Hi everybody!! Welcome to Better Golf Academy Podcast, I am your Host Hanju Lee and I want to say thank you for spending your time with me today. I feel honored that you found me somehow and that you decided to give me a shot at listening to my podcast. And I feel grateful for some of you even let me know that you are enjoying the podcast. This means a lot, and this keeps me moving forward in being inspired to keep coming up with new content for you.
Something very significant happened last week. Do you know what happened? They are comparing this event to its being an equal significance to putting a man on the moon. They called it “the last great barrier of modern athletics” And that barrier was broken!! It was a historical event and it was said that it wouldn’t happen in our lifetime…but it did…last week.
Here, have a listen…<audio of the race>
Wow! So inspiring. Do you know how inspired I was? I was so inspired that I was determined to do my own sub-2-hour race as well. Last Sunday at Long Beach, I ran the ½ marathon and I’ve been training and my goal was to come in before the 2-hour mark…just like Eliud Kipchoge. So, here was my run strategy. I’ve noticed over the years that in the beginning of the race, there’s this huge adrenaline that’s built up and I can just explode out of the starting line at a very fast pace. This means I can really take advantage of getting ahead and bank the minutes that I gain from the adrenaline. Then, when I run out…I can slow down to my regular pace and finish the race under the average of my standard pace. Make sense, no? So yeah…that didn’t work out too well. I was 10 minutes ahead of my pace at mile 6 but I was hurting, I just couldn’t keep that pace going…so, eventually, I watched the 1:50 pacers pass me, then the 2:00 pacers pass me…and eventually finished at 2:07 something. 7 minutes slower than I wanted to. And, you know, that wasn’t fun, because, I was literally pushing myself so hard, that I was in pain most of the run. So….what did I learn? I learned that strategy matters. And that, for my next race (which is the ½ marathon in Las Vegas next month), I will come up with a different strategy. I will let you know how that goes.
Speaking of strategy, you know what we are going to talk about today? Par 3s. I want to give you some insights on how to best play the par 3s to help you reduce your blow-ups.
But before we go there, I want to thank one of my listeners. His name is Rob and he listens from Pyeongtaek Korea. He writes “Golf made simple..I listen to quite a few golf podcasts and enjoy many of them. Though I must say I enjoy Hanju’s podcast most of all. (what??? me????) The reason being is that his approach is for regular, everyday people. When he talks, I don’t feel I need a “Golf Thesaurus.” I am definitely a fan.
Okay, seriously, this is one of my favorite reviews because that’s exactly my purpose, to connect and speak to the regular everyday…you…cause I feel like that’s who I am too…a regular, everyday, dude. So, Rob, thank you for listening and thank you for your kind words.
Why are Par 3s Harder than Others?
So, let’s talk about Par 3s. How do you feel about them? Do you know how most golfers feel about Par 3s? They don’t talk about them with a lot of joy and admiration. Well, why? The most amazing signature holes on golf courses are Par 3s. And, also, think about it…Par 3 is really a Par 4 that you’ve already hit a perfect drive off of. You hit it right down the middle…and you have a perfect lie and the best angle going into the approach shot. How hard can it be?
Well, let’s look at the Professional Tour Stats.
- Par 5’s, pros score 4.67 average score…which below par. Nice
- Par 4’s, pros score 4.04 average score…which is slightly over par.
- Par 3’s, pros score 3.07 average score…which shows that it’s what pros mostly struggle with.
Why? In theory, shouldn’t you be able to score better than the par 4s? You essentially hit a perfect drive.
Well, here’s what you might not know. Par 3s, if you look at the overall design of all the golf courses, yes, they might be the most amazing signature holes, but they are also most guarded, they sometimes have the smallest greens compared to other holes, they have more bunkers around them typically compared to other holes and they definitely love to add hazards around them AND …the architects tend to make the Par 3s harder because they think we have an advantage because we get to tee it up and have a perfect lie and angle to the green.
So what’s our goal? We need to out-smart the architects and we need to do our homework and walk up to the shot confident and prepared.
