Easy to recognize, but dangerous to approach too closely, the Wedge golfer is the one who normally goes from tee to green without touching the fairway… the one who has to shout ‘Fore’ when he putts.
Michael Green (adapted) – The Art of Coarse Golf
The 2012 Wedge will not be won by the team with the most skill, nor the team with the most luck. It will be won by the team that employs the best course management around our glorious old links. With this in mind, here is my hole by hole guide on how to plot your way around the course. Take it or leave it, after all I can only point you in the right direction, but suffice to say this is how I like to do it.
The opening drive is fraught with danger and one of the greatest tests of mental strength that a Wedger will ever face. A pushed drive faces the ignominy of hitting the clubhouse, or worse still a Bentley in the car park, whilst the complete nobble will invariably end up in the ditch (to the left of the ladies tee). Aim at the left hand edge of the left hand bridge, making sure to get your hands through the ball. Ensure you watch the flight of the ball carefully to get a line on one of the bushes by the 18th green. If by lucky chance the approach over the ditch stays dry, the player is faced with a green which is 43 yards deep – three/four putts is usually the order of the day.
A downwind par 4. Owing to the stinking pot-bunker on the right, way left or way right is favourable, although beware of the concrete drainage pipe about 130 yards right. Try not to go through this green; the return chip will be off a downhill lie which can have disastrous consequences.
A par four that will test your course management and the nerves of dog walkers on the path. Aim as close as you dare to the 18th tee to take the beach out of play and avoid burning bridges with your partner early in the round by making him damage his clubs from hitting off the stones. If you cannot reach in two then ensure you don’t top your second shot into the two cross bunkers. A double-tiered green awaits, three putts again is on the menu.
A short par three without any bunkers – but beware. Club selection is critical from this elevated tee as trouble awaits shots short (bog of eternal stench) and long (flop shot back towards the bog of eternal stench).
A long par five that requires a drive aimed at the middle cooling tower (if you can spot it!) to give a flatter lie for your second. The next shot needs to be straight as there are bunkers on both sides of the fairway to catch the errant shot – a topped three wood usually works well here. Club selection is very important on your approach as ideally you do not want to go past the pin or you may have a very slippery putt back down the green, followed by a slow chip back up it.
A short par four but one that needs your full concentration. From the tee be sure to check the status of the tide: if it’s high a pull-hook onto the 15th fairway is the safest option; if it’s low reach for the driver and elect for a power –fade, the ball is generally found on the beach and after all this is foursomes so it is your partner who will have to hit off the pebbles.
Top priority is to get to the turn as quickly as possible as the hut comes into view for the first time. Ensure that the 14th green is clear before teeing off as hitting another golfer here can result in an unnecessary delay in proceedings.
A testing par three just as the thirst is kicking in where, depending on the wind or how you are striking it you can play anything from a wedge to small wood. Surrounded by 9 bunkers, statistically sand is more likely to be hit than green so foursomes partners should wait with Sand Irons at the ready.
A difficult drive as you are angling across this dogleg from the tee – ideally a strong draw up the left side is the shot and affords the most direct route to the hut. Then you are faced with a stroke to the green that is distracted by thoughts of whether you have enough change on you for a large whisky mac, or will you have to beg your partner for a loan again…
Confidence is usually at its highest on this tee so Wedgers think they can go for the green regardless of wind direction. The result is generally a lost ball left, or a stinky lie in one of the three fairway bunkers. From these, four successive failed attempts to escape the sand usually precipitate a quick walk to the 11th tee. Never mind, it’s a lovely day.
Sand irons again need to be at the ready as players driving the odds seek to get revenge for their partner’s tee shots at the 8th and 10th. There is thick rough left and right so drive as close as you dare to the left hand bunker – at least the ball is found in there. Once your partner has played out tell him to keep the jigger in hand as your approach affords ample opportunity for you to put him back in one of the pot-bunkers either side of the green.
The tough inward holes start now, usually back in to hurricane which tends to get up as you approach the tee. Take any line from the tee as all shots, good or bad, will end up in that bastard bunker on the left. For the player lucky enough to have the eventual approach shot, the U shape surround of the green will gather your ball turning even the worst hacks into world class shots.
First priority is to avoid the bunkers that stand sentry on the corner – these are some of the longest bunkers in golf and take at least half an hour to rake. The green is an absolute mother-fudger, never give your opponent a putt on this green.
This challenging par three demands a well struck shot so should be considered by Wedgers as a par four or even five. This hole is where all your course management will pay-off, as if everything has gone to plan you can shake hands on the green and head for the chequers.
A long par 4 that is out of reach for most when the wind blows. This does however offer players driving the odds their best chance to hit a fairway, owing to the 6th running along the left hand side. The second shot allows players to relax as it is all down to luck and very little skill is required.
The best hole on the course – it is included as one of Henry Cotton’s ‘Eighteen best holes in England’. A half decent strike is required to carry the cross bunkers and players should seek to avoid hitting the block house as this tends to limit length gained off the tee. Many will then try to go for the green and hit it over the road on the right. Alternatively, hack your way slowly but surely up the middle for an unadventurous yet competitive 7 net 6.
Nearly there now, you can almost taste the Kummel. A great par four that requires respect. Aim to play your drive down the right side into ‘Vardon’s Parlour’ to allow the flattest walk for tired legs. Trust your yardage as there is dead ground before the start of the green and err on taking too much rather than too little club as anything short will go right following the contours of the land resulting in a certain six.
This is it, the hardest drive on the course – especially when you’re one up, for the aim here is to avoid having to head off down the 19th and away from the bar at all costs. The shortest route to the green (and thus the clubhouse) is up the left so aim your tee shot at the left hand bridge. From here a game of cat and mouse generally ensues as you and your partner both take it in turns dunch it in the ditch. The walk to the green allows the players ample opportunity to blame each other and to think of ways to put into words to their team mates waiting on the balcony just how lucky their opponents have been all round.
Pint of Doombar and Kummel chaser. All hardships on the course are forgotten, and gradually imagination takes over and reality flies out the window as Wedgers all start to agree that although they may not have tamed the course, they certainly showed it a good crack of the whip