Hole 4 – Hazard’s Ascent
This is a hole that must be played backwards from the green based on the pin location, which will dictate the line of play for this massive, unique hole. I don’t expect we will make it through the week without hearing a grumble or two about this hole.
Setup 1 – (~490 yards) – Back left pin
The immediate decision for the player off of this tee is, play high and left to A, leaving a longer approach shot but with a better angle, or play low and right to B, leaving the shortest and most difficult angle in, along with bringing the deep right bunker into play. Any shots played to the left needed to be played with conviction, however, as any balls hitting the center of the fairway will end up low and right.
The location of the pin should dictate the best said of the fairway to play from on the approach shot. The green is tiered from back to front with a large backboard behind the green, and a kickboard to the left that will send balls on to the green.
With this back left pin, perhaps the easiest on the green, either location will be ok on the fairway. Whether left or long, the slopes of this green will bring the ball back towards the hole. The only bad play here is not accounting for the two extra clubs on this long uphill approach and leaving the shot short in the bunker.
Setup 2 – (~480 yards) – Back right pin
The USGA may move the tee up just a bit with the back right pin to account for the longer distance, but in reality I would expect either of the back pins to play from a moderate to long tee area on this hole.
With the back right pin, the choice will again be up to the player as to which direction to take. The player capable of hitting high and soft long irons might opt for the shorter approach shot on the right side, taking a direct path to the pin. For the shorter hitter, the green is shaped nicely to allow shots from the left to work their way to the back right pin location, so this might be the better option. The key is to find the back right tier no matter what, as crossing tiers on this green will be quite difficult.
Setup 3 – (~510 yards) – Front left pin
This hole, which played as a par 5 for the U.S. Amateur in 2010, can be maxed out at about 520 yards or so (not to mention the 50-60 foot uphill climb). With this green, however, I think the USGA would be reluctant to push it much farther than about 510. Unless the tee is moved way forward, this middle to left front pin will make the hole play as a par 4 ½ regardless.
The best path for this approach is almost certainly from the left. Getting the ball on the green and on the correct tier is going to be next to impossible from the left, and there is not even a question from the right. Most shots here will end up off of the green to the left, or on the back left tier. It’s not a desirable putt to face, but at least the view will be spectacular!
Hole 4 – (~430 yards) – Front right pin
This pin is made for Sunday, and I just can’t see it being used on any other day. The possiblity of moving this tee forward was mentioned by the Superintendent, and I think this pin out of all of them calls for a shorter approach in.
Moving the tee up also changes the tee shot. Now the two bunkers that jut into the fairway, A and B, are in play for both short and long hitters. A shot played to the right will yield a shorter approach, however.
The view from the fairway to this pin is perhaps one of the most intimidating in golf.
There is an opportunity for the longer hitters to use the ridge behind the pin to draw the ball back towards the hole. For others, just clearing the bunkers will be a victory, and they will have to settle for a steeply downhill putt or chip from the back right of the green.