It’s not often on the PGA Tour that you witness crowds roar merely because a caddie has handed his player a wood instead of an iron. Drivable par fours provide that experience. Par fours that are designed to be driven under the right circumstances, based on yardage, weather, or course conditions are among the most exciting holes in golf.
Some of the game’s finest examples are in play during the Tour’s West Coast swing. With longtime favorites at TPC Scottsdale and Riviera included among them, here are 11 of the best drivable par fours in the world.
The Riviera Country Club (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)—10th hole, 307 yards
With the possible exception of Augusta National’s par-five 13th, this is the ultimate risk/reward hole in professional golf—and it’s just as tantalizing for the modest-hitting 10-handicapper. Any self-respecting pro can drive the green, but the penalties for missing are so severe, thanks to the ingenious positioning of both bunkers and putting surface, that fives and sixes are much more common on the scorecard than twos.
Driver or iron? High fade or low hook? Riviera’s drivable par-4 10th hole is notorious for keeping pros on their toes. pic.twitter.com/qqnqbWtE4E
— Skratch (@Skratch) February 13, 2020
Jack Nicklaus has stated that the 10th presents more options than any other short hole in the world. Few have the discipline to approach the green from the proper angle, which calls for a lay-up drive to the far left side of the fairway—especially when the hole location is back-right on this shallow, diagonal green corseted by bunkers. When the pin is on the left, unprotected by the fronting bunker, the temptation is to go straight at it—even if you fall short. However, that open portion of the green slopes away to the back, making a straight-on approach that much exquisitely tougher. What it adds up to is risk/reward in perfect measure.
TPC Scottsdale, Stadium (Scottsdale, Ariz.)—17th hole, 332 yards
Frankly, there are more choices and drama here than on Riviera’s 10th, but not in quite as nice a package. Bunkers, angles, water left of and in back of the funky green, which sports an index finger of putting surface back-left, all conspire to complicate—and entice. Andrew Magee aced this hole at the 2001 WM Phoenix Open by ricocheting his ball off another golfer’s putter, the only par-four hole-in-one in PGA Tour history. Said co-designer Tom Weiskopf: “The lure for the big hitter is a chance at an eagle putt. The risk for the errant drive is water left of the green, and a swale to the right. We’ve also rewarded the shorter hitter, letting him use his short-game expertise to handle the bold contours of the green. The exciting aspect to this hole is that so many things can happen—there are so many different ways to play it.”
Royal Melbourne, West (Melbourne, Australia)—10th hole, 312 yards
An Alister MacKenzie masterpiece that played as the 6th during the 2019 Presidents Cup, this temptress demands a perfectly controlled draw around a gigantic, gaping trap to a firm, fast, cunningly contoured green. Choosing the correct angle into the green is paramount, even for those who go for it. Architect and former tour pro Mike Clayton, who co-authored Barnbougle Dunes with Tom Doak, considers this hole to be the finest of its length he has ever seen.
Bluebird day @royal_melbourne. No place I’d rather be. This is the view from the tee box on the short uphill 10th. pic.twitter.com/lkc5spdXYC
— Michael Wolf (@bamabearcat) February 26, 2020
Lahinch Golf Club, Old (County Clare, Ireland)—13th hole, 279 yards
MacKenzie grafted a fistful of holes onto Old Tom Morris’s original design, and among his best is the 13th, one of the top examples anywhere of how contour can change the dynamic in an instant. The yardage makes the target well within reach, but bunkers, hollows, and a right-to-left slope squeeze the effective landing area to miniscule proportions. Yet, the hole is so short, how can you not go for it?
Sand Hills (Mullen, Neb.)—7th hole, 283 yards
No water here on this Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design, but sand, terrain, and prairie winds interlock to form an irresistible, yet frightening go-for-it-or-not prospect. There appears to be ample room to knock one on, but the freakishly intimidating bunker that’s poised short and left of the elevated green has induced many a twitch.
