By Mark Gregory
What does a golfer do when they walk up to a tee box with a 350-yard par-4 with an open shot straight down the middle of the fairway staring them in the face?
I guess the answer to that question depends – do you trust your driver?
If you are a big hitter and can all-but guarantee your driver to go right where you want it, then Joliet’s Woodruff Golf Course will be a cake walk for you.
For most, however, that is not the case and the course has many hidden hazards in its short, straight layout.
Woodruff is a course that has no par-5s and features eight holes that play 352 yards or less, many of them relatively straight from tee to green.
That is where the mind games come in.
Most recreational players have had those drives over the course of their game where everything goes perfect and you felt like Bubba Watson as you watched the ball soar blissfully into a clear blue sky and land more than 300 yards from the point you hit it never wavering from the perfect line it started on.
Well as you stand at a tee box like No. 3 at Woodruff, a 306-yard par-4 that has a beautiful tree-lined tunnel staring you in the face – everything in your head says play a fairway wood or a long iron, get the ball down to an easy pitch onto the green and leave yourself a makeable birdie putt.
Your heart however remembers that perfect drive and you know that if you can just recreate it here, on this one hole, you can easily drive the green and be the topic of barstool stories for years.
So, putting everything smart to the side, you grab the driver, swing out of your mind to make sure you get the right carry – and pull it 30-yards off the fairway into the trees that looked so pretty forming a receiving line for the drive you hoped you had and now laugh at you as they swallow your ball into an abyss of timber.
Yes, folks, welcome to Woodruff.
Of the three Joliet courses, Woodruff is the one that sits more outside the city at 621 Gougar Rd. and is maybe the more forgotten courses of the trio – but that should not be the case.
Woodruff is as fun and challenging as any of the Joliet courses and offers golfers scenery and elevation changes not found on the other two.
This course plays 5,670 yards from the back tees, plays at a par-68 and is a true test of accuracy. While several holes on the front will test your discipline in club selection, the final 12 holes all bring water into the mix off the tee shots and on approach shots.
The course opens with a three-pack of mentally challenging, tree-lined holes measuring 352, 348 and 306-yards, respectively.
If you stay straight on these, the day will start well. If not, you will feel more like Paul Bunyan than Rickie Fowler.
The 202-yard par-3 fourth is no break from the mental grind.
Number 6 is a 259-yard par 4 and the easiest hole on the course if you play it smart.
While the first sight of sustained water may be a good thing if you are stranded on an island, but not so much on a golf course, and that is what you get on No. 7.
The 157-yard par-3 plays over a pond and starts a water theme that will be part of the rest of the day.
Number 8 is again a sub-300-yard par-4, measuring in at 293 yards and is a nice break before the 385-yard No. 9, the second toughest hole on the course.
The back opens with a picturesque 322-yard par-4 that takes you downhill and then back up again. You don’t have to be a huge hitter to clear the creek that bisects the fairway here, but don’t worry about how much you clear it by.
Landing in the fairway here is important and offers you a nice approach shot.
Number 11 is the ultimate risk/reward hole on the course.
The safe play on this 372-yard dogleg right is to play a long iron or short wood to the landing area straight ahead of the tee box and play a second mid iron to the green.
If you want a short wedge in your hand for your second shot, you can risk the big drive and attempt to cut the left corner of the dogleg and try and cleat the trees and fenced-in back yards to give yourself a shorter approach.
Next comes Woodruff’s signature hole – the 178-yard par-3 cliff hole. Hitting the ball on the right side of the green will often let the ball funnel to many of the hole locations.
The 349-yard slight dogleg right is next. Playing this hole too far right can leave you either in the woods or blinded on your second shot.
The best play here is to the left of the fairway – even if you need to lay up in front of the creek and take a longer approach to the green.
The final par-3 on the course is next. At 167-yards, choose your 170-yard iron and hit it straight and you will be just fine.
The next three holes play 362, 308 and 306 and are playable holes as long and you hit your spots.
Creeks and swampy areas make some landing spots tricky – but lay up and give yourself a better second look.
Woodruff ends with the hardest rated hole on the course – a 387-yarder that plays downhill to a creek and then uphill where unless you hit a booming drive, you are likely to have a blind approach to the green.
Non-residents can ride Woodruff for $56 on the weekends ($40 to walk), while it is $50 on the weekday ($34).
Residents of the Joliet Park District pay $44 on the weekend ($28) and $39 on the weekday ($34).
Sure, almost $60 is probably a steep price to pay for most Park District courses, if you are going to play any of the three courses in Joliet – this is the one I would recommend.