One of the things I think is very interesting and fun about this game is that there are a number of ways to play every hole you encounter. And sometimes a hole offers "better" ways to play it than you might think. Let me explain with a couple of experiences from my own golf life.
ONEIn my thirties and forties, I played at a club outside of San Antonio — Fair Oaks Ranch. The 18th hole was a tough par-4 with a very small landing area and a gaping bunker at about 175 yards out. The skinny fairway left of that bunker was not more than 15 yards wide and there was a little mott of trees on the green-side of the bunker that you would have to carry with your mid-iron bunker approach. Tough, to say the least. That hole drove most of us nuts, and double-bogeys were more common than birdies, for sure. Par was always a great score.
So, one day it hit me that if I hit 4-wood off the tee, I would have an elevated fairway look at the green from about 200-210, giving me another soft 4-wood or 3-iron to the green, and the fairway was about 40 yards wide back there. Being a good long-club player, I began to play the hole that way. Doubles disappeared entirely, pars became the norm, and I even made the occasional birdie. Hmmmmmm.
TWOAt my current club, the ninth hole just doesn't fit my eye or my game. I play a fade off the tee most of the time, and turning over a draw is just tough for me. Our ninth is a dogleg left, with a bunker on the right side of the fairway that runs from about 165-125 from the green, right where the prime driving area is. What makes this hole so tough for me is that the prevailing wind is left-to-right and trees just 60-100 yards off the tee keep me from starting the ball out left and letting it ride the breeze. This is another one where birdies are rare for me there, and bogeys and doubles way too frequent.
So, it dawned on me the other day... finally... that I could hit 4-wood right at that bunker and not get to it, leaving me a 5- or 6-iron into the green, rather than the short iron the rare proper drive would leave me. So, there's my new strategy on that hole. I'm a good mid-iron player, so I'm fine with that — and that &@#$ fairway bunker will never catch me again.
My point in all this is that sometimes a hole gets under your skin, or just doesn't set up well for your game. When that happens, design for yourself a "Plan B" — change the way you play it, at least for a while. Quite often, you will find a solution to a problem and your scores and attitude will improve.
I'm just sayin'...
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I quite often play holes in completely different ways, to figure out what works best.
I have a par 5 that use to piss me off. Water down the right trees and a creek down the left. It is reachable in 2 for me, but the landing area for my drives wasn't very wide. I took 9 on that hole twice in a row. The next time I played it I pulled 5i off the tee because I couldn't get to the trouble on either side. Then hit another 5i to the widest part of the fairway, hit a wedge to 10' and made birdie (one of 2 putts I made last year).
I have some holes @ local courses where I've figured some stuff out. It's always fun when you see some progress.
& there's still some that I have not cracked yet... that still leave me swearing.
Currently my #11 hole is killing me. Penalties every time. There is water on the left that I can clear with a driver if it weren't for two trees and if I go right with the driver there is water there too. I can reach the water on both sides with my 3 wood and have. I can reach the water on the left side with my 5 wood but then that puts the fairway bunker on the right in play. This sunday I am teeing off with a 3 hybrid and see how it goes. I am tired of taking a penalty on this hole. Its gotten mental I tell ya!!!!!!
My wife has just recently started golfing and I will go out with her and play along side her from the forward tees. I've learned a lot about some of the more difficult holes at my local course by doing this and playing irons off the tee. I've seen some real progress when I'm out with my regular group playing from tees farther back. I know it's not something everyone is going to try, but if the chance ever arises, put aside your ego and do it. You'll enjoy it more than you think.
#15 at Onion Creek. Hardest hole on the course. I like to draw the ball and this is a dog leg left-to-right. It's fairly short with a big green but a big ditch (water hazard) just inside the 100-yard marker. The fairway is firm and narrow with lots of trees on both sides. If you miss the fairway, you're probably chipping out. Even if you hit the fairway, you really want to be on the left side.
I had hit some many 3-woods perfectly only to have it run across the fairway into the rough, I changed my approach. I have a low fade shot that I play with my driver off the tee It only goes about 200 yards but is pretty reliable. I finally started using that and hitting not just the fairway but hitting the left side of the fairway. It leaves me anywhere from 180-210 to the green but that's much better than chipping out and I can usually make bogey at worst (which is a good score on that hole).
joe jones says:
It's great to hear people figure out a way around a problem hole. Most good designers offer two or three options to play a hole. Figuring out which is the best option for yourself is called course management. As I get older It's the only way I can continue to play. I certainly can't out muscle a hole any more. Thanks for a great subject idea for our group Terry.
When I have a trouble hole, I usually just play for bogey. One par 5 was a constant DB. Started playing for bogey, and next thing you know I'm short iron for 3 everytime. All I needed to do was relax. Other thing is sometimes just changing tee club works - all you need is a change.
Of course, today I hit a killer drive on one of my problem holes. 136 yards from a back pin, I took out my 130 club. Strong wind behind me but I still blasted the ball at least 140 carry over the green into an impossible downhill chip. Sometimes you can't win.
It's funny how you get in a rut on certain holes/courses. I don't belong to a club, so this takes place over a greater span of time. One impediment to learning to play well is that I rarely play with anyone who plays shorter and smarter - and actually benefits. Sometimes a guy dials it down and secures bogey. But I really need to find better players who can score better without being longer. The better players I do play with can all go long. Personally, my driver is very reliable, an d therefore a primary choice.
But Terry brings up a good point - play to the strength(s) of your game. While it would be pretty unusual to hear somebody say, "I'm not going for the hole, because I'm better when I have longer putts," you may find someone who can always hit their hybrid straight. To try to self assess, my strengths would most likely be:
1. Shaping long drives.
2. Chipping from greenside.
3. putts from 8' and in.
4. 8-3 irons
So I'm basically a bomber, I set myself up by getting to the next tee box!
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