Highland Golf CourseHistory and hole-by-hole analysis by: Bill Satterfield (2008)
The Highland Golf Course is one of two municipal golf courses in Pocatello, ID. The ground for the golf course was obtained through a donation by the Satterfield family who has developed the residential housing featured on a majority of Pocatello's east bench; also known as the Highland hill.
Howard Jackson "Jack" Satterfield, an excellent amateur golfer in his day, was commissioned by the city of Alameda to find a suitable piece of property in which the city could purchase and layout a golf course. Jack was diligent in his efforts but each time he returned to the city officials with a proposed site it was turned down due to the expense. Jack talked with his father, Ammon Y. Satterfield, about the problem and the two loaded into the family truck and went for a drive. They drove up to the land that A.Y. and Homer (Jack's brother) had purchased for the purpose of developing homes and eventually stopped at what is now the seventh green. Feeling his son's passion for the game and always being an extremely generous man, A.Y. told Jack he would donate the 125 acres necessary (121 were used for the course with the other four acres now being developed in 2008) for the city of Alameda to build a golf course.
During this same time, Pocatello Mayor George V. Hansen proposed an annexation of the nearby cities of Alameda and Chubbuck. Alameda would agree to the merger while the city of Chubbuck opposed it and remained its own municipality. In 1962, shortly after the golf course opened, the city of Alameda was no longer and Pocatello inherited the golf course. Grateful for the Satterfield family's donation, the city of Alameda had granted the family free golf for life. Unfortunately for the Satterfield's, and especially Jack who was so passionate about the project, the "lifetime" membership lasted a single short season as the city of Pocatello elected not to honor the agreement. Over 40 years later, Pocatello Mayor Roger W. Chase granted Jack Satterfield his lifetime membership back which was scarcely used since Jack had aged to nearly eighty years old and had a back that didn't allow him to play much golf.
The course was designed by Utah's legendary golfer George Von Elm, of whom the street leading to the clubhouse is named after. George is best known for his 2 and 1 victory over Bobby Jones in the 1926 U.S. Amateur Championship at Baltusrol in New Jersey. Sadly, George was never able to see the finished course after he lost his battle with cancer on May 1, 1961. George Von Elm was also responsible for designing the front nine holes at Blackfoot Golf Course and the original nine holes at Sun Valley Resort.
The course currently is a par 72 with a par 35 front nine and a par 37 back nine, but it wasn't always that way. Originally the course played to a standard 36/36 front nine/back nine layout. However not long after the course opened, Jack was standing on the 7th tee box and had his glasses knocked off of his face by a tee shot from the 9th hole. Concerned about the safety issues of the current layout, Jack arranged to have the 7th hole tee box moved forward 15-20 yards which reduced the yardage to 470 yards and thus reduced par to four. Today, not only does the tee box placement protect golfers on the 7th tee but the mature trees that now line the fairways knock down most potentially dangerous shots. To compensate for the loss of a par five on the front nine, a new tee box was built on the 17th hole that lengthened it to a 530 yard par five and angled the tee shot in a manner that brought the homes and o.b. down the left side of the hole much more into play. Previously the 17th hole was played from a tee box that measured 465 yards from the green and was the longest par four on the course. Today that tee box is almost exclusively used as the tee box for the ladies' red tees, but once or twice in the past eight years I've seen the white tees creep up to the original tee box where scoring anything less than a birdie would be a disappointment.
Classified as a parkland layout, Highland is known for its hillside design, mature trees, and challenging par threes. But the most notorious feature of the course by far are the small greens that break much more than a non-local golfer would ever imagine and give teeth to a course that is otherwise fairly short by today's standards, especially considering the course is located at 4800' elevation. The grass types are typical for the area with bluegrass in the fairways and bent grass on the greens. The tree types range from different varieties of pine, Russian olive, poplar, elm, ash, and more. There are just six bunkers on the entire course, five of which appear on the front nine. A couple of the bunkers were reduced in size when the six hazards were upgraded with new sand early on in the decade shortly after Greg Allbright took over as General Manager. The uphill 16th hole houses the course's only water feature; a pond with a fountain that rests in front of the tee box and catches only the worst of shots. The pond received a fountain, new tee box, and rock retaining wall in the fall of 2006.
