Your choice should depend on the day
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.