All right, continuing my previews of the Wegmans LPGA Championship, I follow up here on my overall impressions of Monroe Golf Club and observations on its front 9. Drawing on my notes from yesterday and the LPGA media guide, here's my scouting report on the back 9!
#10: 423-Yard Par 4
As on #1, players get a little bit of a break on their drives with a wide fairway that doesn't pinch until about 290 yards off the tee. So long as you avoid the small hidden right-side fairway bunker about 270 off the tee, you'll be fine with a right miss, as this is one of the few fairways on the course that doesn't have trees on both sides of the fairway (or at least that many where most drives would typically end up!). The green narrows from 45 feet across at the front to only 24 feet at the middle, and it's protected b short-right and middle-left bunkers, so most of the challenge comes on the approach shot. The green itself slopes severely from back to front and has a false front, so flying your approach well onto it is a good idea, but quite a challenge, as there's something of a cliff right behind the green that extends down into the right rough on the 12th fairway. On the bright side, there is something of a bowl effect, particularly on the right side, so approaches at most edges should feed back toward the center of the green.
#11: 414-Yard Par 4
This one starts to dogleg right about 200 yards from the tee, the right rough is thick, and an overhanging tree blocks the right side of the green from the right rough, so it'll be a challenging but necessary fairway to hit, particularly with that fairway bunker guarding the left landing area about 250 yards out. The green is slightly elevated and deep but somewhat narrow, has a false front, slopes left to right, and has a big bump in the back. It was raining fairly hard, but I hung out with a retired couple in the well-situated shelter to the right of the green and watched Christina Kim keep up a running conversation with her caddy as she putted from dozens of spots to dozens of other spots on this green!
#12: 480-Yard Par 5
This is another great short par 5, as the landing area for drives is narrow, going for the green in 2 is tempting but a huge risk and almost impossible from the left rough if you find yourself in "Smitty's Moguls." Most drives will end up somewhere in the vicinity of the 2nd right fairway bunker, which is about 250 yards off the tee, but those who go for the left side of the fairway should get a forward kick. Assuming you do find the fairway and can go for the green, it's super-narrow (only 10 paces wide!), guarded by big trees on both sides, a deep bunker front right, and a series of mounds and bumps everywhere else. I saw more players practicing chips and pitches from the rough around the green on this hole than any other. The green itself is a piece of work, with at least 5 bumps separating the green into very different sections. Where the pin will be each day will affect players' game plans in a big way. It was too tough a puzzle for me to figure out when you'd be better off laying up than going for it, but the landing area for your layup is no picnic to hit, either, what with all the traps surrounding it, so probably most players who can will go for this one in 2 and hope for the best. The LPGA media guide notes the green is fast from back to front and deceptively slow from front to back, so even hitting the green in 2 gives you no guarantee of a birdie. Another great hole!
#13: 183-Yard Par 3
The LPGA media guide notes that amateurs in the Monroe Invitational Championship have had the most trouble with this hole over the 70-year history of the tournament, and I can see why. The difficulty starts with a steep, closely-mown neck that repels all shots that land even a little short and turns ones that happen to spin back off the false front into awful approaches. Many players were practicing tossing wedges from the bottom of that neck maybe 30 feet up to the green. So missing short is bad, but finding any of the deep traps that surround the green may be worse. Overall, the green slopes from right to left, but there's a back-left bump that can serve as something of a backstop, with luck. If you go long-left, though, you'll end up in a chipping area. The back-right corner of the green has been extended out in a recent Gil Hanse restoration.
#14: 488-Yard Par 5
The left fairway bunker is about 220 yards off the tee and the right is about 260, so most drives will end up between them--tending toward the left side of the fairway--as a big tree guards the right side of the green about 100 yards short of it. Long hitters will be able to overcome the incline leading up to the small green and, with accuracy, negotiate its left to right slope, although most players will end up in the little neck that widens out about 30 yards short of the green on the left. The green itself is kind of rectangular, with bumps on its front-left and back-right and another false front.
#15: 360-Yard Par 4
The shortest par 4 on the course has one of its most diabolical greens. You hit from an elevated tee into a gently-sloping uphill fairway by guarded by a deep right-fairway bunker about 190 from the tee, but it's really the pot bunker on the left side of the fairway about 260 yards from the tee that most players will be worrying about. The fairway is wide short of it, but if you go too far right, there's a 2nd fairway bunker guarding the right corner, maybe 230 yards off the tee or so. The good news is that shots hit to the left side of the fairway will kick back toward the center, so longer hitters may wish to challenge that last left bunker yet avoid going through the fairway which ends in another pair of traps. The reason is that the 2-tiered green is very wide but not very deep, and you get really different challenges if the pin is on the right or the left. The left tier is lower and harder to see from the fairway; it's guarded by a trap short and deep rough long and left. The right tier is also guarded by a trap to the right and trees left and long. You definitely want your favorite wedge in your hands for either approach!
#16: 193-Yard Par 3
Another hole where you fly over a big valley and end up on a hill, where the relatively flat green (for Monroe GC, that is) slopes generally from back-left to front-right. The traps are well short of the green, so all you have to deal with if you miss it is really thick rough, especially on the left.
#17: 415-Yard Par 4
Having few trees on the right gives this hole a relatively open feel (for Monroe GC, that is) and both short and long hitter should get kicks forward off well-placed hills. With the green set off on its own hill kinda diagonally right off the fairway, a tree about 125 yards out on the right can block approaches from the right rough, so expect players to stay left with their drives. The approach is one of the few downhill ones on the course, but if you miss the green left, it's death valley down there, whether you find the trap, the rough, or the fairway, and with traps guarding the front and back-right portions of the green, it's still a very challenging one. The green itself is one of the flattest on the course, but it does gently slope left to right and has just as gentle a bowl effect, so Ross did take it easy on golfers to some extent!
#18: 422-Yard Par 4
This is a great finishing hole, made even more difficult by how closely the bleachers surround the green! It's one of the widest fairways on the course and you get lines or clumps of trees rather than the more-typical foresty feel, so all short hitters have to do is stay left of the trio of bunkers near their landing area, which shouldn't be that much of a problem, because shots down the right side of the fairway ought to kick left back toward the center of the uphill fairway. Long hitters may even reach a level shelf past those bunkers, but will have to pay attention to a left-side fairway bunker about 250 yards from the tee. The green itself is another piece of work, with a swale that separates it into 2 tiers running from its back-left to its front-right portion. Thank god (or Ross) that it's a less-elevated and flatter green than most!
So that's what I saw yesterday while I was hoping I wouldn't get soaked. I'd say more about how Lisa McCloskey, Kelly Tan, and Heather Bowie Young played the back, but I have to get out to Diamond Hawk!
[Update 1 (5:12 pm): Here's the LPGA's (more concise) overview of the course!]