NCAA Men's Golf Championship Preview and Game Notes
Prior to the start of the 2019 NCAA Men's Golf National Championship on Friday, the 30-team field had a chance to complete a Thursday afternoon practice round at the venue, The Blessings Golf Club.
Hosting its first national championship events, The Blessings Golf Club (par 72, 7,550 yards) will be a true test of golf with its length and fast greens.
The course hosted an NCAA Regional in 2013, which Liberty participated in, and just completed the 2019 NCAA Women's Golf National Championship on Wednesday, which was won by Duke.
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 7,800 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 Club tests each player, as the course has very few flat-lying holes and elevation changes as much as 140 feet.
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, 470 yards) Just like the Old Course at St Andrews, the new No. 1 hole shares a fairway with No. 18. However, unlike the Home of Golf course, the fairways crisscross. Players need to be left off the tee to have a clean look into the green that has three levels and largely slopes back to front.
No. 2 (par 5, 617 yards) The Blessings quickly shows its length, as No. 2 can play as long as 617 yards and golfers play most of the approach shots uphill as they near the green. This hole will be a three-shot hole with most players having a short wedge shot into a mostly flat green with a large backstop on the right side of the putting surface.
No. 3 (par 3, 186 yards) The tee shot will play straight into the prevailing winds, making this par-3 hole play longer on days the wind blows harder. The green is narrow on the front and more open on the back. If players find either of the greenside bunkers, their shots to the putting surface will be played from well below the green. The committee does have a secondary tee box, and if it is used, it will require a tee shot over the water left of the green.
No. 4 (par 4, 405 yards) The players will have a downhill tee shot to a mostly open fairway. If the wind dies down, players will have to hit 3-wood or less to avoid hitting their tee shot into the hazard that divides the fairway. Any approach shot left of the green will find the river that runs all around the lower half of The Blessings Golf Club.
No. 5 (par 5, 590 yards) Accuracy will be key off the tee with a narrow opening for the player's drive, and the field will try to keep to the right side of the landing area to avoid bunkers. Because of the elevated green, this will be a three-shot par-5 hole, so a proper layup will be key to success on this hole. The main tier of the putting surface is mostly flat, while the back tier is severely sloped.
No. 6 (par 4, 359 yards) Players will look to hit their drives to the ride side of the fairway off the tee to avoid a large fairway bunker that is near the landing area. This green is one of the more flat ones on the course, but any shot that doesn't find the green will roll of the bowl shaped putting surface and leave a challenging chip shot.
No. 7 (par 4, 515 yards) With this hole being the longest par-4 on the course, a par on No. 7 will be a good score throughout the championship. With the length of today's golfers, the water hazard short and left off the tee shouldn't create any challenges if players have a straightaway drive. The players will need to carry the ball all the way to the green or they will roll off the green front left or into the bunker front right.
No. 8 (par 3, 145 yards) The shortest par-3 on the course will have a left to right wind that will affect the shot as it approaches the green. The two-tiered green is carved into the natural rock on the course. The players will need to find the right tier to give themselves the best shot at a birdie.
No. 9 (par 4, 386 yards) One of the more challenging holes on the course, this hole plays completely uphill tee to green. Players will need to avoid the three fairway bunkers off the tee to leave themselves the best approach shot. Anything short of the green will find a bunker that is 25 feet below the hole. The green is two-tiered, with the upper part of the green being a more flat putting surface.
No. 10 (par 5, 605 yards) Liberty's opening hole on Friday has another narrow opening for a tee shot that plays to an elevated fairway. Players will have to make a choice on their second shot, either clear the ravine that divides the fairway and leave a wedge to the green or layup short of the ravine and leave an approach short around 220 yards. Anything short on the approach will roll well down the hill to a green that is not too deep and has few flat parts to the putting surface.
No. 11 (par 4, 408 yards) The players will need to carry a long hazard area off the tee. With a prevailing wind and sloping fairway, the players will have a chance to leave a short approach shot with a well-placed drive. There are several bunkers to avoid on the way to the green that strongly slopes from front to back.
No. 12 (par 4, 439 yards) The players will need to shape a drive off a tee shot that plays uphill and to a narrow opening, which runs left to right. The approach shot continues to play uphill to a green that is guarded by several bunkers. Long shots to the sloping green should run back onto the green, which may help players when the committee places the pins on the backside of the green.
No. 13 (par 3, 225 yards) Players must carry their tee shot all the way to the green, as anything short on this lengthy par-3 hole will roll well down the hill just before the putting surface. The green, which is guarded by tree bunkers, slopes from back to front and has two tiers.
No. 14 (par 4, 496 yards) A left to right tee shot will be key on this challenging driving hole that plays downhill off the tee. Players will want to finish their tee shots left of the fairway bunkers. The green is narrow and wide, with three different putting levels with the flattest portion of the green being to the right side.
No. 15 (par 5, 560 yards) This par-5 hole plays different than the Regional in 2013, as the old No. 2 hole tee box was played from a much more elevated tee box. The large tree in the middle of the fairway is still in play, forcing players to make a decision off the tee to hit their shots left or right. The green is guarded by a few bunkers left and short, while a collection area off the green is long and right where errant approach shots will find a challenging up and down.
No. 16 (par 4, 460 yards) The shot from the championship tees is played through a narrow opening to a wide-open fairway. Approach shots from the left will have to contend with some trees. The two-tiered green has a large roll off area if players miss right or long, which will land in an area well below the green.
No. 17 (par 3, 206 yards) Judging the wind on this par-3 hill will be key from the tee, as the wind can shift from the hitting area as it approaching the green. Three large bunkers are located on the right of the green that slopes from back to front and right to left.
No. 18 (par 4, 478 yards) Players have a long carry over a water and marsh hazard right off the tee on the home hole at The Blessings Golf Club. The golfers will have a mid-range iron shot into a putting surface with few flat spots as they look to card one last birdie before leaving the challenging course.
Course Information: • The Blessings Golf Club (Fayetteville, Ark.) • Par 72, 7,550 yards
Following the Flames at NCAA Men's Golf National Championship: • Live stats will be available at Golfstat.com • Twitter @LibertyGolf • Instagram @LibertyGolf • Round 1 Tee Time: Friday at 8:45 a.m./EST (No. 10 tee) • Round 2 Tee Time: Saturday at 2:05 p.m./EST (No. 1 tee)
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