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Creating Strategic Tee Shots - Fairway Orientation

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


After usually - but not always - depending on topography:

Conceding we will allow players to hit driver;
Determining a basic landing zone from the back tees, usually 266 for public courses, 283-291 for clubs and 300 for tournament venues.
Adjusting the multiple tees to bring other golfers to a similar landing zone;
Adjusting the LZ for probable effects of wind, uphill/downhill and upwind/downwind.

We are about ready to start designing the fairway for strategy, by considering:

The orientation (angle off of the centerline, and usually 0-max 30 degree in the landing zone;
Determining fairway width;
Assigning strategic concepts based on experience, variety and preferences, and natural strategic features.

Orientation

Most good players use all the tools in their bag for success, including shot patterns. In general, this means always curving the ball slightly off the tee, rather than playing a straight shot to achieve greater safety, distance and roll control.

For example, setting up for a fade greatly reduces the chances of hitting a hook. If there is O.B. right, most will tee as far right as possible, aim at the far-left edge of the fairway, and cut the ball slightly. This gives a full width - rather than a half - of the fairway to miss the shot.

Similarly, most players plan to curve the ball with the wind, since "riding the wind" usually attains slightly more distance; i.e., if the wind blows right, they will play a slight fade. In stronger winds, they may elect to "cancel out" a left-to-right wind with a right-to-left shot.

Most players also curve the ball with the orientation of the fairway; i.e., playing left to right when the fairway angles right. The balls roll out with the length of the fairway, while a shot across it must find short grass in a more limited 30-50 yard landing zone. They also tend to curve the shot with the dogleg, rather than against it, and prefer the raised outside of the dogleg - much like the super-elevation on a race track, to help hold shots in the fairway.

Occasionally, where the landing zone has steep cross-slopes, players may decide to hit it into the slope to control roll, fearing the cross-slope may carry the ball into the rough.

The most comfortable tee shots are where all "signals" point the same direction. As one pro said, "If the wind blows right, the fairway angles right, and the ground slope goes slightly right, I am hitting a fade." With certainty about the best shot pattern, they can focus on execution.

I prefer to make golfers feel comfortable on the tee, as do most architects, but some would probably design a hole to purposely make you feel uncomfortable. For most, the game is hard enough without such indecision.

I recommend striving for as many "aligned signal" holes as possible. Obviously, the topography mostly dictates a fairway angle, and it's not always possible to get all those factors to align. And wind isn't always a strong factor, nor does it blow predictably on any given day.

So, it's okay for your course to have a mix of tee shots, following and fighting the wind, which produces a variety of challenges.

Jeffrey D. Brauer began his career as an apprentice in the Chicago area in 1977. His first project was Kemper Lakes, which shortly after hosted the 1989 PGA Championship. He formed GolfScapes in Arlington, Texas, in 1984. In the last 29 years he has designed and consulted on a wide spectrum of projects, ranging from partial renovations to international resorts. His recent work includes teaming with the design team of Pascuzzo and Pate on a remodel of the world-famous La Costa Resort & Spa in California, and renovations at Superior National Golf Course in Lutsen, Minn., and Mesquite Municipal Golf Course in Mesquite, Texas.

He has been a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects since 1981, serving as President during its 50th Anniversary year in 1995-96. Jeff still studies the classic works - both old and new, and has played more than 75 of the best courses in the world.

Jeff gives many presentations and is a regular architecture columnist for many publications and websites, including Golf Course Industry and Cybergolf.com. He has also been a strong advocate for the "Tee it Forward" campaign and strives to make his courses fit the description of "fun to play every day."

Jeff's work has been spotlighted in most of the world's major golf magazines. Golf World ranked him as one of the top-20 golf course architects and Golf Inc. ranked him as the world's fourth-best value in golf architecture in 2010. Jeff's portfolio and reputation keep him at the forefront of desired designers for new courses, reconstruction and renovation projects. For more about Jeff, visit http://www.jeffreydbrauer.com/sites/courses/layout.asp?id=859&page=48451.