Smart Golf 101: Well Guarded, Windy Par 3

Next up in our smart golf series, is a very tricky par 3 hole that is 185 yards from the tips, and 145 yards from the beginner tees, with bunkers left, water right, and a 5-10 mph wind that slightly into us and coming from the right. This is a shot that scares the crap out of beginners and even gets better players double checking their club choice, and second guessing themselves. There is so much to be considered here, the water, the green, the bunkers, the wind, and even the trees off the tee.

What questions should be asked on this one before shooting?
– How much will the wind effect my ball?
– Should I up-club for the back pin as well as the wind?
– Where is the best place to miss on this hole?
– Can I two-putt on this green easily?
– Is the green worth going for? What about the pin?
– Is my shot shape a good fit for this hole? Will it matter with the wind?
– How is my bunker play? Is the bunker a good place to miss the green?
– If I go long, where should I hit it?
– Will that tree to the left of the tee be in my way?

Beginner Smart Golf
Okay, there’s a ton of trouble here. Obviously, the last place you want to go is right, and with 90% of beginner golfers suffering from a slice, this hole is likely looking a little scary. If you’re a right-handed player who slices the crap out of it, you’ll have to play this hole very smart. For slicers, it may be best to hit the ball where there absolutely is no trouble – which is short of the green. Yes, I’m suggesting laying up on a par 3. Lets face the facts here.. if you hit a slice you can only aim so far left before that tree to the left of your tee box comes into play… then you have the wind helping your slice, and little to no green to work with once you get there. A big number is likely. Laying up can negate this.

If you can hit it straight or with a draw reliably, your best spot to aim is likely the bunker on the left (or slightly left of it), 9 times out of 10 you’ll come up short of your intended distance, so play to just reach the green, and hope for two putts on this massive green and skip to the next hole. 3 putts also isn’t bad. Or if you’re the left who slices, you can consider aiming in the middle of the green and hope your slice outperforms the wind. This is a tricky shot to fight the wind, so remember that being left is far better than being right.

Intermediate Smart Golf
This hole plays about 165 yards for you. This is a solid 7, 6 or 5 iron, it’s not an easy hole, especially when fighting the wind. The tree to the left really isn’t in play for you, which is nice, but everything else is. Really, regardless of your shot shape, you want to try and land just short and to the right of the first greenside bunker and hope for the best. Obviously, you’ll know this wind has a tendency to make your shot end up short and right of your target, so take plenty of club. Also, if anything, aim further left than right – you can rely on your bunker play/short game to give you a good chance at par. You have a much better angle into this green than other tee boxes, so take advantage if you can. You may want to take an extra club and aim for the widest part of the green over the first bunker, just beware that this brings more water into play.

Advanced Smart Golf
Are your hands sweating yet? They should be a little bit. This is a very hard hole to play well, but luckily you have a large green to aim for. You know anything that has left to right spin on it is likely dead, so right to tleft is what you need, or dead straight and riding the wind. Swinging smoothly should be a key focus, as thinned shots tend to leak right for right-handers. The best spot to land is likely right after the first greenside bunker towards the back of the green. Unfortunately the tee-side tree is also in your way, but hopefully you’re playing some sort of draw around it to fight against the wind. This may be a hole that you should let your putter do the work, and simply try to get the ball in play on the front of the green. Really, it’s a choose your own adventure at this point, but there is a ton of danger to watch out for. Bunkers are not a bad miss as you have plenty of green to work with (however you’ll be looking at a lot of water for your second – don’t look up!),


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  1. Nice analysis. The adv smart golfer could also play more aggressively and keep margins of safety here by hitting it high and over the right edge of that tree – basically aiming for the left back bunker. Take enough club to go right to the very back of the green and let the wind gently push the ball shorter and into play right over top of the stick. A small draw will fight the wind so maybe you’ll get the bunker – no real problem there. And if it is long you can chip back easily enough – it won’t roll because a 7 iron into the wind a bit drops down almost vertically. If you hit sand the bunker shot looks easy. If you fade it a bit you have all the green to cover before you get to the water. A baby fade on a seven iron in such wind won’t push the ball more than 10-20 yards. Big advantage to going deep here is easier club selection (stats on end of green from tee-off are usually avail. and reliable). Last benefit is you put your bag right at the green exit area – less walking 😉

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