U.S. AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Drivable Par 4s Add Intrigue to Match Play Strategy
May 23, 2016 | MAMARONECK, N.Y.
By Bill Fields
When matches in the 2nd U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship move to the inward nine of Winged Foot Golf Club’s East Course, things could get interesting in a hurry.
That’s because there are three short par 4s – Nos. 10, 11 and 15 – that figure to produce fireworks due to the USGA’s plans to set up one of them as a drivable hole during each round of match play.
“I absolutely love the idea,” said Josh Lampley, who is partnering with Brandon Laird. “That’s what makes these things fun, especially in match play, to have a chance to drive a green and maybe make an eagle. But they can be tough; just because you get it pin-high in a bunker on your drive, it’s no guaranteed birdie.”
No. 10 plays toward Winged Foot’s iconic Tudor clubhouse. A broad, 100-foot-tall elm tree, estimated to be 250 years old, guarded the green until it became diseased in 1993 and had to be cut down. The 10th will measure 300 yards – 53 yards in front of the back tee – to a green that’s well bunkered, but no longer as well protected by what was one of the most famous trees in golf.
The 11th, a dogleg-right of 361 yards situated right behind the clubhouse, will also play 300 yards from its forward tee.
“Our team can reach 10 and 11 from the up tees,” said Dylan Wu, who is teaming with Andrew Whalen. “Andrew’s a long hitter. Our strategy on those holes would be to have one person hit it down the fairway and free up the other person to go for the green. You need to have one ball in the fairway.”
No. 15, which plays over a small pond to an elevated, sloping green, will be shortened from its usual 336 yards to 309 yards. Due to the water hazard and severe putting surface, it will pose the most risk for an aggressive strategy.
“If you miss the green at 15, there’s no relief there and if you miss the green you’re lucky to make par,” said Patrick Christovich. He and partner Garrett Rank, in fact, might not be tempted by the drivable setup. “It depends on the situation in a match,” Christovich added. “I’d like to be aggressive, but if we’re hitting the ball well, having two balls in the fairway with wedges in our hands is tough to beat.”
Championship director Bill McCarthy said there are other par 4s on the East Course that could be shortened to drivable distance but would lack half of the risk-reward element.
“They have wide approaches and would really turn into long par 3s with not a lot of risk,” McCarthy said. “Every player would crank one and go for it. With 10, 11 and 15, if one is drivable on a certain day, we want the players to stop and think. I believe that if 60 percent of the players go for it, that’s a successful drivable par 4, because it involves thinking and risk.”
And a potential payoff.
“I know it’s just one hole,” Laird said, “but making a 2 on a par 4 to win the hole is a big momentum-grabber.”
Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer who contributes regularly to USGA websites.