This hole looks easy but plays downright nasty if the wind is up. From the fairway the green appears tame. What’s difficult to pick up is the severe extended false front the substantial runoffs to the right and left (into bunkers no less) a steep fall-off near the back and a gentle crown in the middle.
Few trees exist on the course to hinder the free movement of heavy air from Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean to say nothing about the neighboring waters of Hampton Mecox and Bullhead bays (and the smaller Cold Spring Old Fort Middle and Far ponds).
From behind the green the odds of stopping a return pitch close to the hole are long. In fact many attempts roll down the front side of the crown off the green down the fairway and all the way to the bottom of the hill 75 yards short of the green — right where the player started from.
Like it or not green speeds have continued to increase over the last few years. With better grass better mowers and improved maintenance greens have become smoother and healthier nationwide — it’s not uncommon these days to find green speeds of 11 to 12 on high-end courses all over America.
You may also have noticed the unusual array of clubs and balls on the ground in front of me. What I’ve done is created five groups that together represent a typical round of 96 shots in terms of the number of shots hit with each type of club:
I must warn you: The seventh hole features one of the most wicked green complexes you’ll ever find. It’ll play anywhere from 175 to 205 yards and to the largest green on the course. It’s a classic Redan — the putting surface slopes away from the tee box from a high point in the front-right section of the green to seven feet lower in the back-left.
In my opinion the only way to develop this skill is through experience. Pros have the advantage of unlimited practice time but you can begin to catch up with a simple three-shot experiment that I use in my schools. Its entire purpose is to open your eyes to the various backspin outcomes that can be created by the type of lie you’re facing.
Standing on the 18th tee at Shinnecock — with the fairway disappearing beautifully into the distance and the stately clubhouse on the horizon — is one of the singular thrills in golf. As I gazed upon this grand finale I thought of the players who will be taking in the same view come June 17 a possible United States Open Championship within their grasp. What a moment.
That’s right — I pulled an “o-fer.”I left three of the six shots in the rough and dribbled one into the bunker. The remaining ball? I assume it’s still burrowed somewhere deep in the fescue. I never found it.
If you execute about a dozen of these escape swings on the range every time you practice you’ll quickly learn how punch shots typically react after impact. It’s critical to know—and be able to control—how far these shots fly and roll out. There’s nothing worse than hitting an escape shot “perfectly” only to see it carry too far or roll into even greater trouble.
Regardless of which way it’s blowing players must deal with the wind at their backs in their faces and from the left and right in almost equal amounts. “Genius” says Floyd and I agree with him. More than any other major venue on American soil Shinnecock requires those who play it decipher the effects of the wind on every single shot independently. In other words Shinnecock plays no favorites.
Most also spend a majority of their warm-up and practice time grooving or rehearsing their full swings on the range; they may manage to get a few putts in but then it’s usually off to the course for an adventure-filled 18.