Hodge Park is one of the more popular public courses in the metro area.
It is a course designed to challenge players but also to help improve their game.
Ultimately, though, players want to enjoy their round of golf, and Tim Underwood, Hodge Park’s affable manager and Head PGA Professional, wants to help golfers do that by providing a hole-by-hole strategy guide to playing well at Hodge.
The par-71/72 course plays 6,181 yards from the back tees, 5,707 yards from the middle tees and 5,293 yards from the red tees. Underwood’s strategy guide is designed primarily for players hitting from the middle tees, although it is generally applicable to all players.
“For the average player, hitting from the white tees at 5,707 seems to be the perfect setting,” he said. “The course is designed with the novice-to-average golfer in mind. It’s very easy to walk and a good value. It has fantastic Zoysia fairways which makes it easy for the novice to get the ball in the air.”
The front nine plays 2,855 yards from the middle tees, starting with a fairly long starting hole, a 380-yard par four.
“The best place to position your ball is to the left side of the fairway,” Underwood said. “If you get too far right, you’re blocked out by a big tree. There’s a lot of slope on the green from right to left. The best position is below the hole on the right.”
The second hole is a “confidence builder.”
“Hitting from an elevated tee, a good player should have no more than a wedge to the green,” Underwood said of the short par four, 310-yard hole. “Birdies are common here.”
Number three is an uphill par three which plays longer than its 148 yards.
“The hole can easily play 180 yards due to the elevation,” Underwood said. “If you hit it past the pin, be careful. It’s a slick downhill putt. The green is fast.”
One of the easiest holes follows; a par four at 400 yards.
“Positioned 300 yards out is a pond to the left,” Underwood said. “It may catch some long hitters. There’s plenty of room to the right. A long hitter can come into the green with a short iron at tops.”
One of the easiest holes is followed by the most difficult; the 432-yard par 4/5 number five.
“From the tee you hit it uphill,” Underwood said. “On your approach shot, you hit off a downhill lie. The difficulty here is being able to hit your approach shot from that downhill lie. Most have a long to mid-iron on the shot anyway.”
Number six is a risk/reward hole, a short par four at 269 yards.
“To carry our pond, you’ll need to carry the ball about 250 yards (from the back tees). If you carry the pond you may be able to hit the green, especially if you have a prevailing wind, and you might be able to get a birdie or even an eagle.”
The seventh hole is much like the third, a par three at 157 yards.
“It’s uphill,” Underwood warned. “It plays at least one club longer than number three.”
Number eight gives long players a chance to cut some distance off the par 4, 388-yard downhill, dogleg left.
“Long players like to cut the corner,” Underwood said. “Should you hit the fairway, you would be left with a seven, eight or nine iron, with a slight downhill lie.”
The next hole is almost the opposite; 371 yards with a slight dogleg right.
“The key here is not to hit the ball too far left, Underwood advised. “If you do you’re blocked by a huge tree. To the left or not too far right are alright.”
The 2,852-yard back nine starts off with Hodge’s most distinctive hole, the 371-yard, par four number 10.
“It’s the number six handicap, but it really could be number one,” Underwood said. “It’s more of a signature hole. From the elevated tee, you need to hit the ball to the middle and even to the right side of the fairway to have an angle into a dogleg left. Left is dead and way right can also be dead.”
Underwood has advice for players who might have a little wagering going on.
“If there’s money on the line,” he said, “stop by the pro shop and ask them what club to hit.”
Number 11, a 445-yard par 5, is a fairly easy hole for big hitters.
“A good drive and a good three wood should easily get you home here,” Underwood said. “Eagle is not out of the realm of possibility.”
The next hole, par three number 12, is more difficult than it seems.
“It seems to play closer to 200,” Underwood said of the 193-yard listing from the back tees. “You should plan your club for that. The green is narrow and quickly slopes right to left. Par is a good score here.”
Can you hit it high and deep? If so, the par four, 376-yard dogleg right number 13 provides an opportunity.
“If you can hit a towering drive, you can cut off 30 yards on this hole,” Underwood said. “The majority of players will have to hit a hard slice to find the fairway. Left and way right is dead. It’s the number two handicap (on the course) because it has such a sharp dogleg.”
Number 14 presents another opportunity at par four and 248 yards.
“It’s a confidence builder,” Underwood said. “It’s another fun risk/reward hole. If there was ever a hole where you can make a hole-in-one on a par four, this is it. Bunkers guard the green left and right.”
Par four, 338-yard number 15 presents some challenges.
“Hitting downhill from an elevated tee, most players lay up at about 190-200 yards, short of the pond,” Underwood said. “Your tee shot should be positioned to the left side of the fairway to have an angle to an uphill green that’s guarded by trees right and left. You have to kick a field goal through the trees. Long hitters can get it over the pond; it’s about a 260-yard carry.”
168-yard number 16 also plays long.
“It’s another strong par 3, uphill,” Underwood said. “It’s pretty straightforward: hit the green, make par. Miss the green, you may be in trouble. The green has a lot of slope back to front.”
The course’s longest hole follows, a par 6 at 485 yards.
“It’s a dogleg left, with trees bordering the fairway left and right,” Underwood said. “On your second shot, be careful hitting from a sidehill lie, with the ball below your feet. Most players will put a slice on the ball. What makes the hole tough is there’s a pond there to catch your ball. You may be better off laying up with a mid-iron versus trying to attack the green with a long wood.”
The last hole gives players a chance to finish strong.
“It’s a fun hole,” Underwood said. “If you really have a good round going, 18 provides an excellent opportunity. It’s a downhill par four where a good tee shot will leave you on the green or a wedge shy. It may be just what you need to have your best round of golf ever.”
Overall, the course can be friendly if you take advantage of opportunities and don’t fall into traps such as not hitting the ball far enough to the right on number 10.
Underwood enjoys playing from the middle tees even though he’s an accomplished player.
“As a good player, I like hitting my driver and then using a wedge onto the green,” he said. “The middle tees play longer. You’ll have 50 to 75-yard shots and you can really get into your wedges. For an average player from the white tees at 5,707 yards, it seems to be the perfect setting.”
A friendly staff adds to the course value, as do a variety of featured programs.
“The staff works very hard on promoting pace of play,” Underwood said. “They are making sure everybody has a good time.”
It’s also a very accessible course which runs daily internet specials and late night specials.
“You can play any time after work,” he said. “It stays open until 15 minutes before dark. If you want to play nine holes, 12, 15, or 17 holes, or 18, we have a rate for you. If you want to play first thing in the morning or late at night we have a rate for you.”
Hodge is adding ladies tees to “soften it up.”
“It plays a little bit long for the ladies,” Underwood explained. “But we do have one of the bigger ladies groups in town for leagues. Men’s is one of the bigger leagues in town, too.”
Hodge also runs night golf tourneys and tournaments associated with all the major championships. Their ribeye and turkey scramble tournaments are very popular.
To boost youth golfing experience, First Tee is coming to Hodge Park, starting in mid-June.
One of the best features of Hodge Park is their training program. PGA professional Underwood has special certification in teaching; he’s one of the few specially certified teachers in the area and is known as one of the better teachers in the Northland.
“If you want a quick improvement in your game,” Underwood said, “we can take a novice player and turn them into an accomplished player in no time at all.”
For more information, contact Hodge Park at 816-781-4152 or visit their website at hodgeparkgolf.com