did last time after going 3-wood/rescue/7-iron.

I still made bogey as my pitch caught up short of the green.

Image

This is a the first of two long-distance par-5s on the back that don’t give up par, much less birdie, without a fight.

 Image

No. 18, par-5, 555 yards

The yardage book says: “With signature oak trees and dramatic elevation changes, this fairway slopes left to right. A fairway metal or long iron second shot will clear the corner and leave players with a short iron to a well-guarded green.”

My take: What a finishing hole. First of all, the bird’s-eye view of the 18th fairway also provides a glimpse of the back nine, giving you one a stunning perspective and appreciation for the course.

The key to your tee shot is the mature oak tree sitting on the right side at the turn in the fairway. This is your aim line. You ideally want to end of left of it, leaving an ideal angle for your second. Even right of the tree, leaves with you a shot. The sand traps left aren’t crippling for your par chances, but OB left or short is.

I have a witness to testify that I’ve reached this green in two, but it took a flushed 3-wood. With a decent tee shot, a more conservative play will leave you in scoring range and not risking the green-side creek on the right.

After No. 3, I deem this to be the second easiest of the par-5s, but the caveat is the undulating oblong green. Depending on pin placement, you can get some breaks on this green that will simply defy belief. Once you experience it, you’ll know.

But all in all, this hole does what I think a great finishing should do, which is give you a last chance at glory. After stumbling through 14, 15 (tough par-3), 16 (par-4 w/tight tee shot), I’ve often salved my round on 17 (short par-3) and 18.

That’s another reason I’m partial to this hole. It’s shown me a little mercy on a course that doesn’t show you much if game isn’t spot on.

Yet, I still keep coming back hoping to be up to the multiple challenges Maderas’ par-5s throw at you. Maybe next time I will be.

Power Trip: The Par-5s at The Crossings

Image

 

The green on No. 7 at The Crossings

         Opinions vary about the Carlsbad’s city course, The Crossings – usually in direct proportion to people’s ability to make the canyon carries – but one group that unilaterally loves it here are the big hitters.

         The reason why? The par-5s.

         If you’re long off the tee, you’re a little – or even a lot – longer here thanks to a natural assist on three of the four par-5s. That power boost gives you the green light to go for those three holes in two, although I know people who’ve made all four, but challenging the water on No. 7 seems more an ego play than smart strategy.

         Length comes in handy for sure on some of the par-4s as well – particularly the brutish uphill No. 6 – but the reward, especially emotionally, isn’t the same as really sailing one on holes 4, 15 and 16, the holes with the elevated tee boxes, and then pondering the possibility of eagle as you drive to your ball.

         I’ve made three of the four par-5 greens in two and am here to show you the way home and take a closer look at what many probably consider the four most fun holes on the course.

 Image

         No. 4, 572 yards (blacks), 567 (blues), 561 (whites) – No matter where you tee it up, you’re aiming at the same place: just to the left – five yards or so – of the driving stake. Carry the canyon, hit it there and at between 260 and 270 yards, there’s a speed slot that will reward you with 25 or even 30 more yards and a level lie to go for the green.

         About that green: it’s the size of a helipad, unusually large for a par-5, but that’s what makes it all the more tempting. About the risk: see that sand trap just off the right side of the fairway before the green? It comes up faster than you think. Fly it and you’re OB.

         If you end up short of the green here, your ball settles into a collecting area, perfect for a pitch in with birdie still attainable.

         This is your most likely hole to land an eagle.

         No. 7, 556 yards (blacks), 546 (blues), 529 (whites) – The Crossings’ signature hole, located just past the end of the Callaway driving range, has a slightly downhill fairway that leads to a beautifully landscaped waterfall finish.

         Really, any tee shot that doesn’t land on the street left here, or too high on the hillside on the right, will do because you’re laying up on your second, but for the thrill seekers that want to challenge the water and try to get home in two, you’ve probably go to be slightly left to give yourself an angle and not be blocked by the hillside.

         I’m normally driver/6-iron/wedge here into a green with a ridge dividing it into upper and lower tiers. The one way I’ve messed this hole up is get greedy on my second shot and pull it into the bunkers on the left. That’s not an approach shot you want. I’ve splashed down every time.

         Otherwise, the approach shot can produce some interesting outcomes here. My last wedge in caught the ridge and pulled back to within a few feet of flag. I’ve seen people use the natural backstop here with mixed results. Sometimes it releases and sometimes … well, have fun chopping it out of a severe downhill lie toward the water.

         It’s the least likely of the four to eagle, but probably the most likely to birdie because it forces you to play smart.

          No. 15, 543 yards (blacks), 520 (blues), 492 (whites) – Another elevated tee to a downhill fairway, and the trickiest tee shot of the four par-5 tee shots. The fairway is a dogleg left and you don’t have nearly the room right that it appears. In fact, it seems to run out at around 250 yards and then sends you sailing into the canyon. You need to adjust left – and possibly left again – and choose an aim point that fits your shot shape. I originally took it at the bridge in the distance and drew it back. I’ve since adjusted even inside that. I’ve had the edge of the distance office building suggested as the line for those who hit a fade.

         You really can’t go too left here as the hill brings you back to the fairway most often. But again, a big drive here will catch the gravity train and really go. I’ve seen a 400-yarder here.

         The second shot involves a ravine carry, but that’s non-factor if you’re really in eagle range. I’ve gotten home easily with a hybrid here and actually, for me, this has been the most reachable green of the four.

         The biggest obstacle to eagle is that mounded/tiered green and pin placement. Left is a definite eagle pin, but reaching the lower right side takes either extreme marksmanship or one lucky roll on the green.

         The green makes me rank this as the second most probably hole to yield an eagle.

 Image

         No. 16, 558 yards (blacks), 550 (blues), 492 (whites) – Even if you don’t play the tips, you might want to hit one here just for the view, which catches more of the gorge than the blues and whites. It’s one of my favorite views on the course.

         Tag one here and you’ll watch your ball soar above the valley and hopefully settle in with 230 or less to get home. The left side of the fairway takes off a little distance, but the right gives you a better angle on a hole with a dogleg left at the end.

         In all likelihood, you’ll have a blind approach. The green resides to the left of the pine tree on the cart path and is elevated and surrounded by bunkers. It’s a smallish target but I’ve landed a hybrid there with no trouble. Last time I played, I nearly reached with a 5-iron after teeing off from the blacks. My ball failed to draw, however, and I landed in the cluster bunkers to the right, but I was able to get up and down.

         The layup is the smart play, but other than a possible OB, a missed run at the green is plenty salve-able here. Eagles are more rare here than 5 & 15, but birdies still abound. 

        Anyway, if you’re feeling on your game with your driver, now you know where to go to squeeze a little more out of your long game and hopefully have birdie or better on your card to show for it.