Paxon Hollow: 5,709 yards, 125 slope (from the Whites)
Course: Near Media, more near Paxon Elementary. One of my favorite courses in the area. Each hole has its own personality, mainly by using hills and dog legs. I would call this a ball striker’s course. The first hole is a gentle dog leg with a tough approach shot. That is followed by a short par 3, excellent birdie, or hole in 1 opportunity. I like courses that give you a chance at the old hole in 1. And why not? There are very few things the average hacker can hang their hat on in this game. A hole on 1 is one of those things that will always be yours; your story, your big moment, where all the hours, frustration and struggling are worth it. Your lifetime pass to this game, always able to remember that shot when you need to think about better times. I’ve seen videos of kids, old people, blind people, dogs, babies and zombies hit hole in ones; why not me? And those par 3’s where I’m on a tee and have a chance, standing over my ball, before it all goes wrong, I have a glimmer of, hope, that I’ll get that ace. You get the same opportunity on 17 where you hit off a cliff. The number 1 handicapped Eighteenth hole is also a gem. Extremely tough approach shot at the Thirteenth. The starter sets you off nicely with free tees. You never see any houses (maybe 1 or 2). After playing, you feel accomplished. This course has variety, challenge, a fun factor, and great atmosphere. When I talk about courses that are deals and great values, this is one of them. This course is a main reason I won’t shell out what crap course X is charging. Because I can come here for a better course for cheaper. Usually a nice cart girl.
Gripes: Not the longest course. I feel, however, the course is set up so longer hitters don’t really have an advantage; there are just too may trees, dog legs and hills for a long hitter to have that much of an advantage. The greens are molasses. It takes a lot of getting used to. Usually crowded on the weekends.
Bar/grill: Decent area to watch LCD Tv, or a balcony overlooking 10 and 18.
Clubhouse: Small, but sufficiently stocked. Secret stash of hats you can’t find anywhere else.
Nearby: Not really. It’s pretty residential. The course is good to go to hang out afterwards.
Getting there: Just off 476, Route 3 exit.
Update, August 2012: I usually play here at least a few times a season, but this was the first time out this year for some reason. Not being there for almost a year made me recognize a few things that had changed. Mainly, it appears that a lot of work is going into the course. One of the things I noticed was new steps and landscaping near the tee areas and greens. It definitely adds to the aesthetics of the place and quite frankly, is unusual to find these types of improvements at a municipal course. More importantly, I noticed that the greens seem to have been rebuilt. They definitely weren’t the molasses I was used to, but were rather fast, increasing the undulations and reading the greens was more of a challenge. It also appeared they were putting in a lot of work off fairways and directly off greens. I think early fall is when you’re supposed to grow grass in general, but again, the entire course seemed to be getting a facelift. I certainly didn’t see a bump in greens fees, so more power to them.
This was one of my first reviews, before I started the hole by hole descriptions of more recent reviews. I wasn’t planning on doing one, but as I started thinking about the holes and how much I like playing here and it was pretty easy to go through the holes.
The First is a 319 yard par 4 (from the Whites). Generally, I like the First and Second as a great 1-2 warm up combo. The First is a dog leg left, a cape-esque hole where you can bit off a lot of the left side for s shorter approach. There is a very real possibility that hitting it too far straight or to the right will go OB to the driving range. The green has a ridge running through the middle, which slopes towards the front on the front half, and back on the back half. It’s also the firs time you get to see the bunkering, which I think must have been re-done in the last couple years. They’re craggy, deep and look a lot better than having to play out of them. It’s a nice warm up hole.
Approach shot territory
The Second is a 119 yard par 3. Like I said in my original review, it’s a great chance for a birdie, or even an ace, as the green is straight in front of you and a short wedge in. The green is deep, so get it near the pin.
With the warm up over, it’s time to tackle the the much tougher and longer Third, which is a 480 yard par 5. It’s a dog leg right that starts gradually uphill, then goes much steeper uphill after the dog leg. A hill essentially blocks the dog leg. It’s possible to cut it, but make sure you clear the hill or you’ll end up in some long grass. Hitting it long of the green is basically dead while a bunker guards the left side (there are actually now a few over on that side). The right side of the green is the bail out area.
Tee shot at the Third (2012)
The Third (2017)
Moving down the fairway
Just short of the green
Great bunker shaping
The Fourth is a 135 yard par 3, where the green is set about 2:00 from the tee area. Bunkers are left and right of the green and the green itself is pretty undulating. This hole seems like it’s crammed in to the course and with the cart path running through it, the next tee off to the left and the Eighth tee off to the right, doesn’t flow very well with the rest of the course. Regardless, the cross bunkers keep you honest and the green runs from left to right.
