– Reviewed by John Dudley on July 9, 2010
Until this assignment, I hadn’t played Fox Run Golf Course since a few years after it opened in 1992.
I remembered it as a lush little nine-hole layout with just enough water and just enough distance to make you hit most of the shots in your bag.
So when I rolled into the parking lot on a steamy day this week, I knew what to expect, although this time I would be playing with my sons Austin, age 14, and Logan, age 12.
The day we played, it was so hot that my Powerade didn’t want to come out of the vending machine. I pumped in $1.50, heard a clunk and a whine and then nothing. Finally, about 10 seconds later my drink slid reluctantly down the tube and into the 90-degree heat.
Aside from the conditions, though, Fox Run was just as I remembered it — a pleasant, modestly challenging test of a course tucked away in the rolling hills of southwest Erie County.
The boys and I had decided in advance to walk the course, and even with an 8:56 a.m. starting time it was sweltering when we walked from the small, well-manicured practice green to the first tee.
Fox Run opens with a bang, a par-5 that plays 503 yards from the blue tees with an approach shot over a pond with a cascading fountain.
I normally play at Whispering Woods, one of the tightest courses in the area, so I immediately noticed the expansive landing area, with only one fairway trap to catch tee shots left to the right.
I hit a solid drive that left me about 243 to the pin, but I elected to lay up rather than risk dumping a 3-wood into the pond. I hit 7-iron to the left side of the fairway to about 130 yards, then dumped a wedge to about 12 feet and two-putted for par.
I bogeyed the 377-yard, par-4 second, primarily because I pulled my tee shot a little left and wound up behind a small tree, leaving me a punch shot back to the fairway. The second is a bit of a tester because it plays uphill all the way with a green protected by a false front. A pair of ponds flank the fairway, but they only come into play on badly shanked drives. Otherwise the hole shows its teeth with its length and an uphill approach shot that is tough to club if you haven’t played the course before.
The third is a 410-yard par-4 that falls away from the tee to a dogleg right. Approach shots are to a green protected in front by a large sand trap that catches anything short and a pond on the right. I was able to cut my drive just enough to shorten my approach a little, leaving me with a 135-yard wedge into the green. I missed the birdie putt.
By now, we were all sweating enough that we had to stop and dry our faces and hands before every tee shot. A Fox Run groundskeeper was out watering tees for the second time that morning, which is why we found the course to be very lush and forgiving despite a week of searing heat.
We managed to keep up a good pace for the rest of the round despite the rising temperatures. The boys held their own, and Austin hit a number of good shots, proving the course isn’t too much for a junior golfer of modest experience. Logan struggled a little, but not so much because of the length or difficulty of the course but because he was having trouble off the tee.
I pounded out four straight pars after the bogey on No. 2, but I had a little trouble figuring out the speed of the greens. Most of the putts I hit were short, probably because I am used to playing on slightly faster greens.
I ran into trouble on one of the course’s shortest, easiest holes, the 318-yard, par-4 seventh. The seventh is a classic risk-reward hole which leaves you to decide between hitting driver over a pond that demands 241 yards of carry or laying up and having a mid-iron to the green. I belted a drive that cleared the water but bled right, leaving me about 35 yards to an elevated green. I chunked my pitch, then chipped to around eight feet and missed the par putt, leaving me two over with two to play.
As we walked to the next tee a rooster crowed, a reminder that we were definitely in the country at a course that is situated in some of the prettiest farmland in Erie County.
The eighth is an all-uphill, 187-yard par-3 with two traps situated to catch short tee shots. I hit a 6-iron that wound up about eight feet below the cup, but again I missed the putt and settled for par.
Fox Run finishes with its longest hole, the 509-yard par-5 ninth, with a fairway that snakes to the left from the tee box and out of bounds right. I hit my worst drive of the day, a push bordering on a slice that wound up along a line of trees only about 210 yards from the tee. I punched back onto the fairway with a 4-iron, leaving me with a 130-yard approach to a green that falls away from the fairway and isn’t completely visible from where I was.
I decided against walking ahead to see what was in front and instead hit a wedge, figuring it would bounce short and roll on. It bounced short and stayed short, and I boned a chip shot to about 20 feet and missed the long par putt. The finishing bogey gave me a three-over 39 for the round, and I wasn’t unhappy given the fact that I hadn’t played the course in about 15 year and was carrying my bag for the first time this summer.
The boys enjoyed themselves, although they both wanted another crack at it right away to take advantage of the experience factor. Austin shot 46 and Logan carded a 66.
Overall, I was impressed with Fox Run. The tees and greens were in good shape, which to me is the true mark of a quality course. The fairways were consistent and the rough wasn’t punishing, making it ideal for someone who doesn’t always hit the ball on a string.
Yet there was still plenty of trouble, including at least six ponds that come into play on at least five holes, and some thick stands of trees that can claim errant shots.
The clubhouse has a cozy feel and the small pro shop has all the essentials.
Fees to walk are about $12 on weekdays, less for seniors.
Fox Run Golf Course
2123 Strong Road
Waterford, PA 16441
Yardage (9 holes)/slope rating/course rating (18 holes): 3,217/129/70.6 from the blue tees; 3,031/128/69.2 white; 2,438/109/63.4 gold; 2,262/109/66.4 red.
Our scores: John 39, Austin 46, Logan 66
Our pace (walking): 1 hour, 46 minutes.
– John Dudley