18 Triangle holes you must play

By Patrick Jones, Contributor

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The change of the year provides golfers a good chance to look back on favorite rounds of the past 12 months and look ahead to the local tracks to include in the upcoming season. For golfers in North Carolina's Triangle region (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill), following are 18 holes you can play that you do not want to miss in 2003.

1. Eagle Ridge No. 18, Par-4, 438 yards

The home hole on this Tom Kite-Bob Cupp layout in Garner is one of the few holes on the course where a large amount of water comes into play. A good approach shot must carry the lake to find a spot on a very contoured green. Watch out for pins on the front and left of the green, challenging locations where Kite's Texas buddy Ben Crenshaw might walk off pleased with a round-ending three-putt.

2. The Neuse No. 8, Par-5, 536 yards

Enjoy the view from the top of the longest par-5 at The Neuse, a John LaFoy design in Clayton. A drive too far past the landing area will result in a second shot from a severe downhill lie. The second shot has to avoid a fishing pond (and sometimes fishermen) at the bottom of the hill and get far enough up the next hill to have a shot at the green. Go too far over the green and you have the chance to tee it up again on No. 3.

3. The Neuse No.14, Par-3, 192 yards

The most photographed hole at the Neuse is the par-3 14th -- and for good reason. The tee shot must clear a ball-swallowing pond and avoid bunkers on the right and a rock field on the left. The gargantuan boulders obscure the left side of the green and can hide left-side pin placements. Tee shots that stay dry, don't ricochet off the rocks, avoid the bunkers and find the green - no problem - can provide a birdie opportunity, though gratefully accept par. If neither, enjoy the Kodak moment.

4. River Ridge No. 5, Par-4, 375 yards

The signature hole at River Ridge is a slightly downhill, dogleg-left par-4. The open fairway presents plenty of choices for setting up an approach shot to the elevated green. Approach shots must clear water, rocks, and a bunker dropped down steeply from the green. The owner of the course, a doctor, lives a short-iron away. It's unlikely he'll be around to help if your ticker can't take the pressure.

5. Crooked Creek No. 12, Par-5, 598 yards

Crooked Creek's number 2 handicap hole is wonderful if you love changes in elevation - and if you have no problem finding the course in the cozy hamlet of Fuquay-Varina. Tee shots must be straight and controlled because thick woods and out of bounds are on the left and right, respectively. A good shot will give you a nice view down to a well-protected green on this Chuck Smith designed course.

6. Wildwood Green No. 5, Par-4, 441 yards

This par-4 dogleg-right sets up a nice one-two punch in the middle of the opening nine on this LaFoy layout in north Raleigh. Tee shots definitely have to favor the left side of the fairway to avoid the slope leading down to a creek. Your approach shot must clear a pond to get to a narrow green, but if it's hit too long, you will be in the woods or chipping down a hill to the green.

7. Wildwood Green No. 6, Par-3, 172 yards

National PGA Club Professional Championship winner Roger Watson, who has ownership in this course, will tell you that the back-to-back favorites at Wildwood Green mean more water. The very elevated tee looks down and across a huge pond to a tri-cornered green protected by a single bunker. There's only a little bit of grass separating the green from the blue, so don't be short.

8. The Crossings No. 3, Par-3, 160 yards

This island green is an early test in rounds at The Crossings in Durham. Who needs bunkers with the water all around? Know the yardage and choose a club carefully when going for this undulating green. Except for front pin placements, just focus on getting tee shots on the green. Look for the pin later. Coack K, Duke basketball's master strategist who coaches in town, couldn't argue with that sound advice.

9. Knight's Play No. 7, Par-3, 123 yards

The area's other island green is at Knight's Play 27-hole par-3 facility. That's no surprise since its architect, David Postelthwait, was a contributing architect to TPC at Sawgrass, famous for No. 17. No. 7 is a short, pretty, but tricky shot from an elevated tee down to a green with little foul ground between it and the drink.

10. Falls Village No. 4, Par-4, 453 yards

Most of the par-4s at Falls Village are on the longish side, and that includes this 453-yarder. This beautiful downhill hole was carved right out of the pines and hardwoods near Research Triangle Park by Lee Trevino protégée Bill Daniels. Don't be fooled by the hole's beauty; it's the number 1 handicap hole for a reason.

11. The Preserve at Jordan Lake No.13, Par-4, 456 yards

One of the signature holes at Davis Love III's The Preserve is No.13. Tee shots need to be straight to avoid the woods on either side and long to get downhill roll. Although not bunkered, the green on this hole has protective mounding that can bump running approaches waterward. Like Love's 1997 PGA Championship trophy, it makes for a great view.

12. Heritage Golf Club No.18, Par-5, 526 yards

The finishing hole at Heritage is a great par-5 across and around a bordering lake. The knee-knocking tee shot must cross a significant stretch of water and a bulwark fence and avoid fairway pot bunkers. The approach shot must avoid another protecting bunker and the ever-present lake. Arnold Palmer, who matriculated nearby at the old Wake Forest College, would have loved this challenge.

13. Lochmere No. 9, Par-5, 558 yards

The outward nine on this Cary staple owned by ClubCorp Golf concludes with a big hitter's challenge, a dogleg-left par-5 that's the longest on the course. If you think about going for the green in two, you have to take into account the pond fronting the sharp upslope to the green, which is bunkered on both the left and the right.

14. Riverwood No. 4 (Deer Run course), Par-4, 412 yards

The fourth hole on the Deer Run course at Riverwood is straight but very punishing if you stray from the short grass. Although approach shots do not have to cross the water to reach the green, the water will naturally have you favor the right side of the green. Regardless of how you play it, you can't argue with the free hotdogs and soda included with your green fee.

15. Keith Hills No.18, Par-5, 524 yards

Tee balls on Keith Hills' home hole must carry part of the lake that borders the entire fairway. Second shots will have to contend with another lake finger and the narrow strip of fairway bordered by woods. Approach shots still have to avoid protective bunkers and green undulations before par is safe. Don't miss the homemade lemonade at the turn on the home course of the Campbell University Fighting Camels in Buies Creek.

16. Finley No.15, Par-4, 435 yards

The vista at No.15 at Finley is, well, amazing. Water stretches entirely down the left-hand side of this dogleg-left. The green is tiered, so take note of the pin placement before choosing your approach club. Tom Fazio redesigned this Chapel Hill gem in 1999.

17. Raleigh Golf Association No.15, Par-3, 189 yards

We're still not sure why the course is called an association? The water, the bunker, and the severe green slope are evident from the tee on No. 15. Putts that come down the slope from the back and left sides of the green can be hard to control, so keep tee shots below the pin whenever possible.

18. Duke No. 3, Par-4, 387 yards

Like selecting the Holy Grail from imposter mugs, choose wisely on this tee box at the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club. It's tempting to go straight at the green, but that brings the fairway bunker into play. Pin placements on the back of this two-tiered green can be especially difficult.

Patrick JonesPatrick Jones, Contributor

Patrick Jones was the senior producer for ESPN's "Lower Your Score with Tom Kite" CD-ROM instructional golf training series. He spent six years as a full-time sports writer and was awarded first-place honors for column writing from both the Florida and Texas sports writers associations.

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