Professional golfers now hit the ball so far, we’re seeing holes of up to 520 yards designated as par 4s.
The distance is not a big deal for pros, all of whom can cover that length in two shots. But it does change their expectations for the hole, which can affect how they play it – and that’s a trap amateurs must be careful to avoid.
Let’s say you’re playing a hole with a distance at the limit of your two best shots; let’s call it 450 yards. Would you approach it differently if the hole were a par 4 rather than a par 5? You shouldn’t. Unless you’re a low-handicapper, chances of making 4 on such a hole are slim. But a 5 may be well within your grasp if you simply play conservatively.
First of all, forget about making the green in regulation (two shots for a par 4) and play it as a three-shot hole. If the tee shot is fraught with peril, hit a fairway wood or hybrid to be on the safe side; it won’t matter if you’re too far back to reach with your second shot. If there’s trouble in front of the green, lay up short and pitch on. Getting too aggressive in pursuit of a par greatly increases your chances of making double-bogey or worse. Conversely, if you think of it as a three-shot hole, you could find yourself with a makeable par putt.
Determine how far your best drive and longest fairway wood will travel – for example, 450 yards. Play any hole in that range or longer as a par 5, no matter what the scorecard says.
You’ll eliminate those dreaded big numbers, and make a surprising number of pars in the process.