The last hole, but by no conceivable means, the least. Just after our signature 17th, the 18th hole is where most golfers are keenly watched from the first floor of the Club or are cheered and rousingly welcomed home as a tournament finishes. As we continue our series on breaking down the basics of our course, Pro Shop Manager and golf pro Ryan Schierhout is joined by Golf Manager Thomas Raatgever to finish strong on the 18th.
About the 18th
‘Cry Baby’: an interesting name for the last hole on the course. Not because it induces tears (or, perhaps it does?) but because of a memory on this spot when Simbithi Eco-Estate was still a farm. A little locomotion ran through the farm and would toot its horn around where the 18th is now located, during the early hours of the morning. This was the wake-up call for farmers, staff and, of course, the sleeping Marot girls, Kay and Jen, much to their mother Mary’s dismay.
The 18th is a par 4: if you get the ball in the hole in four shots, this means you have made “par”. If you manage to get the ball into the hole in three shots, you have made a “birdie”. If you are lucky enough to do this in just two shots, you’ve made a (very rare) “eagle” on this hole!
Most golfers would be happy with a five on this hole, giving you a “bogey”. If you hit six shots, you’d have a “double bogey”. Hopefully, after you read these tips on how to play the 18th we will see fewer bogeys, double, triple…or even quadruple bogeys!
On the 18th
The first thing Ryan does is use an interesting gadget called a range finder to measure the distance from the tee to the bunker. “I’m measuring from the white tee, but it isn’t always in this spot,” Ryan demonstrates. “The range finder helps me calculate my distance: how far to fly the bunker.”
Ryan measures around 214 metres to the front of the right bunker and 256 metres to the front of the left bunker. “It is important to know my carrying distance before I choose what club I will use.”
This, say Ryan and Thomas, is when golfers would need to decide where they are going to aim and what shot they will play. Ryan chooses a draw shot, aiming at the right bunker and hoping to bring it back to the middle of the fairway. For a right-handed player, a draw is a ball flight that moves slightly right to left, in a controlled manner. For a left-handed golfer, the ball moves slightly left to right. “As I look out over the 18th, I ask myself if I can carry a shot over the left bunker,” Ryan gently swings his club – a now instinctive pre-golf routine – as he prepares. “I don’t think it’s long enough, so I will aim for the bunker on the right.”
Embedded Ball – Aha!
As we head down onto the fairway, Ryan realises his ball is embedded: a great teaching opportunity! An embedded ball is a ball embedded in its own pitchmark in the ground, as a result of your previous stroke. A ball is only embedded if it has “broken” the ground.
According to Golf RSA’s rules, “relief” is permitted when your ball is embedded in the general area. Relief is an area one club length from the reference point (in this case, the embedded ball) and is not nearer to the hole than the reference point.
When your ball is embedded in the general area (the area of the course that covers all the course except for the 1. teeing area you must play from in starting the hole you are playing, 2. all penalty areas, 3. all bunkers and 4. the putting green of the hole you are playing) you may take relief by dropping the original ball (or another ball) in the relief area.
Ryan uses his club to measure his reference point for relief. “The reference point should be the spot behind where the ball is embedded. Then, I am allowed a free drop.”
Here, read Golf RSA’s comprehensive rules on embedded balls. Thomas encourages members to learn to use the rule book or rules apps. “It’s easy to ask a pro, or a staff member what the rules are, but circumstances can often mean “grey” areas as the feedback can be opinion rather than fact. Your game will improve considerably if you learn the rules and implement them well.”
The Second Shot
Ryan now uses the distances that are in the middle of the fairway to judge his distance. “I’m looking at about 120 metres to the front of the tee, plus 17 metres to the flag, giving me 137 metres,” he says. “So, I’m going to choose a club to attack and fly me around 130 metres and roll seven. I’m going to aim right again, as the ball is higher than my feet…or above my feet, which usually makes the ball go left. If I was on the left, in the rough area, the ball would be lower than, or below, my feet which would cause the ball to shape left to right into the air.”
Ryan & Thomas’s Top Tips
1. For the first shot off the tee; if you are hitting to the right, tee up on the left. This automatically gets your body, and your line of sight, in the right direction. You will clearly see the right bunker you are aiming for. If you tee up on the right, your line of sight will be obscured by trees.
2. Ryan recommends teeing up around half a ball higher than the club face. “It doesn’t quite matter what height, but this is my preference because of the conditions, today. If I was hitting into the wind, I’d tee off a bit lower.” Thomas adds the higher you tee, the more you encourage inside path, giving you a better chance of a successful draw shot.
3. Decide what shot you are going to play and then commit with confidence. Always play the first shot with the second in mind. “Your aim is to make your second shot easier by planning and playing your first, well,” says Thomas.
4. Aim at the pin with a draw shot, because if you hit it a little left, you will still be safe,” Ryan reckons. “The fairway is quite expansive, so use it! Be confident your shot will carry.”
5. If you, indeed, end up with an embedded ball, you have a “divot” – a piece of turf cut out of the ground in the course of playing a stroke. Repair it!
6. As always, please repair your pitch marks. If you spot pitch marks left by other golfers, then take the time to repair those, too and always keep up with the players in front of you.
Want to watch Ryan in action? Check out our YouTube channel for a live demonstration of how to crack the 18th.
If you are interested in golf lessons, pop into the Pro Shop or call 032-946 5407/ e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.