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Difficult Par 3 Strategy


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I have a difficult (for me) par 3 at my league course. It is a downhill par 3 with a hazard to the left of the green bunkers short right, out of bounds wide right and a sharp drop off behind the green. Add to it, the greens are very firm and if I land on it, it will most likely roll off the back. 

I've rarely got a GIR on this hole. The last I recall was a very windy day where I hit a 4 wood that dropped on. My miss is a hook into the hazard, which I've done more often than I care to admit. I've been in the bunkers, a lot, wide right, short and long. It usually ranges from 165 to 175 to the green center depending on tee placement. 

I do not care about the flag position because frankly, I just want to get on the green, so I am not pin hunting.

I've tried full 5 and 4 irons, partial and full 3H depending on wind, laying up short of the green with a 6 hoping to bounce on. Lately, I been doing a partial 3H to land short on roll on. I carry that about 160, but it is a narrow gap. It should be a full 5 or smooth 4 iron by the distance and drop. Drop is probably 30 - 40 feet.

The green is fairly steep back to front at about a slope of 3 in the middle and there is a tier in the back right. 

I'm not great at bunkers (although better lately) and have thinned a sand shot over the green. The right green side bunker is not a bad place. This year, I've really tried just to avoid the hazard.

But this hole perplexes me and terrifies me at the same time.

View from the tee.

CSH Hole 3.jpg

Layout from above.

CSC Hole 3 Layout.PNG

So what are your thoughts on this Sand Trappers?

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Even though there is the steep drop off in the back, it seems like being long is better than being short in the bunker or hazard.

Since you said it would be a full 5 iron or smooth 4 iron but if it lands on the green and its firm it wont hold the green, you could try increasing the height on the 4 iron? Maybe move it a bit further forward in your stance and tee the ball up a touch higher? Might give it a bit more stopping power into the green. I would think the 4 iron should take the hazard short left mostly out of play, right?

Since you said you hook the ball I'm guessing you have a stock right to left shot shape, I'd think the play is to aim right at the greenside bunker and let the shot shape bring it back towards the center of the green.

 

If I was playing this myself, I hit a fade so I'd aim at the right edge of the white house and let it drift towards the middle of the green, probably playing my 160 club (8 iron) depending on the wind that could be a 7 or a 9 as well.

That would take the short left hazard out of play, and if I took enough club that would mostly take the greenside bunker out of play too even if I did end up going long some of the time, I'd rather try to scramble by chipping up a steep slope than I would hitting out of a bunker knowing there is a steep runoff on the other side of the green.

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Tend to agree that long sounds like the better play.  I think you want a shot that can carry to the back bunker.  The things to avoid are left hazard and short right into either OB or the front two bunkers - those look like difficult bunker shots.  The back bunker should be close enough to the green that you can get out for par or bogey.  I'd play a left to right shot at back bunker distance aiming at left edge of the green.  Maybe it sticks to back of green - good; maybe it goes off back - okay; maybe it fades right into back bunker - okay, bogey still likely worse case.

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It looks like an interesting hole. It might be one of those difficult holes where you just need to execute.

I'm a little surprised there is a 30' drop and the greens are still too firm to hold.

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On one of the courses I play, we have a similar hole.  Much shorter though.  Around 120 to 150 yards, depending on tee box, if memory serves.  Much more of a downhill slope.  Beyond the green is a steep drop off, with rough and beyond that is an OB.  Fortunately it permits a lofted club, but few people are able to drop it on the green and stop it, unless it is the front, or you hit lofted irons with a great deal of spin.

In your case, I assume the green starts at the beginning of the final bunker and before that is fairway.  The easiest solution I see is a smooth shot and run it up to the green via the fairway, if you are unable to get a ball to stop while dropping on the green.  I would probably look at anything from a 5 to 7 iron depending on wind and distance, but reckon those clubs would have enough spin to stop a ball.  Since you are hitting much lower clubs, running it on is the easiest solution

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4 minutes ago, billchao said:

It looks like an interesting hole. It might be one of those difficult holes where you just need to execute.

I'm a little surprised there is a 30' drop and the greens are still too firm to hold.

I agree.  Sometimes you just have to hit the shot.  

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Whatever club you can hit the highest and reach the green. Nice high cut into there and just hope for the best.

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34 minutes ago, Vinsk said:

Whatever club you can hit the highest and reach the green. Nice high cut into there and just hope for the best.

This.  Since you apparently don't want to miss long and my stock shot is a fade, aim for the front of the green, commit to the shot, and if I don't hit the hosel, start praying during the ball flight.  If I get out with a 4 I'm good with that.

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Since I've been working the last year or two on hitting a fade. That's what I'd play. Especially if that flag is in the back part. Just like @klineka said. For me, I'd play my 175 yard club (6 iron). Let the fade take a bit off of it and (ideally) land soft. If the flag is up, then its probably an 8 iron (155 yards). In that case you can be aggressive and attack it, no worries about going long. 

