Y. Lee Coyote asks, I like fairway chipping areas. Why, where and how do you use them?

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


Y., because we love them, too, for the basic reasons listed in my answer to Chip last week.

As to where, fairway chipping areas should be left, right, or behind, or in multiple areas around various greens, so that, at least over time, misses in all directions experience them. They can also exist above, below, or generally level with the green, because each has its own unique affect, which we will examine to answer your last question.

Fairway areas above greens (providing they have generally consistent slopes that golfers can read and use � although some contours are acceptable to require more accuracy and interest) will kick shots back towards the putting surface. This may give re-directed misses an identical result to �good� shots, which accurate golfers often dislike. But the rest of us appreciate being saved one in a while, and it�s fun (which is the point of golf, isn�t it?) to �hit here, to get there,� whether accidentally or through creative shot-making, so a few ricochet banks are worthwhile features.

Common raised-fairway concepts include Backboards, Redans and Punch Bowls, often used on par-3 holes as a �concept shot� test in absence of tee shot related strategy found on longer holes. On any hole, ricochet banks generally expand the target area and provide a bail-out for shots that can still find the green. This comes in handy when we don�t want the course too be to difficult. For example, the second green at Sand Creek Station in Newton, Kansas, features strong frontal hazards on a par-5 green, and a fairway ricochet bank behind the green allowing golfers to take those out of play and reach the green by purposely over-clubbing. On par-5 holes where many approach shots will be from longer than anticipated distances after duffed shots, backboards make the course more playable by all.

Conversely, fairway chipping areas set below elevated greens reject missed shots far from the green, slowing play and raising scores. So I think their use should be limited on most courses, and then only on short approach shots. I tend to use them on short par-3 holes, since it�s easier to control the approach distance for all golfers through multiple tees.

Sometimes, a natural slope suggests we design a drop-off fairway chipping area on one side in conjunction with a visually dominant hazard on the other side. This simulates the �Eden� concept, where shying away from the hazard in favor of a comfortable fairway area actually leaves a harder shot. Recovery is difficult when below the green, especially with pins close to the near edge and/or in areas sloping away from the golfer � vs. having some green and up slope to work with. If the green slopes away from the inviting fairway bail-out areas, chip shots run away from the pin, often fooling the golfer into too safe play.

Fairway chipping areas near the green level typically offer the best choices for putting, bump and run and wedge recovery shots. These areas are usually shaped into a series of humps and hillocks, to increase slopes to 3-4% for drainage, but not more than about 15% for fairway mowing, to create visual interest and replicate the original models found in Scotland, with surrounding slopes fading into rolling green edges to integrate them with the green contours, so the pitch and run shot curves to the hole similar to a putt. Such contours make each shot unique, and by no means easy, when considering varying pin and shot locations.

They can also affect approach shot strategy if used as:

� Off-set fairway approaches offering a bail-out alternative to a forced-hazard carry, best used on medium-length approaches or gambling par-5�s but sloping away as described above.
� As fairway behind greens on long par-4s to encourage aggressive play to back pins by reducing punishment for slightly long shots � which are actually better shots than those that miss short.
� Laterally enlarging target area size on long par-4s when the green must be smaller (via budget or perimeter sprinkler restrictions) than what is an attainable target for most players. An accurate shot gets a birdie putt, while not unduly punishing pin near misses.

Jeffrey D. Brauer and his firm, Golf Scapes, 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 U.S., 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.

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