Local champ provides inside tips for navigating Yampa Valley Golf Course | CraigDailyPress.com

Local champ provides inside tips for navigating Yampa Valley Golf Course

Joshua Gordon

Sean Smith, a Craig resident, stands next to the first tee box at Yampa Valley Golf Course. Smith, who has been playing golf since his freshman year at Moffat County High School, shared his tips for every hole on the course in preparation for the 2011 Men's and Ladies Club Championships, which begin today and conclude Sunday.
Joshua Gordon

With the 2011 Men's and Ladies Club Championships beginning today at Yampa Valley Golf Course, every golfer competing is looking for an edge against the field.

Sean Smith, a Craig resident, has been playing golf for seven years, beginning as a freshman on the Moffat County High School boys golf team.

Now 21, Smith is trying to capitalize this year on his finish in last year's club championship, when he was crowned net club champion after shooting a 135 over two days.

Smith, a 9 handicap, said he knows his home course front and back. He decided to share keys to managing the course and successfully scoring on each hole.

Smith said he has his favorite hole (No. 15) and his least favorite (No. 13), but it takes solid rounds of play to win a championship.

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The championship tournament begins at 7 a.m. today and continues with a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

Club professional Jason Back said he expects about 60 combined golfers for both the men's and ladies flights.

The men's field starts at a 5 handicap all the way to beginner golfers, while the ladies' field starts at a 6 handicap up to beginner golfers.

Below are the keys to each hole at the local course, according to Smith:

No. 1 — 491 yards men/424 yards women/par 5

Key shot: A nice straight drive down the fairway will set you up with an easy third shot onto the green for a chance at birdie.

Where trouble lurks: If you fly the green, it's hard to get back on. The green slopes back to front and has a tendency to send balls off the front.

Reading the green: Try to place your ball below the hole. You'll have to putt harder to get uphill, but it's better than putting off the green.

No. 2 — 326 yards men/285 yards women/par 4

Key shot: This hole that can be your best friend or worst enemy. Drives have to stay in the fairway or it's hard to reach the green.

Where trouble lurks: There are trees to the left and right. If your drive makes the trees, you can usually count on extra strokes.

Reading the green: Like the first hole, this green has a "fake" front and when you think you are on, the ball has a tendency to roll off.

No. 3 — 334 yards men/245 yards women/par 4

Key shot: Use an iron off the tee on this dogleg left to make sure you get the right distance. Too short means going over the trees into the green, but go too long and you'll be hitting out of the trees.

Where trouble lurks:Trees surround the green on all sides, so make sure you stay low to avoid hitting limbs.

Reading the green: On one side of the green there is a horseshoe that funnels everything down. If you end up inside, you may be putting multiple times from the same position.

No. 4 — 162 yards men/146 yards women/par 3

Key shot: Try to keep your ball to the left to avoid hazards and extra shots on this first par 3.

Where trouble lurks: The pin is sometimes hidden behind the bunker on the right side of the green. If you find yourself going over the bunker, you may come up short and on the beach.

Reading the green: The green has a few slopes, but for the most part it isn't too difficult.

No. 5 — 326 yards men/305 yards women/par 4

Key shot: There are two fairway bunkers on the left, but aim between the last one and the green, and you should find yourself sitting in the middle of the fairway.

Where trouble lurks: Out of bounds on the left and water on the right. Golfers who drive longer than 200 yards off the tee can easily find the drink.

Reading the green: You have to carefully read the slopes or you may end up three-putting this hole.

No. 6 — 515 yards men/453 yards women/par 5

Key shot: Keep your ball on the left side of the fairway.

Doing so gives you more options on your approach shot to the green.

Where trouble lurks: Out of the tee box, there are trees on the right and out of bounds on the left. Going over the trees in front of the tee box will get you in the fairway. If you veer right, you'll have to shoot over a bunker to get on the green, which could see you shooting out of the bunker on your next shot.

Reading the green:Keep the ball at the bottom left to avoid shooting off the green or into the bunker.

No. 7 — 168 yards men/159 yards women/par 3

Key shot: A good tee shot will usually set you up nicely for a birdie putt.

Where trouble lurks: Depending on the wind, if your drive is too long you can overshoot the green and end up out of bounds.

Reading the green: Landing your ball in front should set you up nicely.

No. 8 — 346 yards men/298 yards women/par 4

Key shot: On your drive, you need to hit right around 200 yards to get a good shot at the pin on your second.

