In the second instalment of our series on taming the Middle East’s toughest holes, Claude Harmon 3 Performance Golf Academy Director of Instruction Jamie McConnell tackles the water-hugged 15th at The Els Club Dubai
There’s irrefutable statistical proof but it’s not just the numbers that make the 15th the most difficult hole at The Els Club. It is also the most visually intimidating hole on Ernie Els’ Dubai gem and that often throws amateurs off their strategy as soon as they arrive on the tee. Indeed, it’s often the intimidation factor that results in all those scorecard blowouts and broken hearts.
The key to conquering the 15th is the tee shot. Finding dry land is the first step and for most amateurs, the odds of achieving this can be significantly increased by choosing the correct line from the tee. For most, the instinct is to take the “Tiger Line” between the bunkers and the water. Yet by taking this line you significantly narrow your “Safe Miss Zone” and instantly increase the odds of taking a water-infused penalty. To make matters worse your next shot will be from an even worse position, most likely a nasty lie in the sand.
Higher skilled, lower handicappers will be able to take a line tight to the right edge of the traps and allow the ball to simply slide right towards the fairway. This maximises the margin for error and almost completely removes the chances of taking a penalty.
For higher handicappers, a more conservative strategy is the key. The prudent line is directly at the centre of the two bunkers on the far corner of the dogleg. There is nothing fancy needed here as this line affords the widest possible landing area while also reducing the risk of hitting the ball in the water and suffering a penalty. The worst-case scenario is a second shot played from one of the bunkers, followed by a wedge or a short iron in. This still means you take any potential for big numbers off the card. And remember, you get a shot or two here anyway depending on your handicap. Use them wisely!
Once your tee shot finds the fairway – or pretty much anywhere other than the water – the approach to the green becomes much easier to handle.
At first glance, the 15th green looks like a difficult surface to hit but it is actually an exceptionally clever design. When you look at it in more detail, the key to figuring out the approach is to look at the shape of the green. Essentially the green plays in a figure of eight: wide at the front, slender in the middle and wide at the back. This means that the pin has a huge influence on how you need to approach the green.
For a front pin, the best miss is certainly short left, while for a back flag ensuring that you have enough club almost completely takes the water out of play. Favouring these areas will mean that you either have a great look at birdie, or an easy up and down to save par. Remember, don’t allow that intimidating tee shot to knock your before you even tee off. Stick to a strategy consummate with your handicap and reap the rewards. Good luck! — with Kent Gray