Editor’s note: Tyler Strong is the business editor of The Augusta Press and noted golf novice. He partnered with his friend and former NCAA Division III college golfer Guille Henegar to visit some of the courses Augusta has to offer and share their experiences — Strong as a local Augustan but newcomer to the sport, and Henegar, as a more experienced golfer and newcomer to the CSRA. The first installment will cover their prior experiences with the sport and their first outing to Forest Hills Golf Club.
GH: Sundays were always the days I looked forward to the most. Just minutes after our family returned home from church, I was ready to head to the course. Golf was Dad’s favorite game, and I remember him telling me so. His words were, “Just because golf is my favorite sport, that doesn’t mean it has to be yours.” Oh, but it was.
Those were the days that my love of golf grew. Naturally, the passion continued as I went through middle and high school, eventually granting me the opportunity to play in college. Denison University is a D-III school, so the level of golf is more akin to advanced high school golf than to D-I golf, but I was just thankful for an opportunity to play.
I am relatively new to Augusta. I moved here from Washington, D.C., where playing golf meant driving 30-45 minutes and paying what felt like a month’s rent for a five-hour round of golf that made you question if the price was worth it. But choosing a golf course in and around Augusta is similar to what I felt when I first walked into a Golden Corral: lots and lots of options at a fair price.
When I moved here, I played a few different courses to get a feel for the area. Forest Hills, the focus of this article, landed at the top of my list. As I have played different courses over the years, I have come to realize that certain styles of golf courses are more appealing to me than others. Many of those courses are designed by Donald Ross, so Forest Hills fits that bill. Elevation changes, open fairways, the ability to run the ball up on to the greens, and the absence of houses on the course — not in play anyway — are a few of the reasons I have gravitated toward Forest Hills.
This course grants players with a higher skill level the ability to work the golf ball both ways to counteract slopes in fairways and greens and to attack pins that might be located on tougher-to-reach sections of the green. The fairways are open, and there aren’t any forced carries — which means that if you can actually advance your tee shot forward, even if it’s a low screamer along the ground, then there is nothing to worry about. The course also provides the ability to run the ball up to the green on most holes. Therefore, players who don’t hit the ball as high or dribble one from time to time can mostly get away with those shots on this course.
With the tree-lined fairways and classic Donald Ross greens, there are similarities to Pinehurst in North Carolina. The greens are generous in size, but the subtle — and sometimes not-so-subtle — slopes make it harder to get close to strategically-placed pin locations. Depending on which tees you are playing, the real defense of the course are the greens. My favorite hole on the course is the par three 13th. It’s a short hole, but it requires a solid shot to prevent the ball from meeting the false front and rolling off the green.
The course is a good mix of scoring opportunities, and par is a good score. With five sets of tees to choose from, players can take on any type of challenge they want. As the home of the Augusta University golf teams, Forest Hills can play long. Close to 7,200 yards from the back tees, it will challenge even the best of players — especially if the wind is blowing.
From a playing perspective, there is nothing to dislike about Forest Hills. As with any golf course, maintenance is critical, and the maintenance crew at Forest Hills, albeit small, does a great job. Of course, there are certain areas of the course that tend to be in trouble from time to time, but this is due more to drainage and tree coverage than it is to lack of care. Forest Hills is a well-maintained track.
Finally, make sure to stop by the grill before, after, or during your round to grab a club sandwich. Can’t beat it.
TS: It’s funny Guille mentioned the grill at the end. Visiting the grill was likely the most successful part of my trip to Forest Hills. These 18 holes were the first 18 I’ve ever played in my life, and the gap in experience between myself and my playing partner was certainly visible.
I’ve been visiting the driving range every couple of weeks with my Grandad for the past three years, but this visit to Forest Hills was the first time I’ve ever actually teed it up on a real course.
I’ve followed golf for years and have been lucky enough to be on-site for numerous PGA Tour events over the last few years working with CBS Sports. Working four Masters and a handful of other events like the PGA Championship at Harding Park, Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and RBC Heritage at Harbour Town gave me ample opportunities to see the prowess of the world’s best up close and it began to draw more of an appreciation out of me for how difficult and athletic it really is.
After a couple hours on the range ahead of our visit to Forest Hills, I thought I was ready to get through the day unscathed.
I knew golf was hard, but I can now say from experience: it’s even harder than it looks.
Guille did what he could throughout the day to make small tweaks to my swing and my approach (most of all, keeping my doggone head down through my swing), but it was a tough day out. Don’t get me wrong — I was still having fun the whole time even though occasional frustration crept in over not putting it all together. I still am excited to continue learning and hopefully improve.
Forest Hills provided a great first experience. As Guille mentioned above, the course is wide open, making it hard for an amateur to go out of bounds or get wet. I put one in the woods and one in the water after glancing a tee shot off a tree, but all in all, it’s a great track to learn on.
Even from my limited perspective, the course clearly places an emphasis on a strong all-around game and a fair challenge for players of all skill levels. It’s got variety throughout, with the shorter holes providing opportunities for scoring (not for me, of course), and the longer ones allowing golfers to shape their approach in any number of ways. While I wasn’t able to take advantage of all Forest Hills had to offer, I feel confident this can be a course to return again and again in order to learn more from it with each outing.