The green is the second-largest on the course with a consistent elevation drop of four feet from back to front (though mild undulations help channel shots toward the center of the green). Depending on the wind direction don’t be surprised to see some players swing driver here. It’s an absolute beast.
For fun I walked to where PGA Tour ShotLink data says is the average miss distance on a shot taken by a Tour player from 260 yards of the target — about the yardage players will face in the Open on No. 2. This miss pattern puts the ball in the deep rough next to the bunker left of the green.
But hey don’t just take my word for it. Keep a written record of how many times you use each club over the next couple of rounds. That way you’ll know for sure what you should be focusing your practice efforts on. I can assure you that the more time you spend on the most frequent shots in your game the more they’ll improve and the faster your scores will drop.
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.
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.
When I think of Shinnecock Hills two words come to mind: “national treasure.” As a researcher and golfer who has dedicated nearly four decades of his life to developing swing- and course-management strategies to help players shoot better scores it remains the ultimate test — if you can outthink this place you can outthink anyplace. I paid a visit to the William Flynn masterpiece last fall walking the fairways with my son Eddie and even playing a few shots. It was as vexing as ever.
My final plea in defense of the preview stroke is that you’re already tapping its power every time you play — you just don’t realize it. Picture this: You miss the green. When you consider the myriad conditions surrounding your lie you realize that the chip or pitch you now face is unlike any other you’ve ever attempted.
This change in grip position effectively shortens the clubshaft and takes a slight amount of power out of the swing making it a little easier to keep greenside shots under control.
Here’s how it works: If you’re facing a short putt I want you to preview the short stroke you think will get the ball in the hole by physically replicating it from start to finish.
Then it hits you: “Wow what a tough hole!” At 484 yards it demands an accurate drive in the fairway and another 200-yard-plus shot uphill to an elevated green. Corey Pavin needed 4-wood to get home in two on No. 18 during the final round in 1995 en route to victory. Today’s players are a lot longer than Corey but so is the hole and there’s only so much you can bite off with your tee shot. The approach remains a bona fide killer.
Even if you aim perfectly to allow for the exact break of a putt if you then roll your ball too fast it will miss above the hole. And if you roll it too slowly it will likely miss below the cup.
Adding to the difficulty is the fact that Shinnecock’s greens run faster than Flynn originally intended. Shortly after he redesigned the course in 1931 (Shinnecock dates back to 1891) the USGA began measuring how fast and far balls rolled on level putting surfaces calling the measurement “green speed.”