The Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge, designed by Bob Cupp, has been the scene of several important events in golf including the US Amateur won by Tiger Woods, his third in a row and the Women’s US Open won by Hillary Lunke over Annika Sorenstam in a playoff. Much like the Ghost Creek course, this is a course that stresses difficulty over playability, although it is more player friendly than Ghost Creek. The course was designed during an era when difficulty and challenge were the primary goals of architects.
Witch Hollow features a lot of strategically placed bunkers and odd angles into the greens. For the everyday golfer this is a tough combination that certainly favors the better player. The challenge to the course is getting onto the green as the green surfaces are relatively large and straightforward even if a two putt is not a guarantee. The course does not feature many wide fairways that are in favor today. The rough is thicker than on many other courses. The combination of rough and fairway bunkering make it very important to hit the fairways at Witch Hollow.
The course plays to a yardage of 7015, par 72 rated 75.6/147. The Blue tees are 6506 yards rated 72,7/142. There are two sets of lesser tees. We played with two members, one a +1 long hitting member and the other a mid-index. This was very helpful to me in evaluating the golf course.
1. Par 4 – 401/379. The first hole sets the stage for the difficulty of the Witch Hollow course due to the bunkering and angles into the green. The gentle uphill fairway goes slightly left away from three staggered bunkers on the right. The fairway narrows as it bends back to the right. Just off to the left of the final bunker is a large tree that blocks the line for those going too far left. If the rough was lower, missing on the right of these bunkers might actually be preferred to finding the fairway since one has a better angle into the green as the fairway moves back to the left with four staggered bunkers placed down the left side. The green is angled a bit right to left with a narrow opening between the two greenside bunkers and the rough to the right of the green.
2. Par 3 – 168/153. While short by today’s standards, this is not an easy par 3 due to an overly large bunker beginning 10 yards short of the green going down most of the left side. The green slopes a bit to the left. If one goes long they will either be in tall grass playing to a green running away from you or perhaps even make it all the way into the trees. Missing short of the green is better than being long.
3. Par 4 – 414/386. This is the second hardest hole on the front 9 playing with trees down the left side on a dogleg to the right. Two large bunkers are on the inner corner. A stream cuts diagonally across the fairway about 20 yards prior to the green. There is a waterfall/wider part of the stream off to the left. A single bunker is placed to the right of the green which slopes quickly back to front. Missing short of the green on the left will likely see one’s ball end up in the water so the better miss is to the right of the green. I did like the visual appeal of the green placed among the fir and maple trees.
4. Par 5 – 533/498. This is pretty much a straight hole with the trees thickening to the right for most people’s second shot. Off the tee are two staggered bunkers on the right but getting out of them and advancing the ball is not too difficult. To the right of those bunkers are thick trees. While there are a few trees on the left off the tee, they disappear for most of the second shot where instead there are two bunkers on the left opposite the thick trees on the right. The green has a bunker on the front corners with the right bunker wrapping itself to the front right of the green. The green has a central diagonal right to left spine with the right side having more speed and contour.
5. Par 3 – 211/187. A pond fronts the green on this longer par 3. There are three bunkers at the rear of the green making the back right very shallow. We had a back left pin and I played safely out to the left missing the green but got up and down by making a curling putt to the back left shelf. This is a daunting hole.
6. Par 4 – 446/408. The hardest hole on the front nine is next and it is difficult unless one can hit it far enough to the right or bend it a bit around the corner of this dogleg left. There is an outer bunker that I thought to be completely unnecessary given the other strong defenses to the hole which including heavy trees down both sides followed by a meandering pond that crosses the fairway and continues down the left side ultimately forming a pond on the left of the green. While the green is large it has a steep back half. There is a consistent theme to this hole, miss left off the tee and you have to punch out and likely still have a long shot into the green. Miss left of the green and you will be wet. Miss the green to the right and you will have to go over a rise to a green running towards the pond. While it is okay to have a hole as hard as this one on a golf course, it is a bit over-the-top given the previous five holes and what follows.
7. Par 5 – 623/564. This is an odd hole but my understanding is that the architect wanted to place the green more to the right but could not due to wetlands. This long par 5 looks beautiful from the tee as the hole is more open than some on the left side due to fewer trees. The right side also does not have the density of trees on many of the holes before it. Yet off the tee there is a collection of three bunkers on the right that should be easily cleared with a single large bunker on the left that is more problematic except for the longer hitters. For the shorter/average player the fairway squeezes a bit due to encroaching trees on the right as well as three staggered bunkers on the left. It’s a bit too much. If you are on the right side of the fairway going into the green and not beyond the tree you will be impeded. The green is placed on the left side with a preceding 15 yard long bunker and then flanking side bunkers. The green has a slight mound on the front left corner. Much like the sixth, there is too much going on for this hole. It would be a very good hole if the final tree on the right was removed as well as two of the bunkers.
8. Par 4 – 382/360. This hole favors shorter players or the longest of players. It reverses direction from the seventh with an early fairway bunker on the right and two bunkers placed inside the fairway on the left creating a snake-like fairway to the green. The green is fronted by an excessively large bunker with the green’s surface having a more difficult back right due to the slope and fall-offs. While this is meant to be a breather hole, it is not without challenge.
9. Par 4 – 467/427. Up to this point the course has been tough, but it now turns to quirky to add to the toughness. This hole has a split fairway with two back-to-back center line bunkers creating a narrower left side which is the shorter line in. Longer hitters don’t care and simply hit over all of it even though the fairway shrinks by half as you near the green. There are scattered trees down the left side that are very tall, well over 125 feet that one can’t get around if they go too far left. There is a single bunker opposite them about 25 yards short of the green. The green is perhaps the simplest on the course.
