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THROOP - Four pars in a row?

That can only mean one of two things: Either Cranebrook Golf Club is too easy, or we just got lucky.

Nine holes and 11 lost balls later, we settled on the latter.

Though it was once considered a no-frills, “pitch-and-putt” course, a new design and an expanded layout have transformed Cranebrook into a worthy test for any golfer.

“The old image (of the course) was that it's a cow pasture with nine sticks in the ground,” Cranebrook General Manager Ken Fasce said. “It's a lot more challenging now.”

Cranebrook used to be a starter course, rounding out with five par-3s and four par-4s. Fasce, who's been GM for 12 years, decided a remodeling was in order.

Eight years ago, the course was lengthened, while seven new greens and 18 new tee boxes were installed.

“It's not long, but there's a lot of ways to get yourself in trouble,” Fasce said. “It's a shot-makers course. You have to think your way around it.”

Don't get us wrong, we welcome all challenges, but having to multitask - thinking and swinging at the same time - tends to be trouble.

“People used to say they didn't want to play Cranebrook because of the old stigma,” Fasce said. “But when they see it's not the way it used to be, they're like, ‘Holy cow.' They can't believe how it's changed.”

The course has been lengthened but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to be long off the tee. For instance, short and straight on the par-4, 328-yard seventh hole may play to your advantage. A 200-plus yard drive will easily clear you of the water hazard but will leave you with a blind shot into the green. A 7-iron off the tee will leave you with a 150-yard approach shot, but with a clear view of the putting surface.

Hitting a green in regulation is only half the battle though. Some greens are multi-tiered so making sure you put your shot on the correct level is critical.

“The greens are unique,” Fasce said. “We changed every green except Nos. 2 and 3. The new ones, some are set back in the woods and others have two tiers. They're not as easy as they look.”

Cranebrook definitely lacks the farmland features it once possessed. Four tee boxes are set back in the woods, forcing you to drive out of a chute. Once again, location supersedes distance.

And if you are lucky enough to land your drive on the short stuff, the new watering system leaves the grass green and soft - perfect for that backspin you've always dreamt of putting on your ball.

“With our new irrigation system, you can take divots in the middle of the fairway in August,” Fasce said. “It's leaps and bounds ahead of what it was.”

Cranebrook wasn't just redesigned, it was completely renewed. The course is challenging, it's well-maintained and a round of golf is as cheap as they come.

Excluding the cost to restock on golf balls.