Golfers have had their say on what their ideal opening hole would be...
What’s Your Ideal Opening Hole?
There’s a lot to be said for being able to get the driver out on the 1st tee, wherever you’re playing and the chance to get the biggest clubhead in the bag behind the ball when the nerves are at their most prominent.
Some of us like a short hole, others want a par 5 and the chance to get off to a quick birdie start.
The one common theme is that we simply don’t want to get off to a start where a provisional and penalty drops are involved…
What Do We Think Of Kicking It Off With A Par 3?
One of the things I have said for years is that if I was to design a course (never going to happen) I would start it with a very tough par 3, the sort where most golfers would take four or more. In that way you are setting the pace for the rest of the round. Where I play there is nearly always a hold up on our 15th which is a very tough par 3 and just all the waiting around can be a card wrecker as well as the obvious frustration of sometimes being the third group on the tee.
Definitely not a par 3. Other than that, as long as I finish with the same ball I started with I don't mind.
195 par 3 with a valley in front of the green, OB all the way down the right, so tight on the green the OB fence can stop you lining up a putt. Also an enormous narrow, crowned, double green shared with spectators from 18. Most would complain but most would also play off the very back tees so they could ‘be challenged and play the real course’.
What I have...135-165 Par 3 with water on 3 sides! Welcome to The Shire!
I don't actually mind a par 3 start as they are often useful in forcibly creating space between groups on the course. Unlike par 5s, whereby a group will pretty much always tee off just as the group ahead are out of range...even if this means they tee off earlier than their allotted time....causes congestion...especially if the following hole is quite short.
At my old club, the first was a tough 160-ish par 3 with a two-tier green surrounded by five bunkers. Where I play now, the first is a tough 175-ish par 3 with a very narrow green, a large tree on each side and bunkers protecting the front. At the old club there was no warm-up facility either, so you had to be on it straightaway with your long irons / hybrid in my case, or you could make a right mess of it. New club has practise nets at least, but still a tricky first shot of the day to hit a long, straight 7 wood or hybrid. I can't think of many courses I've played that had a nice, easy par 4 to start. It seems not to be the done thing!
I always think a par 3 is perfect as it spaces the field out a bit more, in effect give a full hole between groups. Doesn't have to be as difficult as the one at ours that I described... Don’t like short par 4s, means groups are only a short hit apart, and means big hitters wait the full hole, short hitters tee off before the group in front even reach their drives, pace of course is ruined from the outset...
Where you might not get off to a flyer.. The 1st at Cooden can be a right 'mare if the wind is in your boat. It's a tough hole anyway, about as tough a hole as you'd want in normal circumstances, but with a strong wind in your face, you've got to play it as a par 5, not the 4 it is on the card. SI used to be 10, which was a bit of a joke to an 11 handicapper playing a Stableford. They have now altered it to SI 4 which is just about spot on I reckon. One of the toughest starts to a round you'll face anywhere.
Not the opening hole at Birkdale. Wouldn’t stop me playing there every day though.
The exact opposite of what you want on an opening hole is at the course I've just left. Par 4, dogleg right, out of bounds down both sides and a 160/170 carry over water off the white tee. The white tee is about 10 yards from the conservatory/patio where all the players following you congregate so you almost always have an audience as you slice one into the driving range or top one into the pond. Joyous!
Our first hole par 4 often comes out as SI 1 on the playing stats but has been SI 7 on the card for a long time. Long par 4 into a prevailing SW wind. Play sensibly and make no worse than bogey and you are off to a sound start. Third hole is even longer par 4 in the same direction. The second and fourth are par 3s. All your golfing skills put to a good test early on. If you want an easy start don't play our course.
I played Ashridge in the British Seniors recently and that hole was an absolute disaster for me. A blind drive at an angle to a tight fairway with knee-high rough on both sides. Didn't hit the fairway all week - chipped out sideways twice and lost a ball the other time. Long hole too - even after chipping out of the rough I was hitting 5-iron into the green. Was 4 over on that hole alone for the week! Hated it.
The Pros And Cons Of The Par-5 Opener
Kedleston is a reachable par 5, when played off the whites, but a long par 4 off the blues. I much prefer the par 5 option. The obsession with long par 4s is one I don't understand. Especially as we already have 7 par 4s of over 400yds off the whites.
