Driver? Maybe

Your choice should de­pend on the day

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Play Your Best -

bet there’s a hole at your home course, prob­a­bly a short par 4, where you’re not en­tirely set­tled on what club to use off the tee. There’s no clear choice, but per­haps you’ve come to de­cide that a cer­tain play – hit­ting driver or 3-wood or maybe a 5-iron – is go­ing to yield your best scores over time.

INo more sec­ond-guess­ing, you say to your­self. You’ve got a game plan, and you’re stick­ing to it.

Although I com­mend the golfer who strives to be tac­ti­cally con­sis­tent, there’s such a thing as be­ing too rigid.A wellde­signed hole changes ev­ery day with weather con­di­tions, pin place­ment and firm­ness of the turf.The 15th hole on the Links Course at Bear Lakes Coun­try Club in West Palm Beach (il­lus­trated), Florida, a driv­able par 4 with two other op­tions, is an ex­am­ple of a hole that asks you to make a de­ci­sion.The golfer who’s will­ing to be flex­i­ble on club choice stands to gain over those who are set in their ways. – with max adler

PER­FECT FOR THIS PIN A tee ball that finds this spot can reap nice re­wards. The ap­proach shot doesn’t have to carry any bunkers. Plus, you’re play­ing up the en­tire length of the green, which means more op­tions. When the hole is cut on the front-right por­tion, you can fire at it with­out much stress.

How­ever, with a pin on the left side, you’d face ba­si­cally the same shot you would if you were com­ing in from the right side of the fair­way. In that case, tak­ing on two fair­way bunkers to gain a slightly shorter ap­proach might not be worth the risk. THE STRESS-FREE START Here’s the least-de­mand­ing spot to place a drive. Play­ing short to this wide sec­tion of fair­way de­fers dif­fi­culty to the sec­ond shot. Hit it here, and you’ll ob­vi­ously face a longer ap­proach that must chal­lenge the largest bunker on the hole. But here’s some­thing not so ob­vi­ous: From this an­gle, the green is wide yet very shal­low, so dis­tance con­trol has to be sharper.

Why go here? If you’re into the wind or the greens are soft, dis­tance con­trol is eas­ier – that’s a vote for this shot. Or maybe you aren’t driv­ing it great and want to play safe. WHEN HOLE HIGH ISN’T GREAT This hole is 273 me­tres from the mid­dle tees, so driv­ing the green is pos­si­ble for some play­ers. The big­gest de­ter­mi­nant should be if hit­ting the driver long and straight is a strength of your game.

An­other en­cour­ag­ing fac­tor might be a stiff help­ing breeze. But be care­ful: As a de­signer, when­ever I of­fer an op­por­tu­nity, I usu­ally ex­act a penalty if you don’t pull off the shot. Tug this tee shot to the left, and a grass hol­low leaves an awk­ward pitch to a green that runs away from you. If the greens are firm and fast, that shot just got a lot tougher. One of the most fa­mous driv­able par 4s is Oak­mont’s 17th, where I nearly made a big mess in the fourth round of the 1962 US Open. I sank a down­hill five-footer for par, which I hit so hard it nearly flew into the cup. Bob Jones was watch­ing, and after I won he sent me a note: “I al­most came out of my chair when you hit that putt.” Mr Jones fol­lowed my ca­reer closely, and we had many such com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

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