According to the USGA, the Woodlands is one of the dozen most difficult courses in New England……at least if one considers slope rating as a good criteria for difficulty. Of that dozen, all but two were opened between 1986 and 2005, with the crescendo coming, (as it often does with fads) at the end of the period. Seven of the dozen opened from 2002 to 2005.
Opening in 1988, The Woodlands was in the vanguard of this focus on difficulty. Like all but three of the aforementioned dozen, The Woodlands was not conceived as a stand-alone golf course. These were all part of a larger development—casinos, ski areas or residential real estate. Apparently their developers thought that having a difficult course would be good marketing.
Difficulties appear early in the round. On # 2, a sharp dogleg left, I positioned my tee shot 15 yards from the right rough to ensure I’d have a look at the green. Apparently, I didn't get far enough right as all I had was a view of the right corner of the green, the rest of it obscured by trees. Three holes later, it got worse. The 5th plays 409 yards from the member tees, with the green perched on a hill about 40 feet above the fairway. The challenge is intensified by the four bunkers stacked one above the other on the hillside. The rest of the hill is rough so no bailout is available, so one may have to lay up short of the bunkers. And there is a layup area short of the hill. But it’s bordered by a pond resulting in a fairway that’s only 14 yards wide. A safe layup leaves the player 150 yards (playing 170) up the hill. There are further examples, but these should provide sufficient flavor of the course.
Low handicap golfers will, no doubt, enjoy the challenges at The Woodlands. For the rest of us, it’s not much fun.
Date: November 26, 2017