In a typical round of golf, you will play four par-3 holes. These are short enough to reach in one or two shots, and with two putts you can walk off with no worse than a bogey 4, if not a par. That’s four holes for which you can post a low number on your scorecard. The course designer, naturally, doesn’t want to make it easy for you. His or her job is to protect par, which is why you frequently see bunkers and other hazards defending the greens on these shorter holes.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER: On longer par 3s, the average woman golfer would be wise to play the hole as a short par 4, the goal being to get on in two shots and avoid an error that could lead to a big number. The temptation is to hit driver, but that’s too risky. In this instance (above), it’s better to hit a higher-lofted, more dependable club (about 120 yards) and lay up short of the bunker, which leaves you with a manageable pitch into the green. When conditions do allow you to go for the green, make sure you know the precise yardage. Most golfers see 150 yards on the scorecard and choose their 150-yard club, when the hole might be playing closer to 165 yards. Take into account the tee position, pin position, elevation grade, wind and depth of the green, and adjust your club selection accordingly.
TEE UP AT THE RIGHT HEIGHT: Not sure how high to tee the ball with your irons? Emulate the pros and tee it so there’s a finger-width between the ball and the turf (above). Using your fingers as a guide, you’ll tee the ball the same height every time, improving your ball-striking and distance control. Tee it even higher for a hybrid or fairway wood, so at least one-third of the ball appears above the crown of the club.
GET UNPLUGGED: On short par 3s, you’re susceptible to plugged bunker lies because of the high ball flight. To get the ball over the lip of a bunker, align your hips and shoulders to the slope so they point uphill, place the ball in the center of your stance and close the club face slightly (above). Keeping your weight on your right foot, swing up the slope, contacting the sand just behind the ball. The ball should pop straight up and out of the bunker.
ADJUST TO THE WIND: On certain par 3s, you might have a shorter distance to the green but you could find yourself needing a long club depending on the wind. One option hitting into the wind is to play a knockdown shot, using a three-quarter backswing and waist-high finish (above). The lower finish will encourage you to de-loft the club face for a lower ball flight. Another technique when the wind is really gusting is to take two extra clubs but swing at half speed. This will produce a much lower trajectory and allow the ball to bore through the wind. Playing downwind, make sure to finish your swing high. You’ll hit the ball with the club’s true loft, propelling it high in the air so it can ride the wind.