To launch a good wedge shot it’s important to strike the little white ball (with the dimples) before you hit the big green one (the earth). And since every swing has a bottom to its arc you need to position the white orb just behind it so that your contact goes “white-then-green”—not vice versa.
Of course a lot of players will successfully avoid the trouble and land their tee shots on the green. Even in this scenario No. 7 can still derail a player’s hopes of winning the championship. In fact you can stick it to four feet and still have problems.
The 16th green is the third-smallest at Shinnecock and falls nearly five feet as it slopes continuously from back to front. Its gentle contouring will yield birdies and you can expect many of the bigger hitters to go for the green in two.
No. 4 is a slight dogleg right with a welcoming look off the tee. No matter which way or how hard the wind blows players will find getting their second shot on the green a breeze — the opening to the putting surface is about as wide as you’ll find at Shinnecock. Getting the ball in the hole is the tricky part. The green has only minor contours but they’re there and they must be read correctly for any shot at birdie.
At my schools we preach the importance of the 20-foot putting stroke since 20 feet is the most common putt length in golf. So any student of mine facing a 15-foot putt on the course will preview some small adjustment to that 20-foot reference stroke during their pre-putt routine factoring in the other conditions of the putt that are computed as you read the green such as slope break grain wind etc.
And other golfers don’t take practice strokes at all. I’m simply recommending that you try the preview strokes I’ve described here and putt with your last thought being “That’s perfect!” rather than “I hope what I’ve been thinking feeling and doing are right.”
This applies to weekend golfers and PGA and LPGA Tour professionals alike. So regardless of skill level the goal of every golfer should be to build an escape strategy that not only gets you out of trouble but gets you into a better position than you would have been in had your last swing not been a bad one. This keeps the damage caused be a poor swing to less than a stroke.
In the photo below I’m standing on the beautiful and meandering Shinnecock Hills G.C. site of last month’s U.S. Open. If you’ve never played Shinnecock before believe me when I tell you that for most weekend golfers shooting better than 96 on this course is an achievement!
Can you believe that a relatively short downhill 415-yard par 4 — with no water out-of-bounds or obviously penal hazards — can play as the most-over-par hole in U.S. Open history? It looks so innocuous.
As you can see the green is high in the back right and has more than four feet of elevation change down to the front-center. The putting surface slopes away from both the left- and right-side bunkers making it difficult to stop sand shots close to short-sided pins.
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.
I attempted this shot during my fall visit to Shinnecock. I softly slipped a wide-open 64-degree wedge under the ball landing the shot just three feet in front of my lie. I played this shot as well as I could’ve played it.