The Fourth (2012)
The Fourth (2017)
The Fifth is somewhat of a breather. It’s a short par 4 at 317 yards where your tee shot left will end up in a chasm and is essentially done. The green is big and the approach is pretty easy.
Approach shot territory
Approach in 2012
Th Sixth is also a short par 4 at 261 yards, but the fairway is narrow and your tee shot must be straight to avoid trouble and allow yourself an approach shot. Trees will block your approach if your tee shot is right and anything left is in trees and down a ravine. There are bunkers short of the green and along with some contours and rough, it gets very tough to score well if you’re scrambling with an off the line tee shot.
The Seventh is a 441 yard par 5 that dog legs left. Trees prevent you from cutting the turn with your tee shot, although one guy in my group tried and I believe he ended up in the trees, but with a manageable punch shot to the front of the green. That’s the closest I’ve seen anyone get to cutting it. During my most recent round, I hit the cart path on the left at the turn, which gave me another 50 yards to the hole. While it may be tempting to reach the green in two, consider laying up to a manageable wedge shot.
The Eighth is a 158 yard par 3 with an elevated green. There are 3 successive bunkers on the right side of the green that I swear are new, while short and left of the green features a deeper bunker.
The Ninth is one of my favorite holes on the course. It’s a par 4 at 363 yards that features a narrow fairway that gently turns left and slightly down hill to the green. A severe ridge follows the fairway along the left while the right side is lined with trees, which sit above the fairway on another ridge that runs the length of the fairway. You have to be accurate on this hole. The Ninth epitomizes the type of play at Paxon. Length really isn’t an issue, but the course defends itself in many other ways and emphasizes precision without tricking out the course or being unplayable.
Tee shot at the Ninth (2012)
Beginning of fairway at the Ninth. Note the workers on the left side of the green (2012)
The Ninth (2017)
Moving down the fairway (2017)
My ranking for the front 9 is 9, 6, 1, 3, 7, 4, 8, 5, 2. The Third is a pretty tough hole to face in the beginning of the round, especially after the cream puff First and Second. You get a breather with the Fourth and Fifth though, so it’s more whining by me than anything else.
The Tenth is a short 250 yard par 4 with an elevated tee shot. A very scenic hole, it should be easy to score here as distance really isn’t an issue. But accuracy is a must, as there is water left of the tee area and a creek running along the right side of the fairway that comes into play with your tee shot.
The Tenth (2012)
The Tenth (2017). Looks like a tree was taken out on the right
The Eleventh is a 430 yard par 5, but plays longer since the entire hole is uphill. The fairway narrows as you get closer to the green and the bunkers that you encounter as you move towards the green come into play as you’ll likely have an array of uneven lies to deal with as you’re trying to belt the ball up the hill to a generous green.
Moving up the fairway (2012)
A little closer look at the green (2017)
The Twelfth features a 350 yard par 4 that features a rolling hill fairway. The tee shot is elevated and this hole is yet another example of too much distance off the tee not necessarily being a good thing, as the fairway drops downhill before coming back up again to an elevated green, protected by bunkers and a slope on the far side of the green. It shouldn’t be a tough approach, but it usually is anyways.
The Twelfth (2012)
The Twelfth (2017)
Approach shot territory
The Thirteenth is a 340 yard par 4 that has probably the toughest approach shot on the course. You tee off to the fairway, which sits off to the right and angles downhill and left towards a green that is nestled in a couple mounds. The green is rather small, there are bunkers protecting the sides of the green and anything too far left rolls down the hill side. Your approach has little room to roll, so hit it high and make it stop.
The Thirteenth (2012)
The approach at the Thirteenth (2012). Another great thing about this course is how rugged the bunkers look.
The Thirteenth (2017)
Approach shot territory (2017)
A closer look at the green (2017)
The Fourteenth is an easier hole. It’s a straightaway par 4 at 370 yards that starts to proceed downhill at the fairway to a larger green. It’s rather uncharacteristic to be honest.
Moving down the fairway, with a fairway bunker on the right side
A look at the green
The Fifteenth starts a great set of holes through the end up the round. It’s a 150 yard par 3 set on a hill side that slopes from right to left, with severe bunkers short and left of the green. It could pass for a Redan and certainly has a few of those features. It’s the toughest par 3 on the course.
The Fifteenth (2012). The tee box for the Blues is behind and to the left of the photo, leaving you with a partial view of the green.
The Fifteenth (2017)
The Sixteenth is a 300 yard par 4 that challenges you off the tee with a larger bunker on the right and a slight dog leg right that forces you to fade it if you decide to use driver. The green is narrow but long with a bunker on the left side to collect errant approach shots. The green is also undulating in a few directions, so putting is usually a little tough here.
