Monday, January 01, 2007

The short par five


The approach shot on the very short and very dnagerous 11th at Tobacco Road






Most of the greatness in golf architecture occurs in the “par and a half holes”.


If I ask you to name a great short par four or reachable par five, you can probably list off at least dozen in less than a minute. Why? It is because these are the holes that we look forward to playing the most in a round. As stated before the short four provides a weaker player the chance to make a four and a strong player the opportunity to make a birdie. The short five doesn’t quite work the same way, but is looked forward to even more by most players because of the “potential” that exist only on this hole. That potential is a real opportunity to make a putt for an Eagle. No other hole in golf holds out the same hope.

So know that we understand the psychological difference of this hole from all others. We can also understand why most people will name almost all reachable holes when listing there favorite par fives.


So what makes a great short five? The short version is: when the element of risk is well balanced with the clear opportunity to score. There is nothing more pleasing than standing on a tee, or in the middle of a fairway, and weighing the risks of the next shot against the benefits of making one great swing. The short five clearly plays into or against the player’s ego, and that is where the architect must step in to take full advantage. The ego is almost every player’s greatest weakness. It often leads the player to some of the worst decisions particularly when the player is given the opportunity for glory. Most players just can’t help themselves. A short par five is a great opportunity to make the game fun for all players, but offers an equally interesting chance to really push the strong player into making bad decisions and big mistakes. Like all good ½ par holes, it becomes an equalizer through differing expectations of the players.

I personally think the great short fives presents the following:

1. offers up a clear opportunity to the player
2. invites risk taking
3. offers multiple options for play
4. demands two exceptional shots trying to get home in two
5. severely penalizes a missed shot from aggressive play

Over the next four days I will examine some of the best the game has to offer, starting with the most famous short five of them all; and I would argue the best the game has to offer. I’ll like finish with a list of the best on Friday. One I really wanted to profile had no photos available anywhere.

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