Following up on yesterday's general impressions of Monroe Golf Club, I continue my Wegmans LPGA Championship blogging from off-site today (as I have to prepare for my own Mid-Amateur qualifier at Tuscarora on Friday!), with observations on the front 9, drawn from my own notes from Monday and the LPGA media guide.
#1: 396-Yard Par 4
Even though there are trees on both sides of the fairway and 2 fairway bunkers down the right side (long hitters will have to watch the 2nd, which I estimated to start around 255 yards off the tee), this is one of the more open tee shots on the course. The real challenge comes on your approach shot, which is to an elevated green guarded by a front-left pot bunker. It looks to me like your ball will be drawn into one of 3 collection areas on the green, which is deeper than it appears from the fairway: either FL, BL, or BR. Especially if the course is softer this week, you don't want to play around trying to bounce it in from just short of the green or even from the very front of it. Better to take your medicine on your first iron shot of the day and make sure you fly it to the middle of the green.
#2: 381-Yard Par 4
The fairway widens out past the fairway bunker on the right, which starts about 160 yards from the small green and is still a factor until you get to about 125 yards out. Long hitters will have a small advantage here, but they have to make sure not to run their drives through the fairway on the left, where a couple more bunkers await them. The 2nd shot is a little tricky, with 2 very visible bunkers at the end of the fairway that are actually well short of a green which is surrounded by much less visible ones concentrated to the left of it (although there are also a couple very close to it on the right!). Oh yeah, and OB long is definitely a factor, too. The green itself slopes from back to front and has a tiny shelf way in the back. I can imagine a Sunday pin there.
#3: 465-Yard Par 5
This is a hole on which almost everyone should have at least a decision about whether to go for the green in 2, as the fairway slopes severely downhill in your landing area off the tee. On paper, the left fairway bunker at about 340 out and the hidden one on the right about 370 out shouldn't be a factor at all on your drive, but I saw some super-long ones on this hole on Monday, so if the course returns to that level of firmness, maybe some of the longer hitters will take 3-wood instead of pulling the driver? There's a big valley short of the green, but the last 30 yards rise sharply with 2 big bunkers protecting its front left and 1 protecting its front right. I saw some players bouncing their approaches up the neck between the left and right bunkers, but since the green is something of an inverted bowl, once again flying an approach to the middle of the green is probably the best play for those who have the distance.
#4: 406-Yard Par 4
I love the view off this tee, with fairway bunkers tracking up the right side of the fairway and 2 large ones marking the end of the left side of the fairway accessible off the tee, about 300 yards out. Short hitters get a break on this hole, as drives on the fairway kick forward starting about 210 yards off the tee. It's pretty much all uphill to the green after that last pair of left fairway bunkers. The green slopes from left to right toward a large and long and deep bunker guarding the right side of the green, and there's also a bunker on the left, but the back right corner of the green is elevated.
#5: 431-Yard Par 4
This is the #1 handicap hole on the course and it's easy to see why. First, you have pretty much a blind tee shot to a tortuously-contoured fairway. You will get a forward-left kick from the right side of the fairway if you land it less than 230 yards off the tee, but if you carry it around 240, the fairway starts running downhill sharply even as it doglegs right, and there's a weird wedge in the middle of it that can carom your ball to the right or the left, depending on where it lands or bounces on it. If you can carry it about 250 you can fly it past that bump and usually get a nice forward kick onto the left side of the fairway, but since you can't see where the ball lands, you really have to trust the line you pick from the tee. Really long hitters can take a huge risk and try to bomb it down the far right side of the fairway that you can see off the tee and trust it to fly the rough and find the narrow fairway straight down that hill most players will find themselves on, ending up 100 to 125 yards from the green on a level lie. (I would love to try that myself, just to see where it ends up!) Next, the level of difficulty stays high on the approach shot, as the green may be the most contoured of any on the course, with a big bump in the middle and a back tier that's lower than the front tier. And if you miss it, it's surrounded by Locust Hill-style bumps and nodes. Hitting it is no picnic, either, as every putt on it is delicate and challenging. Just a great hole!
#6: 207-Yard Par 3
The last 150 yards or so of this tough par 3 are uphill and the green is actually about 25 yards past what may look like a front-left bunker from the tee. The green is rectangular, deeper than it is long, sloping right to left, guarded by a deep bunker beyond it and traps on either side of it. Those side traps do provide bumpers of a sort, nudging shots just missed right or left back toward the middle of the green (if they manage to land on the green instead of in them, that is). This green is flatter than most and particularly flatter than the previous 2, so if players can get over the contrast, they may be able to take advantage of birdie opportunities here. They also get a peek of the 17th fairway and may start wondering what the players ahead of them are doing, which is probably why there's a scoreboard to the right of the green. It's the 1st time those on the front get any hint of what's going on on the back since the scoreboard to the left of the 3rd green.
#7: 392-Yard Par 4
This is a tight, blind driving hole, with fairway bunkers down the left side that start about 180 yards from the green and end about 130 out. Long hitters may have to worry about the fairway pinching and guarded by a right-side and 2 left-side bunkers at about 100 yards out. But the 2-tiered green (on a left to right diagonal across the green) is an even bigger challenge, as your approach shot will be quite different depending on where the pin is. Right and it brings very deep bunkers into play, but if you play it safe to avoid them you face a downhill big breaker. Left and you run the risk of having the green bounce your approach further left into a steep slope with deep rough. No problem!
#8: 145-Yard Par 3
The front-left trap is quite deep, the 2-tier green has a false front, and there's a bump in the front-left portion of the small green, so this one may be short, but it requires a high degree of precision on the approach. With 5 traps protecting the green and a tough chipping area on the left side of the green, hitting it is essential.
#9: 516-Yard Par 5
This is the only hole on the course longer than 500 yards (or 490, for that matter), and it's a great finishing hole for the front 9. The tee starts back parallel with the middle of the 17th fairway, your drives will end up between the 18th tee and the start of its fairway, and the rest of the hole parallels the 18th fairway, with a huge scoreboard near the end of the right side of the fairway to get you thinking about what's going on ahead of you. If you can carry you drive past the uphill portion of the fairway, it looks like you'll get a kick forward and to the right, so long hitters, especially those who carry the ball a long way, will get an advantage on this tee. But most players will decide not to go for this green in 2, as you'd need to fade your shot into a fairly narrow green that slants on a diagonal from left to right from a fairway that itself has been swinging gently to the right. The green itself is flatter than most, but it slants downhill at the end, so it's easy to go over it, even with a very good approach shot. You'll see a lot of players planning to stay left of the fairway bunkers that guard the approach to the green at intervals up the right side of the fairway. Anywhere past the crossover in the fairway gives you a pretty good look at the green. Players who miss the green, whether in 2 or 3 shots, will find out why this is the #3 handicap hole on the course.
So that's the front! On to the back!
[Update 1 (5:11 pm): Here's the LPGA's (more concise) overview of the course!]