Many golf courses start with a straight forward hole, allowing players to get off to a decent start. This is great, as a good start will help build confidence for the day ahead and it’s a nice feeling to hit a birdie on the first hole of a round.
However, not all golf courses are designed the same and occasionally you will come across a course which has a tough opening hole. What should you do when this happens?
As the opening hole can often set the tone for the remainder of your round, it is very important you do not get off to a bad start. Getting off to a good start with a birdie is great but when the opening hole is tough, there is nothing wrong with coming away with a par. Anything less would be a bad start so firstly, think about not dropping shots, as opposed to gaining a shot.
Remember, the first hole will be the first time you swing your driver, irons and putter for the day. You will probably be a little rusty and maybe a touch nervous on the first tee, which all adds to the level of difficulty of the hole.
When starting on a difficult hole, which will usually be a par-4, much of the trouble is often found on the drive. So, if you are going to take any risks on a tough opening hole, which we advise not to do, it would be better do it on the second shot.
When teeing off on a difficult par-4 opening hole, all you want to do is get your ball in play on the fairway and you will be off and running.
This will probably mean dropping down from your driver to a wood or even a long iron shot. Look on the scorecard and see where the widest part of the fairway is and how you can reach it. If using your driver will mean your ball is going to travel close to a narrow section of the fairway or near a hazard such as bunker, you would be better off using a shorter club.
Yes, you could take some off your driver but it is always best to use a club you can swing fully and make a confident shot. If you are playing on a links course, especially in the UK, the bunkers are often severe so you want to stay well clear of them on your opening tee shot.
By playing a more conservative tee shot, you will be left a longer approach shot to the green. This may be a difficult shot but it is better to be around the edge of the green or in a greenside bunker, than it is to be in a bunker 200 yards away from the pin. If you are in a bunker which is a long way from the green, you may use three shots before coming close to the green.
Keep these tips in mind next time you are faced with a tough opening hole.