Why Quail Hollow's 14th hole stands out amongst other drivable par 4s on the PGA Tour
Quail Hollow Club opened in the early 1960s and was very much a product of its times. The George Cobb design was built across rolling, open pasture south of Charlotte just as the city was expanding out into suburbs, as most cities were. The holes were long and full of strong doglegs that played into large greens protected by two, three or even four bunkers.
By the 1990s, with trees matured, greens shrunken and bunkers redesigned, the course was very different. That’s when Quail Hollow began working with Tom Fazio, who embarked on a significant remodel program that turned the course into the current version made popular through the broadcast of the Wells Fargo Championship, which began being played there in 2003. One of the more impactful changes he made was to the lakeside 14th, a hole that’s quietly become one of the most exciting short par 4s on tour.
Here's why Quail Hollow's 14th hole made our ranking of the most underrated holes on tour:
Quail Hollow’s 14th has always been a short par 4 around 350 yards in length. The hole begins in the trees and plays straight out to a fairway sloped right-to-left toward a lake that starts to come into play 225 yards from the tee, then bends left, hugging the water. Two bunkers sit on the high side of the fairway and catch tee shots aimed too far away from trouble. Two split bunkers guard the front left and right side of a narrow green that’s 50 yards deep and pushed flush against the lake.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE GREEN
In 1997, Fazio moved the green down to the water’s edge from where it was previously, 25 yards to the right and 15 yards up on the hillside. This made the hole much more strategically engaging. Previously, players could drive up as close to the green as possible with little fear, and big hitters could occasionally reach the bunkers in front of the putting surface.
Now if they want to attempt to drive the green—and many in the field have the strength to do it—they have to assess the risk of finding the water or the right-hand bunker, which leaves a precarious sand shot down the hill to a shallow green running away with the hazard lurking long. Anything creeping off the left edge of the green is gone, taking the plunge. Even lay-ups have added challenge as second shots must play slightly across the axis of the green toward the water, and drives that miss the fairway in the rough or bunkers result in difficult-to-control approaches to a firm green.
Drivable par 4s used to be those between 275 and 300 yards, often with contours that helped balls bounce onto greens if played correctly. On the PGA Tour, that paradigm is extended nearly 100 yards, though 340, with hazards lurking, is still long enough that players thinking of going for the green have to make a serious decision. In the last five Wells Fargos, only 33 players found the putting surface off the tee, but well over 500 have tried. Watching where balls land and where they drift off to is one of the most entertaining sights on the course.
The pin position is equally critical. When the flag is placed on the front of the green, this is a birdie hole whether played with a driver or for position to set up a short wedge approach, as slopes help move the ball toward the hole. When the flag is all the way back almost no one challenges it, but that leaves long putts that, in some cases, must crest over a ridge and fight the strong right-to-left pull of gravity. When the hole is back, there will be three-putts.
(Green-reading map: Courtesy of StrackaLine)