Off the beaten path will you find Dale Hollow State Park Resort. It is just under 2 hours from Bowling Green and around 2 hours from I-75. I know this because I traveled each way, the later on my return leg to Cincinnati. The course is right at the entrance of the park, so luckily once you get there, you can’t miss it.
The course was built in 2003 by Brian Ault and is a part of the highly under appreciated Kentucky State Park Golf Trail. Main characteristics of this course include the large, undulating greens and dramatic elevation changes.
The course starts out with two short par 4s. Hole One is downhill with a dog-leg to the left, protected on both sides by bunkers. The undulation in the green is jus t the first of many you’ll see at Dale Hollow.
Hole Two is even shorter. A play to the left of the fairway bunker will yield the best look at the green.
The par 3 third is a couple of clubs downhill and is protected by a deep bunker left. The front is wide open, but you can’t see this from the tee. Hole Four is the first of the (downhill) par 5s, this one sweeping to the right. The fairway is pretty wide, but things tighten up around 120 yards from the green.
The next two holes go back up hill. The Fifth is a par 3 that requires another club up to reach the green. Short isn’t dead, but it’s not great either. One characteristic I really liked about Dale Hollow was the Front tees were set so that the golfer is not forced to make a significant carry. This is more visible at 15, but more on that later.
The par 4 Sixth is the #1 handicap hole on the course and has plenty of teeth. After a narrow tee shot, the golfer must deal with green with a severe false front. In fact, there are two collection areas short of the green, one 20 yards away, and another 40-50 yards on the left side further down the hill. One could lay up on the right side of the fairway by the green for a better look at an up and down, but the area near is much narrower than the left side.
The golfer gets a bit of a reprieve at the shortish par 4 Seventh. That is, until you reach the green. My pictures don’t do the undulations in this green justice. Dale Hollow might not be the longest course, but it is TOUGH once you reach the green.
The front 9 concludes with the par 5 Eighth and the par 4 Ninth. Eight a par 5 with a slightly blind tee shot and well projected at the green with bunkers left, right, and a creek behind.
Nine is a shorter par 4, but plays much longer than the yardage since it plays dramatically uphill. The fairway slopes from right to left and the green has massive contours (see a pattern here). Notice the silo at the top of the hill.
As good as the front 9 was, the course’s best meets the golfer at the turn.
Ten is an interesting par 4, with a blind tee shot and a big drop down to the green. Best to hit your tee shot between 100-150 yards from the green, which is protected on the left by a bunker and front and right by water. Go 1-2 clubs down depending on pin position and wind. The Eleventh is a well bunkered, but rather ordinary par 3.
The real fun starts at Twelve, a par 5 that once again plays downhill. The hole sweeps dramatically right to left from tee to green, so much that the green is not visible from the tee. One must hit their tee shot way out there to get a look at the green in two. The layup area is pretty open.
Thirteen is another great par 4 hole. Playing uphill and dog-legging to the left, Thirteen’s green contours are like that of Seven and Fifteen; very wild!
Fourteen is the hole you see in all the pictures. A downhill par 5 with water guarding the tee shot and approach shot. Here the golfer must judge the wind and decide how much of the dogleg they want to cut off. There’s plenty of space to the left to bail out, but this makes the hole a three shotter. If the golfer can carry the lake, they have a good shot at reaching in two, providing their drive doesn’t out run the fairway.
There’s no real advantage for laying up, because the approach is made very difficult by a narrow fairway, water right, and hazard left. Things don’t get any easier up by the green.
Fifteen has been described to me as the best par 3 in Kentucky. I haven’t played enough courses to make that judgment, but I will say it’s an impressive hole. Playing 194 from the tips, it’s all carry; if you don’t make it over the stone wall guarding the green, you’re out of luck. As with Five, I really liked the placement of the front tee, which did not require any type of carry. The green is large and wildly undulating, meaning even if you manage to reach in regulation, par is far from guaranteed.
The golfer gets a brief respite at the par 4 Sixteenth and Seventeenth, the later being much more accessible with a wide fairway and not much green undulation, sloping back to front.
The course ends with a par 4 that is almost a double dog leg, bending right at the landing zone and left at the green. Take a club or two going back up the hill.
Dale Hollow was very fun to play. Oddly enough, walking is permitted, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it. The front 9 MIGHT be walkable, but you’d have to be in pretty good shape and get a ride from 3 green to 4 tee. Back 9, forget about it.
The staff was very peculiar. I was not greeted at my entrance in the Clubhouse when I paid or when I came in for a hot dog at the turn. I honestly didn’t feel very welcome, and that’s unfortunate. I hope the other Kentucky State Park Golf Courses have friendlier staffs. Cart path only conditions and some foursomes in front of me unwilling to let me play through led to just over a 4.5 hour round on a Thursday. I paid $39.75 for 18 holes and a cart.
Course condition was mostly acceptable for the time of year (4/2/2009). Ground was a bit soggy from recent rain and greens had been recently aerated. I thought the rough was a bit spotty in places, but the fairways, greens, and tees were in sufficient shape. I’d love to play this course sometime in May or June after the Zoysia is no longer dormant.
At the time of my visit, I’d give Dale Hollow a 7 on the OINK scale. Under normal conditions, it could be an 8.