Penn Tucker asks, ‘What is meant by the term 'Sunday Pin'?’

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer

A "Sunday Pin" is a cup location that is difficult to access on your approach shot. The name comes from the way courses are typically set up on the last day of a tournament. I have adapted the name to describe one of my favorite green design concepts.

As we have discussed, green design must equally consider the two distinct skill elements of golf – long play and putting. I design greens the way you play them, looking first at the approach, and then at putting. Those shots have a strategic relationship, even if (based on my game, anyway) there is no relation between the skills needed for either shot! I concurrently address maintenance/management issues, like cup rotation and speed of play.

Sunday Pin greens address many issues well, by allowing any hole to be flexible for everyday play, and occasionally provide challenge during special events. Sunday Pin greens accommodate all skill level players well, since everyone can aim for the "fat" middle of these greens, accepting par or bogey, or with more daring and skill, finding "birdie range" when the "tucked pin" requires. They have the following features:

· At/near fairway grade with an open front green (i.e. no frontal bunkers) which allows average players either a run up approach, or a safe shot without a forced carry to the "fat middle" of the green.

· One perimeter pin location guarded by exterior hazards, which allows a difficult pin position approximately once a week.

· Bail-out areas which penalize gently for most misses, but a harsher penalty for aggressive play to a tucked pin. This pin area will be open from the middle of the green, but may be guarded on the other three sides (front/back, and one or both sides).

· Gently rolling contours throughout the green, which proportionally reward shots near the pin with a shorter putt, while longer putts need to negotiate more contours.

Sunday Pin greens fit all types of holes on all types of courses. They offer daily variety based on wind conditions, cup location, tee shot length and position, and golfer confidence. I think these are so flexible and appropriate, that the majority of my greens on every course are "Sunday Pin" greens.

I vary the location of the Sunday Pin locations among greens, striving for at least one green each with the most difficult pin front right, front middle, front left, middle right, middle left, back right, back middle and back left. Most courses then set up a rotation of pin settings that balances length and cup location difficulty, while providing variety, by having three pins in each of the six basic cup areas every day.

By my definition (and in these writings, who else’s matters?) the Sunday Pin shouldn’t be in the middle, because most golfers believe that the middle of the green is "safe." However, I occasionally design the toughest pin spot in the green center, by creating a large green, and by using contours as a deflection knob to guard the middle.

Weekend Greens are a close relative to Sunday Pin greens. Many greens of this type – usually a wedge-shaped green with a front opening and two tucked back pins – naturally offer a blended variety of difficulty in their cup locations. These are adaptable to many holes, but I favor them on longer par-5s to create a precision approach with placement strategy on the second shot.

That’s a great question, Tucker. In the next installment I will discuss some other green approach concepts I use in design to fit special needs and introduce variety.