How much fairway should you bite off?


The No. 2 course at Pinehurst gets the ink, but No. 8 (built in 1996 by Tom Fazio) is just as thrilling. Case in point: the 404-yard par-4 14th. You’re forced to carry a thick marsh off the tee to a ribbon-wide fairway that runs nearly perpendicular to your sight line. It’s a risk-reward masterpiece—how much fairway do you bite off? Here are three surefire tips to help you find the short grass on even the tightest par 4s.


On a par 4 that demands a pinpoint drive, a good strategy is to aim for a spot in the fairway that leaves you the longest approach that you can comfortably carry to the green. This lets you drop down to a 3-wood or hybrid, avoiding the risks that a driver brings into play. And on this hole, clubbing down eliminates flying the ball too far and into the pines guarding the right side of the fairway.


Recent research shows that targeting the widest possible landing area is even more important than choosing a landing spot. So think “wide.” It helps to imagine a goalpost on your line. (“The drive is up—and it’s good!”)


If you take driver, look for a line that balances risk and reward. Here’s a trick: Subtract 10 percent from the length of your typical “good” drive, then choose a line that will safely find the fairway at that yardage. This strategy gives you breathing room without the self-imposed pressure to make a perfect swing. And a relaxed golfer is a dangerous golfer!