I have often wondered how a professional golfer would score on some of our Oregon courses. For instance, how would British Open Champion Ernie Els play The Reserve? After winning at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, where pot bunkers run supreme, my guess is a low score would be in the cards at one of the area’s best layouts. Why? Because the South Course at The Reserve (6,407 yards, designed by John Fought) is noted for its numerous bunkers. And that is putting it mildly. There are fairway traps, greenside bunkers and on the third and sixth holes you could be hitting the same sand shot twice. Good times.
While the South Course is sharply contrasting to its counterpart, the North Course, shot placement is again essential. Have your sand wedge clean and ready. The only noticeable similarity you’ll find between the two sides are slightly elevated greens from the fairway. In addition, the fast greens run as true on the South as they do on the North.
You begin with a 364-yard Par 4, straight away. With a fairway bunker on your left and right (with deep rough on this side), down the middle is the obvious play. Bunkers surround the green and bogey is not a bad start. No. 2 is a 169-yard Par 3. Traps are on the left, right and in back. Leave it short and you can chip and still salvage par. You are welcomed with the first Par 5 at the 482-yard third hole. Tee it left and you will find hazard area, forest and out of bounds. The fairway is wide with a right bunker in the landing area, so think conservative. Your second shot can find sand on the right or left (100-120 yards short of the green) with the sloping fairway. The dual green (with No. 5) slides from right to left. Pin placement will dictate your approach, but for safety measure, keep it on the left side.
The fourth hole plays at 360 yards; however, with mounds and a fairway trap on the right, it feels longer. Your second shot is key. With sand on the left and right of the green, again keeping it short is not a bad play and bogey is not terrible. No. 5 is a shorter Par 4 at 305 yards and straight. A long approach means putting uphill from the 3rd green. If you walk off with a bogey or worse, you might feel like the round is unraveling. Stay strong, the tough part is coming.
The 549-yard sixth plays as the number one handicap. A bad shot will penalize you. With a slice off the tee, you might be in the same bunker you were in on the third hole. Further down the right lies another trap. The green is long and narrow. If the pin is on the right, the greenside bunkers hinder your approach. The 197-yard, Par 3 seventh is a brute. Hitting up hill on the tee, avoiding the left side sand can save you. The 422-yard, Par 4 eighth hole seems like a reprieve because only a horrible shot lands you in a bunker. Par is a good score here and bogey is not shocking. Closing out the front nine is a 385-yard Par 4. Keeping it away from the massive right fairway bunker enhances your par chance significantly. Land in there and double bogey comes in to play because of all the bunkers left of the green.
For whatever reason, the back side plays easier. This might be because now you are aware of your surroundings. The 415-yard tenth plays downhill. Starting left is good, right flirts with a bunker. A stream running midway at the 150-yd mark leads to the greenside pond left. You can run your approach on the right slope to the green to avoid trouble. At No. 11, 171-yard Par 3, a long tee shot is not a dire occurrence. This keeps you away from the traps front left and right, as well as the stream on the right. No. 12 is a Par 4 playing at 326 yards. Although it is short, your second shot needs to be accurate. With the green running away from you, hazard area behind and bunkers all around, double or triple here is possible. Thirteen is another long (401 yards) Par 4. Large traps rest in the fairway and fronting the green. Stay cautious.
At No. 14, the last Par 3, your 138-yard tee shot feels routine at this point. Even if you find sand trouble on the left or right, salvaging par is feasible with the large green. Fifteen plays longer than the listed 491 yards (Par 5). If you hook it left in to the trees or slice, targeting par seems like miles away. Confidence is key on this hole because you want to clear the fairway bunker on your second shot. The 318-yard 16th hole appears easy from the tee. However, the long fairway trap on the left and water right of the green makes this a brain teaser. Depending on how your round is going, you should still do no worse than bogey.
The final two holes are challenging. On 17 (410-yard, Par 4), your tee shot can make or break you. With water all down the left side, from mid fairway to the green, this is the one hole you must play from the short grass. Getting through this hole with bogey or better, consider yourself fortunate. Topping your round at the 504-yard, Par 5 18th can be a curse or a blessing. This hole summarizes the entire course. Traps everywhere, wide fairway, elevated green. All that being said, it might be one of the best finishing holes around. With the stellar looking clubhouse in front of you from the tee box to green, visually and playability, it is a masterpiece.
The South Course is a traditional layout. Pure and plush. Contingents who have played both courses at The Reserve continue to debate which side is tougher. Whichever side you prefer, The Reserve (South or North) offers any golfer a true test of one’s abilities.