The South's best reachable par-5s
ATLANTA, Ga. -- Any discussion about the reachable par-5 (a par-5 designed to entice the players to get to the green in two strokes) begins with (and could very well end with) the 510-yard 13th at Augusta National. Considered in many circles to be the greatest par-5 on the planet, it's certainly the best short par-5 in golf. The 13th does to perfection what this type of hole is supposed to do, which is to lure players into bold yet dangerous play by dangling in front of them the possibility of eagle.
The reachable par-5 can be the most satisfying kind of golf hole as well, because while it teases us with the elusive eagle it also tests the execution of two long, well-played clubs. Reaching the green in less than regulation is its own reward, even if birdie or eagle is missed.
The long player loves the hole. It's a golden chance to be daring and take a stroke away from par. The tournament spectator is equally enthralled by it, especially when the hole is placed late in the round to ensure that no lead is safe.
Take for example the 492-yard 17th at Castle Pines Golf Club in Denver, site of the International. With it positioned as the penultimate hole and reachable with an iron by virtually the entire field the International is never quite over until each player has passed through the 17th.
In the 2002 tournament Steve Lowery, coming off a rare eagle at 15, pulled off the even more unlikely double-eagle at 17 putting a colossal, victory-threatening dent into eventual winner Rich Beem's once sizable lead.
The 17th at Castle Pines is a green light hole for the entire field-assuming the drive is placed in the fairway-because there is no real hazard near the green. What makes the 13th at Augusta National so effective-also a green light hole, although less so now that it has been lengthened-is that it can punish as much as it can reward.
A deep tributary to Rae's Creek crosses diagonally in front of the large green from the right side to short left. To complicate the matter there are virtually no level spots in the fairway-the slope of the hole is severely uphill from the tee before bending left toward the green; unless a long, perfect draw is executed the approach shot will be hit from some type of hanging lie. Add this to the fact that it's the last stage in arguably the greatest trio of tournament golf holes and it's easy to figure out why the 13th at Augusta National is the model short par-5.
As proven at Castle Pines, tournament play can benefit from a second-nine reachable par-5. At the Tournament Players Club at Sugarloaf in Duluth, Georgia, site of the BellSouth Classic, the 18th is a wild par-5. At 576 yards this wouldn't seem to fall into the reachable category, but the severe downhill nature of the approach affords those players who are able to move their drives down to the lower level of fairway a great long-iron look at the green nestled tightly behind a pond. With plenty of birdies as well as balls in the water, the 18th can be as exciting as any on tour in a tight tournament.
At the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra, Florida, The PLAYERS Championship is rarely decided at the 529-yard 11th, but year in and year out this reachable par-5 is one of the most entertaining holes to watch.
Players can hit everything they've got off the tee. As long as they miss the large waste bunker on the left they'll have a good look at the green and yet no clear path on how to attack it. Options abound: lay-up straight ahead for an awkward third over the water, lay-up to the left of the green for a better angle, or blast away. From the fairway most will choose to go for it, but that shot must clear a diagonal water hazard and a moat of sand surrounding the shallow, tabletop green. Like the 13th at Augusta, failure to make a four here usually means losing a valuable shot to the field.
An hour down the coast from Ponte Vedra is Ocean Hammock, a sensational Jack Nicklaus course built along the Atlantic Ocean dunes. Here the14th hole introduces to the conversation a new variation of the reachable par-5. At 551 yards and bending gently to the right this is a three shot hole for most, but the design offers an alternate route for the swashbuckling type that makes the green potentially reachable.
Water lines the entire hole on the right so the prudent tee ball favors the left side of the large fairway. Yet on a direct line over the water, to the right of a dividing bunker, is an isthmus that can be reached with a 250-yard carry from the tournament tees. From there the second shot, again cutting over the water, is in the 235-yard range. Fearless play chops this hole down to a more manageable distance.
A similar, and more visually spectacular, hole is found at World Woods Golf Club on the opposite side of the state. The fourth at the Pine Barrens Course is a light 494 yards and features a more attainable alternate landing area. Like the 14th at Ocean Hammock the safe drive is to the left, away from a cavernous sand gorge that dominates the right, but 230 yards directly across the hazard is another alluring fairway segment.
The complexity at Pine Barrens is that while the aggressive play shortens the hole slightly, it doesn't afford the best angle to the green for the second since all the trouble here is on the right. For many the preferable play will remain the left route-away from and around the deep pits-but those who have taken the risk to get over the right side are almost obliged to try another heroic shot for the green.
The first hole on Tiburon Golf Club's Gold Course, a Greg Norman design at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, is a reachable par-5 with intriguingly stark options. The championship tee distance of 573 yards might make it moot for all but longest of players but the men's tees-at 475 yards-present an intriguing option.
Drives played out approximately 250 yards to the edge of a water hazard jutting into the fairway on the left will get a good look at the green just over 200 yards away over the lake. Of course the meek option is to bunt two more irons to the right around the water and a stand of trees, but the opportunity for a do-or-die shot over the top of the trees and water is too much to pass up for some.
Mystic Dunes, Orlando, No. 6, 510 yards is one long curve left around a wetlands, two-aggressive shots over the hazard shorten the hole considerably, but then there's the two-tiered green.
Lake Jovita, South Course, Dade City, Fla., No. 9, 534 yards. Hit as much as you can off the tee, then try to cut a second shot around the big oaks. Or just go over them.
The Dunes, near Brooksville, Fla., No. 17, 508 yards. A rugged sand wash obscures the view of the upper fairway from the lower but a giant bulls-eye target helps you to aim your blind, uphill second shot.
The Plantation Course, Sea Island Resort, Ga., No. 18, 492 yards. The wide fairway encourages big drives but doesn't help in the decision whether or not to try an all or nothing shot over the lake to a perched green that seems to float on the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.
The Harbor Club, Greensboro, Ga., No. 5, 549 yards. Choice: three shots around the sunken wetlands, or one up to the edge and another 230-plus yards right over the top to the green below.
July 6, 2003