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A walk at the Woods - well worth the wait

At long last, I finally got feet on the ground at Copetown Woods Golf Club. After years of waiting and a few more recent rain delays, my tee finally went in the ground on the first hole.

And it was worth it. To borrow from Humphrey Bogart -- this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

There is a lot to like and a few things to love about Copetown Woods, and I'll start with something pretty basic: choice. A quick glimpse of the scorecard gives golfers of any talent level the option to play from eight different sets of tees. That leaves nobody behind when it comes to the chance to score well. You can play the course at anywhere from 5092 yards from the reds all the way to 6965 yards off the golds. So, The Thinker and I opted for something leaning a little more challenging in the blue/white combo (6192 yards) -- just about right for me given I'd never played the course before. I don't think we'd have been out of place had we opted for the gold/blue set (6704 yards), so it's something to keep in mind for next time.

One of the first things I noticed over the first few holes was how much thinking had to be put in to seemingly benign hole layouts. The First was a prime example: a large waste bunker splitting the middle of the fairway right in the landing area forced a choice on my opening shot, while #2 made me choose between trying to pipe a fairway metal up past the narrowing of the fairway by the water hazard or gearing back a bit to play for a longer but still comfortable approach.

This would be a good time to point out that Copetown Woods is a very walkable course, full of fantastic views of the course from one side to the other. This was the first round I had walked in a while (part of my new dedication to walking more to help improve my overall fitness), so it became a bit of a challenge later in the round but I still found plenty of gas in the tank as we came down the 18th fairway. It also marked the first time in all my years of golf that I relied on a yardage book rather than a GPS in a power cart. I found it added to the fun every time I pulled out the book to reference where I was and what I had in front of me ... but with a small hint of mystery because it wasn't a 'real-time' yardage reading.

There were lots of small nuances to take pleasure in as well; small changes in elevation here and there that wound up being more risk-reward than I first guessed they would be; small, subtle breaks in the greens that really made you wish you'd spent just a second longer considering your line; and the green side rough being spongy enough to make the palms of your hands get a little moist at the thought of possibly fluffing another chip.

My favourite hole for the day was likely #17 -- a quirky par-3 that played at only 137 yards with a pin tucked away in the back left corner like some hidden treats in grandma's cupboard. Knowing that my score wasn't going to suffer greatly if I went after the pin, I smacked my 9-iron right at the hole. When I reached the green, I discovered that while I made the green (barely), I still had to negotiate a lengthy serpentine putt that was uphill and then down. No birdie for me, but it was still a satisfying par.

The course is well taken care of and well used (plenty of repaired divots on almost every hole's prime landing areas), and that helped lend a feeling of value to my round. It's like I was finally in on the secret that everyone else knew about, and now I get to share it.

Anyone who asks me if Copetown Woods is worth playing will get my ringing endorsement -- and likely me asking if they need a fourth when they book their tee time.

Here's hoping I get back there sooner rather than later.

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