The following is a hole-by-hole analysis of the Highland Golf Course:
HOLE 1 (520 yard Par 5):
The course opens with a dogleg right par five, the only three-shoter found on the front nine. With the 520 yard hole sloping left to right and it is imperative to land your tee shot on the left half of the fairway to avoid having your ball kick and roll into the tree line up the right side. The approach shot is to a green that slopes left to right and back to front. The pin is rarely found in the middle third of the green due to the severity of the slope through that portion of the putting surface. The easiest pin location to score on is in the front left that offers some relatively easy up and downs while a back right pin location can get you into trouble fast.
HOLE 2 (382 yard Par 4):
On paper a 375 yard downhill hole looks to be a great birdie chance, but this hole manages to cause quite a bit of havoc. Houses and o.b. line the entire left side of the hole and the fairway slopes from left to right. The right side of the hole is lined with trees and provides the shallowest angle at the green. The front right half of the green is protected by a bunker that makes an approach from the right even more difficult. The best play is a right to left shot that will hold its line and not be pushed too far right by the sloping fairway. An approach from the left half of the fairway opens up the green and allows for a bump and run shot, tall and fall shot, or something in between, but to get to that perfect spot you have to be willing to flirt with the o.b. Finally, the green runs from front to back down the hill even though it looks just the opposite when standing on the green. The easiest pin to score on is in the back third while a pin tucked behind the bunker in the front right can result in some high numbers.
HOLE 3 (305 yard Par 4):
This is the one hole on the course that seems to yield a birdie and a double bogey to each foursome that rolls through during the day. An uphill par four of about 300 yards, the hole is driveable for long hitters and a tail wind is often blowing to help the cause. A lone pine tree rests on the left side of the fairway in the driving zone of most golfers and often knocks down tee shots and creates some interesting lies in the long grass surrounding the area. The real challenge is at the green where the putting surface is the most severe on the front nine and arguably the entire course. If your approach is long and you are faced with a chip then there is virtually no chance at getting up and down since the green will zip the ball right off the front edge. If you are 15 feet or more above the hole but still have a putt then there is a chance of keeping the ball on the green, but in firm and fast conditions it is about the same chance Jim Carrey had of winning over Lauren Holly in "Dumb and Dumber." The best pin location to score on is back middle while the most difficult pin is front right.
HOLE 4 (390 yard Par 4):
Hole four is a nearly 400 yard dogleg left that runs parallel to the #1 fairway on the right and 5th hole on the left. The best shot is played up the right side of the fairway and runs to the middle with the sloping fairway. A miss to the left narrows up the angle to the green and requires a highly lofted approach over the left greenside bunker. Approach shots from the fairway will play downhill to a green that is very receptive to shots that land short right since the fairway will kick the ball onto the putting surface. The green isn't overly difficult to putt on but the back third slides quite a bit to the left and can require some touch. A front pin placement should yield some birdies while a back left pin will be risky to attack and thus protect par.
HOLE 5 (215 yard Par 3):
Although this is not rated as the #1 handicap, it's the toughest hole on the course. Playing about 200 yards this par three delivers one of the longest approach shots players will face during their round at Highland. The hole slopes so severely left to right that you will almost never find the pin on the left half of the green since most pin placements on that side would be deemed unfair. Getting up and down from left of the green is extremely difficult since the putting surface runs hard and fast away from the player and offers a small chance at holding the green. The best play is aiming just left of center and letting the ball roll to the right half of the green. If you are in between clubs, take the shorter club and aim a bit further left where the green opens up and would allow a bump and run 2nd shot that you can finish close and save par. The nearly impossible pin to get close to is on the left half of the green while the best pin to score on is right in the middle where players will often have a comfortable uphill putt.
HOLE 6 (345 yard Par 4):
The sixth hole is simply a junior version of the fourth hole and probably the easiest hole on the front nine. The strategy on the sixth is the same as the fourth; drive it up the right side of the fairway, keep the bunker on the left portion of the green out of play, and prepare for a short approach shot to a green that kicks balls left and onto the green. A tail wind on this hole is not uncommon and makes it driveable for longer players. A front pin placement offers easier up and downs on drive that miss left and is a great pin to attack from the fairway. A pin in the back left of the green will often penalize aggressive golfers by kicking their ball downhill and off the green to a nasty up and down position.
