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The Blessing Golf Course is Set for NCAA Regional Action
The 14 teams in the NCAA Fayetteville Regional got their first look at The Blessing Golf Course today with a practice round before first round NCAA Men's Golf Regional action commences, tomorrow morning.
For the regional event, The Blessing Golf Course will play at a par 72 and at a length of 7,251 yards.
The home course for both the Arkansas men's and women's golf programs will certainly be a tough test of golf for the 75-man field (includes five individuals), with the top five worthy teams advancing to the NCAA Men's Golf National Championship in Atlanta later this month.
The course has been open since 2004 and was co-designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and John Tyson. Jones has helped to design more than 500 golf courses worldwide, while Tyson is the chairman and CEO of Tyson Foods.
Many of the holes at The Blessing can be adjusted with alternate tee boxes that can have the course play as long as 7,500 yards.
The course is situated on a plot of land that is located near the floodplains of the Clear Creek, which meanders throughout the course.
The land that makes up The Blessing Golf Course tests each player, as the course has very few flat-lying holes and elevation changes as much as 140 feet. The course also features a unique mixture of holes, that includes five par fives and five additional par three holes.
Scores at this NCAA Regional will most likely be higher than those at the other five NCAA Regional events due to the difficult nature of the shot-makers' course. The course's 18-hole record is only a four-under par 68.
Below is a hole-by-hole description of each of the 18 holes at The Blessing Golf Course (photo gallery at the bottom of the story includes a view of each hole from the tee box, fairway and near the green).
No. 1 (Par 4, 430 yards)
The opening tee shot plays to an elevated fairway and the hole is blind to the players from the tee box. A drive to the top of the fairway ridge will leave players roughly 140 yards to a green that sits 50 feet below the top of the fairway. The green slopes from back to front and players will find a hazard if they are long or left with their approach shots.
No. 2 (Par 5, 635 yards)
The first of five par five holes at The Blessing is the longest hole on the course. The tee shot is elevated and looks narrow, but the fairway is actually very wide and receptive. A large tree splits the middle of the fairway just over 200 yards out from an elevated green that is guarded by a large bunker in the front of the hole. If players miss the green right on their third shot, there is a large collection area that will leave a challenging up-and-down for par.
No. 3 (Par 4, 462 yards)
Players have another narrow drive and will cross the Clear Creek for the first of many times circling this course. The fairway is shared with the No. 2 fairway and players will have a lengthy approach to a very undulated green. This hole finishes with another back-to-front sloping green that has a deep bunker left and a small collection bunker behind.
No. 4 (Par 5, 560 yards)
The second par five at The Blessing has a deceptive second shot, as the green appears to go a different direction that it actually does to players who have never seen the course. There are 13 bunkers in the landing area off the tee and the second shot plays blind to the green as you have to play over top of a hill. Despite its layout, the green is actually a slight dogleg to the left. The potential for birdies do exist on this hole, as the players will most likely be hitting short wedge shots to this green that slopes considerably to the left.
No. 5 (Par 3, 204 yards)
Accuracy off the tee will be key on the first par three at The Blessing. The prevailing winds on the course will push tee shots toward the water left and any pin placement on the front edge of this three-tiered green will demand a solid golf shot. Par will be a good score on this hole during the NCAA Regionals.
No. 6 (Par 4, 418 yards)
This hole is the first of two consecutive par fours where the green is blind to the players off the tee. Four bunkers are right of the driving area before the hole doglegs left. Any approach shots left of the green will be taken by Clear Creek and two bunkers right of the green will leave challenging up-and-down shots to this green that slopes toward the creek.
No. 7 (Par 4, 415 yards)
The drive off this hole is slightly uphill and the fairway bunkers will come into play much more on this dogleg left than the previous hole. The green is 40 feet above the fairway landing and is very long and narrow. Any approach shots that are right will be taken by a bunker that plays 15 feet below the putting surface and will leave most golfers blind bunker shots to the hole.
No. 8 (Par 3, 201 yards)
The main defense for the elevated green at the eighth hole is the sloping hills that will take an errant shot that does not find the putting surface off the tee. The front portion of the green slopes severely from left to right and will require a solid short game to card a par if players miss hitting the green.
