Let’s conquer Par 5’s! You know those really long, challenging holes that you hate on the golf course?
Par 5’s can be intimidating because of their length and can cause much frustration and stress during your round.! I’m going to teach you how to strategically score better on par 5’s and lower your score!
What is a Par 5
Par 5’s are the longest holes out on the golf course and are sometimes thought of as the most difficult. A par 5 is a hole where a conditioned golfer is expected to hit the green in three shots and then putt 2 strokes. This means it is assumed that you can put the golf ball in the hole in 5 strokes, or less.
The minimum distance for a par 5 is currently 471 yards as determined by the USGA. If you are newer to golf and want to know how to read a scorecard, I have a whole post about what to look for and how to understand all of the numbers.
Clubs You Need
To score better on par 5’s, you are going to need certain golf clubs in your bag. (Learn more about specific clubs you need in your bag if you are curious)
(This one is somewhat obvious)
A driver is the longest club in your bag. It ranges in loft from 8-14 degrees of loft offering a lower shot than your other clubs. It is almost exclusively used off of the tee because you are allowed to tee up the ball to generate maximum distance. Now, you don’t have to use a driver off of the tee, but it usually is a strategic idea when playing par 5’s since it will put you in the best position for your next shot.
You are going to want either a 3 wood or a 5 wood in your bag (Or Both!) A 3 wood ranges from 13-17 degree loft and is the second longest club in your bag. A 5 wood ranges from 18-23 degrees of loft and is comparable to a 3, or 4 iron. Fairway woods offer long, lower shots that will generate plenty of roll. They are very beneficial on par 5’s and if utilized correctly, will help lower your golf score.
Hybrids & Long Irons
What is a hybrid? A hybrid clubis a combination of a wood and an iron. They range between 16-25 degrees of loft and are usually substituted for your long irons (2,3,4,5 irons). Hybrids are considered easier to hit than irons and allow better forgiveness off of mishits.
You are going to need a 3-5 hybrid or long iron in your bag to conquer a par 5. These clubs help you reach key locations on a hole that will allow you a better chance to score low
Par 5 Mentality
The mentality you need is that you are going to GAIN a stroke on all par 5’s.
Gaining a stroke means that you shoot one score lower than you usually would on a hole. For example, if you normally get a bogey on a par 5, your new mentality should be that you are going for par! PGA players all assume that they are going to either eagle or birdie all par 5’s. They call them “scoring holes”.
This mentality is essential to have for two reasons:
- It forces you to be more aggressive than you usually would which will put you in better situations to score low.
- You will put more pressure on yourself and think about your shots longer, limiting your mistakes!
You’ll notice your scores on par 5’s start to drop after adapting to this new mentality.
First Shot & When to Layup
- Layup- Hitting a shorter shot off the tee and having it land strategically before any hazards or danger.
- Dogleg- When a hole sharply turns either left or right and you do not have a straight shot to the hole.
The first shot of a par 5 sets up your position on the hole. (No pressure) Looking at the scorecard or map of the hole, determine how far the hole is and which golf club you are going to hit off the tee. If you have a lot of fairway to work with, use a driver. If there is a dogleg left or right, use an iron to layup for your second shot. Hitting the fairway can be difficult, so be sure to read my article about easy changes you can do to straighten your drive
The All Important Second Shot
The second shot is the most crucial shot on a par 5 because it determines if you will be in a scoring position or not. A scoring position is when you are close enough to the green that your chances of hitting close to the pin are higher. The second shot is where you need to place your ball strategically so your next shot will be a comfortable distance to the green.
For example, let’s say that you are very comfortable hitting 150-yard shots. You always hit the green from 150 yards out. Next, let’s say that on a par 5, you are 300 yards from the pin after your drive. Hitting your second shot 150 yards to the 150 marker will give you a better scoring position on that hole! Always try and play your odds by hitting your second shot to the best possible location that you feel comfortable hitting from for your third shot.
Risk vs. Reward
Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Let’s say that you sprayed your drive into some trees. Now what? The key here is to get yourself back to trying to save par. Your chances of scoring low will have decreased, so you have to be aggressive to make up for your miss-hit.
So here’s another example: Your drive is in some trees, and you don’t have a clear shot to hit to your scoring zone. You elect to punch out onto the fairway, and you are about 250 to the hole for your third shot. This is where you have to take a risk by taking out your 3 wood and swinging a bit harder to make up some distance. Remember, our goal is to save par so the closer we are to the green, the higher our chances are for getting up and down. (the reward)
Now I know that swinging hard for distance may present even more problems. (Risk) But you have to know you are not going to score well if you keep hitting easy shots all the way to the green. You have to maintain your aggressive mentality so that you can force a par save or at worst, get a bogey!
Hitting the Green
This is where you will be tested mentally to see if you can score low on a par 5! You have to tell yourself that YOU MUST hit the green on your third shot. (If you are too far away, try to get as close as you can to the green).
This is crucial because you want to give yourself some breathing room and a chance at birdie. Now if you hit your scoring zone on your second shot, you should feel pretty comfortable with the distance you gave yourself to the green. Remember to take a few practice swings, and WILL your shot onto the putting surface! The best way to do this is to know the exact distance you need to hit so you can use the appropriate golf club.
Putt For Dough
It’s time to put the saying ” drive for show putt for dough” to the test. We cannot afford to THREE PUTT! Use the following techniques and visualizations to help condition your muscle memory for when you are out on the course!
- Hula Hoop Drill
Visualizing a hula hoop around the hole comes in handy when you have a longer putt. You want to make sure that your first putt ends up in that hula hoop, so you know you will have a great chance to make your second putt. By visualizing a specific area that you have to have the ball stop, you will improve your distance control.
- Use your Shoulders
Using only your shoulders when putting will also help your distance control. If the wrists get too involved, you are going to have a tough time judging the distance to the hole.
- Read the Greens
Take some time before you putt to read the green and determine where the ball is going to go. It helps to look at both sides of the hole so that you know for sure which way the ball is going to break.
- Different Putting Styles
If you’re struggling with your putting stroke, read my article here about different putting styles that can improve your consistency.
Alright, let’s bring all that we learned together, so we make a useful strategy checklist:
- Adapt the mindset of scoring low on par 5’s
- Look at a map of the hole on the scorecard and determine which club you are going to use
- Decide if you are going to lay up
- On your second shot, hit to an area that you are comfortable with the distance to the green (scoring zone)
- If you are still far from the hole, think about taking a risk to swing harder and put yourself in a better position.
- On your third shot, tell yourself “I have to hit the green on this shot.” and measure your exact distance to the flag
- If you do miss the green, make sure you are close enough to chip on
- Take your time with your putting and read the putt very carefully.
- NO THREE PUTTS!
- Use Par 5’s as a momentum shift in your round to score low!
Developing a strategy when out on the course will allow you to feel more comfortable on par 5’s and by using this checklist, you will see significant improvements on your scorecard!