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JT's PERSPECTIVE: PLAYING HOLE EIGHTEEN at LAKE MERCED GOLF CLUB

The finishing hole at LMGC is the longest par 5 hole on the course at ~560 yards from the back tee. The view from the elevated tee presents a fairway that falls away to its widest section just beyond a pair of bunkers on the left ~220 yards away. The view inspires a desire to hit hard off the tee.

A long straight ball trajectory is a must to score low on this hole. Near the teeing area, tall trees cluster along both sides of the fairway and extend as far as the bunkers on the left and all the way to the green on the right. The sides of the fairway slope towards the center, and will feed your tee shot nicely into position for your second shot. A slice or a hook will find trouble. Thick rough surrounds the trees on the right, and wild grasses lie in wait on the left. 

A straight drive puts the ball in position for a direct approach to an elevated green. The green is protected by a deep front right bunker, a tree near the left side, and a moderately deep bunker behind the tree. The fairway approach to the green is narrow and comes in with a slightly left to right orientation. To avoid the tree on the left, a shot from just about any position on the fairway requires hitting over the deep right front bunker.

Difficult conditions are found on both sides of the approach to the green. The LMGC driving range is on the right side of the fairway behind an extended tree cover. A wayward approach shot to the right can leave you with a problem recovery shot. On the left side, patches of wild grasses can trap the ball, and a tree ~100 yards from the green comes into play.

The moderately long green tends to be hard and fast. A ball that comes in hot can easily roll off the back fringe into a level rough with thick manicured grass. The green slopes back to front, and gentle slopes feed the ball from the fringes towards the center. A mix of subtle and moderate contours requires a careful read.

After finishing the hole, you will appreciate that scoring low at LMGC requires a complete game. The course has classic design features that complement the terrain. There is no water hazard, and not many forced carries. The greens have interesting contours that fairly reward green reading skills.

At ~6900 yards from the back tees, the course is not overly long by modern standards. Nevertheless, it's a challenge for players at every level. A big part of the reason is the need for effective tee shot placement on nearly every hole that will test your skill with each club in the bag. And, placement of your approach shot on the putting surface is equally critical. LMGC is Nor-Cal golf at its best. 

Player's key: a tee shot that finds the left-center of the fairway allows for an aggressive second shot. For loonng hitters, placing the tee shot on the left side of the fairway past the bunkers gives you a chance to reach the green with your seriously uphill loonng approach shot.

HOLE EIGHTEEN. Par 5, 556 / 538 / 532 / 410 yds from the tees. Rated at 6 handicap for men, 6 handicap for ladies.