The Review: Odessa National

A Course for All Reasons

Water is present throughout the course at Odessa National, but it’s only in play on two holes, says director of golf Dale Loeslein.Mix some of the elevation changes and penal characteristics of an Inniscrone Golf Course and a Deerfield Golf and Tennis Club with the shot placement and forced carries of a White Clay Creek Country Club and you come up with a unique golf challenge—one that awaits you at the new Odessa National Golf Club in Townsend, Delaware.

“Odessa is more open than Deerfield,” says director of golf Dale Loeslein, “but the high native grass and some of the forced carries can definitely make it penal at times.”
The original layout by Gil Hanse has been re-routed a bit by Joel Weiman to make it more friendly. Tri-state golfers will enjoy the rural quality of the former dairy farm. Each hole is comfortably separated from one another, with visually satisfying setbacks from the club’s property lines.
“It’s a layout where you want to have a strategy in order to remain playable,” says Loeslein. “You certainly don’t want to automatically yank out the driver on every par 4 or 5.”
There is a good mix of holes that alternately demand accuracy and distance control. Greens on the shorter holes tend to be small and unbunkered. Longer holes feature broader green complexes that are most receptive to holding approaches with long iron and hybrid clubs. Average green size is about 8,000 square-feet. Grasses are allowed to grow high in season.
The greens at Odessa are all different in shape and slope—a rarity for a public course.Loeslein estimates that there are five risk-and-reward tee shots, depending on the tees you’re playing from. While water is present throughout the course, “it’s really only in play on about two holes,” he says.
That is, of course, if you were smart enough to adopt the strategy of prudent course management. The open nature of the layout makes Odessa National a different challenge when the wind is up. “You’ll need every club in your bag and every shot in your arsenal to be successful here,” Loeslein says.
The opening hole provides a generous landing on the right, then leaves an approach to a green with a sharp drop-off on the right side. Next you arrive at Odessa’s No. 1 handicap hole.
It’s a robust 632-yard par 5 with water threatening on every shot. The tee shot is blind, but a yardage sign marks the distance to the water that bisects the fairway (about 270 yards from the tee box). The sensible second shot is aimed at the 150-yard marker, which sets up a reasonably cozy third shot that nevertheless must carry the finger of water that is in play when the pin is on the right-hand quadrant of the green.
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At the moderate length par-4 third, be mindful of the boundary down the right side. The first of the drivable par 4s at Odessa greets you at the 300-yard No. 4 in the course’s most secluded area. The sensible approach is down the right side, which provides an open angle for your short approach to the green and your first look at a legitimate birdie putt. Those who fall for the sucker punch of driving the green will learn that less-than-precise tee shots will find a wilderness of deep bunkers guarding the entire front of the green. Foregoing that playable strategy may wind up costing you both birdie and par here.
Loeslein calls the 430-yard par-4 No. 7 “one of the best holes out there.” It is a dogleg left that again requires two forced carries over penal waste. “If you’re a first-timer here,” says Loeslein, “just aim for the 150-yard marker and you should be in good position for your approach.” Short hitters may want to play this as a bogey five, and lay up again to avoid the waste area in front of the green.
The hole gives off a tight look from the tee box, but like many of the tight looks at Odessa, most golfers will find generous landing areas for all but the most egregious slices and snap hooks. The 380-yard par-4 No. 8 is exactly the type of hole Loeslein had in mind when warning about pulling out the driver indiscriminately. With out-of-bounds on the left and a severe dogleg right, the play would suggest a prudent fairway wood. The shallow green again rewards accuracy over distance.
The greens are all different in shape and slope, “making us unique in that regard for a public course,” Loeslein says.
On the inward nine, the 568-yard par-5 11th is another of Odessa’s fine challenges. A dogleg left with water guarding the entire right side off the tee—and trouble of a drier kind down the left side—the temptation to let the big dog hunt should be resisted. Take a fairway wood off the tee to stay in play. Another decision awaits your second shot. Bite off as much or little of the marshy area that protects all approaches to the green.
Perhaps the most interesting topography among the collection of one-shotters here is the 226-yard par-3 15th. You hit down across a yawning gulley that is all carry from the tips. Compare the challenge to the much shorter 167-yard 17th, which golfers of all abilities will find much more receptive.
Odessa National offers an excellent practice range, with an area reserved for short game and bunker practice. A restaurant and clubhouse are due to open toward the end of the 2010 season. Overall, this track is an excellent test of all facets of your game. It should be on your “must” list.
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