How To Play Big Downhill Golf Shots

big downhill golf shots featured

On the 488-yard 6th hole at Journey at Pechanga, players are faced with a dramatic 300-foot elevation drop from the tee box to the green, and about 210 feet to the fairway. After catching your breath from the view and ride up to the tee, here’s how to handle these big downhill golf shots.


There’s a general guideline that for every three feet (one yard) of elevation change up or down, there’s a one-yard change to a hole’s distance. So in this particular situation where there’s very little wind and normal 80-degree Califor-nia weather, this 488-yard beast will actually play more like 388 yards. This changes entirely the strategy on how I can safely play this challenging and taunting hole (Photo 1).


The most generous landing area is right of the bunkers guard-ing the left side of the fairway, measuring approximately 190 yards to carry the canyon and 290 yards through the fairway.

Instead of instinctively grabbing my driver, because of the 70-yard elevation change I can add 70 yards more distance to my club selection (Photo 2). In this case, my hybrid goes 210 yards on a flat hole, which means it will go 260-280 yards here. The hybrid is much more accurate and generally easier to hit, offering you the first task of scoring well — hitting the fairway and keeping your tee shot in play.

big downhill golf shots 1-4


Mentally you have to trust this information as the visuals will play havoc with your mind, tricking you into thinking you have to swing harder. Commit to a smooth, rhythmic swing (Photo 3). After successfully positioning yourself in the fairway (Photo 4) you’ll have approximately 200 yards to the center of the green, but the remaining 90-foot elevation drop will bring that yardage down to 170 yards.


Now, there are those of you who can be tantalized by the op-tion of going for the green with your drive — more than 290 actual yards to a very small landing area that leads straight down to the green. It’s just a question of risk and reward and where you stand (or think you stand) with your game.

Randy Chang is Director of Instruction at Journey at Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California

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