White Oaks Country Club looks gentle, serene and hardly intimidating. That's by design.
"This is a confidence builder golf course," says Bob Hennefer, the general manager and PGA Director of Golf for the Newfield facility. "When you come out here, you can shoot a number (good score). We don't have much water. We do challenge you, but we know that you are coming out here for a good time. We're not running the U.S. Open."
The course layout reflects this philosophy. White Oak actually plays about 6,500 yards from the back tees, a respectable length. Trouble via strategically placed traps and narrowing fairways does come into play in the landing areas, but mostly from the back tees, not the middle ones. What the course gives back is access to its greens. Few are guarded in the front, water rarely matters and the golfer faces a simple challenge: hit the ball straight, with good distance, and shots won't be spoiled by water and sand traps.
"This is also a fun course," Hennefer says. "It has many twists and turns, and none of the holes are the same. We sprinkle in some tough holes and then give you some breathers."
Don't be fooled, however. White Oaks can hold its own.
Seventeen, for instance, is a complex par 3. It has a 65-yard green on two tiers, giving the hole a range of 195 to 255 yards. Club selection can range from a driver to a 4-iron.
"You have to land the ball in the same tier where the pin is or else," Hennefer says, laughing. "There are two different slopes that run throughout the green, which already slopes from back to front. If you land the ball on the wrong side of the pin. ..."
The implication is clear: Misread your shot, and you may four-putt.
The hole has bunkers on the left and right, ensuring any inaccurate tee shot will make bogey a decent score.
Hennefer also favors the No. 9, a par 4 that measures just less than 400 yards from the back tees. The fairway widens further out from the tee, rewarding a long, precise drive. But the key moment on the hole is how players manage the 50- to 60-yard, visually-intimidating body of water in front of the green.
The approach shot here is all carry, meaning a player must clear the pond to reach the green.
A short driver or bungled approach shot could produce a disastrous hole. During the fall, White Oaks shifts to an upper green on the left side. This is an even tougher test, bringing water and out-of-bounds left into play.
A par 5 dogleg left opens the back nine. It plays 570 yards from the back and tee shots travel downhill.
The hole has a wide landing area, opening to a long layup shot to enable a pitch or low iron to the green.
This green is unprotected in front. Players simply need to manage the distance, hit a straight third shot and toy with the idea of a birdie.
White Oaks Country Club
Where: 2951 Dutch Mill Road, Newfield
Rates: Mondays to Thursdays - $54 before 1 p.m., $39 after 1 p.m.; Fridays - $59 before 1 p.m., $39 after 1 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays - $69 before 1 p.m., $49 after 1 p.m.; Twilight - $33 after 3 p.m. daily
Tee times: Recommended. Available seven days in advance.
Amenities: Pro shop, restaurant, hitting net.