This 6,200-yard course — with 6 par-5s, 4s and 3s? It’s a devilish gem
Welcome to our “Where I Played” series, in which a GOLF staffer runs through a recent day at a course you might play in your future.
Jeff Garner laughs twice. Once, at the start. Then again, at the end. Though sometimes, when folks come to him halfway through a round and are already bloodied and bruised and yet somehow blissful, he’ll laugh then, too.
Garner is the director of golf at Pinecrest Lake in the Poconos, in northeastern Pennsylvania, and he’s the man who oftentimes hands you your scorecard (and maybe a yardage book if you’re nice). This is where his fun begins. It comes in two waves from the newbies.
No. 1’s a par-5. And No. 5 is. And No. 7. And so are 11, 15 and 18?
And wait. Are there six par-3s, too? And just six par-4s?
Hold on. The yardage, for a par-72, from the middle tees, is 5,438? And 6,241 from the way-backs?
“The six, six and six, a lot of guys look at it and they look at the yardage, and they go, man, this place is going to be a piece of cake,” Garner said. “And I say, have fun, talk to you after nine.
“And you haven’t even got to the tough part yet; you’ve only played the front nine.”
Have you ever played a course with six par-5s, 4s and 3s?
I hadn’t. My three buddies hadn’t, when we did a fall golf twirl through the Poconos a couple weeks ago. Even a few of the experts at GOLF dot com were unaware of the twist. (For those who visit this space, you may remember I wrote about golf in the year’s third season last year — “The tiniest greens I’ve ever seen and Wawa mornings: My new favorite fall golf trip,” the headline read — and I can report from this trip that Wawa also serves a mean bacon, egg and cheese sandy.) Out there in the golf universe, there are likely some triple-sixers — please see the request at the bottom — and with some courses now allowing you to set your own par, you can manufacture your own, but they’re rare.
Of course, there’s some reason why, a big one being that since we can feast on par-5s, we get a diet of par-4s. It’s here, though, where I’ll disclose that 375-yard par-4s are hard for me to remember, and 440-yard par-4s — where my 14-handicap swing is making me hit driver, fairway wood — are easy to forget, and I’m an adventurer, my food choice above notwithstanding, so I was pumped.
And yet, outside of checking your card, you don’t really notice the Pinecrest pars. That’s OK, though.
This leads us into another of the club’s fun curiosities.
“Yeah, actually, you know what, it doesn’t even come into play,” Garner said of the six-six-six alignment. “Every hole, you just get up and tee it up and go and the conditions are consistent on every hole. It doesn’t really make a difference. Like I said, even a lot of the guys that come in here, the golf pros that come in play here or there, it’s nothing different. You never really hear much about it. All you hear is, ‘Boy, that’s strange.’ ‘So how did you shoot?’ ‘Oh, 96. Man, this place is a killer.’
“Like I said, it doesn’t help you. Like when you look at the card and you see the distances and all, and you’re like, oh, man, these are pretty short par-5s. You get to 7 and go from the white tees, you only have 488. I mean, 488, I don’t think you can get to that green in two. [On 5,] 493 on the whites. You have 463 on the first hole. They’re all under 500 yards. It’s crazy.”
Have you ever played a par-72 — that’s also 5,438 yards?
This one, you may have, in one of two ways. Either you’ve gone nuclear here, going driver, wedge on 300-yard par-4s, or you’ve been sacked by the defense, as may happen at Pinecrest. Garner calls it a shotmaker course, and Garner is also not a B.S.-er.
There are doglegs, uphill holes and downhill holes. There are marshes, and there are trees. There are bunkers, and there are sloping greens, most back to front. (There are bears. The group behind us saw one.)
— On the 463-yard, par-5 1st, my right-to-left draw tee shot clipped a tree on the right as it was starting its move.
— On the 165-yard, par-3 3rd, my buddy Jeff, after missing the green to the left, chipped on to about 10 feet and on line with the hole — then hit his third shot from 25 yards below the green.
— On the 493-yard, par-5 5th, — the No. 3 handicap hole — there’s marsh that’s 185 out from the tee box, and it’s 238 to carry. On the 488-yard, par-5 7th — the No. 1 handicap hole
— there’s marsh that’s 222 out, then the hole doglegs right, then it goes uphill. On the 530-yard, par-5 11th — the No. 2 handicap hole — the fairway doglegs 90 degrees left at about 240 yards, there is marsh about 150 or so yards in front of that, and there is another marsh about 100 yards in front of that.
— On the 400-yard, par-5 No. 18 — yes, a 400-yard par-5 — there is marsh 210 out, where the hole starts to dogleg right. I played this so very well — 7-wood to the edge, then a 7-wood that pierced the mountain background.
Only to be lost on the trees on the right.
“A guy said the other day, they’re like, you kidding me, it’s under 6,000 yards, 5,438 from the whites,” Garner said. “Piece of cake. And I said, good, you got your putter, wait till you see these greens, wait till you see the wetlands, wait till you see what’s there, and like I said, stop in after nine and let me know how you did.
The reaction when they’re done is just a big question mark on their heads, going wow, at least I survived it, you know.
“A guy just texted me yesterday, he said, man, your greens, a three-putt was a great day. They were rolling pretty quick yesterday. He definitely had them sparked up. I don’t know why they were, but the pins were in all those little spots that man, it was just, you couldn’t stay close. So yeah, the reaction when they’re done is just a big question mark on their heads, going wow, at least I survived it, you know.”
And that’s another part of the pleasure.
It’s tricky, without being tricked up. It’s a test, but a fair one. If your game is right — all of your game — you’ll score. You want to play courses like this. You earned it.
There’s more, though.
Which one of you guys is the photographer?
That came from a gentleman who pulled up to our car in the parking lot. He knew we were new to the course. He was making sure our phones were charged.
Thank god they were, because goodness gracious Pinecrest pops, especially in the fall, as you can see in the photo slider below.
We’ll end things this way.
Here’s the start of the conversation I had with Garner when I called him up a week after playing:
“Hey, Jeff, this is Nick Piastowski from Golf Magazine. I played out there with you guys last week Monday.”
“Yeah, yeah, How you doing? How did you make out?”
“Yeah, not too bad, not too bad. I missed you on the way out. I enjoyed myself. It was a really good round. Like you said, it was tight; it had a lot of defense from playing from the white tees, for being under 6,000 yards; it was kinda cool. As I mentioned with the six par-5s, par-4s and par-3s, that was definitely cool, too.”
As I was talking, he was laughing.
Editor’s note: Pinecrest is a private club, though memberships are available, and information can be found by calling 570-646-4444 or going to the website here.