I was watching how players got into and out of trouble at the Australian Open, and began wondering what makes a good golf hole. Is it a hole where a mistake leads to certain loss of a stroke, or is it a hole where a bad shot can be counteracted by a great shot?
My home course is very penal off the tee. A bad day with the driver effectively guarantees a high score. Out of bounds is in play on every hole. Going out is more likely on some than others, but I’ve managed to hit it out at least once on every hole, including the par 3’s. Out of bounds is possible on the left and the right on 10 of the holes, and I’ve managed to go out on both sides of all 10. It’s enough of a threat to be a serious consideration even when I’m playing well on 9 of the 18 holes.
It’s not that unusual to have a round in the 70’s or low 80’s with 4 or 6 stokes being due to shots that were O.B. You don’t have to be much off line on a few holes to get O.B. Add in wind and hard ground, and out you go. There’s no way to make up those shots O.B. They’re gone.
Obviously, the answer to this problem is “hit it down the middle.” Maybe hit less than driver on those holes with the greatest risk. This isn’t a bad strategy on some holes, but it can put a lot of pressure on your long irons or hybrids on other holes. I’ve considered leaving the driver at home to see how I’d do, but I’ve never quite been able to give up the chance of hitting that long drive over the trees (and O.B.), cutting the dogleg, and ending up within a pitch shot of the green. Of course, my average is just as good when I hit a six iron in as when I hit an 80 yard pitch, but I can’t convince my inner teenager.
I play other courses where crooked drives stay in bounds more often, offering the chance for redemption. I can’t say that I score any better on those courses, but the game feels a lot different. The pressure isn’t so much on the tee shot, but it’s spread more evenly across the bag.
What about it? Do other players have a preference for either type of hole or course?
I always go back to something a playing companion once said: “Why the heck did I hit a 4 iron out of bounds when I could have hit driver OB?” For me, I tend to hit my driver just as straight and consistently as any other club. The only time I consider dropping down to a lesser club is when “too far” is a problem (cross hazard or dogleg).
As a reference point, my handicap fluctuates between 7.0 and 9.0 and I hit a driver in the area of 230 yards with a moderate amount of roll. Clearly if I was either booming them out 300 yards or had a low single digit handicap, I might want to revise my approach. For my current game, however, hand me the driver and I will take my chances. 😉
It’s really frustrating to play that “safe” tee shot and hit it O.B. or into the trees. I hit my driver about as straight as most of my other clubs, but it might be more accurate to say I’m equally crooked with all of them. I just hit my driver farther into trouble.
I have a little 17 degree hybrid that I can hit pretty long and straight, so that’s my favorite safe club.