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How to Tame Long Par-5s Like Kapalua’s 18th Hole

January 4, 2017

Long par 5s seem scary, but when they’re downhill (and better yet, downwind), they’re scoring holes. Take the par-5 18th at Kapalua’s Plantation Course. Over the past two Tournament of Champions events, the Tour’s second longest hole has yielded 136 birdies or better against just 12 bogeys or worse. The downhill, right-to-left design usually has the Maui trade winds at the players’ backs, so it’s reachable in two. Here’s how to say “aloha” to birdie or eagle on long, downhill par 5s.


At Kapalua, most pros aim up the right side and hit a draw, hoping to catch the speed slot in the middle of the fairway that can add 100 yards of roll. A trick for hitting a draw? Pause—literally—at the top of your backswing. A slight, split-second delay keeps you from coming over the top and hitting a cut and instead promotes a powerful inside-out path.


On downhill shots, the target is a lot closer than you think, so forget about attacking the pin. Look for a landing spot short of the putting surface and let the ball roll to the pin. Sure, a double-eagle is unlikely, but your best chance at an albatross is to allow for your second shot to roll.


Downhill lies make shots play one or two clubs shorter. But before you swing away, consider ball position. If the fairway slopes right to left as it does here, the ball will sit slightly above your feet. Normally you’d move the ball back in your stance on such a lie, but because the downslope is tilting your shoulders to the left, keep your sphere in its normal position. Now you’re poised for pure contact—and a new nickname: The Big Kahuna!