Guests at The Hawthorns should come with plenty of extra balls in tow, as this round will reward the players that can keep their nerves coolest around a multitude of water hazards. The more nervous among us will be in for a wet day, as several holes across the property feature irrigation lakes running along the entirety of their fairway.
Arthur Hills has never been one to shy away from either quirk or a healthy dose of challenge, and the closing holes for either of the nines at The Hawthorns seem to be locked in an arms race to frighten players. The green at No. 9, a par five, is built atop a wall to create a challenging grass hazard just in front. The second shot is equally intimidating, regardless of whether one aims to lay-up, because of a colossal bunker about 100 yards out.
No. 18 tries to one-up the challenge by playing for 445 yards along a marsh, with a centerline bunker set up just far enough out from the green that players must consider carefully whether they should be playing this hole for par or for bogey; a wrong answer will add strokes.
This is a very flat course, which leads to a predictable design. It is also a predictable track that was really a real estate for the omnipresent housing development.
The first hole is a welcoming par four followed by the long right leaning number one handicap 2nd. The 3rd is a forgettable mid-length par 3. The 4th is a good risk/reward par five that is reachable. Large landing are but there is awater down the left side that will make you contemplate going for it as the green is angled into the hazard. Played as a three shotter favor the right for your attack wedge. The 5th is a long par four with a very generous landing area with a fairway that narrows as you approach the green. There is a large greenside bunker front right. The 6th is a long par 3 with bunkers front right, left and back right. The 7th is a good hole that leans left. Water all down the left side with the green perched to the side of the hazard. The 8th leans left with water left and a couple of fairway bunkers right. Still a fairly generous landing area with a fairway that tightens as it approaches the green. The 9th is a slight S par five. Big hitters can get home in two, but they need to favor the left side. There are several fairway bunkers to navigate including a large one on the left side about 100 yards out.
The back starts with a dogleg left and unlike most of the holes thus far the landing area is tiny. Prime swamp land left and three bunkers pinching the fairway on the right side. Consider laying up. The 11th is a birdie oppty. Green light reachable par five. Leans a little bit to the right and the green is behind a BAB on the right. The 12th is a long par four and the number two handicap hole. Some fairway bunkers right as well as a greenside bunker right. The 13th is a fun hole. Water all the way down the left side with a fairway bunker tightening the fairway on the right. The green is extended into the hazard and if the pin is back left while exciting it is tenuous. I overcooked my approach and while it landed near the flag the hook spin lead to a watery grave. Perhaps I should restate, the 13th can be a fun hole. The 14th is a short par four that screams for you to be stupid and go for it. Hopefully, cooler heads prevail, water hazard down the right, fairway bunkers on the straight left as the fairway runs out and three greenside left. Lay up to your preferred attack wedge yardage. The 15th is an interesting par three, from the tips 200 yards from the whites 124 yards. The last par five is not reachable and has a water hazard all the way down the left side. Additionally, this is one of the narrowest fairways on the course. Play it as a three shotter. The 17th is a mid-length Florida par three. The 18th is a demanding finishing hole. Dogleg left with a gunch carry and fairway bunkers right. The long approach will have to contend with five greenside bunkers.
Hawthorns starts slow, the back nine makes the course.
Generally, I have found the body of work from Arthur Hills to be focused primarily on how a given layout "looks" rather than a clear and meaningful connection to how a course "plays."
The Hawthorns is a good bit more than your run-of-the-mill cosmetic layout situated in a high-end housing cluster.
The wide variety of hole types keeps players on their toes. Far too often housing community golf courses can often embrace the low brow in terms of the strategic calculations. The Hawthorns does not embrace the pedestrian and predictable.
The routing is generally sophisticated but the run of holes from the 5th thru the 7th heads in a fairly continuous direction. The two par-3s on the front side are also simply OK and not as well-designed as the two played on the inward half.
One of the hardest aspects for any architect is crafting a rich brew of differing par-4s. Creating longer holes is not the heaviest lift given the added yardage but being able to so with holes less than 400 yards is quite a bit different. The par-4 10th starts the back nine in good order. Turning left on the drive and featuring a tapered fairway to keep the long hitters thinking before bashing one's ball. The par-4 13th is just under 400 yards but asks players to be ever mindful when stepping on the tee because of the water penalty area that guards the left side all the way to the green. The short par-4 15th tempts the strongest of players to go for the big hit at the tee but the wiser choice is to secure the proper angle into the flat with a deft wedge shot.
The ending three holes are a quality conclusion. The demands of the par-5 16th is self-evident with water lurking left the entire way. The par-3 17th reverses course and it's hard to land an approach shot when the pin is cut to the far left of the green and appears to be just outside the water penalty arrea. And the 18th goes in a totally different direction and is a fine two-shot par-4.
The sophistication of the green contours is generally good but hardly intoxicating. Ditto for the movement of land in the fairways and just off the putting surfaces. Nonetheless, the range of holes is quite good and to score well one has to think ever so carefully on a number of holes. The Hawthorns is not your warm and cuddlee vapid housing layout -- far from it. There's enough sizzle to keep you engaged throughout the round.
M. James Ward