The 14th at Bandon Trails: Good, Bad, or Other?

A recent Twitter debate seems to stir up emotions over here at Beyond The Contour, yet it is exactly what we need to get the juices going. Take the most recent discussion on the 14th at Bandon Trails, which you can view below.

Even though we know this question has beaten itself into submission, we raise the question yet again: is the 14th at Bandon Trails a good golf hole? We explore.

The facts

  • Driveable par 4
  • 325/306/292/174/251 yards
  • 14th handicap (for both men & women)
  • Significantly downhill, as Google Earth Pro shows us below.

It is a good hole because…

A risk-reward drivable hole is always fun. For a good player, the shot is either a driver or 3 wood (perhaps less for the better player), and for a good player, I think you’re trying to get it near or on the green, as long as it does not go long left. For a higher handicap who likely cannot get to the green, the actual “shot value” (I know, Golf Digest terminology) is quite high. It becomes important to keep the shot up on the left side of the fairway. From the right, it’s much harder to get the ball close no matter the distance, but the difficulty is accentuated the further back the golfer plays from. Those long-hitting high handicap players would likely be better suited to blast it near the green and take their chances… as long as they do not hit it in the bunkers on the right.

It is not a good hole because…

Realistically, it’s half a hole. Even on the layup, there’s not a whole lot of reasoning to why anyone would hit it to the lower right portion of the fairway unless it is a miss, and even still, the player might not really miss their shot and end up at the bottom because of contours. To me, this makes it one-dimensional—there is only one way to play it. Completely on purpose and not a fluke, this brings us to the next point, which is:

Neither good, nor bad—but lacks substance

I do not really side with anyone who says it is an amazing hole. To me, that is incorrect, it is clearly flawed. But I would also pump the brakes for anyone saying it is a terrible hole. The simple answer is it is a one-dimensional hole. There’s really only one way to play the golf hole. For everyone, you need to get as close to the green as possible for your best shot. A lot more can go wrong with 110 yards to this green than 35, even from lower in the fairway. Additionally, the entire right side existing, as if it serves some sort of purpose other than to have additional short grass and width, is a fallacy in my eyes. To me, a really solid drivable par 4 has incentive to layup as the penalty can really sneak up on you near the green, but there is hope. In other words, I think a nice split is 30/70. If 30% of the time you feel confident you can pull it off, I think it becomes a good drivable par 4. This is particularly enticing in match play, where someone might lay up with the match lead as the penalty is severe for an improperly placed shot around the green, but the person down in the match likely goes for the green. To me, there is not a lot of incentive to layup on the 14th at Trails as the green seems better suited for a pitch shot, versus a full wedge.

My (amateur) proposal, of sorts

I will not even begin to pretend to know the intricacies of golf course construction, but perhaps the green on grade with the lower right could be advantageous? If it’s my hole, the green ever-so-slightly slopes towards the front right, so balls from the upper-left (clearly the better view) are quicker working its way down the slope, while balls from the right have a back-stop if they choose to use it. From the tee, the player could have the option to play the contours left and kick the ball at the green, or fire directly at the green. A bunker some 50 yards short dead centre in the hillside where you would likely want to land the ball for going for the green, or if you accidentally hammer your layup and do not equate for the downhill nature of the hole, could be cool also. Of course, this is one man’s (amateur) suggestion!


Give us your thoughts in the comments below. Is it a good hole? Bad hole? Somewhere in between, like I think it is? Let us know!

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