An expert's insight on No. 9 at Harbour Town
April 12, 2017
By Zac Blair, PGATOUR.COM
- April 12, 2017
- The 330-yard ninth hole at Harbour Town is a great example of a classic drive-and-pitch hole. (Photo courtesy of Harbour Town GL)
PGA TOUR player Zac Blair is a golf course architecture aficionado with plans on building his own golf course, The Buck Club, in his native Utah. Blair is offering his architecture expertise to PGATOUR.COM to give fans an expert’s insight on some of the unique holes on the PGA TOUR. You can follow Zac on twitter at @z_blair and follow The Buck Club at @thebuckclub.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest shot-making courses in America, Harbour Town Golf Links has plenty of great architectural features. Designed by Pete Dye in 1969, this course truly revolutionized the way golf courses have been built in the modern era.
Dye, known for illusion and deception, has always been extremely talented at incorporating angles and strategy into his designs. He built Harbour Town just a few years before designing THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Other notable Dye designs include Crooked Stick, Kiawah Island and Whistling Straits.
The 330-yard ninth hole at Harbour Town is a great example of a classic drive-and-pitch hole. Augusta National Golf Club’s third hole and the 17th hole at the National Golf Links of America are other famous examples of drive-and-pitch holes, which can be reached by the longest hitters but are fraught with hazards that make players think twice about playing aggressively.
Playing through a narrow chute of trees, Dye gives players several options on how to attack this short par 4. The ninth, like many other holes at Harbour Town, places a premium on precision from tee to green.
The fairway bottlenecks about 230 yards from the tee, with tall pines on either side that can block a player’s approach shot into the green. A deep sand trap guards the front of the slightly-elevated green, and three more pot bunkers guard the back-center of the putting surface.
The location of the pin can have a big influence on what club a player will use off the tee. Ranging from long-iron to driver, each club choice comes with its own list of pros and cons.
View from the tee on hole 9 Harbour Town Golf Links pic.twitter.com/QFFJIXEObk— Zac Blair (@z_blair) April 12, 2017
No. 9 is a real birdie opportunity if you place your tee ball in the correct portion of the fairway. On the other hand, bogey or worse is in play if you get loose with the tee shot.
The hole’s unique, heart-shaped green makes you think hard about which club to select for the tee shot, and which side of the fairway to place your ball on. When the pin is on the right side of the green, it’s crucial you get your tee shot as close to the left side of the fairway as possible. A group of tall pines guards the front-right portion of the green, which can cause problems for any approach shot from the right side of the fairway.
With left hole locations, it is important to either be on the right side of the fairway or to get past the grouping of pines that guard the green’s left side. Those trees are around 240 to 250 yards from the tee. This will give you a clear shot to the back-left portion of this green. This section of the putting surface slopes dramatically from front-to-back, which can make putts from the center of the green to back-left pins extremely quick.
Middle and front pins require you to leave yourself a comfortable yardage for your approach shot. It is important to come into these front pins with a shot that has enough spin to keep your ball on the putting surface. The center of the green is very shallow, only 11 or 12 paces deep, so you must be precise. With these hole locations near the front bunkers, it’s wise to hit a long-iron off the tee to ensure you’ll find the center of the fairway.
Approach shots can require some creativity when you miss the fairway, or even if your tee ball ends up on the wrong side. A big mound located on the front-right section of the green shoots balls towards the back of the putting surface. This knob guards front-right hole locations, and can prove troublesome for approach shots coming in from a poor angle.
Although many players will find this putting surface in regulation, there is one place where you cannot afford to miss with the approach shot. A small, but deep, pot bunker is located just behind of the green. Because of its size and depth, you can encounter very difficult lies and stances when your ball ends up here. With both sides of the green sloping away, this bunker should be avoided at all costs.
When the hole is playing downwind and the fairways are firm, it’s sometimes worth the risk to try and drive the green. This play can leave you with a straightforward pitch over the front trap or with a simple bunker shot to certain pins. And, in some cases, you can get lucky and run a well-struck drive onto the putting surface.
Tony Finau did just that in the opening round of last year’s RBC Heritage. The ninth hole offers players plenty of options, and opportunities to take a chance.
Tony Finau drives the green from 332 yards at Harbour Town