Saturday, 1 January 2011

Hole Type - The Short Par Four

14th at Baltray - one of the best

The week I will cover the short par four, the most enjoyable and interesting hole in golf. For the average player, this represents the opportunity to make a par; and for the better player a chance to make a birdie (or better). When the hole is well thought out it should offer the greatest opportunity and a huge risk all in the same package.

The joy of the short four is the options a player has at the tee. They should always have the opportunity to play a conventional safe positional lay-up; but the great ones will also offer a risky aggressive line allowing the player to attack the hole. My favorites are usually the drivable holes where the possibility of reaching the hole begins to cloud the judgment of the player and introduce more risk taking into the game.
7th at The Island Club (Mackenzie)
The ideal short par four tempts us to “give it a go” even though there is such obvious and prudent option available. They are like a siren calling us to the rocks. What I love about these holes is the average player will almost always plan the best two shot strategy and try to make the standard par with two “good” shots. The strong player gets drawn in by his own ego (our inherent weakness) to thinking they can pull off the “perfect” shot. The 10th at Riviera is proof that even the Tour players pay lip service to the advantage of a good lay-up; almost all pros have a go at the green at least one day at the LA Open despite that being such a poor tactic.

The key to making a great short four is to have enough elements of risk to punish the aggressive play and make recovery a challenge. While the hole must reward a player who plays an exceptional shot with a clear advantage over any other line, the miss should be fraught with potential disaster. On a drivable four reward is reaching the green surface itself, on the remaining short fours the reward should be the ideal position to attack the pin. What is also important is the player must face a much more difficult approach from any other spot but the aggressive line to make that risk a worthwhile option. Anything less removes the balance of taking the risk and receiving the reward for doing so.

After players clearly understand the difficulty, they should still be enticed enough to take the risk. Starting tomorrow, I will offer a series of examples of exceptional ways to encourage aggressive play and still defend par.

Links to Examples:
7th Scarboro
10th at Riviera
4th Highlands Links
8th at Pine Valley
14th Baltray
5th Royal Portrush

The Best Short Par Fours that I can think of

Great Drivable Par Fours

#10 at Riviera 315
#9 Cypress Point 292
#12 at St. Andrew’s (Old) 316
#3 Sunningdale (Old) 298
#10 at Merion 312
#5 at Friar’s Head 330
#7 at Scarboro 290
#6 at Pacific Dunes 315
#8 at Cruden Bay 295
#14 at Gleneagles (Kings) 260
#3 Walton Heath (Old) 285
#17 Crystal Downs 311
#2 National 271

Great Drive and Pitch Holes
#8 at Pine Valley 327
#5 at Crystal Downs 355
#4 at Pebble Beach 327
#5 at Royal Dornock 359
#3 Pinehurst 335
#8 Merion 360
#4 Spyglass Hill 365
#5 Hamilton 321
#13 North Berick 347
#5 at Royal Portrush 392
#14 National GL 356

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