The famed 7th at Sand Hills Golf Club is one of the finest short par-4s in the world. Just 285 yards from tee to green, the hole features an enormous blowout protecting the left side of the perched green, which falls away sharply on the right. As perfect as a golf hole can get. pic.twitter.com/ezqbRgbXMK
— LinksGems Golf Photos (@LinksGems) January 25, 2019
TPC River Highlands (Cromwell, Conn.)—15th hole, 296 yards
Not as dangerous as the course’s 17th, where a massive lake separates the landing area from the green, this hole is much more fun. Sure, there are prettier examples scattered about the game, but few that are enjoyed by such large galleries as the pros encounter each year at the Travelers. Water and a nest of bunkers await a pulled shot, while a hill covered in deep rough greets the overly faded drive. Big bashers require less than a driver to reach the putting surface, yet it’s every bit as daunting to attack the green with a fairway wood or hybrid, thanks to the rumpled ground right in front of the green. As Webb Simpson once stated, “It’s a hole where you can make a five, but you can make a two as well. It’s one of the better drivable par fours on Tour, for sure.”
Gamble Sands (Brewster, Wash.)—2nd hole, 340 yards
David McLay Kidd has built some staggeringly fun, reachable par fours in his career, including the semi-drivable 16th at Bandon Dunes and the definitely drivable 14th at Sand Valley’s Mammoth Dunes. Perhaps best of all is his 2014 effort at Gamble Sands. Like the rest of the course, the 2nd hole features an enormously wide, rumpled fairway and a firm, gigantic green. The boldly bunkered hole begins with a spectacular vista of the Columbia River and then careens to the left like the third turn at Talladega. Due to the crispy, links-like turf, you can reach the green with less than a driver, but your options are so numerous, half the fun is simply in the selection process.
St. Andrews, Old (St. Andrews, Scotland)—18th hole, 357 yards
Architecture buffs will counter that the 12th hole, with its minefield of bunkers and narrow green, is the most strategically compelling of the drivable par fours at the Old Course. But is there a better one than the 18th? No. Amid today’s technology and the brick-hard fairways, competitors were driving the home green at the Open Championship in 2022 with irons and fairways woods. No matter. The Swilcan Bridge, the R&A clubhouse, the threat of OB right and long, and the specter of the Valley of Sin to cause an awkward putt or chip still makes this most historic of holes one of the best of its kind in golf.
Oakmont Country Club (Oakmont, Pa.)—17th hole, 313 yards
A pivotal hole in recent U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur championships, this apparent breather at one of the world’s toughest tests is anything but. The elevated green is ringed with five bunkers. The “Big Mouth” bunker short-right appears to be the scariest of the quintet, but another deep trap short-left is equally nightmarish. Worse is missing it long-left, as Jim Furyk did on the 71st hole in the 2007 U.S. Open. With an awkward stance and an awful lie in dense rough, it took him four to get down. Even with a layup, the hole looks simple enough, but the penalty for missing can intimidate even a U.S. Open champ.
Ballyneal (Holyoke, Colo.)—7th hole, 352 yards
Tom Doak’s 2006 design in the remote, treeless prairie of northeastern Colorado plays like a links, hard and fast, with sandhills, fescues, and a different wind every day. He carved out one of the wildest, most inspired green complexes anywhere at Ballyneal’s 7th hole. Carry a central fairway bunker and an exaggerated slope to the left will funnel shots towards the target, while a jagged bunker eats into the right side of the E-shaped, imaginatively contoured putting green.
The 7th at Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club, with its famed “E” green, is one of the game’s great modern short par-4s. The hole is drivable downwind but difficult to hit, and the large mound left of the green can help or hurt approach shots. A memorable hole on a terrific golf course. pic.twitter.com/f1qKcg1Md9
— LinksGems Golf Photos (@LinksGems) March 13, 2018
Austin Country Club (Austin, Texas)—4th/13th hole, 317 yards
The 4th hole for member play, “Cape Dye” plays a pivotal role as the 13th during the PGA Tour’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The memorable setting features Lake Austin to the left, with Pennybacker Bridge looming behind the tee box. The shot values Pete Dye injected are equally memorable. With spring winds usually a factor, three clear risk/reward tee shot options emerge. The safe layup, to the widest portion of the fairway, leaves a longer shot in. Incurring a bit of risk to a narrower portion of the fairway leaves 80 or so yards—right in the scoring zone. Going for the green requires a 290-yard carry, but it can play considerably shorter depending on wind and tee marker setup. Awaiting a solid hit is an eagle putt. Also awaiting is Lake Austin for a pulled drive or a scary chip for a pushed tee shot.
— Guy Cipriano (@GCIMagazineGuy) February 3, 2018
What other drivable par fours should be on this list? Let us know in the comment section.