Way Over Par: No room for error at Birch Creek
Editor's note: Brett Lundahl is guest columnist today in place of regular golf columnist Wade Denniston.
When asked, the locals at Birch Creek Golf Course in Smithfield, Utah, will tell you one thing, "If you are going to miss, miss in the right place."
As I played Birch Creek I found out what they meant. Birch Creek will quickly take back anything that it has given if a player misses a shot while navigating the gully that splits the course. It will be equally punishing if a player misses a shot to the short side of one of Birch Creek's challenging greens, giving the player a slim to slimmer chance of getting up and down.
The first thing that you are confronted with on this 6,770-yard, par 72 next to the mountains in Smithfield, is a seemingly simple tee shot on a moderately long par 5. I say seemingly because upon further inspection you notice that there is out of bounds on both the left and the right of the fairway.
After navigating the par 5 first hole, the second and third are a nice break to prepare you for the par 4 fourth. At 462 yards it is the longest of the par 4's at Birch Creek by some 30 yards. A well hit drive for the average Saturday afternoon golfer is going to leave an approach of somewhere in the neighborhood of 210 to 230 yards.
All of the holes are compounded in difficulty by the immaculate, lightning-fast greens. Arguably the best greens in the Cache Valley, they are none too forgiving if someone is struggling with the flat stick. It is not an uncommon tale in the Birch Creek club house to hear stories of the ultimate bane to golfers, the four-putt.
After getting your bogey or double bogey out of the way on the fourth there are a few chances to make up strokes on the next two holes.
You begin to play the final three holes of the front nine with a 196-yard par 3 that is straightforward yet intimidating. You are facing a forced carry of approximately 140 yards over what has turned from a gully, to a menacing chasm by the time you stand on the seventh tee. As I said before, navigate the chasm and you should be able to post a decent score on the front nine.
Starting the back nine you will have your best chance for birdie immediately at the 10th hole. Anything from a driver to a 3 iron will leave a short iron in to this green. There is a good possibility to put it close from the fairway and with a little luck a player may make a putt and record a birdie 3.
You should hope to make birdie on 10, because 11 will test your resolve once again. Playing 208 yards, this par 3 is fronted by an enormous green side bunker that dominates the thoughts of a weekend hack in mid-swing. If you do strike the ball well enough to carry the bunker you will be screaming "sit" as it skids toward the back bunker. A par on 11 will be achieved by playing toward the narrow area to the left of the front bunker. It is hoped that the ball will trickle up on the green or leave you with a straightforward chip and putt.
The back nine at Birch Creek puts a premium on driving your golf ball. Lose control of the driver and you will be fed a steady diet of long approach shots and 8-to-10 foot par putts. Arriving at the 17th you will be happy to hear that it plays about one club shorter than the yardage.
Another of Birch Creek's long par 3's, No. 17 will read 214 on the card, but play to about 200. Play the par 3's at Birch Creek in even par and you can rest assured that you have accomplished a substantial feat in golf.
As you make your ascent on the 18th at Birch Creek, remember to keep your ball out of the trees on the right. Assuming that you have successfully gotten yourself within 140 yards with your first two shots remember that an approach shot landing short of green or in the fringe at 18 may roll back to 60 yards for your fourth shot.
Birch Creek is a fantastic test of golf. It is one of the few public courses in the area that will test every club in your bag. The greens are as good as any that I have played on. If you play smart and do not get yourself into trouble you can shoot very good scores at Birch Creek. If you do not do these things, the course can quickly make a good day on the course an exercise in anger management and patience.
Birch Creek is open to the public. Tee times can be made by calling the pro-shop at: 435-563-5825