Stowe Country Club guide for the 2020 Vermont Amateur golf championship

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STOWE – The oldest course in town is now a mature, well-kept 18-hole circuit with rolling hills and sweeping views.

On the verge of hosting the Vermont Amateur championship for the first time in more than half a century, Stowe Country Club appears primed to put on an exciting show.

The par-72 layout features five par-5s and five par-3s, which makes its 6,200 yards feel shorter than the number would suggest. And all those numbers add up to birdie chances galore.

An unusual starting configuration — three of those par-5s come in the first six holes — yields chances early and more follow.  

The drivable 18th hole, a short par-4, is just the cherry on top.

The use of elevation and slope does give the track, which dates back to 1962, some tools to defend itself against the state’s best golfers but red numbers should be bountiful when the action begins on July 7. 

The last time Stowe hosted was in 1966, when the Amateur was still a match-play event.  Rutland’s Richard Smith won that year. The low qualifying round of stroke play was a 2-under 70.

More: Rutland Country Club guide for the 2019 Vermont Amateur golf championship

After refreshing my memory with a round at Stowe last month, here’s my hole-by-hole, caddie-style course guide ahead of this year’s Vermont Amateur:

No. 1, 495 yards, Par 5

The numbers on the card may scream green light — and possibly even an eagle chance — but the opener is just awkward enough to make golfers think twice. Out-of-bounds lurks off the left side of the fairway for the semi-blind tee shot, which features a downhill slope in the landing zone that can send shots into the rough for a tricky, uphill second shot. Still, an easy flip-wedge shot should set up a good birdie look to start.

No. 2, 165 yards, Par 3

A bunker right and left impede the line of sight to this green, which is set into a left-to-right slope. Not a daunting hole, but getting the right club on the exposed hillside will be key. Some hints of a punchbowl effect at the green should be receptive.

No. 3, 495 yards, Par 5

My pick for hole that will see the most eagles during the Amateur, the third is downhill, pretty open and eminently reachable — probably with nothing more than a mid-iron for most. A large bunker yawns on the right side of the green, which has a couple subtle elevation changes to keep the short game honest if the approach misses the surface.

No. 4, 165 yards, Par 3

A mis-hit in any direction (aside from short) could spell trouble here. The green is framed by two bunkers, has a hazard hugging tight to the left side and a steep bank long and to the right that could amplify any misses away from the red stakes. 

No. 5, 375 yards, Par 4

Stowe’s first par-4 doesn’t ask a lot of golfers. It’s not long and has just a single fairway bunker on the right. But its elevated green doesn’t leave much room for error long or short, where bunkers again frame the putting surface. 

No. 6, 490 yards, Par 5

How does everyone feel about another par-5? The sixth, like the third, plays downhill and is eminently reachable in two shots. A tree on the left side could spoil that chance for any misses on that side of the hole, while a stream cuts in toward the landing zone from the right side. That stream then crosses the hole to feed a pond on the left that only comes into play for big misses.

More: 2018 Vermont Amateur: A caddie’s guide to Country Club of Vermont

No. 7,  390 yards, Par 4

Running parallel to the sixth, back up the hill, the seventh has one of the tightest tee shots at Stowe. A pond well to the left could come into play for big misses and the tree line guards the right. The real challenge on this two-shotter, though, is on the approach and what comes after. The elevated green has bunkers to the left and features a severe back-to-front slope that puts anything above the hole in jeopardy of running off the front. 

No. 8, 155 yards, Par 3

The shortest hole on the card has one of the most punishing greens on the course. Five bunkers complicate the approach and another back-to-front slope dominates, like the hole before it, but at No. 8 it adds a right-to-left element. Getting to a right-side pin is a tough ask — and getting close to anything on the left requires playing well right of the flag. Staying under this hole is crucial.

No. 9, 400 yards, Par 4

An inviting fairway, wide and reminiscent of the halfpipes found further up the slopes of Mount Mansfield, feeds down to a wide green for Stowe’s longest par-4. Rather straightforward, there’s a bunker short left of the green, which has some subtlety and plenty of onlookers as it’s sandwiched between the practice green and the first and 10th tees.

No. 10, 190 yards, Par 3

Like the eighth hole, staying below the cup is also paramount as players make the turn. The longest par-3 on the course pays slightly downhill to a green perched into a knob of a hill. Sand traps short and left add visual deterrents, yet the surface itself is the thing — taking too much club will bring bogey or worse into play.

No. 11, 460 yards, Par 5 

The shortest of Stowe’s three-shotters can tempt many to get there in two. But as the fairway winds uphill, trees to both sides but plenty of room in between, everything narrows. The green presents as an island, roughly 35-yards deep, between two bunkers on the top of a knoll that would boot misses further astray.

No. 12, 385 yards, Par 4

The landing zone pinches in on those taking driver here, a downhill par-4 that leaves most with a blind approach. The slope toward the green begins in earnest at the 100-yard marker — and perhaps the biggest hitters could be looking to force the issue if the conditions are right. 

More: A caddie’s guide to Ekwanok, Vermont golf’s grand stage

No. 13, 310 yards, Par 4 

A rare dogleg, the 13th hooks its way around out of bounds on the left side and golfers will run out of fairway at 250 yards if they play it straight. The turf boomerangs and banks toward the green but fairway is split by a cart path. This one should play a little longer from back of the tee box — but a wedge for the approach will have players thinking birdie.

No. 14, 480 yards, Par 5

Crossing Cape Cod Road takes players to the choices poised by the 14th tee. From there it’s a little less than 240 yards to a small creek that bisects the fairway. Any attempt to drive it over the hazard requires a draw — toward more red stakes on the left — and at least a 260-yard carry as the hole bends to the left. Sand fronts the large green site, which offers little breathing room for anyone attempting to get home in two.

No. 15, 185 yards, Par 3

The last of Stowe’s five par-3s is also its least complicated. Trap left, trap right, trees protecting the green from wind in every direction except from behind the tee. A mid-iron approach should yield some easy pars as well as birdie chances.

No. 16, 370 yards, Par 4 

A wavy ride awaits with three holes to go. Players step up to a blind, uphill tee shot with a bunker and trees on left at 220 yards. Carrying that distance in the fairway, however, should give shots a run out to the bottom of the slope for a short wedge into a green that is slightly crowned and releases front to back. Some pin locations here could be tough to get close.

No. 17, 390 yards, Par 4 

Similar to No. 9, the penultimate hole cruises downhill through a halfpipe-shaped fairway. A wedge or short-iron approach should offer a good chance to score, though like the hole before it, the green at No. 17 also has some front-to-back action. A shot beyond the pin could leave a solid, slightly uphill birdie bid.

No. 18, 295 yards, Par 4 

Any layup attempts at the last must contend with the bunkers on either side of the fairway — the one on the right cuts into the line of sight at about 215 yards. Plenty of players can test the green off the tee, though, which could lead to fireworks and plenty of red numbers at the end of the day.

Contact Austin Danforth at 651-4851 or edanforth@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @eadanforth.

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