A risk-reward hole presents the golfer with clear strategic options. Among them is a risky option which can provides a tangible reward.

A risk-reward hole is one that presents the golfer with clear strategic options. Among them is a risky option which, if taken on and achieved, provides a tangible reward.

An example a risk-reward hole would be one where there is a direct route to the green from the tee on a par 4, but this direct route requires a hazard to be overcome. There will be another route, which takes the hazard out of play, but will typically result in an extra shot being played.

A fine example of a risk-reward hole is the par-4 10th at the Belfry‘s Brabazon course. This is a short par 4 with water in front of the green. Golfers have the option to go for the green from the tee, and if their ball ends on the green then an eagle putt comes next.

However if the tee shot lands in the water then they will be playing their third shot to the green. The safer option is to play the ball up the fairway and then chip on leaving a birdie putt if this more cautious strategy works out.

Thus the options are clear: attempt to drive the green and get a chance of a 2; attempt this and fail and be looking at 4 at best; or play safe and go for a 3.

Driveable par 4s are perfect examples of a risk-reward hole, and are fashionable in modern course design. For example, the course built specifically for the Olympics has just such a hole at the 16th, where golfers can take on the green from the tee, but to do so they have to avoid a cluster of bunkers. A more cautious route is to play the hole as a dogleg as that avoids having to fly any bunkers.

Although a risk-reward hole is typically one that, if the risk is overcome, potentially reduces the score by a shot and, if failed, adds two to the total, there are other types. Some risk-reward holes merely present a challenge which if surmounted puts the golfer in a better position.

Such a type of hole could be a cape hole where the golfer decides how much of the hazard to take on from the tee so as to leave a shorter, and thus potentially easier, approach to the green.