Manage your landing zone options to make birdie on a short par-4

June 29, 2017

Some holes require little strategy: Take driver, swing hard, then go for the green. Simple. Not easy (it’s golf, after all), but simple. Other holes demand more thought, however. Consider the 301-yard par-4 16th at Bandon Dunes (below). This double-decker beauty gives you three paths to the pin: backto-back irons (with a blind approach); a safe hybrid to the upper fairway, leaving a wedge to the receptive green; or a testosteronefueled drive that just may reach the green. Decisions, decisions. Here’s how to make the right move when you have lots of options.


You can reach the lower fairway on Bandon’s 16th with as little as an 8-iron from the regular tees. Hey, there’s no shame in playing conservatively when you walk away with par or better. Plus, leaving a longer approach (albeit a blind one in this case) is smart if the pin is back. A longer shot will spin less, so you can hit the middle of the green and let the runout take care of the rest.


Going for the green can pay off huge, but if you think your chances of pulling it off are less than 50-50, it’s best to back off. Instead, choose a club (a hybrid, perhaps) that leaves you your favorite wedge distance. And even though you’re laying up, give your tee shot every iota of attention, smoothly accelerating through impact.


You only live once—pull driver and go for it! Better yet, plan for it. Before you play a course that has a drivable par-4, practice that tee shot on the range. Visualize the hole, follow your routine, see your target, and rehearse for your moment of truth. Two tips: Tee the ball higher, and widen your stance. With a little prep and a couple of setup tweaks, you’re setting yourself up for success—and an eagle putt.