This Neuse needs no tightening; NC golf course makes going blind an eye-opener

        Patience is a virtue when you play an unfamiliar golf course, but intuition is even more important to scoring well and enjoying the experience.  This is especially true of golf courses with blind tee shots.  It was with a bit of trepidation, therefore, that I approached John LaFoy’s design at The Neuse Golf Club in Clayton, NC, about 40 minutes southeast of Raleigh, the more so because The Neuse’s own web site describes the golf course as a “roller coaster ride.”  That is usually shorthand for a routing with many blind shots that lead to a frustrating first experience.


Rock On:  The only safe place on the par 3 14th at The Neuse is the green.


        That is not the case at The Neuse, which combines some of the adrenaline pump of a good roller coaster ride with the security of knowing you will eventually come back to earth, possibly with a good score to show for it.   LaFoy has done a nice job of splitting the difference between the needs of first-timers to know where to line up their shots against the needs of repeat players who might want to push the boundaries a little bit over time.  The Neuse demands some “local knowledge” only for those who want to cut corners, literally and figuratively.  For those content to drive the ball where the tee boxes are aimed and where common sense, not greed, dictates, a good day and a good score are certainly in the cards.


The contrast of fairway and rough made aiming a little easier at The Neuse.


        The contrast of the green, slightly over-seeded fairways with the tan dormant rough certainly helped get tee shots moving in the right direction.  The edges between fairway and rough showed not only a clear view of the gently bending doglegs but also brought into strong relief the side-to-side elevations of the fairways, making it clear that a ball hit, for example, high and left would bound down to the middle of the fairway.  On drives where the elevations were not so clear, intuition kicked in and it was easy to assess the golf architect’s intent and aim the ball properly (fairly generous fairways also helped).  The only time I felt slightly abused by a lack of local knowledge was on the par 4 13th which, from the tee box, showed a bit of a stream at the lower left base of fairway but gave little warning that the rest of the stream was in play, hidden beyond the end of the downward sloping fairway.  A well-struck driver was too much here from the middle tees.


The Neuse is not just about elevation changes.  John LaFoy's imaginative bunkering can change a good score into something else, as on the approach to the 17th green.


        Consider that a small nit in an otherwise fine morning of golf.  Besides the contrasting colors of the turf, I found also eye appealing large numerous rock outcroppings that were mostly artwork, except at the signature par 3 14th where they seemed more the devil’s handiwork.  From the tee box, the only “bailout” possibility on the 192 yard holeOne homeowner announces his interest. (from the tips) appears to be the green itself, which is protected by a boulder studded hill on the left and a steep falloff in front and on the right.  I pulled my iron shot (from the 143 yard tees) over the mound on the left and thought I would find a flat spot about pin high.  Instead, my ball hit some unseen hard object and bounded sideways past the cup, down the embankment on the right side and into the bunker.  It turned out not to be a bad bit of fortune because the up and down was fairly routine, as bunker shots go.

        The nicely maintained community of Glen Laurel lies adjacent to areas of the golf course, but the elevations are such that out of bounds stakes are almost unnecessary.  For a community on a golf course and within commuting distance of Raleigh, prices seemed a bargain.  For example, a 4 bedroom, 3 bath 15 year old home on the 7th hole at The Neuse is on the market currently for $276,000.


The homes along the 16th hole at The Neuse and elsewhere along the course are well back from the field of play and mostly out of view when the tree leaves return.


        The golf course was just starting to emerge from its winter hibernation on the late March day my friend Bob and I played it, but the turf was already in good condition, the greens medium fast and smooth.  All signs point to a great turf season ahead.  Despite the blind shots, indeed maybe because of them, you can approach The Neuse Golf Club with your eyes wide open this spring and summer.


Neuse Golf Club, Clayton, NC.  Designer:  John LaFoy.  The club is managed by ClubCorp.  Yardages:  7,011/6,626/6,027/5,478.  Rating/Slope:  74.0/133; 71.9/130; 69.1/125; 72.3/128 (ladies).  Website:  Note:  Make sure to end your morning round with lunch at nearby McCalls Barbecue & Seafood Restaurant in Clayton.  The buffet selections are varied and the food fresh and excellent.


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