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A MENTAL TRAP

Time for a check list.

The No. 7 hole at Hernando Oaks Golf and Country Club wants to make sure it covers all hazards. Water? Check. Bunkers? Check. Sloping green? Check.

Though the last one technically may not be a hazard, and while the handicap of this hole doesn't prove to be the hardest (just 12 on the scorecard), this par 3 hole just isn't a walk in the park. It's because of all those hazards.

"As (NBC golf commentator) Johnny Miller might say, 'This is not green-light hole by any means,'" general manager and director of golf Jim Hafner said.

Sure, the hazards come into play, but so does the pin placement. In all, it's a hole that can play with your head. "Oh, it can be a mental hole, for sure," Hafner said.

Here's the scouting report:

HAPHAZARD

There's so many hazards it's hard to ignore them. The water comes first - two separate ponds - then a bunker right in front of the green. They all lie in a row, and if the pin placement is in the back left, you have to carry all three. "The hole has lot do to with pin position," Hafner said. "(In the) middle or back it becomes a long hole. In the front, you have to play with the water or the sand a lot more." There's an additional bunker behind and to the right of the green, which comes into play if the pin placement is on that side and you carry the hole too far. The bottom line is it's hard to avoid these hazards. Can it be done? Sure, it's just difficult and you better have better-than-average accuracy on your tee shot.

TAKING A BAILOUT

Luckily for you, there is a bailout area that is easy to reach. At the right front of the green, there's a pretty large fairway area that allows for a lay up. There, it's just a short up and down to the hole. "When you play a hole like that, it's one of those deals where you have to take in the whole picture," Hafner said. "You can't let your ego get in the way. Sometimes you have to take the bailout."

GOING MENTAL

Plenty of times golf holes are talked about as being visually intimidating. This one can fall into that category. In fact, its so visually nice, as well as threatening, you almost forget you're in south Brooksville. "This can be a mentally challenging hole," Hafner said. "It's visual to the eye and the mind and then it intimidates. So, depending on the pin placement, it's either a tough hole or just a real pretty one." Just don't doubt yourself, or for that matter, the yardage markers. When it says 179 from the blue tees, believe it. Most players will be playing an iron or a low hybrid from the tee.

GREEN ACRES

This green is large and long from right to left. However, it is a very flat green except for the down slope in the back left corner. It's fast, too, and to add to the challenge, Hernando Oaks has four pin placements it alternates. On No. 7, they are in four equal, triangle-shaped sections. Pin placement four - on the left of the green - is the most difficult because that small slope comes into play. Hafner has one easy suggestion to play this green: "Hit the middle to the back of the green, not the front," he said. "It'll be an easier putt in the long run because you'll keep level no matter the placement."

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His two cents

"Trust the yardage on the scorecard, too. Don't let your mind second-guess the yardage for a minute. Birdies are a possibility, but as I said, it's no sure thing. With all those hazards, you have to be cautious about what your score can be."

Jim Hafner, Hernando Oaks general manager and director of golf

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My two cents

"Taking into account the pin placement, use an iron shot. A nice little draw will be perfect for every pin placement, especially on the left side of the green. Obviously, coming up short will put you in one of the hazards. If you do doubt yourself, club up and erase the doubt."

Mike Camunas, community sports editor and golf enthusiast

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