Incidentally, there is a par three on the course upon which I play a tournament every year which had me snake-bit. The best advice I can give you is play that hole all the time. When ever you are at the range imagine this hole and hit balls to it. Be brutally honest with yourself. Would you have hit the green, or would you have landed in trouble? I would hit 5 shots to my imagined "green" every range session. My goal was to land all 5 on the "green". After doing that for a while, the real green doesn't feel so bad. After all, twice this week you were about to land 5 out of 5 on the "green".

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4 hours ago, billchao said:

It looks like an interesting hole. It might be one of those difficult holes where you just need to execute.

I'm a little surprised there is a 30' drop and the greens are still too firm to hold.

They started rolling the greens a few years back and they have continued to get really firm. They are not super fast, ~10 mostly, but the ball really bounces on them. 

I do think the hole is in my head.

4 hours ago, klineka said:

Even though there is the steep drop off in the back, it seems like being long is better than being short in the bunker or hazard.

Since you said it would be a full 5 iron or smooth 4 iron but if it lands on the green and its firm it wont hold the green, you could try increasing the height on the 4 iron? Maybe move it a bit further forward in your stance and tee the ball up a touch higher? Might give it a bit more stopping power into the green. I would think the 4 iron should take the hazard short left mostly out of play, right?

Since you said you hook the ball I'm guessing you have a stock right to left shot shape, I'd think the play is to aim right at the greenside bunker and let the shot shape bring it back towards the center of the green.

 

If I was playing this myself, I hit a fade so I'd aim at the right edge of the white house and let it drift towards the middle of the green, probably playing my 160 club (8 iron) depending on the wind that could be a 7 or a 9 as well.

That would take the short left hazard out of play, and if I took enough club that would mostly take the greenside bunker out of play too even if I did end up going long some of the time, I'd rather try to scramble by chipping up a steep slope than I would hitting out of a bunker knowing there is a steep runoff on the other side of the green.

Agree. I think the hole is just in my head from so many poor attempts. Long is better, but it is still tough to get up and down from the rough there, at least for me. I have been teeing it up higher with the 4 and 3H to get a higher shot.

I wish I could get there on a day with no one there and just try a bunch of shots to get the feel of the hole. But we are usually waiting for the green to clear and just hitting. My shot zone tells me long and right side.

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How about another way to play this hole.  Convert it into a par 4.  Now of course, there is no pressure to hit the green.  Hit a club that will get you onto the fairway every time.  From there chip/pitch it on and you shouldn't ever get more than 4.  Play it like this a few times and the hole doesn't seem so difficult.  Hopefully the heebie jeebies are gone.  Then try stretching to a longer club and attempt to get on the green 😉

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Would a 4 be a good score?  If so, supposing if the green were soft, you'd hit a 4 iron to the green.  Can you hit a 6-iron off the tee, keep it on grass, and then pitch on and down in two (possibly one)? 

When I'm not swinging well, I lay up on a long par-3 with deep dirt bunkers (LA city course, rare to find sand in a bunker) that surround it on three sides.  

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On 8/9/2019 at 4:48 PM, pganapathy said:

How about another way to play this hole.  Convert it into a par 4.  Now of course, there is no pressure to hit the green.  Hit a club that will get you onto the fairway every time.  From there chip/pitch it on and you shouldn't ever get more than 4.  Play it like this a few times and the hole doesn't seem so difficult.

I don't really agree with that strategy on this hole because laying up short into that fairway brings a penalty hazard on the left into play and potentially brings bunkers into play too, and if you are in either of those two bunkers that are closest to the tee box, it looks like it would be a mid range ~20-30+ yd bunker shot with a forced carry over other bunkers. No thanks.

And if you do hit the fairway and the pin is in the back right, you are probably left with a little 30-40yd pitch shot from probably a pretty tight lie over the green side bunker with little room to work with once it lands.

If you play for the back of the green, it takes out the penalty area and eliminates 2 of the bunkers completely and the green side bunker is mostly eliminated too unless you hit a really poor shot. 

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Aim my shot zone rigth of the water hazard with the rigth club. Swing and play the next shot from where it lands. There´s no much you can do with this one.  

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There is a par 3 that is the opening hole at my course I have the same problem with, it plays 175 from the blue tees, 190 from the blacks, short and left is a huge fairway that goes up to the green, water is short and right with a fairly deep bunker in front of the green, with OB 10 yards behind the green. My miss is almost always a sweeping draw that starts at the flag and just keeps going left leaving a tricky downhill pitch.

I think the bunker short would still be a better miss overall, but I can't seem to make myself stop guarding against the weak spinner that is wet every time if the wind gets it.

The wind is almost always left-to-right and a little against. I usually don't have that huge overdraw except for this one bailout shot.

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