A brilliant use of land: The 5th at Oak Park

An in-depth analysis of the 5th hole at Oak Park Country Club


Donald Ross is famous for maximizing the natural features on his design sites. One fine example can be found at Oak Park Country Club. At Oak Park, Ross built the fifth hole around a small, narrow creek to create one of his more memorable and interesting par-4s, which plays to a distance of 414 yards.

The winding creek at Oak Park C.C.

Off the tee, the creek presents several options because of its meandering nature. It cuts diagonally across the fairway, before running down the left side, and then finally jutting back across again. The creek forces players to decide whether to layup or be aggressive. The layup calls for a 250 yard tee shot or shorter to setup a mid-iron approach to the green. From the back tee, it’s a 285 yard carry over the creek. As a result, the bold play is an option only for the long hitter.

The options from the tee at the 5th.

Layup: The ideal layup is up the left side. But the left-side layup isn’t riskless. Leaving the drive short or too-far to the left runs the risk of finding the water. A 245-265 yard shot on the left will yield an ideal angle to approach the elevated green and roughly 160-180 yards.

The approach from the left.

Playing safer to the right takes most of the risk out of the hole. But the righthand route will yield a longer approach shot from a tough angle.

The less-than-ideal approach from the right

Going for it: Only a few can pull off this option. Going for it requires a 285 yard carry over the left part of the creek. The diagonal nature of the creek makes the carry longer the more right the tee shot ventures. The reward is a mere flip wedge. Pulling off this heroic drive, creates an excellent birdie opportunity.

The green sits on a natural perch and rejects short shots. The green is very subtle with predominant slopes from back to front and left to right. Missing on the right side is much worse than left because of the natural land movement.

This creek plays a starring role at Oak Park CC’s 5th hole even though it is merely 2 yards wide. In the Pro V1 era, most par-4s measuring around 400 yards require only a wedge approach. Ross’s clever use of the creek ensures that the integrity of the 5th remains, requiring a mid-iron approach for almost all.