The eighth hole at Royal Troon Golf Club on Scotland’s west coast is a tiny par 3 of just 123 yards.
In fact, it’s the shortest hole on any course in the Open Championship rotation. But this diminutive one-shotter plays much tougher than its yardage thanks to a very small green surrounded by several cavernous bunkers. The hole’s appearance reminded the great Willie Park of a postage stamp, and a colorful term was born.
A “postage stamp” green is typically found on a short par 3, and sometimes par 4s and 5s, where the golfer must play a very accurate wedge or short iron to hit and hold the putting surface. You’ll no doubt come across a “postage stamp” green every now and then – the iconic seventh hole at Pebble Beach, a 107-yard par 3, is another example – so keep these things in mind as you prepare for the shot:
- Aim for the center of the green: It’s almost never a bad idea to play toward the middle of the green, since you’ll usually finish within 40 feet of the flag. It’s an even smarter play on a “postage stamp” hole. For one thing, the green’s miniature size means any ball in the center should be within 30 feet of the cup, and possibly quite close. For another, the green’s center is farthest from those troubling bunkers or rough which ring the “dance floor.”
In other words, don’t get greedy. The safe play will still give you a decent chance at birdie.
- Hoist the ball high: The smaller the green, the more risk of bouncing over it. To hit your wedge or short iron with extra height, simply move the ball an inch forward in your stance. For example, if you typically play these shots with the ball centered between your feet, move it an inch toward the left (lead) foot. This will effectively add loft to the club for a higher launch and softer landing.
- Careful not to airmail it: Assuming the green tilts from back to front, as most do, the last place you want to miss is long – especially if there’s sand or thick rough back there. When caught between clubs (a pitching wedge and gap wedge, for instance), take the shorter one as long as you’re comfortable of reaching the front of the green. Hitting it with a nice, full swing will also generate the extra height needed to stick the landing.
You may never have the good fortune to play Royal Troon or Pebble Beach, but odds are you’ll find yourself staring down a “postage stamp” clone sooner or later.
Take the proper approach and you’ll have a great chance to lick the little monster.