Where trouble lurks: A tree next to the fairway, nicknamed "Big Ugly," can make it hard to reach the green if you end up by it. Punching out may be easier than shooting over the tree.

Reading the green: No. 8 is one of the easier greens on the course because it has a nice slope down toward the pin.

No. 9 — 387 yards men/326 yards women/par 4

Key shot: The drive is the most important shot on this hole.

You need to hit about 250 yards on your drive to be about 150 yards out from the cup.

Where trouble lurks: There are trees to the right, and if you pull your tee shot you may be adding a few extra strokes. There is a little alleyway that some golfers try to get through which will put you about where you need to be.

Reading the green: Like many holes on the front nine, putting the ball at the bottom of the green helps avoid the down slope.

No. 10 — 347 yards men/307 yards women/par 4

Key shot: A drive down the middle of the fairway sets you up nicely for an easy chip onto the green on this short par 4.

Where trouble lurks: The fairway slopes a little to the right, which will put you in trees and have you shooting over a bunker to reach the green. Keep the ball on the left side of the fairway.

Reading the green: Compared to most of the greens, which are round, the No. 10 green is long. Chipping the ball onto the green short will leave a long putt.

No. 11 — 154 yards men/92 yards women/par 3

Key shot: The tee shot needs to be precise — too short or too far right could mean flirting with the water.

Where trouble lurks: There are three bunkers, but one is hidden from the tee box. If your ball disappears to the right behind the green, you're probably in the trap.

Reading the green: When you look at the green, it has some little turns and breaks, but for the most part, it's flat.

No. 12 — 335 yards men/279 yards women/par 4

Key shot: Use a 4- or 5-iron off the tee to avoid hazards. Two trees sit at the end of the fairway, so aim for them to end up in the right position.

Where trouble lurks: With water hazards on both sides of the fairway, staying left is better than right. The fairway slopes toward the right pond and wayward shots can end in a penalty stroke.

Reading the green: Again, one of the easier greens on the course. An uphill slope, but the pin is usually at the back.

No. 13 — 371 yards men/309 yards women/par 4

Key shot:A pretty straight hole that should be played like a dogleg right. A big tree about midway down the fairway is where to aim. Stay a little left of the tree to have a nice chance to reach the green on your second shot.

Where trouble lurks:Hazards and four bunkers surround the green. If you go right, left or long you are in trouble. Try to approach from the bottom right corner to avoid ending up in the sand.

Reading the green: One of the steepest slopes means your putt needs to be harder than it may look to reach the pin.

No. 14 — 349 yards men/265 yards women/par 4

Key shot: A fairly easy approach to the fairway leaves you just under 100 yards to the green on what is the easiest hole on the course.

Where trouble lurks: People tend to go right on this hole and end up in the trees. Being in the trees makes it hard to judge how far the green is and a lot of players hit short or long.

Reading the green: A fairly simple green that should help players lower their scores.

No. 15 — 437 yards/405 yards women/par 5

Key shot: With a good tee shot, you should be less than 200 yards from the green.

Where trouble lurks: People who tend to top the ball need to watch out for a water hazard right in front of the tee box. If a drive goes to the right, trees play a factor on how many strokes it takes to reach the hole.

Reading the green: It's an uphill green, so you want to try and stay below the hole. If you're above, the green is really fast going down and you may end up off the green again.

No. 16 — 161 yards/115 yards women/par 3

Key shot: A lot of hole-in-ones have been made on this hole, so go right at the pin.

Where trouble lurks: If your drive goes to the left, you are in a "jail" behind the trees. Then you have to decide whether to hit low for the green or high and over the limbs.

Reading the green: A nice, flat green makes this hole simple if you avoid the trees.

No. 17 — 363 yards men/272 yards women/par 4

Key shot: Staying left of the fairway takes numerous hazards out of play. Bunkers on the fairway and to the right of the green aren't a factor as much with this strategy.

Where trouble lurks: If you hit your drive right, you have to worry about the fairway bunker. But, if you hit it too hard and over the bunker, you could end up out of bounds.

Reading the green: On this hole, you want to stay below the pin, because anything downhill has a chance to roll off.

No. 18 — 534 yards men/446 yards women/par 5

Key shot: This long par 5 usually takes three shots to get to the hole, so stay in the short grass.

Where trouble lurks: To the left of the fairway is a patch of longer grass that is not a hazard. If you put your ball in there, you have to shoot from inside.

Reading the green: The front of the green has a depression in it that goes about 5 feet to the left, so putting your ball in the middle of the green is usually best.