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 first tee
As we made the turn from the back nine to the front we were not surprised to find the first tee leaving you a typical Nicklaus left to right sliding drive. You cannot see the green from the tee and it goes a bit uphill and then down to the green. There is a house on the left that looks like a nice line to the eye but it is not. If you hit it over there a tree on the left side of the green protects. Your ideal shot is to start to ball in the middle and drift it slight right. If you want to get aggressive and leave a superior approach hit it down the right side, but make sure you get enough.
This is a difficult green, with many options for pin positions so make sure you take note of where the flag is. Take care to get your speed correct because if you are putting front to back and get a little too much juice it can go a good distance by.
Don’t go right – don’t go right – repeat do not go right. Right is dead, very difficult trap to get out of down there. Bailing out left is common and if you get a good bounce of the hill you might find a piece of the dance floor.
If you happen to bail out right, be careful with the chip, the last thing you want to do is thin it and hit it down across the green into the bunker. The green has slight spine running though the middle that forces you to have a soft touch. Par here is an excellent score.
First real grip and rip drive of this nine. From the tips this has some length so you need to bust is pretty good. Again we know Jack loves the fade so take it off the left side and use the slope to feed it back down to the middle.
Second shot is slightly downhill, take one less club and allow for a hard bounce up shot. There are no traps in front so a shot that lands 8 yards short will funnel toward the hole.
This green slopes front to back, if you can manage to get below the hole it will be to your supreme advantage.
Par five, up up and away, give it all you’ve got and there is a chance of getting home in two. Fairway slopes left to right so a smack off the left tree line is ideal.
Take the three wood out and lash at it. There is plenty of room on both sides. Hit the green in two and you will have a fun tale to tell while sitting in the 19th at your bar stool.
This is a nice view of how the green opens up. If you can hit a slight draw on your second shot you can drift it down on the surface.
This drive funnels down the shoot and up over the hill. At 462 you need to stretch the back out here. You can hit a draw here if that is your shot of choice.
Second shot is downhill but played true to the real yardage. There is a trap on greenside left that should be avoided.
Birdie hole. Be aggressive, hit the slight fade and set up for a perfect second.
The view from behind shows the traps on the right side of the approach. The second shot plays half a shot shorter that the true yardage. This green is wide open, be aggressive and cut a shot off your card.
This is a very nice par three. Hit is short and you are down in the long grass mess with a blind chip up. Hit it long and you can blade it and hit it over the front into the aforementioned mess. This hole played pretty close to the real yardage. Take dead aim … and hope.
You can see the bunker behind the green that grabs the over aggressive swing. Slight undulations make putting a bit of a mystery, don’t over read the break.
This is a neat par five, defiantly a risk reward tee shot. If you can fire it off the left side and just skim it past the tree that sticks out you will get a super bounce down the fairway and have a good shot at hitting the green in two. If you spray it right there are bunkers in the wheelhouse that will make you lay up to 150 yards.
Downhill second, grab that three wood again and go for it if you are in the fairway. If you are laying up be careful of where you leave it, you don’t want a drastic downhill lie for your third.
This is a go for the gusto drive. It’s downhill and short. You should have less than 80 yards for your second.
The green has a large hump running through the middle, check the pin and make sure you end up on the correct side or this birdie hole can turn into a three putt in the blink of an eye.