Short par 5s are a nightmare as most think they can reach in two so wait and wait and wait until the guys in front who didn't reach the green, pitch and putt and putt and putt. Give me a big wide short par 4 which gives everyone a good chance at getting a par.
Our par-5 1st presents longer hitters with a good birdie opportunity, but it can easily bite yer bum, and too many times I have walked off with 7s and 8s. Maybe that’s the sign of a good opening hole. Plenty of room off the tee, but fairway narrowing around the 150-yard to go mark between two huge stands of pines. Quite easy run onto the front of green between left and right bunkers (care required if bump and run on) but drop-offs sides and back.
My club has a short par 5 to start. Easy hole but so easy to mess up. Four bunkers to choose to go in off the tee. A couple of others if you decide to lay up. Plus a burn snaking along the front of the green. Two greenside bunkers too, plus the green has some tricky slopes. Still a great opening hole that will become the closing hole when the new clubhouse comes along.
A short par 5 is preferable, such as the one at Stoneham. Ours is a short par 4, mid iron and then wedge. Driver usually gets you in the rubbish.
What Do We Like...
I like a shorter par 4 start so you can get your round off in the right manner, Dornoch, Carnoustie have this right. We had a nice easy start but now it's a considerably harder hole at over 400 to a raised green. Not a fan of a par 3 start.
A quick hello from the starter, not the life story again please mate. NO WAITING. I just want to tee up and hit a gently fading drive down a par 4 to get going. Give me something memorable or tricky around the green to see how my irons are going (badly usually). A decent putt for par or bogey is ideal, no birdies as that’s always the start of a bad round. So essentially the 1st holes on the Eden and Old are my idea of what I want to start.
Ideally... James Braid style opener par 4 not particularly tough but with fairway bunkers to navigate for the aggressive and same in front of the green. Or - as per a previous club - Par 5, perhaps reachable in 2, with little danger for the first, but trouble/decisions to make further down. I'd agree that the opener should be a gentle par 4 to ease you into the round. Nothing too tight, nothing too long. A previous club started with a 200-yard par 3 onto a raised green. Not a sympathetic start to a round.
Short, wide par 4. Very low chance of losing a ball so everyone gets off the tee with the minimum of fuss, so no deep rough or OOB. Hole mustn't be driveable so the fantasists aren't waiting on the tee for the green to clear. Ours is a fairly short par 4. On the plus side there's some slopes and a couple of well-positioned big trees to make the hole interesting. On the minus there's some rough that doesn't look that long but is surprisingly good at causing a walk of shame back to the tee.
Thinking about all the clubs that I’ve played Edzell has the opening hole I like best, par 4 big wide fairway any half-decent drive will leave a short iron in and a par is very achievable. Nice easy hole to get the round started give me that rather than the 1st at my club where a par for me is rare.
Mid range par 4 that’s not too penal. There is nothing worse than your round being over before it starts. Ours is 365 yards, bit of room to hit a wide but not too much. No stupid hidden bunkers/ditches you can’t see from the tee. The first two holes should be a gentle start to your round, after that anything goes. Ours has a conservatory spike bar 10 foot behind the tee. The lads are all watching you tee off it gets quite noisy if you hit a bad one. Certainly tests your nerve.
One of the best 1st holes is found at Royal Cinque Ports. Clubhouse in view as you tee off up the right, but really is a pretty easy par 4 to start with. You walk off and breath...only to get chewed up by the next 17.
I quite like the opening hole at our place. 320 yard par 4 so it’s only ever a driver and a wedge and with no real trouble. There are trees to the right but the prevailing wind usually helps slices and there’s loads of room out left. Its a nice gentle opener. The only daunting thing is the tee being right in front of the clubhouse so you're teeing off in front of a crowd at the weekend. It’s then followed by a 220-yard par 3 that’s usually into the wind and an entirely different prospect altogether!
Not a birdie please....I'll take those from the 2nd onwards. I like ours..350 yards, you have to hit a poor shot to get in trouble, put it out to the left with a hybrid/5 wood, let the slope bring it back, short iron on to the green, couple of putts, standard par - move on.
Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.
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