I play a lot at a local course here called San Juan Hills which is a great course. I really love the layout, the condition it’s always in and is also a great value for what you get out of it. Right now, the greens are just perfect and we’ve been really enjoying the course. The uniqueness of this particular course is that the 18th hole is a par 3. So, lots of times, when I am in a match with my friends and we are going neck to neck and end up tied going into 18th, it creates a very interesting finish. For one, there’s so much pressure built upon one shot…which is the tee shot which can determine a win or a loss pretty quickly. And second, the strategy on how to play the shot becomes very different depending on where you are at on the match. It’s a very different club selection and approach if you need to go for it for the birdie to win or play it safe to remain in the lead.
So, I found myself many times on the 18th tee contemplating what kind of shot to make. So, I’ve organized some thoughts on how best to approach and think about the shot and also what to look for that will best serve you well. Cause…you want to win, right?
Here are 3 thoughts on how best to play the par 3s.
#1: Get All the Facts
I don’t know about you but I love technology and the advancement in our technology has given us so much information, we sometimes don’t even know what to do with it all. During my round, I have an app that I use called Golf Shot Plus (which shows the layout of the hole and every yardage you’ll ever need). You can even drag your finger to a certain spot on the GPS of the hole layout and it will tell you exactly how far it is. It will also tell you the yardages to all the problem areas as well as all the dimensions of the green. It will also make you an amazing cup of coffee with a press of a button…just kidding.
On a side note, I’ve so far recorded 247 rounds on this app logging in every score, every fairway hit, every bunker hit, every shot I’ve been penalized, every green hit in regulation, every putt…every cup of coffee that I drank…hahaha!
Also, along with my app, I use a rangefinder (with slope) to determine all my exact yardages to the flag. The mistake we can make on our par 3s is that we shoot the pin with our range finder, figure out the exact yardage and select our club, line up, and pull the trigger. I say wait. Before we do that, let’s study the hole a bit more.
So, before we pull the trigger, let’s get all the facts. So, what facts will I need to be prepared for my shot? This is what I look for:
- Yardage to the front of the green.
- Yardage to the back of the green.
- Yardage to the pin.
Also, look around for hazards. I heard it said that when you start thinking about hazards, your ball will magically go towards it and in it so it’s better to imagine that it doesn’t even exist. Well, I don’t like that concept. It’s like when I was a kid and thought that there was a boogie man living under my bed…instead of guessing and being freaking out about it night after night, I will lean down and shine the flashlight to make sure he’s not there…that night.
- Yardages to the hazards that will come into play.
Why are these yardages so important? I mean, really, don’t I just need to know the yardage to the pin? No, and here’s why. Because you are not a machine. You don’t hit a perfect shot every time to the exact distance. You are a human being, you make errors…especially on a golf course, especially when the pressure is on and especially on a par 3 with so many distractions and barriers.
So, what will I do with these yardages that I just collected? Think through some scenarios in your head. Best-case scenarios, and the average case scenarios. Don’t think the worst-case scenario…you can’t really prepare for that. LOL.
So, what do I mean by the best and average case scenario? Best-case scenarios are when I swing hard and hit it right on the sweet spot and the shot goes the maximum distance I intended for. The average case scenarios are putting an average controlled swing that goes a little less than the nutted shot. So, let’s look at some examples and figure out the best-educated approach to the shot. Here’s a simple one.
I approach a par 3. To the front is 140 yards, to the back is 160. Pin placement is in the front of the green tucked behind the left bunker with the huge lip that I want to avoid at 145 yards. To clear the bunker, I need to hit it 142 yards. What should be my thought process?
- 1. Would I rather miss it short or miss it long?
- 2. Would I rather miss it left or miss it right?
- 3. How am I feeling right now?
So, let’s look at this case one step further.
- 1. Would I rather miss it short or miss it long? In this case, because the bunker with the big lip is on the left, if I miss-hit it short, there’s a possibility of my next shot being a bunker shot, so I would rather miss it long.
- 2. Would I rather miss it left or miss it right? If I miss it left, I’ll have a difficult, short chip shot with not much green to work with out of the deep rough. If I miss it right, I’ll have a long putt…but I am still putting.
- 3. How am I feeling right now? I am feeling pretty good. I’ve been hitting good shots all day.
So now that I got all the facts, I am now ready to pick a club and a place to aim. But before we do that, keep in mind point #2.
