Monday, July 14, 2008

Is the 3 Shot Par 5 Dead?

This is the subject of a post at the Press Tent blog just before the Open Championship. The Open is hosted at Royal Birkdale, a place of which Peter Dawson of the R&A declared that the game had moved on from, but came back there anyway after lengthening is, despite saying in 2005 that the distance gains in the golf ball had stopped. (I could go on with the contradictions all day.)

Interestingly enough, it was the Open Doctor Rees Jones who said this:

Rees Jones, the golf course architect, was saying the other day that in flat, still conditions, a true par-5 for a Tour player must be at least 600-yards long, and even that might not be enough. The traditional post-War World II American golf course -- par 72, with four par-5s -- is now dead.
Very curious that Rees would be saying this considering that he has been behind par 5 conversions to excruciatingly long par 4s in recent years for major championships. No wonder he is declaring the concept dead - most of the time, he prefers to be lazy and convert holes to 4s instead of doing something imaginative with the 5s. Thank God for Mike Davis keeping 18 at Torrey as a 5.

Jones was also pimping out his work that will be on display next month at Oakland Hills.
"To have a true par-5 for the Tour player," Jones said, "you have to present them with something very penal in the landing area of the missed second shot, water or waste bunker or something else, at about the 575 mark." That, Jones explained, is how you get the hole in the head of the elite player. Otherwise, it's bombs away.
The best we can do is a bunker or a hazard to get into guys' heads? Really?! How about a dogleg, or an oddly aligned green? Perhaps a two-tiered fairway that is filled with rough between 300 and 350 yards? Rees loves rough, so why not encourage him to use it. How about sloping fairways and uneven lies?

Or even stranger - maybe it's ok to give guys the incentive to go for it on a lengthy par 5. How about Tiger Woods at 13 at Torrey? He had big enough of an ego to go for it, and he paid.

Weirder is that Rees appears to be contradicting himself. The American Society of Golf Course Architects spoke with him on the eve of the US Open and he said this:
The 18th hole will play at 550 yards, giving most players the option of going over the pond and to the green in 2. This should create a lot of drama on this final hole! We also rebuilt the bunkers, repositioning them and making them deeper. Their shapes and slopes will render an unpredictable lie from a player’s errant shot.
So, there are things that can be done with a hole that is shorter than 600 yards that could determine if a player goes for the green or not. In addition, he mentions the importance of lie in a player's decision to go for a green. This should apply not just to the bunker, but also to the fairway.

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