We have to start this review with a loud thank you to Joe Manley and his crew at Great Bear. Right from our first interaction with Joe and then the rest of the staff they could not have been nicer or more considerate making sure we had a superior golf experience.
For those of you who don’t know Great Bear was a private community golf course that struggled a bit when the homes did not sell as quickly as expected and as a result the folks at Shawnee Golf were able to come in and take control of Great Bear which upgraded the facility.
Getting there is simple, you travel 80 west, take the first exit over the gap, wind up river road, which is a beautiful trip in its own right through the preserved parklands, and you are there. From Main Street in Clinton it took 54 minutes.
As far as clubhouse facilities go this is a superior facility for a public course as it once was a private organization. If you need to change, shower, eat, drink, get there early and enjoy everything Great Bear has to offer.
Warming up – Great bear has a grass range which is located a bit of a distance from the first tee but if you are lucky enough to be asked to start on ten the practice range is right across the street from the tenth tee and allows you to get a good stretch in before taking on this formidable challenge.
Let us just say from the beginning before we get into detailed course description that the course is in great condition, the greens are rolling fast, true and fair, we estimated about ten and a half on the stimp, which, if you get above the hole you know means trouble. There is ample water on the course and there are cart girls traveling around quite frequently to supply you with whatever else you might need.
One other note before we begin, if you are strictly a person who walks this is probably not the place for you. There are many large gaps between green and tee that would make walking prohibitive.
To the Tee
Ten is a fabulous starting hole and we were fortunate to begin there. The tee shot is 80 percent blind over a pond. If you are an adept golfer you can tell by the way to tree line moves slowly to the right where the fairway is. Grip it and rip it, this is not a short one. Also please keep in mind, this course was designed by Mr. Nicklaus, who was a famous fader of the golf ball, on most tee shots a gently fade off the left side of the fairway into the middle or right side will put you in A Plus position.
You second shot is going to be slightly downhill and it is important to note where the stick is because this is a deep green and depending upon pin position this could add two clubs if its far back.
This green has a lot of undulation and for those of us who came up a bit short on the front this is a slick down hiller with considerable right to left break. Three three putts and one two putt left the foursome wary of what was to come.
Eleven is a long par three playing up to 222 from the tips. The green is sheltered front right by a bunker and if you happen to sail the green it is drastically downhill to the road. Bailing out a hair left and letting the slope take it down to the green is not the worst idea.
Hole number Twelve is a big sweeping uphill dogleg to the right. You don’t have to get crazy trying to hit a big bending fade and if you have dreams about trying to carry the tree line on the right give that up, it’s much farther than you would imagine. If you tend to get a little loose with the driver you can take out the three wood and go for middle fairway position.
Your second shot is uphill enough to warrant one extra club. If you are a player that likes to play a little bump and run shot this front of this green is wide open so you can hit a low stinger is that’s your pleasure. There are bunkers on the right that can be problematic so take note of that.
This was one of the more benign greens but there was a slight spine down the middle that can toss the ball offline if you speed is just a bit on the slow side.
13 – Take a breath and assess the situation. The hole plays a true 200. Everything left is dead so don’t try and muscle something up there and pull it because you will be teeing three. You need enough club to carry the bunker in front but if you get a bit frisky the green is pretty hard and can cascade you off the back into the tree line which is pretty close. We suggest playing your 185 club to front right and hoping for a pleasant bounce.
The Entire day the Staff could not have been more pleasant
The green is long and narrow. Take dead aim and try to get up and down out of the right side bunker. The sand was super playable and easy to skim the club head through the ball.
Fourteen – dead red grip it and rip it right down the belly. There is plenty to distract you, the carry for one, but it is very manageable. The fairway is sizable, this is one where you take out the big dog and spank it.
So you’ve hit a nice drive 290 down the middle and you are rewarded with this perfect position from the 150 stick. Take dead aim and make a birdie, from 450 yards from the tips it’s stealing one from the rest.
This green is another long and lean selection with the ball going drastically from left to right and back to front. If you were a little careful with the approach you can have a 100 footer.
15 was our first par five of the day and this is another tee shot where you rare back on your right side and give it a smack. Hit a good one and you are going for the dance floor in two.
Your second shot has two options. Take out the three wood and go for it, I hit a low screamer and caught the right edge of the fringe. If you drive was a little arrive take out your 26 to 30 degree club and give yourself 100 yards, try and stay a bit left to give you a better view of the green.
Once again the green was large so pay strict attention to the color of the flag. If it’s blue take that extra club on approach to get yourself back there.
16 gives you a momentary respite. This hole is fairly benign. Take enough club, swing for the middle and perhaps make a birdie or smile at the first easy par you’ve had on a par three.
17th Tee – drive is straight or pay the price. This is a slender fairway that deserves your full attention, find the tree line on either side and the strokes start adding up.
Your second shot is a bit downhill, choke down about ¾ of an inch and fade it off the left side. Par is a nice score here.
18 – Our favorite hole on the course. It’s a meaty par five playing almost 600 from the tips and require a hard swinging draw off all things off the right side. Hit it hard, but getting there in two is unlikely.
It’s all risk reward here, if you think you can carry the creek and get there in two have at it, but beware, it takes two pretty substantial pokes to reach and I am going to say unlikely. Lay up to 100 and leave a wedge in.
This green is one of the flatter on the course and was very receptive to a high U wedge. Get aggressive and make a birdie and take a nice look at how wonderful the clubhouse looks.
Tomorrow – The front nine.