Review for Yankee Trace (Heritage & Legend)

Reviewer Score:


The Centerville Relays Invitational was the bane of this golf rater’s high school track career. Usually held during March at a point when we distance runners, wearing the same scanty apparel as we would during the scalding June events, would shed three layers and run whatever distance during an ill-timed snow or Winter rain shower. I was relatively lucky; as a middle distance specialist, I only ever participated in the 400 or 800. The damned were those who excelled at much longer distances, such as my brother, as they were drafted to participate in the Steeplechase. Only Centerville hosted such a barbaric event, as only Centerville had seen fit to build the water-filled pit necessary. Runners would complete eight laps (2 miles) and, at the far turn, jump atop the wooden steeple and attempt to launch over the chilly pool, usually failing to cross.

I’ve never, until this point, wondered how they enforced the water jump. The pit only takes up the inner four lanes, yet no one ever got sassy and ran around lane five without jumping. Gene Bates would have addressed the issue by building the pit out across six or seven lanes, leaving only the barest semblance of an approach around the hazard. Or at least that’s the theme at the par fives as part of Yankee Trace’s championship course (located in Centerville). At No. 6, the player shuffles straight for 565 yards in between heavy-handed fairway bunkering, until they arrive at a third shot that — no matter how intelligently one places themselves along the right fairway — realistically cannot avoid a forced carry into a perpendicularly-placed green. No. 12 follows very much the same formula, as does No. 18 (albeit the final hole does spice up the strategy by incorporating a wide, dogleg turn along a pond).

This review thus far makes it seem Yankee Trace and its progenitor, Bates, are a 1:1 correlation with the worst track and field meet in history. They are not. Yankee Trace is much better than that.

For the clunky ‘90s-era mechanics of its long holes, Bates takes a more sensitive approach during the shorts, offering a range of manageable challenges. He uses the same perpendicular putting surface trick described above at No. 3, which performs better as a one-off one-shot hole. No. 8 features a long-ish tee shot down to a green bending left around a deep bunker, while the shorter No. 13 has a deep green where front pins summon suckers. Finally, No. 16 is a haul at 225 yards; players must work the ball around a small bunker at the front-inside to get to back tees, or consider laying up as the more prudent play.

And the holes in the middle of long and short? They accordingly fall somewhere in the middle. On the best of them, Bates hardly needs sand hazards at all, using small terrain fluctuations to guard against approach shots (No. 10) or the gentle right-to-left slope of the land to play into a semi-drivable par four temptation. On the worst, trees sit in position to block even shots that land in the fairway (No. 2 and ironically, No. 10, which showcases both Bates’s best and worst).

Yankee Trace isn’t the most inspiring course but, in a region suffering for inspirational public golf (Dayton closed 66% of its municipal facilities during 2020), Yankee Trace should be appreciated as a local offering, perhaps even the best local offering. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend traveling a great distance for it, however.

Still...much better than the local track and field fare.

Date: March 22, 2021

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