10. Par 3 – 212/194. I disliked almost all of this hole which plays flat. There are two early bunkers well short of the green that add nothing to the hole. On the left front of the green are double-bunkers creating a long recovery shot if you get into the first one. The green is flattish. The tee is not raised to give one a better view of the green’s defenses. While I am not a proponent of raising it a lot, I would have raised it perhaps a foot. On this hole Tiger Woods won his third consecutive U.S. Amateur in a playoff as Tiger Woods finally played better on the back nine to go into a playoff.
11. Par 5 – 553/531. This is a double dogleg par 5 going hard left then coming back sharply to the right as one nears the green. There is an early bunker on the inner corner of the first turn with thick trees on the right just beyond it. The second shot has to stay left of a bunker pinching into the fairway about 90 yards short of the green as well as a wide/tall tree on the right side. The green feels tiny for the length of the hole with flanking bunkers on the sides. I liked this hole even if I thought one of those trees should be removed on the right side nearer the green on the second turn.
12. Par 3 – 151/127. This hole has water down the entirety of the left side with a bunker on the right middle. We had the easiest pin position at the front middle whereas a back pin position would be more difficult due to the added length and more slope in the green. The back left pin position is especially difficult due to the green being angled to the left making the pond even more of a hazard. The green is basically flat although there is a slight rise to the rear and towards the pond.
13. Par 4 – 410/390. This hole reverses direction and offers two early bunkers before the start of the fairway that I did not think added anything to the hole other than increasing the cost of maintenance. A long bunker is on the left side of the fairway preceded by a tree. Scattered trees go down the right side. The green is set off to the right and angled that way so coming in from the left side is preferred. The right bunker is placed on the right corner while the left bunker at the green begins about 15 yards before the green and continues down half of the left side. Although I did not like the two early bunkers I thought this to be a decent golf hole.
14. Par 5 – 470/450. This dogleg left has four bunkers on the inner corner as well as a single tree. The right side has scattered trees with the first fairway bunker placed inside the fairway roughly 100 yards from the green. There is a large “w” shaped bunker to the right of the green beginning about 15 yards short. Much of the green sits behind a pond that comes into play after a tree beginning about 50 yards from the green and sitting tight to the fairway. The green tilts towards the water. I liked this hole which is strategic playing as a par 4 ½ or 4 for the longer hitters. I did think a tree that hangs over the back right of the green should be removed.
15. Par 3 – 175/157. The final par 3 has three vertical bunkers at the green with two of them placed in front of the green and one of them along the left side. The green falls-off on that left side towards the bunker. The two fronting bunkers start about 15 yards long and are placed well below the green’s surface. This is one of the most undulated greens on the course. It is a decent golf hole.
16. Par 4 – 432/385. Much like the thirteenth and seventh, there is an early collection of bunkers, two on the left and three on the right, that do not add to the hole other than increasing the cost of maintenance. This hole pays straight and into the wind for us. There is a long and wide bunker with four fingers on the right side beginning well before the green and going up nearly all of the right. A thinner bunker is on the left side. The back right of this green falls off.
17. Par 4 – 422/394. This hole bends to the left and it appears to have sand everywhere with an unnecessary early bunker left followed by three at the outer right turn while a small bunker is placed on the inner corner. Then there are two staggered bunkers on either side that make the fairway become a snake until the green which has a single bunker on the higher right side. Our longer hitter in the group flew it over the first bunker after the turn, which I did not think was possible from our tee. The green is a good one with a punchbowl more pronounced on the left front to middle. Although I have played many holes with more than ten bunkers, I give credit to the designer for making the hole appear visually as having nearly twenty bunkers. I did like the hole.
18. Par 5 – 545/516. The finishing hole is limited by the location of the wetlands on the second shot. You play the tee shot over wetlands to an “island” fairway since the fairway is interrupted again by a 40-70 yard wide zone of wetlands cutting across the fairway (its wider on the left side). I laid up for the second shot leaving a much longer shot into the green. The second section of the fairway prior to the green is off to the left from the “island” with a thick grouping of trees on the right and scattered trees on the left that shrink the fairway. For the tee shot one tries to keep it both as left as possible for a better angle as well as long as possible for a shorter second shot. This is an easier hole for longer players due to the location of the second wetlands. The first “island” has three bunkers on the right placed in the landing zone of the average player as well as a single fairway bunker farther up on the right for the longer hitter. What I disliked the most about the hole are the two bunkers placed after the second wetlands before the start of the second fairway. These bunkers discourage the shorter hitter from attempting to carry the wetlands on their second shot and therefore reduce the strategy of the hole. The green has a single bunker to the right and is essentially flat but there is a sizeable fall-off on the left side that can send a ball as much as 20 yards away. I think the architect was very wise to shape this hole the way he did and one cannot fault him for the location of the wetlands, but I would remove those two large bunkers after the second wetlands or at least one of them.
Pumpkin Ridge Witch Hollow deserved the recognition it received when it opened for being a challenging course with many interesting shape of the holes as well as the very good bunkering. It remains a difficult course where I believe the member’s indexes likely travel very well to other courses. In today’s world where minimalism with wide fairways and undulating greens are in fashion, it is obvious why it has fallen from favor. Much like Ghost Creek, the Witch Hollow course has most of its difficulty in getting to the green with the green’s surfaces not being overly punitive. It is the far superior course to Ghost Creek simply because the routing is better as well as the design of the holes. There are bunkers and several trees that I would remove that I think would vastly improve the playability and visual appeal of the course. I liked the course well enough to consider it to be the best course for that part of the greater Portland area, but unlike Waverley or Portland, it can be a non-stop grind particularly if you play both courses the same day as we did.
Date: August 07, 2021