Technology has come to the PGA TOUR to the point that every shot can now be measured, using lasers operated by volunteers on every hole of every round. I’ve found it curious when fans at TOUR events invariably ask the volunteers “how far did he hit that one!” Fans are obsessed with how far the pros, or themselves for that matter, hit the ball off the tee. Yet one of the first things I learned watching the TOUR pros day-in-and-day-out is that rarely do they really “let it all out”, because they actually play each hole backwards, something we could all learn from the next time we jump out of our cart on Hilton Head’s reachable holes with our drivers firmly in our hands.
Believe it or not, the pros really don’t care how far they hit the ball, they just want to set themselves up for the next shot. In their minds, every hole has a yardage number that they’d like to reach to have the best chance to make birdie. If they only need to hit it 275 yards instead of 300 to get to the “number” they want to attack the hole, they’ll hit it to that number, especially if it avoids fairway bunkers. So they’ll often lay-up to the number they like, using 3-wood or iron off the tee when a lot of us would just bomb the driver, and end up with a “bad” number. It’s also how they play when they do drive it into trouble, recover to their “number” and maybe they can save par.
Hilton Head Island has a whole host of holes like that, holes that actually make you think about what to hit off the tee, not just grab the driver. Like the 6th at Hilton Head National, the 7th at Eagle’s Pointe, the 11th at the Robert Cupp Course at Palmetto Hall and the four holes near the water at Old South. And of course, there’s the short par-4 ninth at Harbour Town. In fact, that combination of courses would make a great golf vacation by itself, challenging holes that Hilton Head National co-designer Bobby Weed calls “half-par” holes. They’re the rage on the PGA TOUR these days because they’re fun, and they make us think. What’s your comfortable yardage? What’s your “number”?