Pulling into the parking lot of the Moss Hill Golf Club in Versailles, Kentucky, I really had no idea what to expect. All I knew from some cursory Internet research was that the course was relatively short at 6,142 from the back tees.
It was a cool late afternoon in April, in which we’d received near record rainfall in Central Kentucky, so I thought a “shorter’ course would be a great open to the season in earnest.
However, I should have examined the scorecard more closely; Moss Hill is just a par 70 course, so it’s not really that short at all. As I walked the course, oblivious, I kept waiting for the short, easy holes, never really putting those two facts together until after the round.
Built by Kentucky Golf Hall of Famer Buck Blakenship in 1967, Moss Hill was formerly the Woodford Hills Country Club, a private club nestled in amongst the rolling pastures of thoroughbred country just outside Versailles.
Beginning last year, the course now accepts public play via its website and GolfNow.
The first noticeable feature of Moss Hill is that it is a tight, parkland style course with narrow, tree-lined fairways. The routing is full of deceptive, unnerving angles and near constant, even if subtle, elevation changes.
Also, as I discovered on the first hole, the drenching spring rains left the rough at Moss Hill thick and lush, providing a ripe hiding place for the omnipresent ball-goblin and exacting a severe penalty for missing the fairway.
The fairways were a mix of grasses, with several seemingly having undergone a resodding in 2014. Some fairways, or portions thereof, were just barely awake Bermuda grass, while others were a mixture of native turf grasses (annual rye, fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, etc.).
There was a little too much clover mixed into the shaggy rough for my liking, but I doubt the maintenance crew had been able to do too much mowing in the days leading up to my round.
Moss Hill has a nice mix of greens, ranging from medium to extra-large. A nice feature I noticed during the round is that the green presentations were very different from hole to hole: a narrow, deep green was followed in sequence by a large, tiered complex, etc.
For as wet as our spring was, the lush greens were rolling really smoothly. I don’t remember encountering any wild, excessively breaking putts, but the greens did contain a lot of subtle undulations that you’d expect on a course of Moss Hill’s age.
A true “country club,” lying far from the commotion of downtown or even suburban Versailles, the course is devoid of houses or any other significant distractions.
Even in the early spring with the hardwoods still leafless, walking Moss Hill was a fantastic and challenging experience.
Put simply, the course has teeth that aren’t apparent at first blush or from a brief scan of the scorecard.
The angles and elevation changes of the fairways led to LOTS of blind shots that proved tricky, if not difficult, for one’s first time around Moss Hill. Most greens were guarded with bunkers or simply by elevation above the fairway.
Far from a bomber’s paradise, Moss Hill requires both a plan of attack and accurate execution thereof.
This isn’t to say length off the tee doesn’t help, but none of the angles were so severe or the fairways so short or narrow that I geared down to hit less than driver from the tee on the par 4 and 5 holes.
One critique that I would give the layout is that four of the five par 3 holes played to about the same yardage, requiring a hybrid or long iron from the tee. This isn’t necessarily reflected on the scorecard, but with the elevation changes and various pin positions, there wasn’t much variety between these holes from a strategic standpoint.
However, what the par 3 holes lack in variety and excitement, is more than made up for on the courses closing stretch of holes. The “television holes” are the signature stretch of holes, allowing real birdie opportunities.
The short par 4 16th hole has an almost reachable green tucked behind a grove of trees on the right side of the end of the fairway. As long as the tee shot isn’t too far right, a simple pitch will leave you with a great birdie opportunity.
Unfortunately for me, I hit the flagstick with my approach, and sank into inconsolable depression as I watched my near perfect shot roll back 30 feet from the cup. My easy two-putt par was little consolation, convinced the golf gods were smiting me.
The 17th is a sprawling but reachable par 5, with the back to front sloped green providing an ample backboard for the long distance approach. Even if you come up short or end up in the bunker protecting the approach, the elevated green proves plenty receptive enough to fire an aggressive approach.
The 18th hole at Moss Hill is a beautiful uphill par 4 back to the clubhouse, requiring a big carry across one of the three retention ponds.
Unless your ball stops on the extreme left side of the fairway, there is a giant oak tree guarding the right side of the fairway and approach just short of the green, requiring a high, hard cut or low-punch into a large, back-to-front sloping green.
It is a finishing hole that puts pressure of the golfer before letting them relax on the way to the patio and 19th hole bar. Plus, the kids fishing the ponds as the afternoon sun faded was a kind of nice touch on a relaxing early season round.
Perhaps it is a product of playing two other Buck Blankenship in the month before I ventured to Moss Hill, but I left thinking the several of the holes had a very familiar feel.
I don’t know if he had an overriding design philosophy, but Moss Hill is certainly one of Blankenship’s nicer courses that I’ve played.
It’s not a perfect course, and it didn’t provide the light-hearted challenge I was looking for, but it was a fun walk and a course I’ll look forward to returning to when the summer heat dries the course out, thinning out the rough and granting some roll in the fairways.