The Bogey Golfer © Course Guides
Cherry Hills - Overview
Unlike most of the course reviews I've written, I haven't actually played this course (yet). I'm writing it because I was a volunteer during the 2005 US Women's Open, and became pretty familiar with it during the week. One of the many notable things about the 2005 Open is that the winner finished with an over-par score, which in turn tells you that this course was hard.
The course was set up to play at 6746 yards, which is pretty long by LPGA standards, but not enough to drive the best players in the world over par (at least I wouldn't have thought so). Unlike the 2004 US Men's Open at Shinnecock, the greens were not paved and painted green. A well-hit approach shot would stick. However, the rough was "rough". This was brought home to me during the first round when I was watching a trio of players coming down #14. All three of the drives were pretty much side-by-side, about 260 yards off the tee. Two of them landed in the fairway, the other about 3 feet into the rough on the left side. The women in the fairway hit long irons to the green and made par. The other one hacked a wedge back into the fairway, and settled for bogey.
I'm guessing that the staff at Cherry Hills normally sets the course up so their members can have an enjoyable round playing ordinary (that is, bogey) golf, so the rough is probably a bit shorter and the fairways are probably a bit wider. And there's a lot to enjoy at this course. It was built in 1922, and as you might guess, there are full-grown shade trees everywhere. There are short holes, long holes, uphill holes, downhill holes, doglegs in both directions, water hazards, and sand traps. You're pretty much going to get a chance to use all your clubs, and all your shots, which of course is why Cherry Hills has hosted so many major tournaments.
Cherry Hills is a very prestigious place, with an impressive pedigree. It has hosted three US Men's Opens (1938, 1960, 1978), two PGA championships (1941, 1985), a US Senior Open (1993), a US Amateur Championship (1990), and now the US Women's Open. For all its pedigree and history, it strikes me as the kind of a place where a bogey golfer can have an enjoyable round (assuming they've got the rough trimmed back to normal). So always be friendly around strangers - maybe you'll meet a Cherry Hills member and get invited to play there!
Cherry Hills Country Club Detail
Hole #1 – This mild-mannered unassuming hole is one of the most famous in golf. During the final round of the US Open, a determined Arnold Palmer drove the green here, and made the first of an impressive string of birdies to overcome a 7 shot deficit, going on to defeat such luminaries as an aging Ben Hogan and a rising Jack Nicklaus. It's an elevated tee shot and these days it plays about 346 yards. It's hard to imagine not going for it, unless you're playing for real, in which case you want to keep it in the fairway, and not get caught up in the trees, the sand, or the rough. This hole undid many players in the US Women's Open, including Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie.
Hole #2 – This par 4 plays 415 yards, and gives you a taste of things to come... It's narrow enough to make you exercise some common sense off the tee - trees in the rough on both sides, and a couple of sand traps along the left side. If that's not enough, the green has big bunkers crowding in from both sides, leaving only a tiny gap in between if you're desparately trying to execute the bump-and-run. The green is pretty small, making the purely aerial shot pretty challenging too.
Hole #3 – Playing only 327 yards, this hole is all about precision. There's not enough fairway to use your driver, because the green is completely isolated from the fairway by a whole litter of bunkers and about 80 yards of rough. So you need to be able to accurately place a 200 yard tee shot (watch out for that big bunker on the left...), and then hit a high soft shot onto the green, sailing over the traps and rough.
Hole #4 – This hole stretches out to 429 yards, and it has a bit of a dogleg left. The ideal tee shot is about 250 yards (too much longer and you run out of fairway). Accuracy is still important here. If you stray too far right, you add a lot of distance to the hole. If you stray too far left, you get into the trees and you'll wind up chipping back out so that you can get to the green. And if you can hit a 300 yard drive with just a little bit of a draw, you're going to love this hole!
Hole #5 is a 539 yard par 5 with an elevated green. It can be reached in two with a well-struck tee shot with a slight fade. A more conservative approach is to lay up in front of the trap and the rise to about 80-100 yards. The green slopes pretty severely from back to front, so try and leave your approach shot below the hole.
Hole #6 is as pretty as a postcard. The green is ringed with big cottonwoods, which provide a picturesque backdrop, and separate the hole from #7 behind it, not to mention the great shade they provide. The green is long and narrow, stretching from front right to back left. Long is ruinous, and wide (either side) is no good either. The left side has a cavernous sand trap, there's a steep drop off behind the green, and a grass bunker on the right with the green running away to the left. There's also a trap front right to discourage the bump and run. It's only 158 yards, but it's got to be nearly perfect...
Hole #7 - A relatively short 374 yard dogleg left, the corner is protected by a bunker with a nearly vertical face (no way you're going to roll through this one). Play it like you see it -- straight down the middle about 250-275 yards, and you'll be able to hit a short iron into the green. The green is well-bunkered, but there's a chance to score on this hole.
