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Richard Choi

  • Karma: +0/-0
17th Hole, 220 Yards, Par 3
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2015, 12:13:51 AM »
As any fan of the Sawgrass’ infamous 17th hole knows, a well-designed par three can bring enormous drama to a golf tournament. While the 17th at Chambers Bay does not have water on all sides, and lost balls will be extremely rare, I expect many anxious tee shots and horrified expressions as players realize what kind of predicament they put themselves in.

Tee Shot

But it does not have to be this way. Players can enjoy clean living by ignoring pin positions and simply aiming for the middle of the green.

The green supposedly was shaped to make it look like a crow taking off for a flight. It has two “wings” left (F, a giant sideboard) and right (a tiny peninsula of green) that are significantly higher than the middle section. Everything hit to the left and right slope will feed back to the middle of the green. Add a very inviting and open front (B) that readily accepts run-up shots, hitting the middle of the green is almost too easy, even under US Open conditions.

The question is, do you have the discipline to stay away from the very tempting pins in the back of the green, or worse yet, in the right wing of the green?

If the tee is located in the very back (Blue Tee, ~220 yards), the answer is probably obvious. With a firm green, you would do well just to stop the ball in the middle of the green. The temptation to hit the flag from this long distance will sway very few.

But what will you do when the tee is set up at around 160 yards (White Tee), with no more than a 9 iron in your hand? With a pin sitting, oh so temptingly, in the middle of the right wing, the desire to stick the shot next to the flag will be strong enough to intoxicate your mind. If you give in to this siren’s song, be aware as Admiral Ackbar once put thusly, “It’s a TRAP!”.

With a firm green, Even a 9 iron or a pitching wedge shot will bounce about 10 yards forward. With the entire section being about 15 yards long, you have an exceedingly small area to land (and stay on the green). Most shots at this pin will, at best end up somewhere harmless in the back of the green, or more likely in the back collection area where you will have a very delicate chip shot (J), or at worst plugged in the bunker right of the green (H).

Around the Green

I expect most of the misses to be left of the green as the right side can be very nasty and no one with a sane mind should favor the right side.

There is a large bunker front left (A) that will swallow any shot that comes near it. Fortunately, getting out of here is relatively straightforward as any short bunker shot will shoot forward and any long shot will be checked by the green slope on the right side of the green. As long as you have a good lie, this is not a bad place to be.

Missing past the bunker will be simple as long as you stay on the short grass. Most will end up in the collection area in the back (G). From here, any pin in the middle should be accessible even though the green runs mostly away from you. You can use the slope on the opposite side to help you control your speed. The pin on the right wing (1) will be difficult as you have to be very accurate about how much weight is required as soon as your ball crests on the ridge, it is downhill from there and the ball will run.

If you end up in the long grasses, you need to cut your losses and aim for the middle of the green. The slope will help you do it as all you need to do is to get the ball past the crest on the left side. If you try something more, there is a good chance that you will end up in the bunkers on the opposite side of the green.

Missing the green long (J) can be a problem as there is a lot of fairway sloping away from you and the ball will not stop till it is about 20 yards past the back edge of the green. From here, any pin in the back will be impossible to get close as the green runs away from you. You may have to putt through 20 yards of fairway to have any chance.

Missing to the right (H, long or D, short) means almost certainly a plugged lie. With a plugged lie, the best you can hope for is to leave it in the middle of the green, which should be easy since there is a huge sideboard to work with on the opposite side. If you have a good lie, attacking the pin may be possible, but it is very delicate as anything even slightly long will roll down the ridge to the middle of the green.


The front to back slope is more severe than it looks. Putting from the front to back will require more energy than it looks and any downhill putt will be tricky to stop. There is also more side slope from left to right than it looks as well. The giant sideboard (F) has influence on almost every putt in the middle of the green.

Putting to the very back pin (2) will be dicey as there is a small, multi-leveled plateau back there. It is not very big and anything beyond it will ride the back slope down and away from the green. There is less influence from the right ridge than it looks as well.

Putting across the ridge to the right wing (1) is very difficult. The ridge is about a 2 feet rise, which requires to hit a very firm putt to carry it, but as soon as the ball goes over the ridge, the green slopes away from you and the ball will pick up speed. There will be many players who will putt across this ridge and end up in the bunker on the opposite side.

This is a drop dead simple hole as long as you stick to the middle and take two putt pars. Whether or not you can resist the temptation may determine who walks away with the trophy on Sunday.

Jon Cavalier

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Photo Tour - Chambers Bay - US Open Edition - 17th Hole
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2015, 12:28:23 AM »
A few additional views of this excellent par 3 at dusk.

I very much hope to see a back right pin on Sunday.

As always, great description Richard. I've very much enjoyed following and tagging along.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2015, 01:06:41 AM by Jon Cavalier »
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Brent Carlson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Photo Tour - Chambers Bay - US Open Edition - 17th Hole
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2015, 12:57:27 AM »

How do you rank the par 3s at Chambers?  Best to worst?

Richard Choi

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Photo Tour - Chambers Bay - US Open Edition - 17th Hole
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2015, 01:03:44 AM »
I would rank them this way:

1. #3 - I really enjoy how this hole plays like a Redan. There is a ton of interesting pin positions and the sideboard looms large.
2. #17 - There is a lot of variety on tee and pin placements.
3. #9 - If playing firm, this could be my favorite.

(there is a chasm between these holes and the last)

4. #15 - Easily the most boring green at Chambers. From the typical distance (~130 yards), it is just point and shoot. No thinking involved.

Josh Bills

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Photo Tour - Chambers Bay - US Open Edition - 17th Hole
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2015, 02:39:38 PM »
I was so impressed by Jon's photos, I actually painted one of his of the 17th (12x36 inches).  As a shameless offer, I am auctioning this painting off to support my HHH, here is a link.  Richard, Sorry for the solicitation on such an informative thread.  Josh

The painting still needs to dry and then be varnished, but here it is unsigned and unvarnished and with some glare...

Matthew Essig

  • Karma: +0/-0
"Good GCA should offer an interesting golfing challenge to the golfer not a difficult golfing challenge." Jon Wiggett


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