If you live in Iowa, you’ve probably at least heard of the back nine at Honey Creek in Boone. In reality, it’s a six hole stretch on the back nine that really captures people’s attention. Beginning at hole 11, players are greeted by a sign that reads, “The Fun Starts Here.”
It’s not that the ten preceding holes or the final two are boring. In fact, when I played the course last Friday, I was surprised by the quality of those holes. It had been about 15 years since the last time I played the golf course. Over time, the “interesting six” had distorted my memory a bit, leading me to incorrectly believe the rest were dull.
That being said, it’s the six that leaves a lasting impression on almost anyone. The creek that gives the course its name cuts through a wooded valley, using the width and depth of the terrain to form golf holes. It almost feels as though you’ve temporarily stepped out of Iowa. So, in this post, I wanted to share these holes with you, in hopes of letting you experience the uniqueness of Honey Creek.
Hole 11: ⛳️
Those stepping onto the eleventh hole for the first time notice the elevation change right away. This par 3 measures 196 from the tips, but plays about 30 yards shorter due to the drop. In the background, you can see the beginning of the 12th, giving players a glimpse of what’s to come.
The green on this par 3 is fairly deep and tends to break towards the bunker. A hill on the left side of the green may feed some shots down closer to the green, but don’t rely on it for a good kick.
Hole 12: ⛳️
A tree in the fairway greets players on the 12th tee box. A good line is left of the tree, but there is some fairway to the right. A clump of smaller trees on the left help to frame the target, like uprights. Anything left of the left trees is in danger of coming to rest in the creek that comes into play on so many of these holes.
The next two approach shots on this par 5 can be a little intimidating with the woods right and creek left. Going for the green in two takes two big, straight shots. In my opinion, the best play is to lay-up and keep the second shot in play to set up a wedge into the green.
Down the left side of 12 you see the 15th playing back in the opposite direction. In the photo below, you can see a little of the 13th behind the green and 14th on the left with the railroad ties.
Again, the 15th plays parallel to the 12th and is visible in the photo below.
Hole 13: ⛳️
The 13th hole is a dogleg right par 4 that falls off to the right. Anything down in the rough on the right will face a blind, uphill shot into the green. There’s a crest on the slope at the turn in the fairway, so anything past the corner will have a flatter lie.
The approach into this hole can be a little challenging depending on where your ball finishes, even in the fairway. Balls on the right side of the fairway (see photo below) can see more of the green than ones down the left. Either way, the view isn’t super clear into the green, so it may be a good idea to drive up to see the putting surface.
On the left side of the green, there’s a hill that can funnel some shots closer, but high grass also protects that area.
Hole 14: ⛳️
The tee shot on the short par 4, 14th is a bit confusing if you’ve never seen it. The hole is very tight and not long, so a long iron is all that’s needed off the tee. Hit your shot about 215 yards down the middle and you’ll be set up with a wedge in.
The fairway is sort of split by a strip of rough down the middle, but it’s not worth trying to hit one side or the other from the tee box. If you find your ball in the rough, there’s a little more slope, but it’s not terribly thick. The approach might remind some of the 11th hole because it drops quite a ways to the green. You can see the 12th green behind the 14th green and the 13th tee to the left.
The green slopes pretty hard from back to front. Players can easily throw their approach past the hole and spin it back if needed.
Hole 15: ⛳️
Like I said earlier, the 15th runs parallel to the 12th, but is higher up the sidehill. The fairway narrows in the landing area for longer hitters, so a driver isn’t always needed, but that’ll leave another long-ish iron into the green. Shorter tee shots that miss left can kick farther left, while misses right can get caught in the long grass.
The green is situated sort of behind the hill on the right side of the fairway. Balls that travel far enough won’t have to worry about being blocked out.
Hole 16: ⛳️
The final hole on this stretch climbs back up the hill as it returns to the same level as the rest of the course. Looking down the the right, players can see the 15th hole and 12th (see photo). This one is another shorter par 4 that doesn’t require driver due to its length and width. You’ll want a shot that travels about 200-215 yards and straight. Anything that misses right will find long grass down the hill, while misses shorter and left will end up in the long grass up the hill.
Once players hit the fairway, the approach is fairly straightforward. There’s a little swale to the front right of the green that can catch some shots, but the green is in front of you and visible, so nothing should surprise.
After the 16th hole, you return to “normal” on the 17th, but looking behind the 18th tee box, you’re reminded of the adventure you just completed. In the photo below, you can see (from top to bottom) the 12th, 15th, and 16th holes.
Are these well-designed holes by traditional, golf architecture standards? I’m not sure. I don’t claim to be a golf course design expert. One thing I do know is that they are a fun collection of memorable holes. As golf course architect, Jim Engh, once told me, golf is meant to be fun, so a fun golf hole is a good golf hole.