While my friends watched football on Sunday, a sport that I’ve never followed, I checked out a new course! I had my eye on a couple places and decided to play Oak Valley, which is an Arnold Palmer design. Over the last couple years I’ve really started to like Palmer courses, mostly because they are so playable for the average golfer.
Oak Valley was about 40 minutes away from my friend’s house and it is actually west of Winston-Salem. Apparently there are quite a few courses nearby too as I drove past at least two or three. The last mile or two that I drove reminded me of Palm Springs with courses all over the place! I booked a 9:30am tee time for $49 which is their rack rate. It was a chilly morning but that worked out to my advantage! It seems the cold and the football games kept all the golfers away. I had the course to myself except for a group or two and was able to get all the pictures I wanted!
I’ll get the possible negative about the course out of the way early in my review. If you are a golfer who likes plenty of scenery and a course in the middle of nature, then you’ll be disappointed with Oak Valley. The course is an upscale community course and I didn’t think that there was much “wow” factor to it. There is just some minor elevation change and many of the holes blended together, but that’s probably tied to the setting. Homes can be seen on just about every hole and you cross residential roads to get to multiple holes. It is a bit of a shame as the course has everything else going for it! That’s pretty much all the “bad” that I can write about Oak Valley and it isn’t a deal breaker for me as you’ll see if you keep reading!
Overall I enjoyed the design and I’d go back if I lived nearby! I mentioned that Arnold Palmer designs are playable and I certainly found that to be the case here! I played the blue tees which play 6682/72.1/133 and encountered lots of shots that challenged me, but none that were unfair. In fact, there were a lot of design features which I personally enjoy! The fairways were wide and there was plenty of space to track down a wayward tee shot. I lost one ball, but it was deserved after a terrible tee shot on #10! There are a few bunkerless greens which I like as it means less to maintain. Hazards are the course’s main defense, but many were set back a few extra yards from play and it seemed that there was always a spot where I could play bail out.
The conditions were nothing short of outstanding and worth more than the price that I paid! If you love speedy greens then you won’t be disappointed with Oak Valley. Of course, that assumes that the course is typically maintained this well. The greens were smooth and some of the quickest that I’ve played all year! I just had to brush a putt to get it going and even my good putts seemed to roll out four feet no matter where I was! The nice is that the greens were receptive considering how fast they were. The rest of the course was in good shape too. The fairways were full, didn’t have many divots, and were cut short.
I cannot comment on other courses within 30 minutes, but I’d say that Oak Valley is worthy of an hour drive. It isn’t a course that will take your breath away, but it has lots to enjoy and a great set of par 3’s!
#1 (413 yard par 4):
The 1st, at 413 yards, is one of the longest par 4’s on the course. The green is located over the fairway bunkers to the left (~230 yards to carry) and someone can challenge them on the opening tee shot. The fairway is wide, more-so over the bunkers, so it shouldn’t be much trouble to find the fairway even if running from the car! The approach plays downhill through a narrower gap of trees to the green. Depending on where the tee shot ends up, curving the second might be needed.
#2 (483 yard par 5):
The 2nd is the shortest par 5 at Oak Valley and a good chance to get one back. It is straightaway to the green and the only trouble comes in the form of water off to the right (~225 yards to get to) and some mounding to the left. If someone cannot reach in two then playing short of the green could leave a simple pitch. Make sure not to go over the green because it slopes down towards the cart path and into the woods.
#3 (411 yard par 4):
The 3rd, the #3 handicap, could be a scorecard disaster so I’d proceed with caution! The tee shot was uncomfortable for my left to right ball flight, especially with the skinny fairway. The fairway is as narrow as can be where my tee shot landed and it squiggles right and then left. I’d bet the fairway is normally wider, but I think the course might be trying to grow some grass. Water could come into play short and right of the green, but the hazard is set back a bit. My approach got caught up in the wind but I was still able to play it. The green slopes from left to right which can help to avoid the water!
#4 (378 yard par 4):
I found the 4th one of the more un-involved holes to play, but it shouldn’t be too tough. The tee shot should split some fairway bunkers before the approach plays into a beautifully bunkered green. The fairway slopes from left to right and downslopes ~100 yards to go. Therefore, I’d favor the left side and the bigger hitters probably will want to hit less than driver. This could be a chance to hit one close!
#5 (351 yard par 4):
The 5th is the shortest par 4 on the course one that could be a good opportunity, if the tee shot ends up in the fairway! From the tee box the hole drops down to a narrowing fairway that is guarded by water on the left. I’d actually say the fairway is generous, especially since a driver isn’t needed. I would avoid landing a shot on the left side of the fairway as it could kick into the water. The second plays to a green that slopes from back to front and right to left.
#6 (144 yard par 3):
After the shortest par 4 is the shortest par 3! I’ll admit that while standing on the tee, it looked like a simple, easy par 3. That might be the case for some, but it has some teeth! The pin was towards the front when I played and I didn’t realize that there is a creek that runs short of the green and a huge drop off short of the green too. My ball rolled back down the slope and I had to figure out if I should play a bump and run into the slope or fly my chip all the way onto the green. To avoid my mistake, make sure to land the ball deep into the green. The 6th was one of my favorite holes at Oak Valley!