HOLE 7 (470 yard Par 4):
Rated as the #1 handicap hole on the course, the 470 yard par four seventh is demanding from tee to green. The hole doglegs left to right with the hole starting to turn the corner around 235 yards. Players that can drive the ball high and long can attempt to cut the corner of the dogleg and leave themselves with a 150-190 yard approach. Players who hang their tee shot outside the right side tree line will be faced with a difficult shot over the trees from the longest rough on the course. From the fairway par is still no easy task. The left side of the green falls off 15 feet to some long grass while the right side of the green falls off over 40 feet to the 8th fairway. Missing to either spot leaves little chance to save par. The only reprieve on the hole is the green where it is one of the largest and least undulating on the course. There aren't many terrible pin position on this green, but back right can entice players into a dangerous approach while anything right in the middle will yield some one-putts. I like to bomb my drives over the corner, click here to view a video.
HOLE 8 (215 yard Par 3):
With a mere 400 yards separating the longest tees from the shortest tees at Highland, it should be obvious that most of the tee boxes are shared at the municipal course. The par three 8th hole however offers two distinct tee boxes and the shot from the upper box is the most exhilarating and memorable of the course. Playing about 200 yards, the tee box is well elevated and offers a wonderful view of the green below. A collection of pine trees are located on the hill right of the green and seem to have a magnetic pull-effect on golf balls since it seems half the tee shots on this hole fly toward those trees as golfers call for a good kick off the hill. The left side of the green is raised which makes attacking a flag in this portion of the shallow putting surface a difficult task. A front right pin location will yield some birdies since that section of the green is generally a bit softer, is receptive to kicks off the hill, and handles run-up shots well. Getting up and down to a front right pin location is much easier as well.
HOLE 9 (375 yard Par 4):
The par four ninth features the most character of any hole on the front nine. The flag is not visible from the tee box which sits at the lowest point of the hole. The player's drive must be hit at least 200 forward and climb 25 yards up in order to find the top of the hill in the fairway to leave a 150 - 180 yard approach. Big drives played over the trees on the left or a tee shot that works right to left has the potential to finish less than 100 yards from the green and be in great shape to attack the green. O.B. lines the entire left side of the hole where a ball pulled that direction has the potential of reaching the track at Highland High School. The approach shot plays downhill to the only green on the course that is protected by two bunkers. When the pin is placed in the back left portion of the green it yields two challenges; first is the fact that the green plays much more uphill than it looks and players almost never get the ball all the way back to the hole. The second challenge is the sharp left turn that the back third of the green yields which makes judging the line and distance extra difficult and dangerous. Most birdies will be had in the right middle pin placement where the slope is easier to read and approach shots can be chased down the slope toward the hole.
HOLE 10 (370 yard Par 4):
The back nine starts with a straight forward uphill hole. Tee shots that wander off to the right may become a donation to the course since finding your ball will be difficult in amongst all the driving range balls. The approach shot is to one of the smallest greens on the course. The grass is left long in front of the elevated putting surface which hinders shots that try to run up on the green and deflect weak aerial attempts as well. The green slopes from back to front on this green that doesn't particularly favor any one pin position as excellent or terrible for scoring.
HOLE 11 (490 yard Par 5):
Players familiar with this course will come to this hole licking their chops knowing that birdie is very attainable and anything worse than par is a complete disaster. The par five hole measures out at less than 500 yards and plays downhill the entire way to the green. Reaching this green in two with an iron in hand is very common and the green is one of the largest and relatively flat putting surfaces on the course. Three new trees were planted short and left of the green in 2007 in an effort to make reaching this green in two more difficult. Pin locations on the right half of the green will yield plenty of birdies since the hill right of the green will kick tee shots towards the hole while pin locations on the left half of the green can sucker players into flirting with the fall off left of the green. This is the easiest hole on the course to score a birdie on so take advantage of it!
HOLE 12 (440 yard Par 5):
The second of back to back par fives, the 12th hole is the shortest three shorter on the course. Playing approximately 440 yards, the hole plays uphill from tee to green and combined with the previous hole create an excellent opportunity to be under par on the back nine. The teeth of this hole are in the fairway where a level lie can scarcely be found and hence makes approach shots difficult to get on the green. The one place you don't want to hit your tee shot is left of the fairway into the dreaded "Bermuda Triangle." The long rough found is this portion of the course received its notorious nickname due to the number of balls that are lost in that area even when the entire foursome seemingly knows exactly where it landed and finished. If your ball manages to surface in the Bermuda Triangle you are faced with a long pine tree blocking a direct line to the green. The green is elevated on the sides and back but allows an area in front to run the ball up onto the green. The severe back to front slope on this green make three putts a common misfortune.