No. 9 (Par 5, 535 yards)
The third and final par five on the front side at The Blessing will be a three-shot hole to most golfers. Players will need to carry roughly 240 yards off the tee to clear the water in front of the tee box and another solid second shot over Clear Creek. The green is elevated and guarded by three bunkers, so players wanting to get home in two will need to hit two great golf shots.
No. 10 (Par 3, 139 yards)
The 10th hole is the shortest hole on the course and should yield a significant number of birdies during regional play if golfers find the right distance off the tee. The green is narrow and players will need to find the correct tier on the three-tiered green that is guarded by a hazard right and a long narrow bunker on the left. A significant amount of work had to be done on this hole during construction, as a flat surface had to be carved out of the hillside.
No. 11 (Par 4, 405 yards)
This par four plays much longer than its yardage, as players will experience the second most terrain change on this uphill hole than most of the course. Any drives left or right of the fairway should funnel back to the short grass off the tee where players will find an approach shot that will play at least 20 yards longer than its yardage due to the elevation. Any approach left short will run back well short of the putting surface, but players can use the slopping areas around the green to help get to any back hole locations.
No. 12 (Par 5, 580 yards)
Players have another blind tee shot to open the first par five on the inward nine holes. Golfers will need to carry at least 260 yards to reach the crest of the fairway where they will find a challenging second and third shot. Two gulley ways divide the rest of the fairway leading up to an elevated green that will severely penalize any short approach shots. Players fearful of missing the green short will have to deal with a bunker long and right if they have too much club on their approach to this green that is divided by a hump in the middle of the putting surface.
No. 13 (Par 4, 402 yards)
The shortest par four at The Blessing is made challenging by the five bunkers that guard the landing area off the tee to the right on this dogleg hole. The green is below the players on their approach shots, which should be around 100 yards. Any approach short of the green will find a deep bunker, while short iron approaches that are long will find a hazard over the green.
No. 14 (Par 4, 442 yards)
Players will have another blind shot off the tee to this dogleg right that plays uphill on the approach shot. After a tight drive, players will find a narrow opening on the front area of the green and a larger area that slopes to the left toward the back of the green. Any pin placements on the front of the green will demand a very accurate approach or bunkers left and right will leave challenging up-and-down conversions.
No. 15 (Par 3, 178 yards)
This par three seems very receptive off the tee, as it appears golfers only need to clear the ball to the green to avoid any danger. However, if the prevailing winds pick up, the hole will lengthen and the three bunkers around the green could come into play. The green is very fast and will be challenging due to the undulation if golfers find the wrong part of the putting surface.
No. 16 (Par 5, 524 yards)
The final true scoring hole on The Blessing seems more challenging than it is off the tee, as golfers cannot see the green from the tee box. Longer hitters will trim distance off this hole that will leave a shorter iron to a very narrow and shallow green. Players unwilling to fade the ball right off the tee will have much longer approach shots to a green that is guarded by an unplayable area short of the putting surface.
No. 17 (Par 3, 241 yards)
The final dramatic terrain change at The Blessing leaves golfers with a very challenging tee shot on the last par three hole. Visually, the shot from the tee box looks much longer than the 241 yards listed on the scorecard, but in reality the hole plays almost 30 yards shorter because of the tee box playing roughly 100 feet higher than the green. The green has two tiers and slopes significantly from right to left.
No. 18 (Par 4, 480 yards)
The home hole at The Blessing demands two solid golf shots to get to one of the flatter greens on the course. Most players will hit toward the left fairway bunker off the tee, leaving themselves roughly 200 yards to the green. If the prevailing winds pick up, the hole will play much longer than its listed yardage, meaning par could be a good score as teams look to complete their final hole on this challenging golf course.
No. 7 seed Liberty will be sent off the No. 1 tee box at The Blessing Golf Course, tomorrow morning, starting at 8:50 a.m., along with golfers from No. 8 seed Tulsa and No. 9 seed Kentucky.
Live scoring for the entire NCAA Regional event will provide by Golfstat.com, while @LibertyFlames (Liberty's official Twitter account) will add additional coverage throughout the three-day, 54-hole event.