#7 (534 yard par 5):
The 7th is a tricky par 5 that is the #1 handicap. It doglegs right and most tee shots can be played straight ahead towards the homes in the picture. Someone can challenge the fairway bunker, but anything landing short and/or right of it could be in a water hazard that runs up to the green. For some, it might even be a layup off the tee. The fairway starts to get narrow and goes right near that bunker, so I’m not sure being aggressive is the best play. A creek cuts across short of the green too so it will be all carry to get there in two. The layup plays to a narrow fairway and the third shot plays into a green that slopes from back to front. There is a small right tier on the green which looked difficult!
#8 (146 yard par 3):
The 8th is another short par 3, but it played an extra club for me on a chilly morning. The green’s surface cannot be seen from the tee which makes it hard to visualize a spot to land the ball. The green slopes from right to left which means someone will have to challenge the right bunker to get it close to a right flag. There aren’t any bunkers over the green so that wouldn’t be a bad spot to miss.
#9 (403 yard par 4):
The 9th is a mid-length par 4 that has an elevated tee. My tee shot hung in the air for a long time which isn’t a problem when there is plenty of room left and right, like there is here! The only issue will be trying to keep it in-between the fairway bunkers. The approach plays just enough uphill that I opted for an extra club. A small ridge divides the green into a left and right side which can make it tough to stop a long putt or chip near the flag.
#10 (361 yard par 4):
The 10th is a shorter par 4 with some options. The fairway is guarded by water on both sides and a creek cuts across short of the green. Someone can be aggressive and hit driver to a narrower part of the fairway or lay up to the fatter part. I don’t think the creek should be in play from the fairway, except on a terrible shot, but it certainly is if someone is out of position off the tee (like me!). If someone finds the fairway, the 10th can offer a chance for a good score. But if not, then it could be a big number on this easier looking hole.
#11 (185 yard par 3):
The 11th is the longest par 3 on the course and even with its distance, it set up great for my normal fade. It played about a club downhill and I was able to shape a shot in-between the bunkers. There is plenty of space around the green to find a crooked long iron. I certainly think it plays easier than the yardage!
#12 (404 yard par 4):
The 12th was a brutal par 4 when I was there! It doglegs right and plays uphill which adds plenty of yardage. It was very tough, especially with the back pin. The ball wasn’t flying so I had to play left of the fairway bunker and had a long club into a green that angles from front right to back left. The green is deep, three-tiered and guarded by a bunker on the left and out of bounds to the right. I was happy with my bogey!
#13 (433 yard par 4):
The 13th is the longest par 4 on the course, but I ended up with 50 yards less into the green than I had on the last hole (after two similarly struck tee shots!). The holes doglegs severely to the left and an aggressive tee shot can carry those two fairway bunkers, so there is some risk/reward to the hole. The bigger hitters will probably have just a short iron into the green. The green slopes from right to left and there is trouble left of the green, so I’d make sure to avoid the left side of the green complex.
#14 (410 yard par 4):
The 14th is the last of three 400+ par 4’s, so it caps off a tough stretch. It doglegs left and plays a bit uphill so someone could end up with a longer iron into the green, especially if the tee shot goes to the right. The fairway is pretty large and the only item of concern is a fairway bunker which is ~250 yards to reach. A draw is best off the tee, but I was able to play my normal 15 yards fade without any trouble. A draw is the best shot into the green too because of its angle and bunkers to its left. Missing right of the green probably leaves the best chance to get it up and down. Note that the greens slopes a tiny bit from front to back.
#15 (551 yard par 5):
The 15th is the longest par 5 on the course and it is ranked as the #2 handicap. I don’t think it plays to its handicap, but the length probably has something to do with the rating. The tee shot plays to a rise in another generous fairway. I hit my layup towards a fairway bunker before the hole moved right. The 3rd shot plays to a green that slopes gently from front to back. That could make it tough to judge the distance if not playing from the fairway. There is a chipping area and some mounds short and left of the green.
#16 (165 yard par 3):
The 16th is probably my favorite hole at Oak Valley! It is a mid-length par 3 that features a narrow green guarded by a creek that curls around short and left. Any shot landing a few yards left of the of the green has a good chance of bouncing in the creek. Missing right of the green isn’t a bargain either as that will leave a fast chip towards the creek! The pin was up front when I was there, so I only hit an 8 iron. With just a short iron, I thought it was a brilliant par 3!
#17 (374 yard par 4):
The 17th is one of the shorter par 4’s on the course. It is a good opportunity for a short iron approach because it plays downhill. An aggressive tee shot will challenge the bunkers, but someone could lay up if they wanted. I’d try to avoid the left side of the fairway because of a potential bad bounce into the creek to the left. The approach has to carry a marshy area and I’d suggest landing the ball well into the green. My ball landed around the front edge and rolled back into the rough because of a false front.
#18 (536 yard par 5):
The 18th is a closing par 5 and a chance to end the day on a good note! The tee shot should split two water hazards and stay short of a creek. I don’t have an exact yardage to the creek, but the tees were up and I hit my drive ~255 yards and was still well short of it. After the drive, the hole plays uphill to the green. Even if someone cannot reach the surface in two there are some options. Depending on someone’s strength, it might be a good idea to play 30 or 40 yards short of the green (keeping it short of the greenside bunkers) to leave just a pitch. Out of bounds to the left was closer than I expected once I got up to the green.