The Sixteenth (2017)
A look at the green from the left side
The Seventeenth is a fun one shorter at 115 yards. You tee off a bluff into the valley below, where the green sits with the woods in the background. You gotta go 1 – 2 clubs down to account for the severe downhill. It’s a nice shot to pull off and with the generous sized green, a good place to get a shot back before tacking the spectacular Eighteenth.
The Seventeenth (2012)
The Seventeenth (2017)
The first class Eighteenth is a 519 yard par 5. The hole runs along with a creek, which you use carry on either the tee or second shot. After the creek, the hole then climbs uphill to a double tiered green. There are many ways to play this hole, as you can try to carry the creek on your tee shot and leave yourself with a much more manageable second shot. The problem with this is the landing area is very small and there are a number of trees that could easily put your ball in the creek. You could drive the tee shot to the end of the fairway, which gives you an easier second shot, but anything off the mark makes it tough to carry the creek on the second, so you waste a shot.
A few years ago, I was playing here with a friend and two older gentlemen. They were definitely older and one of them was hitting it 150 yards at a clip. When we reached the Eighteenth, the older guy who was hitting 150 at most challenged us to a $1 skin for the hole. We immediately took the skin, mainly for fun, but I also figured he wouldn’t be able to reach the green in regulation with the creek and hill in play. Well, while our drives ended up off course and we had to scramble the rest of the hole, this guy hit 150 off the tee, 150 across the creek, 150 up the fairway, left himself a 90 yard approach shot and holed his par putt. So you could play it that way too.
Tee shot at the Eighteenth (2012)
The Eighteenth (2017)
Moving down the fairway
Approach shot territory
My back 9 ranking would be 18, 10, 13, 15, 17, 11, 12, 16, 14.
Paxon continues to be a great value. Conditions actually seemed to be better and I had no issues with crowds. I will say that the cart girl kept coming around, but the beers were almost $5 a pop, which is something you don’t even see at Lederach. Some guys shirk at shorter courses for some reason and frankly I don’t get it. A lot of these shorter tracks, including Paxon, are classically designed and place more emphasis on your game from 150 yards in. They allow you to get creative with those shots, instead of hitting driver-3 wood all the time. And finally, they’re a lot of fun. Phil Mickelson complained that East Lake was just a long and hard course; not interesting or fun. A lot of modern courses follow that long and hard mantra, hoping to host tournaments and forgetting the average golfer. It’s great that these classic tracks are still around, which considered the average golfer and make for an interesting round every time you get out there. I always have a good time playing this course because of the shots I have to hit and the decisions I have to make every time. Another benefit of a shorter course is you can get around the course in less time, which helps immensely when you’re trying to fit a round in Sunday evening or after work. For these reasons, I will keep coming back to Paxon with a smile on my face.
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE
Looks like it’s been about five years since I’ve played here and I noticed several differences. Generally, the course is nicer, in better shape and played much better. It looked like some of the bunkers have been worked on, the fairways, rough and greens were in great condition and I still think the course does a great job defending itself well despite its shorter length.
The speed of the greens, however, detracts from the playability. They were slow and as a result, the slopes and undulations were not being used as effectively as they could. In all fairness to the course, the day I played there had been some rain but I remember slower greens being a characteristic when I played here more regularly. It certainly helps with playability, but I think they could still achieve that by speeding them up a little more.
The big detractor remains and that is the crowds. There is no doubt that Paxon is a popular course for a number of reasons and most times you show up, the course is crawling with golfers. Back ups on several holes, 10 minute waits between shots and having half the course watch as you tee off on the par 3’s as they wait their turn is the norm. For many, they don’t mind and are content to bide the time as they wait for their turn to hit. There are others, like myself, who can’t stand it. It takes away from a lot of the things that makes golf enjoyable for me, including playing worse as it’s impossible to get into a rhythm and I start stiffening up (starting to get old). If you belong to the former group of folks, then you’re fine, but if you’re in the latter group with me, then you either go elsewhere or try to avoid the crowds at off-peak times. Either way, the crowds are a pretty big factor here. Due to its length, the round was a little over four hours (even though our tee time was late afternoon), but the waiting between shots is a big turn off for me.
The course is obviously doing a lot of things right to attract the throngs of masses. The restaurant is entirely new and seems to be just as much as an attraction for non-golfers. The pro shop is in a new location and the snack bar has a great place where it’s accessible just before the First and Tenth. The course is much nicer than a few years ago. And it seems like they will be re-doing the First and Second holes at some point soon, relocating the driving range and making the First much longer. I look forward to seeing those changes in the future.
For now, this is a Monday early morning or Tuesday early evening kind of course for me. I enjoy the design and like playing it and the price is right (not as much of a bargain as in years past, but close), but I’d enjoy it a lot more when it’s not packed.
I took a lot of photos and have updated the hole by hole review with more detail as well. The comparison between how the course looks now as opposed to the last time I was there is striking.