For 2017-18 Golf Digest ranks The Bear #78 in the “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses” and 18th in “America’s 50 Toughest Golf Courses”. After getting a chance to try and tame this beast, I can understand why this “grizzly” track deserves the accolades. As Jack Nicklaus reportedly said “With rolling land, trees, lakes, streams and flatland, you have a mixture of different features” “That’s what makes this course unique. No two holes are similar.”
The first hole sets the stage with a generous landing area for your tee shot but the real danger is your approach. The green is very narrow if the pin is up front and well protected by two large bunkers. The next two holes are uphill and fairly wide-open until you start heading down into a forested lowland area with a number of forced carries over water and marshes.
There is a Scottish influence to his design as the fairways are relatively flat with moguls and mounding that define them. There are plenty of deep pot bunker and tall natural grass rough making it tough to find your errant shots. There are four lakes and ten holes where water hazards come into play. The terraced putting surfaces are very small, tiered and extremely fast.
There are a number of great holes here but my favourite is the short 13th par-3. It’s on 167 yards from the back tees but you need to clear a pond and navigate around five bunkers that encircle the green.
Over all the course was in excellent condition. The carts are not equipped with GPS and there are no yardage stakes but plenty of markers along the edge of the fairways. The scenery is tremendous and the numerous opportunities to see wildlife like deer, ducks, geese, blue herons, swans, muskrat, raccoons and fox is an experience onto itself. A word to the wise keep it out of the fescue and avoid the bunkers.
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Date: September 25, 2017