Keith Hills Country Club Passes this Test with Flying Colors

By Sonny Jones, Contributor

BUIES CREEK, NC -- One of the many reasons to play golf is to have fun. There's little else more enjoyable than a round of golf on a challenging -- yet, not overbearing -- course.

Welcome to Keith Hills Country Club, home of the Campbell University Camels.

This Ellis Maples-designed course is about hitting good shots into well-guarded greens. Unlike so many of today's new courses, Keith Hills doesn't require 300 yard drives, nor leave you with 200 yard second shots into par-4s. However, 81 strategically placed bunkers allow for a variety of pin placements that can quickly change the way the course plays.

"It's a position golf course," Keith Hills' Director of Golf Jon Hockaday said. "It's not long, but you've got to place the ball in the right place. It's very playable, but it's a pretty good test for the average golfer. It's also a test for the good golfer from the back tees."

Keith Hills, which opened in 1974, measures 6,703 yards from the back tees, 6,129 yards from the white tees and 5,225 yards from the yellow tees. Par is 72.

The bentgrass greens "normally hold good shots," Hockaday said. So feel free to fire away at the pin, but nearly all the greens are guarded in front by at least one bunker.

An example of the course management required to play Keith Hills is No. 4. The hole, a par 4, measures a mere 303 yards from the back tees and only 266 from the whites. But a huge bunker located about 70 yards from the green takes up more than half the width of the fairway.

Four bunkers guard the green. Should you take a big risk and break out the driver in hopes of having enough control to land the ball safely on the green, back off a little and hope to land it over the big bunker? Or should you avoid the smaller bunkers in front of the green, or play it safe by laying up in front of the fairway bunker thus leaving an 80-to 100-yard approach?

Don't get the impression that Keith Hills is little more than a glorified "pitch-and-putt." It's a true championship course. The par 5s range from 516 yards to 559. The tee shots on both par 5s on the front nine are uphill.

The finishing holes on each side are classic. No. 9 is a 419-yard, par 4 dogleg right. Your second shot must travel over water and a huge bunker. No. 18, a 524-yard par 5 dogleg left, is a superb finishing hole. There's water down the left side which can cause trouble on your second shot. But a good tee shot allows you to cut the corner of the dogleg and possibly reach the green in two. It's a hole that can result in a birdie or a snowman.

The course begins with a 431-yard par-4 dogleg left. You hit from an elevated tee, then your mid-iron second shot is to a green with water in front and a bunker on the right.

The back nine begins with three dogleg right par 4s. The 10th tee is elevated, and your approach shot is to a slightly elevated green.

"The course won't beat you up," Hockaday said.

Keith Hills is located between Raleigh and Fayetteville on U.S. 421. If you're coming from I-95, take exit 73.

Rates range from $30 to $40 during the week and $35 to $45 on weekends, depending on the time of the year. Walking is allowed. Rental clubs and shoes are available. Tee times can be made six months in advance. For tee times, call 1-800-760-9020, ext. 1371.

Campbell University offers a professional golf management curriculum and Keith Hills has been designed with that in mind. The course opened its 32-acre practice facility in 1995. Designed by Dan Maples, the facility features eight target greens, two practice bunkers, four putting greens, and nearly three acres of open tee space. The practice facility has been acknowledged as one of the top 50 in the southeast by Golfweek.

Among the amenities are an onsite restaurant, men's and ladies' locker rooms with showers, and a pro shop which offers custom club fitting.

Keith Hills has been voted one of the top 100 values in the country and has a 4-star rating from Golf Digest. The course has been rated as high as the seventh best public golf course in North Carolina by Carolina Magazine.


Conditions: A
Layout: A
Service: A
Practice Facility: A
Club House/Pro Shop: A
Pace of Play: A
Value: A
Overall Rating: A

Sonny Jones, Contributor

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