Ekwanok is a fascinating course because it ties itself to the development of American golf early in the 20th century and then fast forward to the club's efforts in bringing back to life the Walter Travis connection.
Although there are back-and-forth holes at the beginning and of the round there is also the confounding and devilish greens that can quickly put a golfer on their heels. Prudent approach play is an essential ingredient. There is room provided for the tee game but failure to be in the correct position can mean a most trying time with one's flatstick.
The par-3 6th is quite fun to play -- just be sure not to miss to the right side as the probability in walking off the green with a par is certainly remote when the pin is cut on that side.
When you arrive at the renowned par-5 7th your eyes will be riveted on the mounding that protects the distant opening on this engaging hole. I was told that a visit by Davis Love III had him attempt to reach the green by driving his ball to the adjacent 8th green so as to avoid the mounding previously mentioned. I was also told no person had reached the green in two shots.
The terrain for the 7th is something one can only find on the real gems from years ago. Thankfully, the hole was not bulldozed to death because the features would have been forever lost.
One of my favorite holes is the uphill par-4 9th. The tee shot features a blind landing area and what you don't fully appreciate is the hidden fairway bunkers that flank both sides of the hole. Once again, it's grand to see the retention of such bunkers because they have a significant role to play at the 9th.
The inward half takes you into the hillier portion of the routing. The par-3 11th green from what I was told was created by Bruce Hepner and it's beautifully crafted with enough vexing movements to keep you on your toes. The uphill par-4 12th takes you over a massive rise with the green tucked on the downward side. The terrain adds to the joy in playing the hole.
The balance of the course works from the hillier terrain back and the par-4 15th is highlighted by water that works its way into the picture off the tee and then widens into a pond. The final three holes are a good mixture of two-shot holes. Originally, the par-4 17th served as the opening hole but that was changed a few years later.
The par-4 18th is a good concluding hole. One has to decide -- do you attempt the carry over a perpendicular creek or opt for the safer play and then face a much longer approach to a green elevated above you.
Travis did a number of fine designs but there are clubs that failed to keep his fingerprints front and center. Ekwanok fortunately has done that through the recent involvements of Hepner and Tom Doak. As I said, if you have issues with your putter Ekwanok will be inflicting some serious mental anguish throughout your round.
M. James Ward
Date: September 25, 2021