There are hundreds of peoples, golf magazines, and other authors who have their own choices of what are the three hardest holes in Golf! The funny thing is, no can decide which three are the hardest. Sure there are a few that show up on most people’s list such at 17th at TPC Sawgrass, The Road Hole at St Andrews and few others. More importantly nobody can come up with a definitive list of which three are the hardest. By the way, I feel 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 three holes in golf. Well that was until now!
I know what are the three toughest holes in golf.
Here is my list of the three hardest holes in golf. They are… Really, they are the first three holes any of us golfers play that day. The first three holes you play, no matter what course, no matter what time of year and no matter where on earth you tee it up, those first three holes you will play will be the toughest three holes for a variety of mental and physical reasons. Trust me, I have watched too many golfersand too many students butcher or nearly butcher those first three holes. By the way that butchering of the first three holes, I can raise my hand high and say, guilty!
Good golf course designers even try to make the first three holes of the course some of the easiest holes on a golf course just for that reason, to give the player a chance to score well. Then of course you get that one course designer who is just a 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! Lack of, in many cases, physical and/or mental preparation on our part. The first hole no matter how simple or difficult it maybe nearly all of us go into that hole 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 which can lead to typically a very ugly tee shot. Secondly on the first hole we are mentally unprepared. Just to tee off we are searching for tees, the balls we want to use, our glove feels stiff, this does not feel right or that does not feel right and we in general are just disorganized. Then to top it off we subconsciously feel rushed. Again something very ugly is about to happen.
What do we do, hit a far less than perfect drive! Typically a big slice!
Typically it has not gotten a whole better by the time we get to the second shot. “where the hell did I put that range finder or if the player uses a golf buddy that a golf course needs to be located, a good chance we are still trying to get that set up right. 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 from still being tight. In most cases a less than typical shot into the green.
Needless to say on that first hole, we hit a bad chip and pray for a 2 putt bogie. But again lack of understanding the speed we might 3 putt for a double.
Damn was that a tough hole! The problem is, we feel we worked hard just for a ugly bogie or double bogie!
The second hole is not much better although we do mentally feel more calmed down from a preparation stand point and on the other hand we also are very upset at the score of the first hole but still we feel more organized. Many of our shots on the second hole are the same on this hole as the last simply due to, in most cases our muscles. But the difference is; we pull out one good shot on this hole and typically get a bogie maybe even got a lucky par. Yet our confidence is building, that hole did not feel as much of a train wreck as the first hole did.
Hmm, so now you have seen and played two of the toughest holes in golf! What do you think the third toughest hole in golf is? The very next hole we play, the third hole of the round. Now the designer maybe throwing a twist or two in and we are just now starting to feel better about our game as 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, this time it is typically mental such as on a simple shot over a bunker or such. So after butchering a drive or two, maybe scalding an iron, flubbing a pitch into a bunker and a couple of three putts put into the mixture, we are about 4 maybe 5 over par, already.
As you can now 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 it up at the beginning of each round.
I think all of you already have figured out what some of my next comments will be to turn this around and 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 well that is in a future article). Taking a little time and hitting 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 even if I do what’s the point I typically do not have time to warm up anyhow. Well I realize that is the case and there are a few simple things as well you can do.
Number one, spend a couple minutes the night before getting ready for the first tee. I use a little bag that has a couple of tees, green repair tool, my ball markers for the green and two golf balls. Ready to go and I am not on the first tee digging around feeling rushed. How simple is that and saves you about two minutes of NOT feeling rushed.
Number two, my Michael Jackson imitation is next (that should show my age). WHAT! I actually wear my glove to the course (remember Michael use to perform with one glove) so even if I am not limbered up at least the leather glove has gotten worked out. Too often I see people I am playing with and students on the first tee tugging, slapping their glove and such to get it shaped to their hand before teeing off. Again feeling rushed and wasting time.
Number three, if you can do some loosening, do it. If not and you can take some slow practice swings on the tee box of course do it. You have already saved time with number one and two.
Number four, play it safe! What I mean by that is on the first tee or even maybe two holes, I will just 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 that BIG BANANA SLICE into the woods or some other hazard. So play it safe, choose a club you are comfortable with, sacrifice a few yards but at least keep it in play.
Number five, the second shot, if you are not warmed up and you have an eight iron into the green, do yourself a favor, grab your seven iron and swing smoothly (you probably are never going to knock 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 four examples of what to do to bring the three toughest holes in golf into three manageable holes in golf. I am sure if you think of it, you can define another three to five items to add to the list.
Joe Blanc, NPGIA
2012 National Golf School “Teacher of the Year”