Monday, January 15, 2007

The Short Par Three

The 2 or 20 hole at Engineers

The hole represents clear opportunity for all. There is no other hole in golf where the expert and duffer stand equally on the tee thinking of one perfect swing. It is the only hole in all of golf that offers all levels of player a realistic opportunity at making a birdie. Even the weakest player only has to make one good shot followed by the putt for a two. It is the hole where I watched my son make his first par and likely so did most other fathers too. It’s the first hole they can reach in regulation with their driver. No hole is looked more forward to or more appreciated more when an architect includes one in the course.

There are two types of this hole. The more common is the short iron, which I would consider a 8 iron or less in modern context. The other is the pitch hole, which can vary from a sand wedge and down. These are some of the greatest holes in golf, and are rarely if ever built because they are quickly labeled “mickey mouse” by the consumer; yet when in and around 100 yards, these are often extremely delicate little feel shots surrounded by disaster. This type often proves to be more difficult for a longer player since they almost universally feature strong back to front pitch. The longer and better player tries to hit a knock down or three quarter swing, but often the spin they generate makes it extremely difficult to control the ball on the green. The average guy who hits the shot with very little spin sits in just as good a position as the better player since he can play his regular full swing.

The tiny 95 yard hole as it exists today - as a spare hole

For the architect, this also represents a clear opportunity to too. They can really ramp up the difficulty because that would be in balance with the short distance required from the player. The player also stands on the level tee with the advantage of a perfect lie, so it is now reasonable to request a near perfect shot. The great ones have a little of the (borrowing from a famous hole at the Engineers Club by Herbert Strong) “2 or 20” built in them. If you make the shot, a great chance of birdie, but if you miss a hard time recovering for par. I always loved the line at Troon, where the hardest shot on the course was the second shot at the Postage Stamp if you missed the green.

Speaking of which the 8th at Troon is already profiled previously:

I expect to cover this all week, but there are lots of possible things that may interrupt my plan for the blog. If they do, then I will extend this series on the short three through to the end of next week.

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