Pacific Grove Golf Links: Holes 4-6

Hole 4: Par 4, 265 Yards


This ultra-short, downhill, down-wind par 4 would seem to be an easy birdie opportunity: just drive the green and don’t three-putt. But a few clever design elements should give you pause.

From the tee, you may be able to make out the flag, but you won’t fully discern the main defenses of the green complex: bunkers front right and back center-left, and a severe downslope to a road left of the green and long. An aggressive drive will likely find one of these hazards. Particularly deadly is a slightly pulled tee shot of over 250 yards, which will often kick down the bank to Del Monte Boulevard. Most players should leave the driver in the bag here.

From the middle of the fairway, you can just begin to make out the defenses around the fourth green

Pin position should dictate your strategy from the tee. The green sits at a diagonal between the bunkers and has two distinct tiers. The top tier is tiny and fronted by a bunker. When the pin is there, you may want to aim a hybrid or long iron toward the left half of the fairway, erring on the side of under-clubbing in order to stay short of the downslope to the road. Depending on lie, you can then play either a flop directly to the top tier or a pitch and run. When the pin is on the bottom, you can take your chances with a bigger drive, aligning center-right and, at worst, risking the front bunker.

The excellent green complex at the fourth

Make no mistake: this is still a birdie hole. But if the pin is on the top tier, beware a frustrating dropped shot.


Hole 5: Par 5, 520 Yards


The next section of the property centers on a hill that the fifth and sixth holes, both par 5s, use beautifully. Rather than climbing straight up or down, the fairways sweep across the slope, which both highlights the natural landscape and generates strategic dilemmas.

The view from the back of the fourth green makes a compelling argument for restrained lay-of-the-land architecture. On the right, the sixth green; on the left, the fifth fairway.

From the fifth tee, you will face an uphill, partially blind shot to a tree-lined fairway that doglegs 215 to 230 yards out. With a driver, you will either have to take on the left-hand tree line, where OB lurks, or play a controlled draw. A straight drive down the middle will likely run through the fairway, and your second shot will be impeded by a stand of big, mature cypress.

The upslope and swing of the fifth fairway makes for a tricky tee shot

A fairway wood landing just past the crest of the hill could catch a right-to-left bounce and settle onto a high shelf. From there, the hole opens up.

The rest of the par-5 fifth from the top of the hill

If you’re in the mood for a risk, this wouldn’t be a bad time to take one. There is room to the right (or at least a local rule that allows you to move any ball that ends up on the sixth hole back to the fifth) and a tall fence protecting the houses to the left. Fifteen yards from the green, an abrupt downslope gives low runners a chance. So go ahead, smash a driver off the deck.

The fifth green. The slope to the right kicks approach shots to the center.


Hole 6: Par 5, 533 Yards


The yardage and the straightforward tee shot may promise another birdie opportunity, but there is a reason that this former opening hole has a stroke index of one.

You will not encounter the main strategic features of the hole until you get within 120 yards of the green. There the fairway lurches to the right — over a hill that you will remember from the fifth tee shot and around a massive cypress tree that, if you play this course several times, you will learn to fear.

The view from about 200 yards out. The flag is just becoming visible, and the cypress tree looms.

All of these elements — the dogleg, the hill, and the tree — will complicate your second shot. Even after a good drive to a flat landing area, you will not be able to see the flag over the hill, and your direct line to the green will be blocked by the overhanging branches of the tree. So you will have two main options: play a 200-yard shot to the left half of the fairway at the top of the hill, or hit a high fade with a fairway wood around the cypress to a blind landing area.

Either way, the challenge is to use your first two strokes to create a third shot that does not have to contend with the big tree. And that’s harder than it sounds. The first 400 yards of the hole play uphill and into the wind. If you miss the fairway, especially to the right, you will either have to punch out or bend it like Bubba. To set up a clear approach to the green, you will need two solid, accurate strikes.

An unimpeded approach to the sixth green. Not easy to get here in two strokes.

The green itself is a PG Golf Links special: inviting from the fairway, but intimidating once you’re on it. Poorly struck putts from the front fringe will roll right back to your feet.


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