Assistant Sports Editor
KILLINGTON -- Considering everything I’d heard about Green Mountain National Golf Course before playing it Thursday, I was quick to realize the track would only get tougher after the relatively short, benign par-5 first hole.
Without hitting a single, quality shot, I swallowed a bogey on the 513-yard opener. And, as I had been assured, more -- and worse -- came later on the course that will host its first Vermont Amateur championship on July 10.
While often unintimidating from the tee, and the fairway, the nearly 6,600-yard, par-71 layout carved through the Green Mountain National Forest was as demanding as I anticipated for my first round there.
Really, there’s no getting around it.
Stray from the middle of the fairway, make a bad swing at the wrong time and it can lead to calamitous results on your scorecard. That nice little string of pars and birdies can swiftly rack up 6s and 7s -- and worse.
The 2011 edition of the Amateur, held at Neshobe Golf Club, had its share of demanding holes, but genuine birdie chances came in equal measure.
Longer by about 300 yards, Green Mountain National, ranked Vermont’s second-best course by Golf Digest, has far fewer holes attackable with a driver-wedge combo. With the exception of Nos. 1, 9, 10, and 18, which run parallel away from the clubhouse, there are no bail-out areas.
If the course firms up even more over the next two weeks, the terrain could become even more unforgiving for wayward shots than what I experienced. Mounding around the periphery of holes -- where I found myself far too often -- could knock shots unpredictably sideways, into jail or out of play.
But the best players in the field, the ones can pick their targets and hit their targets time after time -- avoiding the many staked hazard areas lining holes -- should get their birdies.
Half of the par-4s are under 400 yards, though several force placement over distance. None of the par-5s (1, 6 and 15) are more than 515-yards and each is very reachable with two solid swings. In the case of No. 15, a severe dog-leg right with trouble hugging the left, worse than birdie may feel like dropping a shot.
However, a winning total of 12-under like the one two-time defending champion Devin Komline posted last summer would be a genuine shock.
Green Mountain National, which opened in 1996, has hosted men’s and women’s professional tournaments and the 2008 Vermont Mid-Amateur. It also hosts an annual American Junior Golf Association tournament, which wrapped up just before my round Thursday.
With the front side slightly more straightforward than the shorter, homeward nine, golfers off to a hot start must weather the stretch from No. 9 through 12 that has the potential to make or break a good round.
At 449 yards, the ninth is a stern par-4, the longest on the course. A hazard dissecting the fairway short of the green could deter anyone attempting to reach the green after a poor tee shot; more hazards ringing the green complex are there to punish errant approaches.
No. 10, a 423-yard route, has a blind, multi-tier green to receive the uphill second shot. After the 10th, Nos. 11 and 12 are two of the tightest holes on the course, ones that leave no margin for error.
Whoever wins in two weeks, though, much like the U.S. Open, will likely to be the player who has erred least over the course of the Amateur week.
And, with that, one thing is certain: It won’t be me.