Hawk's Landing GC
By Paul Seifert
Last Tuesday I got a call from a friend who wanted to take advantage of a $42 turn-back-the-clock special at University Ridge. I have plenty of vacation days left, and the weather was going to be perfect, so I said absolutely!
After an 8:00 tee time at U-Ridge, I found myself in the mood for more golf. Strange, I know! With a high school tournament being held on both nines, I decided to check out their neighboring course, Hawk's Landing.
Hawk's Landing looks gorgeous from the road, and that initial perception is representative of the actual course. I talked with the pro in the clubhouse, and being a Wednesday there was little traffic and plenty of room for a single to get around without putting pressure on other players.
As an aside: I actually enjoy playing courses I am reviewing on my own. I like to play one ball one hundred percent honestly, and a second the way I think someone who is a stronger (more confident) golfer would play. On holes I would hit three-hybrid off the tee, for example, I will play that, and then will take a driver or three-wood to try cut off more distance. I feel this provides credibility to my play recommendations, even though a lot of times it just ends up making me say to myself, "Seriously, Paul, grow some balls!"
If you're curious how I hit my clubs and how it could translate to your game, I would sum it up like this: My driver goes pretty long, and I can get 250-300 yards out of it. Depending on the day, it will either go straight, slice hard, or I will have issues with my grip and stance and pull my drives frustratingly left. Fortunately, I am having many more of those straight days this season. My Rocketballz three-wood gets out to the 230-260 range. My four- and three-hybrids are two of my more consistent clubs, and average around 200-230, respectively. The best club in my bag is my seven iron, which I hit pretty well in the 165-175 area. Lately, though, I've somehow been getting over 200 out of it from the rough. This game makes no sense sometimes.
I also enjoy playing solo for reviews because it allows me ample time to take photos. My regular threesome will never admit it because they are incredibly supportive, but probably gets a little tired of all the picture-taking. I try hard to not let it slow down play, but it is inevitable.
Midweek is fantastic for golf! Not only are rates slightly lower, but courses are typically much more open - nobody presses you to play faster, and no one in front frustrates you by forcing you to slow down.
But, I digress - back to Hawk's Landing: I find it very interesting that the course flipped their two nines this year. In talking with the club's PGA Head Professional, Rich Bartley, the change was made [back to the original way it was built] as a result of members' recommendations based on a number of factors: The sun setting in the face of last season's finishing hole; having better visibility of players finishing their rounds; and simply allowing for a slightly less tumultuous eighteenth hole. That is not to say the new eighteenth, which is a par five finishing over water on a severely sloped green outside the clubhouse's beautiful restaurant (The Roost), is not difficult!
I always enjoy an eighteenth hole where visitors in the clubhouse and/or restaurant/bar are able to watch the approach shots. There was a beautiful hole like this at True Blue in Pawley's Island, South Carolina. Several local courses with similar finishes include the River Course at Blackwolf Run, The Bull at Pinehurst Farms, Castle at the Bay, and Morningstar.
I was ecstatic there weren't many spectators watching when I finished my round with a birdie putt from eight feet that turned into 25, then a four footer that I finally put in for bogey.
A semi-private golf club, the "new" front nine at Hawk's Landing is definitely my favorite. The back nine is a bit more surrounded by homes - huge, beautiful homes, actually - although none are so close as to impede play. The front nine has more open areas, which I enjoy because it gives more of a feeling of "time away."
The front nine also utilizes more elevation. No hole has more fantastic elevation than the par five fifth. The tee shot is well elevated above a tight fairway that is lined on the left by woods. Out-of-bounds and a plethora of bunkers are on the right side, and the fairway funnels downhill and left to a green that is very well guarded by several large oak trees. This is an awesome par five, and one that breaks in to my all-time favorite par fives in the state of Wisconsin.
The dramatic elevation continues on the sixth. Tee boxes are high above the downward-running fairway, which winds around a huge pond that creates a right-side border for the fairway and green. The left side is dead, so an accurate tee shot is critical. I put my three-hybrid in the woods at the bottom of the hill on my "real" tee shot, then hit the front side of the green with my driver. At 336 yards, that made me feel pretty good. This is another beautiful golf hole.
Hawk's Landing has some great par threes, too. The island hole, number eight, is probably the most popular and most often photographed, but my favorite is the 177-yard (black tees) fourth. Located on the highest point of the golf course (and one of the highest points in Dane County), the wind is a huge factor on this hole, which is wrought with sand traps and a sliver of a laterally running green that is slightly above the normal level of play. A false front and sharp slope add an extra degree or two of difficulty, as well. I appreciated in talking with Rich that this is his favorite, too.
The aforementioned eighth is the par three most readily seen from the road that passes by Hawk's Landing (and University Ridge). Seeing this island-like hole, and how magnificently it is set up - fronted beautifully with railroad ties - provides significant intrigue to golfers who drive by. The green is mercifully huge, but there is a lot of water to carry, even for a hole that only ranges from 114 to 164 yards.
The hardest hole on the course is the par five ninth. At 550 yards from the black tees, the hole goes uphill and is extraordinarily tight. A large white silo resides on the left side, which I got a great look at when my tee shot ended up behind and between it and a huge tree. This was one of my most unfortunate lies of the day, and my only option was to pitch back to the fairway.
The right side of the driving area is heavily sloped right in to a creek-like area that drops six feet from the playing surface, then woods. The fairway continues uphill, and finishes right of a deep front-side bunker and left of a beautiful downhill water feature, complete with a number of waterfalls. This is one of the most demanding holes I have played, and I was happy to get out of there with a seven.
While my initial lie on nine was tough, it didn't come close to the difficulty of my greenside lie on the split-fairway seventeenth. This hole has a mercifully wide fairway area, but sand everywhere else. Fortunately, my recent viewing of the "Bunker Special" with Michael Breed on the Golf Fix taught me how to hit fried eggs, and I was able to smack this on to the front of the green.
Hawk's Landing is one of the most well-kept courses I have played in the state of Wisconsin. The greens are possibly the fastest I have ever played, and roll beautifully. The entire course is as green as green can get. I was told by a member who paired up with me for the back nine that the greens keeper is probably their biggest asset. This is not a knock on the rest of the course and staff, as the property as a whole is very well thought-out and kept.
Putts that would travel four feet on most premier course's greens went fifteen. It was humbling to finish my round with eight three-putts, but I honestly felt like I putted okay.
Hawk's Landing provides a wonderful golf experience, and I also really enjoyed my time sitting down with Rich and talking about his club. His passion for Hawk's Landing is evident in the quality of the course and in talking with their members. If I lived in the Madison area and there is an affordable "junior" membership, Hawk's Landing is a course I would consider joining.
Revised: 05/27/2012 - Article Viewed 32,906 Times
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About: Paul Seifert
Paul Seifert is an often-proclaimed golf addict, and publisher of WiscoSportsAddict, a blog started in August, 2011, as a forum dedicated to reviewing courses and sharing the best of the best in the state with other avid Wisconsin golfers.
Having started playing in Hartland-area leagues at the age of 12, Paul is a classic over-thinker who averages between 80 and 120 rounds per year, and despite carrying a 13-handicap, is committed to the ongoing improvement of his game.
A health care equipment salesman by day, Paul does not claim to be an expert golfer, but is certainly an expert golf enthusiast who loves the sport and enjoys the writing, research, statistics and photography that make for interesting golf conversation.
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