Featured Holes at The 3M Open
By JP McNaney
Every golf course has at least one signature hole. Some are more recognizable than others. The island green at TPC Sawgrass is probably the best-known hole in the TPC system. Some courses have several holes like the Bear Trap or the Snake Pit. Then there are the elite courses like Augusta National, The Old Course at St. Andrews or Pebble Beach where every hole is a signature hole.
In truth, what makes those elite courses have so many memorable holes is the magnitude of the historic moments at those venues.
The TPC Twin Cites does not have that history; however, in its fourth year as a regular PGA TOUR stop, the private club in Blaine is beginning to show that it too has several holes that are pivotal.
The first real risk/reward hole on the front side, this double dogleg plays right around 600 yards. If players successfully challenge the long carry of fescue guarding the right side, the hole plays significantly shorter but if you are going to go for it in two, water guards the entire left side of the hole and most of the front and front left of the green. While it probably won’t be the hole that determines the outcome on Sunday, a player looking to make a run can start here.
The very next hole provides another opportunity to start a run if not build on the momentum achieved on six. The bravest and longest hitters can attempt to go for the green off the tee. It better be accurate as well as long if a player is going to succeed. Water guards most of the left side off the tee. By the green, massive bunkers guard the front and right sides. However, a player does not need to drive the green to make a birdie. An accurate long iron or fairway wood off the tee will generally leave a short wedge into the two-tiered green.
The final hole on the front side is a stout test even for the best players in the game. Finding the fairway on this 500+ yard hole is a must. A great drive is only half the battle. If a player manages to find the fairway, the second shot leaves two options and neither are all that fun. A player can choose to play safe with mid to long iron approach down the left side, but it needs to navigate the large slopes that can either feed the ball toward or away from the flag. The more adventurous player can challenge the water that guards most of the entire green. Taking that approach means the shot must land soft as that angle makes the green extremely narrow.
Undoubtedly the most difficult par 3 on the course, the tee shot requires a well struck mid or long iron to an elevated green. If the pin is short left, the landing area is the size of a bottle cap. If the pin is middle or right, a massive and deep bunker must be carried. Miss the bunker right, and the ball may run all the way down the hill leaving an extremely difficult pitch shot. Basically, you had better hit that green if you don’t want to drop a shot.
Probably the most popular hole for spectators other than the finishing hole, this long par 4 can either be fairly straight forward, or cost you stroke. A safer tee shot to the right, away from the lake running the length of the hole on the left, leaves generally a simple mid iron to an unguarded right side of the green. The riskier tee shots takes on the pond and makes the carry significantly longer to the narrowest landing area. If a player does pull it off, a short wedge shot awaits meaning they can take dead aim at the pin.
When the PGA TOUR Champions took on the TPC Twin Cities, the 18th hole provided excitement every year. Year after year, the tournament was won by someone making a birdie or even eagle on reachable par 5. When the PGA TOUR announced they were coming to town, Tom Lehman was called in to make some changes. The biggest change was to 18. The tee box was pushed way back and to the right. The pond that guards the right side and the entire front of the green was enlarged and the layup area on the left was made significantly narrower. Players can still go for the green in two if they manage to avoid the pond off the tee, but it is a much longer forced carry than before the redesign.
While each of these holes may prove the difference maker, the 18th is still the most likely one to determine the champion on Sunday.