Story by Ian Guerin
Only an ace can top the single-hole joy of pulling off an eagle.
Do it on a par 5, and all of a sudden you’re happy enough to bypass protocol and buy the next round in the clubhouse anyway.
Executing three consecutive great shots isn’t easy. But after hundreds of rounds along South Carolina’s Grand Strand, we’ve pinpointed some of our favorite opportunities for shaving two strokes off and finding a type of bliss that will put an exclamation point on a trip to any of these golf courses.
A relatively short hole has an equalizer in the form of an elevated green squeezed by a pair of front-loaded bunkers. But the right combination of your first two shots - and some power behind them - leaves a fair share of players smiling at the end result.
That’s because the rest of the hole is relatively calm and allows for the properly prepared to take advantage. A strong drive to the left side of the fairway makes the second shot more open, and with a clear view of the stick, going for it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
Maybe no par 5 in the area has convinced more folks to go for broke than the 6th hole at King’s North – affectionately (or not so affectionately) known as “The Gambler,” depending on the end result. Measuring as much as 568 yards from the back tees if played traditionally, an island fairway can be every bit the oasis when compared to the rest of the hole, a crescent-shaped stretch bending around a significant amount of water.
A strong drive to the furthest half of the island gives most players a fairway wood or even an iron into the green. Sure, many golf balls have been scooped out of the drink by divers; but plenty more land on a supple green mere feet from the flag.
The tree line up the left side of the fairway is also a guide map of sorts on how to play this shorter par 5. At a less-than-intimidating 459 yards from the whites, Prestwick’s sixth hole can be tamed even more by getting as close to those trees without burying your ball. Do that, and not only is an oversized fairway bunker on the right nullified, but a clear line to the green will appear.
The bold (and maybe some who don’t know better) ignore multiple warnings to play this beauty safe. With a strong, 90-degree dogleg to the left cutting the hole in half, No. 5 can actually be navigated with more ease for those able to cut the corner. As daunting as that may appear from the tee box, there are outs should the drive remain straight or even veer to the right.
Manage anything in the fairway beyond the bend, though, and all that stands between your ball and the lush green is a front-side bunker.
What are most folks talking about when they think of “easier” par 5s? Distance, of course. Combine an unimposing length with a dead-straight hole from start to finish, and the equation on Tradition’s 14th - also rated as the course’s 14th toughest hole - adds up to opportunities. Even from the championship tees, this totals no more than 500 yards. For the majority, it’s a much more manageable 450 yards.
The trick here is getting enough distance with that first shot to avoid laying up on the second. The green is protected by a small pond covering nearly the entire width of the green.