Thendara Golf Club: A fair challenge

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(Eighteenth in a Series)

THENDARA — The Rome Sentinel Golf Tour took a scenic ride up to Thendara this week to play Thendara Golf Club.

“The course was built originally in 1921,” Thendara’s PGA professional Rich Chapman said. “”Donald Ross designed the front nine. It was a private club when it started but has turned semi-private since then.”

Ross also designed Teugega Country Club in Rome, the first stop on the Sentinel Golf Tour.

Thendara’s back nine was built in 1956 and it was designed by Russell Bailey.

“The two nines are totally different,” Chapman said. “The front is all Donald Ross; real undulating greens and a lot of sand traps. The back nine is kind of cut through the woods and goes along the (Moose) River. It’s definitely a little different.”

Thendara has a full irrigation system.

“We’re very lucky,” Chapman said. “Not only do we have a full irrigation everywhere, we are allowed to pull out of the river. So we will never run dry which is nice.”

Chapman said that on the back side, it’s all about ball striking and being precise with your shots. On the front, it’s all about the short game and knowing where to place the ball.

Thendara used to host PGA players for some exhibitions on the course. Names like Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and others have graced the grounds of the course.

“It was pretty neat,” Chapman said of having the PGA players come up to Thendara. “There’s a bunch of pictures in the clubhouse and restaurant of all of the pros that played and there’s a poster of all the dates and scores they shot when they played here.”

Par for the course is 72. Dave Marr holds the course record at 63, which he shot on Aug. 15, 1967 during an exhibition.

Chapman said there’s a few signature holes at Thendara.

“If you ask anybody that has played here, the one that they remember the most is No. 9,” Chapman said. “It’s a par 3, from the back tees it’s 208 yards, from the whites it’s 195. But the green has a big hump right in the middle of it. It’s a tough green and there’s some interesting stories.”

He said when Palmer was at Thendara, he used to take bets from people that he could land it on top of the hump.

Another signature part of the course is the presence of turtleback greens for which Ross is known. “You need to know where to hit it and where to miss it to get some good scores,” Chapman said.

“No. 11 is another one too,” Chapman said. “You can’t miss it left because there’s trees. You can’t miss it right because there’s trees and the Moose River there. It’s got a small green with a big hill on the left hand side and a hill that drops off to the river on the right hand side,” Chapman explained.

Chapman said that hole No. 12 is another signature hole of the course.

“It’s another par 3 with a really elevated tee, going down to the green,” Chapman described. “The Moose River is on your right. It’s a really pretty hole.”

Chapman said that the back nine is “visually intimidating.”

“If you can keep it in between the tress, you’re fine,” Chapman said. “There’s a lot of room, it just looks like there isn’t.”

Chapman said people think the front nine is easy because it’s wide open, but he said it’s hard to score because of the greens.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chapman said it’s been a challenge.

“The beginning of the year was tough because it was just walking and members only and we had some snow for the first couple of weeks,” Chapman said. “But after that it’s been probably the best season we’ll see. The weather was beautiful and up in this area, typically our season starts around July 4th because people get out of school and everyone moves up to their summer house. Everyone had moved up early because there’s nothing else going on. Once the lift went away with the carts in the middle of May or toward the end of May, it’s been crazy. We’re probably up 20-22% over last year and last year was a really good year. So it’s been challenging but it’s been fun.”

Chapman said they lost some outings because of the pandemic. “We lost a couple of our big ones because there was no way to pull it off on the food and beverage part of it. But this time of year, we have a lot of groups of 20 or 32. And they’re coming and they have no problems with it so it’s working out fine. So as far as our typical outing season, it’s been terrific.”

He said they blocked off the day for outings that were canceled, but Thendara has made up for what they lost with open play.

Chapman said another nice thing about Thendara is they have Inlet Golf Course about 10 miles up the road, so people can get away for a weekend.

“A foursome will come up for a weekend and grab a hotel and play both courses and just get away from the world for a little bit,” Chapman said. “We do our best to keep the course in the best shape that we can, kind of like a resort area. Superintendent Matt Simon is terrific and what he does for the club. We hear a lot that people say the condition of the course, compared to other courses around is unbelievable.”

“We’re proud of it and we try to get better every year,” Chapman said. “We want to make it a destination place for people.”

This course was a challenge, but I enjoyed it overall. So here we go with my description of the course.

On the first hole you are greeted with a dogleg left. When your tee shot lands in the fairway, be careful of a fairway bunker that sits about 180 yards away from the green.

The second hole is a straight shot off of the tee, but there’s a big mound and bunker in the middle of the fairway, a signature part of a Donald Ross-designed course. That mound sits about 160 yards away from the green.

Hole No. 3 is another straight shot off the tee but before you get to the green, you have to go down a little downhill and the green sits just above the fairway.

Hole No. 4 is an open fairway, but there are fairway bunkers to the right and left, along with another pair of bunkers to the left and right side of the green.

The first of four par 3s of the hole is the fifth hole, 128 yards from the white tees. Bunkers guard the green on the left and right sides.

Hole 6 is a dogleg left that starts when you’re about 200 yards away from the green. The fairway slopes down to the right where a patch of trees pull your ball toward them if you go that way. There’s a fairway bunker on the right side and then another bunker sits before the green and two more sit to the left and right side of the green.

Onto the 7th hole. It’s a straight shot off the tee with another fairway bunker. There’s a slight dogleg left when you get close to the green. Bunkers sit to the left, right and behind the green.

On 8, there’s a slight dogleg left, with a fairway bunker before the green. There’s another bunker to the left of the green.

And here comes No. 9, one of the signature holes. The second of the four par 3s. It’s straight off the tee, then you get see the green and there’s that big hump. Luckily, when I played, the pin was below the hump and I had an easy putt. But I will say that the green looks intimidating.

Onto the backside.

Hole 10, has a slightly elevated tee box, shooting down into the fairway. Trees line both sides of the fairway and your second shot has you going back uphill to the green.

The 11th hole is a straight shot off of the tee. I recommend using a fairway wood off of the tee or an iron to layup because you have trees on your left and right, but if you roll too far on the right side, you’ll be down in the Moose River.

The 12th, another signature hole and the third of the four par 3s. It’s 176 yards from the white tees as you’re hitting down to the green. A pair of bunkers sit on the left and right side of the green.

Hole 13 is a par 4, shooting uphill. The hill sits on the left side of the fairway and on the right side, it’s open for you to shoot. If you do go on the right side, the ball will run down the fairway. A stream sits about 100 yards in front of the green and a bunker sits to the left of the green.

Hole 14 is a little funky. It starts out as a dogleg left, but then shifts to a dogleg right when you’re shooting for the green. A bunker sits to the right of the green and the Moose River is also on your right.

Onto hole 15, which is a dogleg left and a bunker sits to the left of the green.

Hole 16 is the last of the par 3s, 149 yards from the white tees. Bunkers guard the green on the left and right side of it.

Hole 17 has a slight dogleg left, but other than that, it’s relatively straight.

Hole 18 is another elevated tee box. When you shoot down into the fairway, you shoot back uphill to get to the green. There’s a bunker on the left and right side of the green.

Like I said, Thendara was a fun, but challenging golf course for one I’ve never played before. I’ll be back to give it another go.

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