HOLE 13 (145 yard Par 3):
13 is the perfect number for this unlucky, evil little hole. The green on this devilish par three has been rebuilt twice and it still hasn't removed the evil spirits possessed within the putting surface. Although it is the shortest hole on the course, it has managed to wreck many golfers' scorecard while working on a great round. The putting surface is the most extremely sloped on the course which means missing this hole to the left side almost surely guarantees bogey or worse since stopping the ball close to the hole is virtually impossible. The best location to attack is in the very front of the green while the back right pin placement is the biggest sucker pin on the course. If you manage par on this hole you have an excellent chance keeping it in the 30s on the back nine.
HOLE 14 (360 yard Par 4):
The picturesque mountain view and rolling fairway featured on the par four 14th hole graces the cover of Highland's scorecard. It is common to see anything from driver down to a 5 iron used off the tee as players must thread their tee shot through the alleyway created by the trees lining the tee box. Like #12, the fairway terrain was left natural and thus it is difficult to find a level lie. Players electing to hit less than driver off the tee will be aiming at the right side of the fairway where the most level spot on the fairway exists, about 125 yards from the green. Most tee shots will find themselves 75-100 yards from the green in a large swell where it will be virtually impossible to find a level lie but very probable you could find an old divot. The green is one of the more difficult putting surfaces to hit and hold. The upside-down 'L' shaped green slopes hard from left to right and features a narrow opening for running the ball up. Getting above this hole or behind this green can cause serious trouble to your scorecard.
HOLE 15 (375 yard Par 4):
The 15th hole is the start of a solid finishing stretch where matches can get real interesting real fast. Rated as the most difficult hole on the back nine, this sub-400 yard hole features o.b. left, trees up the right, and a slightly sloped fairway. The second shot to this elevated green is the most difficult approach shot on the course since the putting surface isn't visible from the fairway and the green is angled 45 degrees away from the player (front left to back right). If your ball finds the bunker short right you will face an extremely difficult sand shot from 10 feet below the green and little depth on the green to work with. Little forgiveness is offered on or around the green as approach shots are often tossed left or right of the putting surface which sets up a difficult up and down effort. Be thrilled with par here because birdies are a rare find.
HOLE 16 (165 yard Par 3):
The signature hole at Highland is also it's easiest par three. Playing anywhere from 130 - 170 yards, a pond with fountain is featured off the front of the tee box but is hardly in play since the far edge of the pond is still 100 yards from the green. The walk up to the green builds with anticipation since very little of the putting surface is visible from tee box. A new tree was planted in 2007 short and left of the green and will become more menacing as it matures. The semi-bowled green is docile by Highland's standard and thus good scores are recorded here often. If you score a bogey here in a match you will almost assuredly lose that hole and have just two holes left to make it up.
HOLE 17 (530 yard Par 5):
At 530 yards the 17th is the longest hole on the golf course. This hole used to play 65 yards shorter as a par four but was lengthened to maintain a par 72 once the 7th hole was shortened to a par four. This dogleg left hole boasts the widest fairway on the golf course and features o.b. down the left side and the driving range down the right side of the driving zone. If you are behind in a match, the tee shot here is your last risk/reward opportunity that can mean the difference of a stroke or two. A bold drive will bring o.b. into play by attempting to cut the corner over the houses sitting on S. Fairway Drive and thus make the green reachable in two. Little trouble exists around the green and the green itself is rather tame with putts predictably breaking slowly toward town. Reaching the green in two will be difficult, but scoring a par shouldn't be.
HOLE 18 (460 Par 4):
The finishing hole at Highland is a strong par four that doglegs right to left back towards the clubhouse. In 2008, the tee box was rebuilt and lengthened creating a very difficult angle to cut the corner and thus effectively forcing golfers to play their ball precisely the way the hole was designed. Simply put, two great shots are required to hit this green in regulation. A tee shot of at least 225 yards is required to even have an angle at hitting the green, but anything longer than 275 yards that is working right to left will go through the other side of the fairway and given the player tree trouble. The approach plays downhill to a back-to-front tilted green which makes getting up-and-down from a long approach very difficult. The downhill approach is an exciting one and an excellent way to wrap up your round at Highland Golf Course.
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