Hole #8 is a fairly stiff par 3, playing at 206 yards. There's a big trap fronting the green on the left. If you're going to miss, make it short and right. Par is a good score here.
Hole #9 runs back up the hill to the clubhouse. And since uphill approaches are best played from the fairway, don't get wild off the tee. However, since it's 418 yards, you can't exactly lay up either. Hopefully, you're warmed up by this point, because you need a well-hit and straight tee shot landing in the fairway. Even once you do that, it's still no picnic. The fairway has a crown down the middle, so you'll probably still have an uneven lie. Aim at the tree in front of the clubhouse.
Hole #10 takes you back down the hill. Its 414 yards are considerably more benign than the neighboring #9. The fairway slopes from right to left, which makes you favor the right side. However, there are two nasty sand traps on the right side to punish an overly cautious (or stray) shot. Take a moment to enjoy the view before you start down the hill.
Hole #11 is a 522 yard par 5. The tee shot is uphill, and forces you to avoid a bunker on the left. If you hit it sweet, there's a chance to make it in two, since the second shot is flat or even slightly downhill. There's a bunker about 80 yards short of the green on the right side, which forces you to pay attention on your second shot if you need to lay up. Like the neighboring #5, this green also slopes from back to front, and you're well-served to stay below the hole.
Hole #12 is one of those holes that you should always play while armed with a camera. It's a par 3 over water, playing 176 yards. It's simply gorgeous standing on the tee and looking at the green, and then it's just as inspiring to stand on the green and look back at the tee. Colorado Avid Golfer called it the "Hands down winner" of the best par threes in Colorado (July 2005). Once your attention is finally focused on the shot rather than the scenery, be mindful to use plenty of club. Anything short will meet a watery demise. Also, pay close attention to the pin placement. There's a ridge running down the middle of the green -- if you're on the wrong side you have to roll your putt over that ridge, which turns the second half into a downhiller. White knuckle time!
Hole #13 starts out looking kind of boring - 374 yards, straightaway tee shot to an unremarkable fairway. However, once you advance down the fairway far enough to bring the green into view, it unfolds like a Hallmark greeting card. A babbling brook (complete with stone bridges) fronts the green. The green is surrounded on the front by bunkers, but it nestles into a bank on the back, so when in doubt, go long.
Hole #14 was included in Dan Jenkins's "The 18 Best Golf Holes in America" back in 1966. It's a 433-yard par 4. The tee shot to a rising fairway is followed by a dogleg left as the fairway falls away to the creek wrapping around the left side. A bunker gobbles up a wayward approach to the right.
Hole #15 is a 187 yard par 3 from a slightly elevated tee. It is heavily bunkered left and right. Despite the fact that the tee is elevated, landing a shot short to try and run it on won't work because the green is slightly elevated at the last, and the lip will stop a short shot. Even so, that's probably a better idea than landing in one of the traps.
Hole #16 is pretty intimidating. It's a 428 yard par 4 which curves gradually to the right. The fairway slopes left to right at the same time. So if you put a little too much fade in your drive, you can easily roll off into the trees on the right. Likewise if you favor the left side too much, you can drive through the fairway into the trees left. Your second shot needs to fly the creek that crosses the fairway and wraps in to the left of the green. There are traps left and right, so the best bailout if you're not positioned well in the fairway is short (there's room over the creek). Beautiful hole!
Hole #17 is a 531 yard par 5. It's long and straight and would be boring, except that the green is an island which makes the whole thing completely terrifying. While you could normally reach this green in two, your approach shot would need to fly the water, land on the green, and somehow stop before rolling off the back -- remember, you'd be hitting your second shot with a fairway wood or a long iron. Most people lay up to 80-100 yards to play the high soft shot in. But even this is fraught with peril. Ben Hogan spun his approach shot back off the green into the water to finish in ninth place at the 1960 US Open which Arnold Palmer won.
Hole #18 is a tremendous finishing hole. It's 459 yards, uphill, over a big lake. The Cherry Hills members normally play it as a short par 5. The USGA annointed it as a par 4 for the US Women's Open, and the scoring average was 4.7 -- the hardest hole of the championship. Lorena Ochoa took an 8 on this hole after hooking her three wood into the drink, giving up what was at the time the sole lead at the 2005 US Women's Open. And the winner of that championship, Birdie Kim, made a birdie, holing out a greenside bunker shot, after her approach up the hill fell short. This hole is all about how much of the water you want to bite off on your tee shot. It's a real risk-reward situation -- the farther right you hit the tee shot, the more difficult the long approach up the hill is. My advice from one bogey golfer to another is to be pretty conservative, and play for a 5 (it'll probably be a par 5 any time you get a chance to play there) or even a 6. Don't bite off too much of the water. Play a short tee shot out to the right -- three wood or long iron -- lay up to the bottom of the hill, and try to land an approach shot on the green.