Sunday 10 January 2016

Blind Shots

The blind shot in modern golf is a polarizing design feature, prompting players to either embrace the unique nature of the shot or cry foul, deeming the required shot unfair.  Historically, most blind shots found on the links of Great Britain and Ireland are a direct result of the fact that early designers had limited earth moving capability.  Golf courses developed before WWI were found rather than built and blind shots were sometimes inevitable and became a part of the game, adding another element of diversity to the golf architect's arsenal.

Blind tee shots can be especially intimidating, forcing golfers to trust their swing as they propel their drive into the unknown.  Most instances of this nature include some introduced target, for example a white rock, to help golfers align themselves to the proper line.  While beneficial, the task remains daunting for the majority of golfers.

The tee shot at Koninklijke Haagsche's (Royal Hague) 7th is visually intimidating, especially for a first-time visitor.  The aiming barber pole helps, but trusting one's swing is paramount.  Unfortunately, long native grasses and bushes await tee shots missing the fairway.  
The key to making blind tee shots work is to limit the chance of lost balls which slow play and can lead to the frustration of walking back to the tee after a fruitless search.  It is much more difficult to locate one's ball when you can't see it land and therefore long rough and dense brush are out of the question.  It is prudent to provide a sufficiently wide target to make finding drives easier.  Another negative aspect of blind tee shots is the safety concern of hitting into the group in front, a scenario that wasn't as prevalent in the early 20th century when golf courses were not as heavily used.  Frequently, bells have been employed to signal that the group in front has moved safely out of range.  The system works well enough if everybody actively participates, but just look at the ball marks left unrepaired on greens to realize it isn't perfect.

Modern golf architects have shied away from leaving or creating blind shots for the reasons stated above in addition to the general attitude of modern golfers who feel they are unfair.  With earth moving equipment that can eliminate a hill obscuring a tee shot landing area in an afternoon it is a far easier task today than ever before.  

Blind shots into greens provide for a more compelling golf experience all the while limiting the negative aspects associated with blind tee shots.  It is much more exciting to crest a hill in anticipation of whether you will be facing a 40-footer or tap-in for birdie than whether your drive ended up in the fairway or bunker.  Blind approach shots have a narrower shot dispersion pattern and the prospect of hitting a 7 or 8 iron over a hill to a blind green is much less daunting than a driver, however, care must be taken to not encircle the putting surface with long, gnarly rough and dense bush.  Additionally, holes can be routed in such a manner that the group in front can be seen leaving the green or standing on the next tee, helping to keep players safe.  It is important to make the target easily discernible without the use of aiming stones or targets mounted on distant trees due to the wide array of approach angles played into the green.

The long approach into the 13th at Gamble Sands in Brewster, Washington utilizes a black & white striped barber pole to indicate the line to the green.

David Macklay Kidd provided ample short-grass beyond the bunkering that hide the green at Gamble Sands 13th, ensuring golfer's could easily locate their balls.

One of the problems with blind shots is that they are forced upon the golfer and are one-dimensional.  A more strategic option is to provide golfers with a choice of whether to challenge a blind shot to obtain an advantage, or utilize a blind approach as punishment for failing to attempt the more demanding tee shot.  In either case, the blind shot can be avoided, with potential consequences on subsequent shots.
With out-of-bounds right on the 18th hole at Seth Raynor's Lookout Mountain in Georgia, laying back off the tee with a long iron for accuracy leads to a blind approach.  A bolder drive to the top of the hill is rewarded with a clear view of the green.
The 8th at Mike Devries' Kingsley Club in Kingsley, Michigan provides options.  A safe drive left or risk carrying the fescue & bunker laden hillside? Reaching the blind fairway beyond is rewarded with an advantageous angle of approach.

Blind shots can add some mystery to the game and the thrill of ascending a hill to find one's approach laying dead to the hole is hard to top.  Like everything in golf design, variety is the key and too many blind shots can reduce the appeal of such a challenge.  Regardless, blind shots that yield long searches for balls are not going to be successful and rather than adding an element of fun to the game, have a deleterious effect.  Giving players room to play is always a good rule of thumb and even more important when inserting a blind shot into the routing.


  1. As a relatively new golfer, I am definitely in the "this is intimidating" camp! Of course, at the same time I also enjoy a good challenge. Maybe as I gain more experience I will start to embrace them more!

    1. Blind shots force you to trust your swing, as being unable to see the landing zone and the potential hazards lurking out of sight can be unnerving, even to very experienced players.

  2. Hello Tyler. Tried to reach you but i don't know how ;-) Let me know if you can email me to Thanks !