#2: Know Your Club Distances
Now I am going to assume you guys know your club distances pretty well. This is super-duper important. I know some of us to have a pretty good idea from working on the driving range, but on the course is a lot different. Study shows that there’s a huge discrepancy between an old range ball hit from grass vs a new fresh Titleist PROV (10+ yards on some clubs) and there’s even a significant difference between a ball hit off the mat vs the ball that was hit off the grass. Mat goes further. So, I would highly encourage you to get a true measurement of your club distances… the best way for me is to measure when I am on the course playing. I am always keeping track of how far each of my clubs travels. And the best way to do this is after getting an accurate distance to the flag, pay attention to where your ball ends up on the green vs. how well you hit it. It also helps to record this on your app or a log that you keep. This is very important.
So now, based on what you know about how far you hit each club, choose it based on what you’ve observed from all the facts about the hole.
Let’s go back to the same hole example.
To the front is 140 yards, to the back is 160. Pin placement is in the front of the green tucked behind the left bunker with the huge lip that I want to avoid at 145 yards. To clear the bunker, I need to hit it 142 yards. What should be my thought process?
I hit my 7 iron 150 yards on average, if I swing hard and hit it well, I can hit it 155 yards. I can hit my 8 iron 140 yards and if I swing hard and hit it well, I can get to 145. So, the choice is simple. Hit a 7 iron. If I miss it short, I will still carry 142 bunkers, if I hit it well and long, I am still within the birdie range. However, if I hit an 8 iron thinking that I will hit my best shot at 145 to clear the bunker and end up below the hole (which is ideal for a birdie putt), it’s riskier and ideally, it’s a harder shot to pull off. Also, it’s important to aim a bit right to first avoid the bunker all together and also to avoid missing left to leave yourself with a tough chip.
So, choose your best approach, using the facts you’ve collected and also knowing your yardage and the confidence you have in your shot.
#3: Make Your Par and Move On
Okay, this goes back to episode 7 talking about your expectations. Par 3s aren’t made for you to aggressively attack and gain strokes for your round. Don’t have expectations going into Par 3s other than to make par and move on. Make decisions on shots that will give you the best chance at par not your best chance at birdie. If you are aiming directly at the pin at the direct distance not paying attention to anything around you, you’ll end up in more trouble than it’s worth…it’s just not worth the risk. You are falling into the trap that the architects created for you. Out-smart them. Know this…You are smarter than them, you are one step ahead of them and by golly, you are so much better looking than them.
Hey, if there are any course architects listening…I am just kidding…I am sure you are good looking too. But am I right about making Par 3s more difficult than the rest?
So, remember, when you are approaching the par 3, #1, get all the facts, do your homework, get all the yardages and ask these 3 simple questions. Would I rather miss it long or short, would I rather miss it right or left and how am I hitting the ball right now?. This will help you determine your best club choice.
#2. Know your club distance. This is crucial to improving your game. If you don’t know how far your shot goes, you are just shooting in the dark and hoping for the best. That’s just not a good strategy….agreed?
And #3, set your expectations to make par and move on. It’s the icing on the cake if you hit the ball close and make birdie, but for the most cases, you want to play it smart to avoid a disastrous double or a triple bogey. Don’t get me wrong, there is sometimes a perfect opportunity on a Par 3 to go after it. Right at the hole without any fear…and, you’ll know when that will be…but for the most part, play it safe.
Let’s put all that together to play your best round by really playing these Par 3s smart. Be one step ahead and know when
I hope this inspires you to go back out there and conquer your fears on the Par 3s…I know you have a hole in mind that’s been a barrier for you. Well, just like what happened last week… an equal significance to putting a man on the moon? Let’s break that barrier!! Let’s make a historical event just like what Eliud Kipchoge did running a sub 2 marathon but in your golf game by conquering your par 3s!! (which obviously is much more difficult than a silly marathon). Your friends will say it won’t happen in our lifetime…but I believe in you!! Let’s do this!!
Hey, hope you enjoyed this episode. Please don’t forget to leave me a review, I will give you a shout out on my next episode. But in the meantime, thanks for listening to Better Golf Academy Podcast, I really appreciate you being here. I really really do. Chow for now. Talk to you next time.