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Amon Ware asks, ‘How do you decide where to design the Sunday Pin location?’

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


It's a factor of the green site, overall balance, course balance, hole balance, and wind. I prefer a nice mixture of "premium pin locations," ideally with each of the six possible premium pin locations featured twice, preferably one on each nine for ideal balance. Most single-target greens, by definition, have no premium pin locations; the green is so small that every pin is near the hazard and golfers aim to the middle. Likewise, many concept and conversation greens have no distinctly tougher pin locations.

The green site itself often dictates a green shape, which in turn dictates the Sunday Pin. For example, if the green site angles left, and also narrows as it goes back, it's easy to envision the back-left portion of the green as a small Sunday Pin target.

Relating the pin position to the wind is the key to creating the strategic dilemma. Golfers are most comfortable when their shot pattern keeps the ball over "safe ground" at all times. Their least desirable shot requires aiming over the hazard and "just missing" to hit the target. The chances for success diminish, and, consequently, more golfers play safely to the middle. Using the wind to help reach premium pin positions is an invitation for bold play. At the same time, it allows the golfer to "fudge" away from the hazards, making the middle of the green more inviting as well, thus increasing strategic choices and consequences.

Thus, if the prevailing winds blow left to right, suggesting a fade, I usually locate the premium pin somewhere on the right side of the green. A timid shot finds the middle of the green while an overplayed shot finds hazards, which golfers understand. If the Sunday Pin must be on the "upwind" side of the green, I enlarge the target area, or provide some assistance in reaching the pin through creative alternate routes.

There is more flexibility in premium pin locations on tailwind and headwind holes, but I like Sunday Pin locations at the back of the green on long (accentuating their length) and downwind holes to encourage aggressive play and at the front on short and headwind holes.

Tailwinds help golfers reach back pins through reduced club selection, reduced side spin, and in increased roll through reduced spin. A Sunday Pin at the front of a downwind hole may not be accessible, inducing conservative play, and reducing the golfer's dilemma.

On headwind holes, the wind reduces flight distance, but increases backspin, making carrying a hazard and stopping close to a front pin somewhat easier, thus encouraging aggressive play. Of course, you need an extra club to fight the wind, and the temptation when in doubt is to add too much to ensure clearing the hazard, thus increasing the dilemma.

However, there are some good exceptions, depending on individual green design. For example, Sunday Pins at the back of a long, headwind hole accentuate length, making long par-4s play long for longer hitters, while a Sunday Pin at the front of long, headwind holes can require maximum spin of a long iron, a good shot to test. And, on short holes, a back location on a short downwind hole, with a narrow green at the back might encourage a running shot to avoid lateral hazards.

It's impossible to follow any R.O.B.O.T. too closely, given that the natural qualities of green sites don't always perfectly fit our wind criteria. While the green will always sit comfortably (or uncomfortably) on its site, the wind doesn't always blow! So, the land should govern if all factors don't work together.

And some areas, like Texas, have four-season golf with diametrically opposed prevailing winds. Balancing difficult pin positions by designing for these winds on some holes may be preferable, or the course may be too difficult when winds don't follow the prevailing pattern.

Jeffrey D. Brauer and his firm, GolfScapes, have designed 40 golf courses and remodeled 80. Canterberry Golf Course in Parker, Colo., and Giants Ridge are rated among the best affordable public courses in the United States, while his Avocet Course at Wild Wing Plantation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was a Golf Digest best new course winner, Champions Country Club is rated 5th in Nebraska and TangleRidge Golf Club is 12th in Texas. President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects during its 50th anniversary year in 1995-96, Brauer also designed Colbert Hills Golf Club at Kansas State, which opened in June 2000 as the cornerstone golf course for The First Tee program as well as the first collaboration between the PGA of America and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.