Glen Oaks Golf Club

OLD WESTBURY, NY_Familiarity is a big part of professional golf. For those on the PGA Tour the predictability in returning to the same venues provides a comfort zone on what to expect. That is not happening this week as the first leg of the 2017 FedEx Cup Playoffs commence. The host site? Glen Oaks Club located in the bucolic and well-to-do Long Island community of Old Westbury.

The course consists of 27-holes — routed into an 18-hole layout. The front nine consists of holes 1 & 2 from the White Nine, Red Nine 4 & 5, White 3, and White 6-9, followed by the entirety of the Blue Nine. Glen Oaks is located on a rolling 260-acre grounds with no less than 60 feet of elevation change. The fairways tumble in different directions and the putting greens can be vexing with various contours — some bold and some slightly less so.

The layout measures 7,344 yards and plays as a par-70. The putting surfaces are a blend of bentgrass / Poa annua and occupy an average of 7,000 square feet.

Glen Oaks insertion into the rotation of courses in the New York City metro area that have hosted the event is a new puzzle for the bulk of the participants to figure out. Over the last several years the club has wisely cut back the invasive canopy of trees which simply blocked strategic elements. There are a number of challenging holes but the following four could well prove pivotal in determining which 100 players will advance to the second stage of the playoffs next week in the New England area at TPC Boston for the Dell Technologies Championship.

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Hole No. 1: Par 4, 498 Yards

The opening hole mandates a golfer’s complete attention. The hole turns from right-to-left and the bunkers are well-positioned on the inside turn of the hole. The carry is nearly 300 yards and the fairway actually tapers down to a width of just 26 yards across. The approach is no less challenging. Players will face a putting surface that’s 15-feet uphill to an elevate target that’s protected by sand on the right side. The opener at Glen Oaks calls for a healthy marriage between distance and control. One without the other will not work well here.

Hole No. 9: Par 4, 440 Yards

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The outwards nine concludes with a real challenge. The terrain moves left — with the hole then moving back towards the right and climbing uphill. The reverse camber hole will force players to think smartly on club selection from the tee. Those opting for driver will need to work the ball well on a left-to-right flight pattern and keep the ball flight as close as possible to the right side. Given the nature of the hole one likely will see fairway metal clubs in order to secure the best angle for one’s approach.

The green provides little reprieve. Careless irons shots can easily find a series of bunker protecting the green. The putting surface is also sloped from high right to lower left — any ball that find itself above the hole will need a deft touch to avoid a fast three-putt.

Hole No. 11: Par 4, 323 Yards

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The insertion of driveable par-4’s has become a regular feature for many courses used on the PGA Tour. Glen Oaks has followed that trend with a unique twist. What would normally have been a short par-5 has been turned into a potential eagle hole for those willing to take on the risk of a watery grave off the tee. The hole starts from a slightly elevated area and if conditions are favorable it’s likely nearly all of the players will go for the green. Given the hole’s position early on the back nine, the 11th could well both jumpstart someone to a fast finish or it could derail those who fail to buckle down with pinpoint execution. Plenty of decisions need to be reached and the range of scores could go from eagle to double-bogey.

Hole No. 18: Par 4, 475 Yards

FedEx Cup Playoffs

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The Northern Trust concludes with a demanding closer. The hole features water on this 90-degree dogleg left. Players have to decide — do they decide to cut the corner — requiring a prodigious tee shot exceeding 300+ yards — or play out to the right which only adds considerable yardage for the approach. The green is rigorously defended by bunkers and is 20 feet above the players.

You can also count on a frontal pin placement for at least two of the rounds because of the vexing contours. The range of scoring outcomes ensures plenty of decisions will need to be made with great care and utmost execution of the highest caliber.