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Citrus Hills courses offer many treats

The Citrus Hills Golf and Country Club's 36-hole complex is a real treat. The courses are in excellent condition. The practice facility is good. The rates are reasonable. The staff is friendly.

And it's open to the public.

So, after playing both the Oaks and Meadows courses, which holes would the golfer remember most?

Tough to say. However, folks at the golf shop suggested the "signature holes" would be No. 14 at the Oaks and No. 18 on the Meadows.

The Oaks is by far the more interesting of the two courses, as it presents far more challenges and forces the golfer to experiment with creative shots.

The par-4 14th hole is a perfect example. It's short _ just 318 from the blue tees _ but tough nonetheless.

The fairway is wide and generous, although there is out-of-bounds right. Big hitters will be tempted to drive long, but that might not be the best idea.

The carry to the water is about 250 yards. Better bet is to lay up with a fairway wood or long iron, then confidently pitch onto the green.

"It's a real tough hole when the wind is blowing," said Jeff McDonald, first assistant golf professional at Citrus Hills.

Easy to see why. Even good golfers get a bit skittish when trying to hit a high, short second shot with a breeze in their faces.

"It tends to be a nerve-wracking hole for the high-handicappers," McDonald went on to say.

Again, that's because of the second shot, not the first. Looking from the fairway, the golfer sees trouble left (water), right (water), long (sand, Citrus Hills Boulevard) and short (water).

Still, that doesn't mean it's time to reach for a "water ball." The green is forgiving (30 yards long) and in perfect condition. So be confident and aim at that big target.

"It's a fair hole," McDonald said. "It's the people's nerves that give them the trouble. It's not one that they can just blow off."

By no means is No. 14 the only noteworthy hole on the Oaks. The 17th hole is a painfully long (222 yards from the blues) par-3 with sand galore. And you thought you only needed the driver on par-4s and par-5s!

The 18th probably is the course's prettiest hole, a meandering par-5 that weaves between sand and trees, heads up a hill, then leaves the golfer with a testy pitch over water.

Over at the Meadows, the going is a bit easier on holes 1 through 17. The finishing hole, however, definitely is memorable.

A long par-3, the 18th demands precise shot-making and allows little room for error. There is water left, sand right and Citrus Hills Boulevard behind the green. So, as on the 14th at the Oaks, golfers must be accurate.

Unlike the Oaks hole, however, the golfer must be accurate with a mid- to long-iron instead of a wedge. McDonald's advice: aim for the middle.

"It's not that big of a green," he noted. "If you hit the middle of the green, you wouldn't have a long putt."

Higher handicappers might opt to hit a short iron from the tee and then pitch to the green.

ABOUT THE COURSES

The Oaks

PAR: 70.

YARDAGE: 6,323 from the championship tees, 5,863 from the blues, 5,296 from the whites, and 4,647 from the reds.

RATING: Championship tees 71, blues 68.7, white 64.8, 67 reds.

The Meadows

PAR: 70.

YARDAGE: 5,885 from the blue tees, 5,527 from the whites and 4,585 from the reds.

RATING: Blue tees 68.5, whites 66.8, 66.9 reds.

SUMMER FEES FOR BOTH: $24.95 until 11 a.m. From 11-2 p.m., $14.95 for one or two players, $13.95 for three to four players. From 2 p.m. on, $12.95 for one or two players, $11.95 for three or four players. Fees are in effect until Aug. 31.

PHONE: 746-4425.

SIGNATURE HOLES

No. 14, Citrus Hills Oaks Course (above)

PAR: Four.

DISTANCE: 340 yards from the championship tees, 318 from the blues, 285 from the whites, and 215 from the reds.

STRATEGY: First of all, put away that big stick. This is a birdie hole, but only if golfers can keep their aggression in check. The fairway is wide, so all emphasis is on the second shot, which is a knee-knocker over the water. From the tee, hit a fairway wood, a long iron, whatever. Just make sure the tee ball lands far enough back to allow for a full swing with a wedge or whatever short iron you hit best. The green is large and in superb condition; however, there's trouble left, right, short and long. Get in position and let the putter do the rest.

No. 18, Citrus Hills Meadows Course (below)

PAR: Three.

DISTANCE: 202 yards from the blue tees, 170 from the whites, 122 from the reds.

STRATEGY: Some holes require accuracy. Others require length. Darn the luck, this one requires both. The 18th hole is all carry, with water left and sand right. There is a narrow (10-yard-wide) safety zone between the bunker and pond, but flirting with it is dangerous. Nowhere to run on this one; just grip, rip and hope. Cautious players can hit a short iron up and then pitch onto the green.

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