By Joe Blanc, FL Golf Schools Teaching Professional
There are hundreds of people, golf magazines and other authors who have their own opinions of what the 3 hardest holes in golf are. The funny thing is that no one can decide which 3 are the hardest. There are a few that show up on most peoples’ lists such as the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, The Road Hole at St. Andrews and a few others. By the way, I felt lucky the first time I played Sawgrass. I dropped my shot about 4 feet from the pin and birdied that hole!! So there is no definitive list of the hardest 3 holes in golf, that is until now!!
I Know What are the 3 Toughest Holes in Golf
Here is my list of the 3 hardest hole in golf;
The first 3 holes any golfer plays that day, no matter what course, no matter what time of year and no matter where on earth you tee it up. Those first 3 holes you play will be the toughest 3 hole you play for a variety of mental and physical reasons. Trust me, I have watched too many golfers and too many students butcher those first 3 holes. By the way, the butchering of the first 3 holes, I can raise my hand high and say guilty!
Good golf course designers even try to make the first 3 holes of the course some of the easiest holes on the golf course to give the player a chance to score well. Then of course you get that one designer who is just statistic bastard and makes the first hole a 460 yard par four with a pond, four or five bunkers, a few trees thrown in and a green that reminds us of some nasty roller coaster!!
I Know most of you are Thinking, Horse Hockey, how can that be??
It is simple! It is lack of, in many cases, physical and/or mental preparation on our part. The first hole no matter how simple or difficult it may be nearly all us will go into it unprepared. We have either rushed to the course, did not have time to loosen up at home or at the range so we are tight on that first tee and that may lead to a very ugly tee shot. Secondly, on the first hole we may be mentally unprepared. When we tee off we might be searching for tees, balls we want to use, our glove feels stiff, this doesn’t feel right or that doesn’t feel right we are just unorganized. To top it off we subconsciously feel rushed. Something very ugly is about to happen.
What Do We Do? We Hit a Far Less Than Perfect Drive!! Typically a Big Slice!!
Usually it has not gotten much better by the time we get to the second shot. Where the hell did I put that range finder or why can’t I set up my golf buddy to locate the course? More rushing, more uncertainty and again another less than pure shot to the green is typically the flaw. Our second is more than likely one of two shots short by 10 yards because we still are tight or a worm burner over the green as we came out of the shot and we’re still tight. In most cases a less than typical shot into the green ensues. Needless to say, on that first hole we hit a bad chip and pray for a 2 putt bogie. Lack of understanding the speed we might 3 putt for a double. Damn that was a tough hole!! The problem is that we feel we have worked hard just for an ugly bogie or double bogie!!
The second hole is not much better. Although we do mentally feel calm from a preparation standpoint, on the other hand we are also very upset at the score of the first hole. Still, we feel more organized. Many of our shots on the second hole are the same as the last simply due to (in most cases) our muscles. The difference is we pull out one good shot on this hole and typically get a bogie maybe even get a lucky par. Yet our confidence is building. That hole did not feel as much of a train wreck as the first did.
Hmmm, so now you have seen and played 2 of the toughest holes in golf. What do you think the third toughest hole in golf is? The very next hole we play!! Now the designer may have thrown a twist or two in and we’re just starting to feel better about our game because our body is more prepared and our mind is getting in the right place. We struggle a little and may even blow a shot or two but this time it is not about our physical game as much as our mental game. There is a simple shot over a bunker, after butchering a drive or two or maybe scalding an iron, flubbing a pitch into a bunker and a couple of three putts put into the mixture leaves us 4 or 5 over par already.
As you can see the three toughest holes in golf are not at Sawgrass, Pebble Beach, Augusta National or St. Andrews. The three toughest holes are those three we tee up at the beginning of each round.
I think all of you have already figured out what some of my next comments will be to turn this around. Yes, some are common sense such as putting before the round and learning to calibrate greens before you go out and play (if you do not know how to do that it will be in a future article.” Also take a little time and hit at least a warm up bucket of balls before swinging the club at the first tee. Yes those are the two most common and I am sure some of you are rolling your eyes thinking “duh.” Many of you are also thinking you are not always going to get there early or if I do what’s the point. I typically don’t have time to warm up anyways. Well I realize that is the case and there are a few simple things as well that you can do.
- Spend a couple minutes the night before getting ready for the first tee. I use a little bag that has a couple tees, green repair tool, my ball markers for the green and 2 golf balls. I am not on the first tee digging around and feeling rushed but ready to go. How simple is that? It will save you about 2 minutes of not feeling rushed.
- My Michael Jackson imitation is next (that should show my age.) What!! I actually wear my glove to the course (remember Michael used to preform with one glove) so even if I am not limbered up at least the leather glove has gotten a workout. Too often I see people I am playing with and students on the first tee tugging and slapping their glove to get it shaped to their hand before teeing off. Again they are feeling rushed and wasting time.
- If you can do some loosening, do it!! If not and you can take some slow practice swings on the tee box do it!! You have already saved time with numbers 1 and 2.
- Play it safe!! What I mean by that is on the first tee or even maybe 2 holes, I will just hit a hybrid off of the tee vs. the driver. Sure I lose some yardage but maybe just one club. Face reality, pulling out the big dawg on the first tee and if you are not loose something very very ugly is probably going to happen. If you do connect about 90% of the time, here comes the BIG BANANA SLICE into the woods or some other hazard. So play it safe and choose a club you are comfortable with and sacrifice a few yards but at least keep it in play.
- The second shot, if you are not warmed up and you have an eight iron into the green, do yourself a favor and grab your seven iron and swing smoothly (you probably are never going to knock it over the green on the first three holes.) I encourage my students to try to use too much club in those cases and so far I have yet to have one student knock the shot over the green. So, when in doubt, go up a club. I have given you just 5 examples of what to do to bring the 3 toughest holes in golf into 3 manageable holes in golf. I am sure if you think of it you can define another 3 to 5 items to add to the list.