The Right Stuff At Stillwater Oaks Golf Course
By Rhett Arens
Stillwater Oaks Golf Course continues its focus towards a better and more “fun” golfing experience. The course has been around for decades, but had a rebirth in 2014 when the management and the name was changed.
The course is tucked into a pastoral, tree filled area of Washington County that is a stone’s throw from apple orchards and some fine German dining. The overall course layout hasn’t changed much over the years, and time has been kind to this beauty as the mature trees and well established water features give the course the type of patina that the upstarts only dream about.
Stillwater Oaks has an excellent balance of rolling elevations, tree-lined fairways, water features and strategic elements, which makes for an invigorating round full of pleasant surprises. That hole-to-hole variety will have you weighing the pros and cons of going long or laying up. Waiting for you are inviting and approachable greens with plenty of character including multiple tiers, ranging sizes and plenty of subtle undulation. If variety is the spice of life, this course is a family friendly jalapeno.
SVN | Northco, the management company, and master agronomist/superintendent Jerry Webb are making headway with course improvements. Amongst the ongoing everyday course maintenance, Stillwater Oaks targets course playability improvements. A 2016 bunker conditions review found an immediate need for action. The analysis concluded with the plan for current bunker improvements and removal project, converting unused and problematic bunkers into strategically created grass bunkers, bettering the overall play experience and “fun” factor.
2017 brings some southern charm to Stillwater. SVN | Northco added Brian Walker to its staff and positioned as Stillwater Oak’s general manger. The Kansas native, who has played competitively both in college/mini-tours and on the long-drive circuits (where he earned the nickname ‘Bombin’ Brian), has vast experience in the industry developing / operating / revitalizing courses across the country. This overall knowledge and leadership was brought in to further grow Stillwater Oaks as a “fun” experience.
This golf club also has a first class driving range and multi-purposed practice area. The practice area includes three course consistent greens with variations in design and multiple bunkers for warming up that sand wedge. Practice chipping is allowed on designated greens to develop the skills we all know is where the game is won or lost. The practice range offers designated targets at multiple distances and plenty of elbow room to grip and rip. The range is well maintained and is within easy commuting distance from the first tee and the clubhouse.
Stillwater Oaks is not a long course, but provides a fun challenge to all playing abilities. The par 71 course has four sets of tees stretching to 6,300 from the black tees. Hole #1 starts you off with a real risk-reward scenario, a birdied or eagle can be obtained with a well-placed drive avoiding the massive cottonwood, which splits the fairway. Be careful on that second shot as a small creek (often dry) runs around the front and side of the green. The green is relatively flat giving hope to that 20-footer. Hole #5 is their signature par 3. It’s a 160 yard iron over a large pond from a dramatic elevation. With a high arching iron shot it can seem like the ball hangs in the air forever. If you’re successful, you will be rewarded with the pleasant sound of a soft thud on the green – hopefully under the pin. The par 4 sixth is quite a hole with plenty of elements in play: a narrow second to an also narrow green, fairway bunkers, a steep berm running up the right side and drop-offs to the left. Hole #7 is a par 5 with a serious corner that temps the long hitters into cutting or fading to the right. However, it will take a steep, deep angled drive and a monster 3 wood to reach in two. The back nine has several strategic tee shots that finish on excellently proportioned greens given the related yardages. One of those is #18. A par 4 that provides a separated fairway, and if you take the high side, a beautiful downhill look to the green on your second shot. Its a great finishing hole.
Thursday night offers a ‘Scratch League’ where walk-on players compete sans handicap for the pool of entrance fees, a very cool idea. They also have an active Juniors League and a junior’s development program led by the Bryan Skavnak Academy of teaching professionals.
Stillwater Oaks can be summarized as ‘value driven’ golf – rated a Best Golf Value by Tee Times Magazine in 2016, with a fun and friendly atmosphere. A warm-up bucket, 18 holes, a cart and a post-round refreshment priced to leave you feeling like you should…. satisfied.