Holes 10 to 27 form the golf course of choice at the 27-hole Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club where fairways wind their way round a densely wooded property that’s been leased from a religious order.
Most 27-hole facilities do players the courtesy of letting them know which pair of nines is best. Shepherd’s Hollow does not. Many resources—including this one—suggest the latter 18. Others suggest the first nine accompanying the second. Your correspondent opts for 10-27, with a significant asterisk*.
Designer Arthur Hills is no stranger to more whimsical design ideas, and that fact alone makes 19-27 more in line with his character. For example, Nos. 22 and 23 play as back-to-back drivable Par 4s, depending on how bold the player is feeling (and, of course, assuming it’s a day where the left-most of the two greens at No. 22 is in play). The final nine at Shepherd’s Hollow also includes—at least in this humble critic’s opinion—the best hole of the lot. The land blessed Hills with, well, hills throughout, and the architect uses a combination of compromised sightlines and natural dells to have a laugh at overeager first-timers. No. 21 rolls along, and with a 70-foot drop from tee-to-green, making even its 600 yards seem reachable. A dell runs for 100 yards along the left side into the green says otherwise. Knowing where to land on the fairway, versus simply landing on the fairway, makes the whole of Shepherd’s Hollow a great “local knowledge” venue.
Now for the asterisk: If you can swing it, try to arrange for an 18-hole round that begins with 19-27 and ends with 10-18. The former’s final trio is not altogether boring, but it can’t hold a candle to Nos. 16-18 for interest and variety. No. 16 is a long 4 that encourages longer drives...which feel great until those who hit the left side of the fairway realize they have ended up in a deep collection area, possibly behind a nefarious tree. A GIR to this false-fronted green from the bottom of the dell is unlikely. The thin, diagonal Par 3 green at No. 17 features two tiers, lower at the front-right and higher at the back-left. A pond hugging the left side only complicates the player’s attack strategy. The Par 5 closer becomes a Cape upon the second shot. Either lay up carefully—the fairway wraps around a pond—or try to carry the hazard to the green for a glorious conclusion to the round. Short is obviously wet, but long could be as well: Although there is a wide patch of fairway for long approaches, the green tilts aggressively from back to front...many pitches will roll all the way back down to the water.
As the debate between 1-18 and 10-27 suggests, the middle nine is the best. That said, each of the three has patches of mundanity, which are easier to deal with when playing a strong final trio. Your correspondent’s negotiations with the starter were made easier by the weekday tee time. Don’t count on such luck on the weekend. Shepherd’s Hollow’s collection of 27 holes is a great contribution to the local golf scene, if not necessarily worth a trip unto itself.