To go or not to go, that’s is always the question on drivable par 4s. They’ve played a prominent role in recent PGA tournaments, entertaining fans and challenging the finest. Last weekend’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera came down to a playoff between perennial fan favorite Phil Mickelson, last year’s PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, and Tour Championship and Fedex Cup winner Bill Haas. In a sudden death playoff, all three players decided to go for the green on the drivable 10th hole.
“You’re just trying to make four, believe it or not. It’s only 280, 290 yards, but you’re trying to make par,” says Mickelson. After all three players missed the green, Haas got up and down for birdie with a 40-foot putt to win.
Kukuiula’s golf course designer Tom Weiskopf also has an affinity for drivable par-4’s, and has included at least one on each of his course designs. “When I played St. Andrews in 1968 practicing for my first British Open, there were four holes on which I could drive my ball onto the green from the tee – they were 9, 10, 12 and 18,” says Weiskopf. “I never drove them all on the same day, but I thought, well that’s a lot of fun, that drivable par four. So in 1986, when I started designing my first golf course, I knew for sure I was going to make at least one drivable par four on every one of my courses. We’ve done 67 courses, and we’ve done 73 or 74 drivables.”
Kukuiula’s 11th hole is a perfect example. Measuring 278 yards in length from the middle tees, the slightly uphill par-4 is protected by a large bunkers lining the left side of the hole. However, the fairly open right side allows players with the distance, like Kukuiula Club Professional Brian Paul, to go for the green on their drive. For more conservative players, Paul recommends looking at which side of the green the flag stick is on and favor that side of the fairway off the tee. “The last time Tom Weiskopf was here, he explained the ideal strategy for playing the hole for those who do not opt to go for the green. First, determine which side of the green the flagstick is and play to that side of the hole,” Paul says. “When the hole is cut left of the greenside bunker complex, play up the left side of the fairway for a clear view of the flag for your approach.” Paul’s advice: “Commit to your plan of either playing for the green or playing for position and try not to let yourself be distracted by the incredible beauty that surrounds you.”