Sunday, 2 January 2011

The Mid-Length Four

Cypress Point has many sub-400 yard fours

The lost hole in golf is becoming the mid length par four. The hole used to be anything from 360 yards through to around 400 yards. The hole represented the option to hit a three wood or even a long iron and the chance to hit anywhere from a wedge through to mid-iron depending on wind, your ability and the club selection from the tee. Often playing the same hole over the week leads to different club on just about every day depending on conditions.

Pine Valley has many mid fours including the 2nd

One of the recent developments that I have seen is as more people see the merit of the drivable or very short par four – which is a great trend - they are filling the rest of the nine with almost exclusively 400 plus yard par fours to help keep the yardage up “to be a championship length. The hole that is getting lost in the shuffle is the former mid-length par four. Some architects think that at 400 yards you have a mid-length or even short par four, but I beg to differ on this idea. If you eliminate the most elite player in the game – the majority of the outstanding players are not flying the ball 350 yards as the designs suggest. I personally think notion of a continuous string of 400 plus yard holes eliminates too many decisions for all but the most elite of today’s game. I still think that it is time that architects’ ignore them and design for the vast majority of players and make the game more interesting with far more decisions available to the players.

Merion has a run of five below 400 yards

So why should this hole make a bit of a comeback architecturally. First and foremost is the notion of options from the tee – that in recent times has become almost lost in modern design. Everything is set up for the driver hole after hole after hole. Boooorrrrring! Once the yardage is reduced down on a few more par fours, the player can hit whichever club is most appropriate whether for accuracy or to play for position. Options like this make the players think, when a player is allowed to think and plan, they are allowed to show their creativity.

Oakmont has 4 holes below 400 yards in the US Open!

 If the player can play to optional spots on the fairway, it also means they can explore the possible advantages and disadvantages of playing to certain locations and access the resulting approach shots in. In other words they can “explore” the hole to try finding the best way to score. Learning a hole is a lot more interesting than just executing shots. Its time to drop the yardage obsession in the game and get on with encouraging interesting and entertaining holes – Oakmont had four holes under 400 yards and I don’t remember those holes being the weakness.

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