Go for it, or lay up?
U.S. Open 2023: The fascinating dilemma of LACC's sixth hole, explained
Los Angeles Country Club, the site of the 2023 U.S. Open, was designed by George Thomas. Thomas was the “master of the short par 4,” in the words of Gill Hanse, who oversaw LACC’s redesign.
“It gives you a ton of options,” Hanse said of LACC’s sixth hole. "It’s a brilliant design, perfectly situated into the landscape, and archaeologically it’s one of the greatest finds we’ve ever had in a redesign of a golf hole.”
LACC’s par-4 sixth hole maxes out at just 335 yards. It’s downhill, too, which means it can play shorter than some of the course’s par 3s. Lots of pros could get to the green with a 3-wood, and surely, their pride will tempt them into trying.
But that’s how the hole plays on paper. In reality it’s not an easy or straightforward decision. Even though it’s a short hole, it really makes players think.
You can watch our full breakdown of the hole below, or right here.
Traditionally, most players would lay up on a hole like this, and it does make sense why.
LACC’s sixth green is tilted, similar to Augusta National’s 12th green, which means effective width of the green changes the wider an angle you take into it. Whereas the middle of the green is about 11 yards wide when you go directly from the tee box, when you approach it from the side, that narrow corridor almost doubles, to 22 yards.
This is what people mean when they talk about working an angle into a green, the higher and wider you go, the more green you have to work with.
Indeed, some players have been making noises about laying up on this hole, in large part due to the baranka flanking the front left of the green. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I’m not buying it.
Collin Morikawa said he was considering laying up, and it only took playing the hole once and a five minute conversation with his caddy to convince him otherwise. I think we’ll see other players opt for a similar strategy of firing something down the narrow right side of the hole, and chipping up. It brings the baranka into play and some short sided potential, but I suspect for most it'll be a risk worth taking.
The reason why can be explained by players’ proximity stats.
From 20 to 50 yards around the greens, pros generally hit their shot between 9 and 12 feet away from the hole. Lay further back, to between 75 and 100 yards, and pros hit their ball to almost 20 feet. When you look at the make rate of the subsequent putts, pros make putts between 10 and 15 feet 30.65 percent of the, about 12 percent more than putts made from 15-20 feet.
Simply put, the closer golfers are to the hole, the closer they hit their next shot, and the odds are higher they make the putt This is true for all golfers, by the way, even higher handicaps.
Players have gotten wise to this over the years, and it’s why they choose the aggressive route more and more on short holes like this. You see it on Rivera’s 10th hole, a similarly-designed drivable par 4 just down the road from LACC that was also designed by George Thomas. Back in 2004, 64 percent of players laid up on that hole, and worked an angle into the green. In 2022, only 3 percent of golfers did, and the hole’s scoring average went down because of it.
It’ll be fascinating to watch players grapple with that risk-reward dilemma of LACC’s 6th hole. And a decision that may prove pivotal by the end of the week.
Once you again, you can watch the full video below, or here.