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When Does A Driveable Par 4 Become Just A Long Par 3?

I love TPC Boston's short par-4 fourth because a Deutsche Bank spectator can still hang out there, see a variety of shots, and every few groups witness some special shotmaking. But with modern distances surging in the five years since Gil Hanse and Brad Faxon unveiled this replacement hole on the site of the old fourth hole, the character has changed due to forces out of the architect's control.

Because the hole plays so short (it's that core work the flatbellies have all been doing!), there really is only one option and therefore little tension is created by players facing a risk-reward dilemma. The only real issue now is a choice between driver or 3-wood, or, in the case of the insanely long Gary Woodland's of the world, a decision between 3-wood and 2-iron.

Check out the ShotLink scatter shot most of the way through round 2:

(Click image to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge this close-up of TPC Boston's 4th)

Currently the hole is playing to a 3.671 scoring average, playing as the second easiest hole. But that's not the issue. Easy is fine, but easy because equipment renders the options meaningless, that's lousy!

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Reader Comments (12)

Geoff - thanks for the larger sizes upon embiggening! Much easier for these older eyes to see.....
09.3.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
I don't know if I agree with your point there, Geoff. The hole might not present a decision whether or not to go for the green, but since it's impossible to go for the pin due to the green's design, there still is a decision to be made as to where to place your tee shot in order to get an easy three. The same applies to the much-maligned 15th at AAC in the recent PGA. Reachable green but unaccessible pin is perfectly fine in my book, it promotes thought and strategy and the same principle can be seen on many world-class two-shotters (the Road hole and Augusta's 13th to name two). And it doesn't matter one iota what Par is.
09.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
It MUST be those new elliptical exercise machines...or Foley's theories are spreading like a fungus...or Ben Crane's snakeshake workouts are catching can't be the ball/club technology....can it?

The hole could be 15yds longer and the green/bunker complex been designed like a giant redan on streoids. Large sloped greens tend to punish short length pitches that aren't struck correctly.

I like short holes...but anything under 330yds is like a par three for professional golfers...depending on the weather/design of course!
09.4.2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Tell Gil to add a mountain in front of the green. An Alps hole could be an answer.
09.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteven T
The only way these risk-reward holes would work is, of course, with the presence of risk. Making a par four driveable (or a par three almost unreachable) won't work if there isn't RISK. And by that, I mean water, OB or some other type of penalty. Miss your tee shot at the fourth at Boston, and you end up in a swale or a bunker... Big deal.
Think of the 15th at Atlanta (for the PGA), but with a bail-out area, with a length of anywhere from 275-325... The green tucked right up against the pond. Now the boys will think...
09.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy
Why is this hole consider a par 4 when the no. 15 at the PGA championship was labeled a par 3?

It is a good thing this hole is a par 4. How much complaining would we hear from the pros if they had to face another unreachable par 3?

I think the hole needs a water hazard (I know, out of character for the course) but that would increase the risk, much like no. 15 at AAC.

Looking at the shot diagram, I think a pond to the right of the green could increase the risk. If you really want to screw up the hole, let's add an elevated tee so the players, "can see what's out there in front of them." (paraphrase of great golf course designer Tiger Woods)
09.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott
Geoff, I think you're discounting the fact that these are PLAYOFFS golfers! Not your everyday, run-of-the-mill, PGA TOUR pros. Those guys would be laying up, I'm sure.
09.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott
I think the true measurement would be in the eagle/bogey ratio. The chart above didn't show very many balls in tight for an easy eagle. Ideally the risk would be in going left, or going over the green into a difficult or impossible up and down.
09.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Par is man made and arbitrary. If the same hole is a par 3 one day and a par 4 the next, should you play it different? Didn't Hogan play a long par 3 in a major he won by laying up each day? Who cares what some bureaucrat says par is. Think for yourself based on your strengths and weaknesses. Zach won the Masters laying up each time. I believe he would have averaged better than 3.61 laying up on this hole also. The problem is no one wants to look like a sissy, even is it cost them strokes. (Including me of course. I swing away like a howler monkey on the cream and the clear every chance I get. If I could get me a Canadian doc like Eldrick,maybe it would pay off once in a while).
09.4.2011 | Unregistered Commentercalvin coolidge
@calvin: Billy Casper layed up on a long par 3 at Winged Foot way back when. I remember them saying how he did it all 4 days and parred the hole each time.
09.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Thanks for the memory.
09.4.2011 | Unregistered Commentercalvin coolidge
Geoff, I think your point is that the shot locations are all pretty much centered on the near right edge of the green with a dispersal of misses left (in the bunker) and right (past the green), indicating that pretty much everyone tried to get the ball to the same spot on the green. Perhaps a similar scatterplot from Rivera 10 would show how there were several different groupings, showing that golfers weren't unanimous in how they played the hole.
09.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterF. X. Flinn

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