By Preston Smith, AJGA Communications
Opening in 2000, The Ledges sits more than 1,500 feet above sea level and offers breathtaking views of the city below. But for the juniors competing in the AJGA Huntsville Junior, those drop-off views offer a challenging dimension to the par-71 course.
“If you focus on your target, don’t let it get to you and hit it down the fairway then you can score low,” said Addison Nix of Auburn, Alabama. “Other than the fact that the course is in pristine condition, coming up here just to be up on top of the mountain is one of the reasons I love this tournament. Being able to look down on the city is amazing.”
The golf course – designed by Michael Hurdzan, who was named Designer of the Year by Golf Magazine for his work in 2003 – is highlighted by several distinctive features and hole-specific names. Following No. 2 (Old Stoney), golfers descend into the valley to play Nos. 3-6. Commonly referred to as “The Bench,” the four holes mark a particularly demanding collection of holes before returning up the slope to play No. 7.
“The valley is definitely the toughest stretch of the course to me,” said first-round leader Laken Hinton. “On those you look to hit the greens and be happy to go back up the mountain with your pars.”
Hinton, a resident of Edmond, Oklahoma, played “The Bench” at just 1-over-par in the first round and made his move on three picturesque holes on the back nine. Playing in his first AJGA event, the rising sophomore went birdie-eagle-birdie on Nos. 14-16 to gain his two-stroke advantage.
“The overlooking holes are my favorite; those just set up well to my eye,” Hinton said. “Especially the second shot on No. 15 (nicknamed Purple Mountains Majesty), it always feels like I can reach it.”
As the 84-player field gains familiarity with the course, players may opt to attack the flagsticks more aggressively. But a theme emerges after juniors make their way around the course.
“Don’t go left,” said Will Klecka, a native of The Ledges community. “This time of year, the course is in its best condition up on this mountain and it is beautiful on every hole. But you just can’t go too far left on most holes.”