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Tyson Rayles asks, ‘Have you ever used out-of-bounds as a strategic hazard?’

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


Out-of-bounds is seldom used as a strategic hazard, since avoiding injury, accidents or damage on adjacent property is important.

I am currently using a railroad as the key feature for a tee-shot hazard, emulating early Scottish courses that dared golfers to play “near the cinders” to gain advantage. The possibility of creating something unique in the U.S. is tempting! And, the probability of a ball damaging a freight train or hitting both engineers and automatic “dead man,” making the train run uncontrolled, is more remote than the “magic bullet” in the Kennedy assassination! *

This long par-4 parallels the track, with prevailing crosswinds blowing away from the tracks, a wide fairway befitting a cross-wind hole, and no fairway hazards. The railway is the key “flanking” hazard, setting up strategy. Houses line the right, but won’t normally affect play.

This hole illustrates how design details – particularly green orientation and hazards – change holes from “position paradox” to “variable” strategy or “golfer’s choice” that we discussed previously.

The first example shows a bunker front right of the green, setting up the paradox of playing near the tracks to have an approach with an open-front green. If the green also drains front and left, there is greater advantage. However, for anyone playing safely to the right, coming over the bunker into a reverse slope makes holding the green difficult.

The second alternative slopes the green right, and moves the greenside bunker back near the middle of the green. This preserves the advantages of going left, but allows reaching the green, albeit with more difficulty, from the right. The front is more accessible than the back, so strategy is really “the golfer’s choice” of playing safe twice for par, or attacking for birdie, depending on your game strengths.

The third option features a “Sunday pin” back right, with bunkers guarding the back pin, and slopes running left there, making approach from the right almost impossible. In contrast, the front of the green slopes right, and is more open from all fairway areas. Thus, there is a “safe play” all the time, and the paradox only occurs when the pin is cut in the “Sunday” location.

Any of these design choices is justifiable in the right situation. It depends on many things for this course, including:

• Hole Balance. Most courses should have some of each type of design.

• The Land. If this weren’t a flat site, hazard location would depend on using the contours to best advantage.

• Course Type. The paradox version may be too difficult, especially for this public course. The golfer’s choice allows all competitors a chance to win a hole. And the Sunday-pin green is most suitable for a public course that needs only occasionally to be difficult.

* Well, I live in Dallas. We didn’t invent the conspiracy theory; we just perfected it.