Fox Den Golf Course in Stow is in full construction mode over a welcomed change to its golf course: it is eliminating the quirkiness of its dogleg fifth hole, and it’s adding some teeth with a big brawny hole at the sixth.
Golf course architect Brian Huntley of Golf Sense Inc. in Uniontown (pictured) took on the challenge of bettering these two holes. His selection as architect looks like a great choice: he came up with a spectacular, cost-effective idea.
The Wacky Old Fifth and Sixth
Many players have name-called the old fifth hole at Fox Den ‘the worst par-5 hole in Northeast Ohio’. It was hard to debate that statement.
The old fifth hole featured a 90-degree dogleg to the right, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of a chance to cut off some yardage with a well-shaped driver, it was super short at the tee and bent so severely against a wooded hillside that there weren’t many options.
The safety tee shot required a downhill 6- or 7-iron to a flat area that ran away from the tee and always seemed wet. There were two issues: mis-hit the shot slightly and the right corner of the dogleg blocked the second; hit it just a few yards too far and a cart path at the end of the landing area would wickedly kick the ball into the far trees, adding a new black asphalt logo to the ball as extra punishment.
The other tee shot option was to cut the dogleg with a crazy high circus shot over some extremely tall trees. A good percentage of these tries ended up as lost balls, as it was easy to catch any one of a hundred trees and drop into the thick leaves at the top of the hill.
Depending upon how successfully a player cut the dogleg, the second shot to the par-5 would range from 220 to 320 yards to an oversized green set blind high on a hill.
The old sixth hole that followed was a short, rolling par-4 without much character to it. A new tee box installed deeper into the woods a few years back added a touch of length, but still not enough to matter: it remained a driver-wedge hole. The fairway roller-coaster slopes a couple hundred yards out, but many players could carry the hilly section up to the flat part of the fairway. The green complex chases away from the fairway, so a front pin could make it hard to get close. But usually, a good wedge shot led to a strong birdie chance.
The Fun New Fifth and Sixth
With Huntley’s changes, goodbye 7-iron par-5 tee shot!
The new fifth hole will be a tricky downhill par-3 that maxes out at 197 yards. The existing tee box location from the fifth hole will still be used and expanded, and the new green has already been built in the far left corner of the old dogleg landing area. (See the photo at the top of this article.) This new green is large enough to properly accept the length of shot, sloping from front to back with two bunker on the left side.
The new sixth hole will become a challenging risk/reward par-5, playing 548 yards from the back tees. The tee shot will be played from a brand new box built up in the woods on the hill, at the spot where players used to aim their circus shot to cut the dogleg on the old fifth. Trees line the left and right sides of the fairway from this new tee, and a good tee shot should finish just left of the old fifth green.
The second shot into this par-5 could produce some awkward stances due to the major slope of the fairway. And miss your second shot left while going for the green in two, and the risk is great for a ball to kick out of bounds.
If you choose to lay up, you’ll have to deal with two new fairway bunkers, one 100 yards out on the left side and a one 25 yards out on the right.
The existing sixth green will remain for this new hole, so it will be a challenge for those trying to hit the green in two shots to figure out a way to make the ball stop on a surface that runs away from the fairway. There may be a lot of chipping back.
“The new hole configuration should make the two holes safer and more playable,” Huntley says. “As well as more strategic and interesting.”
These New Holes Coming Soon!
The smartest thing about this upgrade is that the golf course remains playable with 18 holes available even while the new hole configurations are being finished.
A temporary tee box for the fifth hole has been moved to the base of the hill, making the old fifth play as an uphill par-4 until the new holes open.
The current sixth hole remains playable as-is while the new fairway bunker work is completed and a few more trees between the holes are cleared away.
To date, the new par-3 green for the fifth hole has been shaped. The trees for the new tee box on six are completely gone (anyone need firewood?) and the box is ready for grassing, too.
To get quick growth, high-end golf-specific sod will be placed on the new green and tee, on all the surrounds, and in the areas around the new bunkers. This sod will be laid in late April or May, depending upon the weather. About 7 days of work remain to place the sod, connect the new holes together, and complete the final seeding.
Assuming some reasonable weather, the new fifth and sixth holes at Fox Den are expected to open mid-summer 2017.
If this renovation is successful, there is a concept plan to rework a few more holes on the front nine in the future…