Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands

U.S. Open

It's only 81 yards, so why are pros playing LACC's 15th hole so safe?


Ross Kinnaird

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Country Club has been hosting history this week at the U.S. Open. The lowest 18-hole score, the lowest nine-hole score, and now, on Saturday, the shortest hole in U.S. Open history.

LACC's par-3 15th hole shrunk by more than a third compared with its first round yardage earlier in the week. It was 124 yards on Thursday, but just a paltry 81 yards on Saturday. A change possible both because the tees were moved way up, of course, but also the hole location.

The pin was placed as far forward and to the right of the green as feasibly possible. It leaves players with no more than five yards to work with around the pin. That's only about 176 square feet of precious Los Angeles real estate which, in case you were wondering, would go for about $500,000, using the house on LACC's 15th hole as a price-per-square-foot barometer.

But anyway, back to golf.

As far as exact numbers pros were looking at on Saturday:

  • 95 yards to the middle of the green
  • 74 yards to cover the front edge
  • 81 yards to the pin

Players though aren't dummies.

The average proximity to the hole from shots of this range is about 18 feet. Take dead aim at this pin, and you're looking at an area which brings into play both bunkers and the gnarly rough surrounding them.

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"If I hit 10 balls at that pin, I would probably hit the green once. I'm not going to take that on," Shane Lowry said. "At the start of the week I said ‘I'm going to aim for the middle of the green and try to spin it back to 20 or 30 feet.’ I hit a great shot and hit it to 25 feet, so I was pretty happy with myself.”

Lowry was in the overwhelming majority of players adopting that strategy on Saturday.

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Lowry said he played it 95 yards, and aimed at a protruding piece of rough on the back of the green. He was in the overwhelming majority of players adopting that strategy on Saturday. In doing so, players shifted their dispersion patterns up and to the left (you can learn more about those in our video right here, by the way), which almost all of the bunker danger. Only a truly terrible shot would find the sand and most would find the friendly slope on the green.

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It was clearly the correct play. But standing on the 15th hole, pretty sure I could throw a ball onto the surface, I found myself wondering how pros wouldn't be tempted into trying. So, after he was done explaining the ins-and-outs of the smart play, I asked Lowry about the stupid one.

You're one of the best wedge players on the planet. Weren't you tempted to just fire straight at the pin?

"At this level you just need to be very disciplined in your decisions," Lowry said. "Especially because I was playing OK. If I was three or four over par for the round maybe I would've tried to do something."