How to Play a Golf Hole that’s Got Your Number

Every golfer has a nemesis, a Waterloo, a hole that gets him every time. (Some of us, unfortunately, have many such holes.)

The more times we play the hole and fail, the worse our fear of it becomes. Often, it’s a single mistake that crops up time after time – a slice into the right woods, perhaps, or a fat approach into a pond. Maybe it’s something different every round. You stripe a tee shot down the middle, knock your second on the green and think you’ve finally licked your arch-enemy – then you three-putt for bogey.

What to do when a hole’s got your number? How about trying a completely different – even radical – approach?

Here’s a hypothetical:

Your problem hole is a 415-yard par 4 with woods down the left side and plenty of room to the right. And somehow, you always manage to drive it into those trees. From there it’s a sideways pitch-out and fingers crossed that you can salvage bogey.

Because of the hole’s length, you feel compelled to hit driver from the tee. Otherwise, you’ll be too far back to comfortably reach the green with your second shot. Ask yourself: Am I better off with a longer shot from the fairway, or playing from the trees? Next time, gear back to a 3-wood or hybrid, aim for the safe right side and get the ball in play. Odds are you’ll have no trouble making bogey, and you might walk away with par.

If that doesn’t work, simply play the hole as a par 5 the next go-round. Hit a 5-iron off the tee, lay up to give yourself an easy pitch, knock it on the green and two-putt for “par” – or one-putt for “birdie.” It may seem boring, but you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache, if not a stroke or two.

Sometimes, a super-conservative strategy is your only hope against an unbeatable hole. Other times, a more aggressive mindset may be the key to defeating your personal demon.

If you step onto a tee box just knowing double-bogey awaits, why not take a chance with a new approach? Just as every golfer has a nemesis, every hole can be had. You’ve just got to figure out how.