Now here’s an oddity for North Carolina: a country club named “Forest Oaks” designed by a man named “Ellis Maples,” and not one mention of “pine” to be found! One similarity the club holds to the region, however, is wonderful terrain for golf and even the potential to host professional events. Indeed, Forest Oaks hosted the Greater Greensboro Open for 30 years, from 1977 to 2007.
Davis Love III, no stranger to the Carolinas, found one of his first architectural projects at the club during 2002, when he renovated the course with focus on enlarging the putting surfaces and adjusting the bunkering. Those familiar with his later work at the Sea Island resort will recognize the Raynorian aesthetic that Love first brought to the bunkers at Forest Oaks, rather geometric and often wrapping around significant portions of the green. That Golden Age architect’s influence can also be seen in the Redan-style par three at No. 8.
Those familiar with Maples will recognize that much of the course is a reflection of that architect’s mentor, Donald Ross, whose influence flows throughout North Carolina.
The detailed review by Adam is absolutely spot on. Forest Oaks provides a clear "bang for your buck" golf design. Having hosted a PGA TOUR event for many years is a clear testament to what golfers have to face and overcome. Clear credit has to also go to the involvement of Davis Love III in taking a core course and giving it a needed lift. Having a quality turf presentation also adds to the mix. Hats off is indeed warranted to the superintendent and hardworking team.
Adam correctly highlighted the routing which keeps players adjusting -- never getting too comfortable in a predictable routine. There's also enough sizzle to keep low handicap players aware of what's asked for in terms of shotmaking dexterity.
The difficult aspect for Forest Oaks is being in such a highly competitive State. North Carolina has a rich brew of various golf courses. You also have the involvement of a range of architects -- both past and present -- that have left viable and lasting golf designs. Overall, Forest Oaks delivers in a number of instances which Adam so competently presented.
Those who need to honor a personal budget when they play will find Forest Oaks the right choice. My only major disagreement with Adam is a simple one -- I'd place the course a bit honor on its overall standing!
M. James Ward
Outside of the Sandhills region, Greensboro arguably boasts more breadth and depth of golf architecture than any other city in the Old North State. This variety is especially true among courses that are publicly accessible. One can find minimalist designs dating back to the Golden Age (Perry Maxwell’s Gillespie Park comes to mind), bold and brash modern layouts (Pete Dye’s Cardinal and Oak Hollow are two personal favorites), and virtually every style of golf in between.
It is my opinion that the crown jewel of these very strong daily fee options, though, is Forest Oaks Country Club. As the host to the historic Greater Greensboro Open for three decades, Forest Oaks became a favorite of tour players. While its transition from private to public had some amenity hiccups, the quality of golf and the integrity of the layout were never lost thanks to superb efforts by the superintendent and staff. A quick scan of recent course reviews reiterates that the conditions today are as immaculate as ever.
Despites its modern setting and relatively recent renovations, Forest Oaks pays homage to the design style of classic architects. Routed over tumbling terrain through suburban neighborhoods, the real star of the show at Forest Oaks are its massive, daunting green complexes. This flavor of golf – which forces the player to think carefully about angles as they approach each putting surface – is too rarely encountered on other courses built in the same era.
No two holes are alike at Forest Oaks, and players of every level can expect to encounter strategic challenges throughout their round. Some of the most notable holes include:
• #4: The tee shot at the par five 4th is fear-inducing. With a pond running down the entire left side of the fairway and out-of-bounds long and right, players must carefully take a long-iron or metal off the tee. Some relief is rewarded by those who bank their shot off the boundary hill. The second shot plays uphill to a green so severe in its pitch, any shot missed long will be nearly impossible to recover.
• #11: Among my personal favorite holes in the entire state, the 11th is a modern twist on the classic Biarritz template. With a bowled fairway, the drive is relatively straight-forward. Most Biarritz holes – with their horseshoe-shaped green complexes – are long par threes. The spirit of that design is captured here beautifully for those players attempting to reach the green in two. Finding oneself in the bowl or on the wrong plateau of the green is a recipe for disaster, and the best way to attack this massive putting surface may be on the ground.
• #12: The curvature of the lake on the 12th is beguiling. In essence, the unique shape provides three distinct landing zones, each shrinking as the player becomes more aggressive. Brave drives are rewarded as the uphill approach into this green is lengthy.
• #14: Like any good short par four, the 14th at Forest Oaks provides the proper amount of temptation. Reaching the green requires a drive that curves hard to the right. Any shot over-cooked risks out-of-bounds or a more difficult angle into a green flanked by a C-shaped trap. Less risky players face their own challenges, with the ideal landing area pinched by additional bunkers.
• #15: Twisting the challenge, the 15th begs the player to hug the inside left curve of the hole. This green complex is banked gorgeously into a natural knoll and leaves an unnerving, blind approach.
• #18: The finishing hole at Forest Oaks is a full adventure. Off the tee, players can attempt to clear a menacing cross bunker, gaining a significant yardage advantage, or play safely to its right. This conservative strategu may be penalized, though, as the corridor bends right over a hill which may reject those drives backwards, leaving a blind approach off a sidehill lie. While the green complex welcomes run-up shots, any player trying to reach the putting surface in two must navigate a classic, thin, centerline bunker that gives a greenside-illusion.
Around the state’s other major metro areas (Raleigh/Durham, Charlotte, etc.), one would be hard pressed to find a weekend, in-season tee time at a high caliber public course for less than $75. Maxing out at just over ~$50 on any day of the week, with numerous specials scattered throughout, Forest Oaks provides a quality golf experience at a more affordable price than comparable public courses in the aforementioned cities. Recent testimonials on Google reaffirm that golfers are traveling here regularly from far and wide for Forest Oaks’ exceptional value. If you find yourself in the Greensboro area, take the time to soak in a round at Forest Oaks. You will not be disappointed by the historic feel, caliber of playing surfaces, and variety of challenges presented.