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

HOLE FOURTEEN stretches nearly 500 yards from the back tee. The teeing areas are elevated and overlook a wide gently descending fairway with modest slopes on both left and right sides. Three shallow fairway bunkers on the right are in play for long drives, and tall trees are scattered along most of the length of the hole.

Tee shots should be directed to the center right of the fairway to facilitate navigating a slight dogleg to the left that comes into play for the approach to the green. A ball placed near the fairway bunkers provides an opportunity for long hitters to reach the putting surface with the approach shot. A tee shot that strays to the left side of the fairway will have tall trees blocking sight lines to the green.

The fairway rises gradually along most of its length with minimal changes in surface grade. Off the tee the fairway slopes left to right before reaching the dogleg left. It becomes relatively flat from ~150 yards into the green with a gentle slope up to the putting surface. Approaching the green from the right center allows a low trajectory ball to roll along the fairway onto the green. 

The placement of the fairway bunkers on the right is interesting. Because they are shallow, the temptation to use a low lofted club for maximum distance can be difficult to resist. But it would take an exceptional shot out of the bunker to reach the green, arguing for a two shot strategy that leaves a safe opportunity for birdie. Conservative play of the hole may be the safest way to tame it.

The large contoured green is protected by a large shallow bunker on the left side, a long deep bunker on the right side, and a small shallow bunker on the back left. A steep drop-off at the back right can penalize an overly aggressive approach to the green. The subtle contours of the putting surface are readable and fair in any direction.

Player's key: a tee shot that lands in the fairway near the right side bunkers yields an easy approach to the green. Yes, the bunkers are in play for full tee shots.

HOLE FOURTEEN. Par 5. 496 / 475 / 460 / 417 yards from the tees. Handicap rating is 2 for men and 5 for ladies.