Pacific Grove Golf Links: Holes 1-3

Hole 1: Par 3, 146 Yards

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The green sits between two fronting mounds and a raised bunker back left. From the tee you will have trouble making out the bunker as well as much of the putting surface. Still, it’s not a complicated shot. If there were a bunker short left, the right-side mound would be more useful. But as it stands, the hole calls for nothing fancier than a short iron aimed at the center of the green. A slightly underwhelming start to the round.

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The first green

Hole 2: Par 3, 199 Yards

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“Wait, is this an executive course?” You may find yourself checking the scorecard on the second tee. Yes, this par-70 track opens with back-to-back par 3s — an unfortunate consequence of the 1960 relocation of the clubhouse and rerouting of the course. You may also wonder, as you stand looking at a second pedestrian one-shotter in a row, why PG Golf Links is so highly regarded. Don’t worry; the next hole is a good one.

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The second hole from the front tee

Hole 3: Par 4, 312 Yards

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Now the round really begins — with the first par 4, the first excellent hole, and the first complex strategic decision. From the tee, you will see a down-sloping, left-swinging fairway and several large, old trees guarding the dogleg. Inspired by the view and freed from the constraints of the opening par 3s, you may be tempted to launch a drive over the trees or try to sling a hook up to the green. If  well executed, these shots could pay off, but they rarely work out. Usually aggressive drives get knocked down by the trees at the crook of the dogleg; if slightly pushed or even hit straight down the fairway, they may fly OB right. The smart play is a 215-yard shot that settles in the middle or middle-right of the fairway.

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The third tee, where players often attempt to cut the corner, only to see their drives plunge into the grove left of the fairway. The wise play is a hybrid or long iron at or just to the right of the distant tall tree in the middle of the photo.

From there, you shouldn’t have trouble flying a wedge or short iron over two trees to a receptively angled green.

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The third green from the center of the fairway, about 100 yards out. The ideal position may actually be a few yards to the right of the pictured ball, where the front left bunker would be less in play, the mound to the right more useful, and the slope of the green directly toward the player.

If your drive ends up on the left half of the fairway, you will have to worry about a bigger tree, carry a bunker that partly conceals the green, and stop your ball across — as opposed to straight up — the cant of the putting surface. Also, you won’t be able to use the mound to the right of the green, which can funnel bouncing approaches from the other side of the fairway around the bunker and toward a variety of pin positions.

Each shot requires thought and restraint. A poorly informed or overly ambitious or imperfectly executed drive sets off a chain of consequences that extends through the hole. You could easily make a double or triple here.

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Behind the third green

Current architectural fashion would have it that the trees on the inside of the dogleg should be thinned out in order to make a big drive a more worthwhile play. But I like that the hole, as it stands, does not ask you to weigh risk and reward so much as tempt you to take a dumb chance early in your round.

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