Several of us were talking about changes to the Flying L course and how they have affected play and I was reminded how much #5 has changed since I’ve been playing here. Some of you have played here longer than I have (I’ve been playing the Flying L for about 16 years) and this will be a stroll down memory lane for you. Others never had the dubious honor of playing the hole with big oaks down the left side. You’ll have to wait until the new ones grow to experience that treat.
Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to compare the view from the tee on #5 at 3 times during my 16 years. I was standing close to the same spot as I took all 3 photos, on the left edge of what is now the blue and white tee box. The first photo is from September of 2011, before the big trees were removed but after oak wilt hit them hard. Keep in mind that the red tees you see are where the gold tees are now. The new red tees did not exist then.
You can see the cart path going through a grove of trees that are no longer there. Back in those days you either had to drive into the dogleg or try to layup into a spot where you could shoot through a gap in the trees to the green. Anyone who played here back then will tell you that judging the wind, bounce and roll to hit those gaps was a real challenge. And if you went for the dogleg you had to be well out into it because large trees guarded the inside corner near the cart path. Off the tee, that first large tree on the left was close enough that it blocked a fade (or draw for lefties) so your drive had to start pretty straight and stay that way. Those big trees didn’t just block the left side. They also made OB right a bigger risk as you tried to avoid going left. It was a brutal hole.
I once managed to go OB on the far side of #6 fairway when I tried to hit my tee shot on #5 into #6 fairway and approach #5 green from that direction. It was actually an easier hole that way, although the downhill slope at #5 green made the shot a little dicey. It still beat dealing with the trees, as long as you didn’t nail a pull hook clear across #6.
The image above is one we are all familiar with, taken after the trees were removed. You can see the wide-open shot down the left side with no trees to block your drive or approach. In my experience it also became easier to drive into the dogleg because you could go down the left side and get good roll down the slope or catch a few cart path bounces without interference from trees along the cart path. Trees on the left were not a problem unless you got far enough left for the grove near the green to interfere. The hole was much less brutal, as long as you stayed out of that waste bunker or didn’t go too far right.
As an interesting side note, when we had the course re-rated a year or so ago, the hole looked like the no-trees photo yet the course was rated as more difficult than when the big trees were there. A few other trees had also disappeared, such as on #4, and I thought the loss of the trees made the course easier. Go figure.
The above image is how the hole looks today. Those new trees will continue to grow and the hole will gradually move back to a semblance of its original condition. There are no new trees to the left of the cart path like on the original hole, but I can’t see the wisdom of trying a shot into that gap unless you really love playing from the waste area or can hit an incredibly well-controlled and accurate fade (or draw for lefties). I’m already noticing the trees interfering with some drives that would have bounced into the dogleg or fairway and the trees have complicated a few approach shots. It will be interesting to watch the changes in average scores on the hole as the trees grow. I know I’ve hit a few OB right lately after a long time of not even thinking about that risk.