How to Attack a Short Par 4


The PGA Tour is traveling to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia and you’ll see the world’s best competing on one of RTJ’s best at just over 7,400 yards. Robert Trent Jones’s courses are best known for their artistic landscape, contemporary bunkers, liberal use of water hazards, and calculating green placement and topography. Even the longest players won’t be able to overpower this course, but they’ll all have to rely on what every RTJ course revolves around, strategy. In particular, the short par-4’s, this can mean the difference in a top 10 or missing the cut.

So next time you’re watching a round of golf pay attention to how professionals approach the short holes. They manage to create scoring opportunities each and every time. There are a few keys that you should follow during your preparation, whether you’re a PGA Professional or a Weekend Warrior, to ensure you play these holes efficiently yet aggressively.

1. Start at the Green

Play the hole backwards and take a look at the pin placement to determine the best possible angle to play into the green.

What position can you be aggressive from? Take into account pin placement, bunkers/hazards between you and the hole, clear line of sight, and elevation.

2. Play To Your Strengths

Is your strength a shorter swing/half shot, or are you more consistent with a full swing? Do you have a favorite club?

Take these questions into consideration and play the hole intelligently.

 3. Determine Your Tee Shot

Once you have a solid attack plan, the next step is to determine what club you’ll hit from the tee to get you where you can score.

Take the total yardage of the hole and subtract the location where you would like to play from. Be sure to include wind direction, elevation change, and any roll. This will give you an accurate yardage for your tee shot so you can select the proper club. Remember, it’s not mandatory to hit a driver off of every tee.

4. Review & Execute

Before you begin your pre-shot routine visualize how you’d play each shot to confirm you’ve determined the proper play. Now go ahead and tee it up and follow your game plan!

Practice Drill

The best way to employ this strategy is to play a few holes on your own. Begin by taking a few golf balls and marking them differently so you know exactly which ball goes with which strategy. Determine a game plan with a driver, fairway wood/hybrid, and an iron. Play the hole with each method to determine your comfort level with these different options. You’ll be able to identify where you’re strong suits are and where your game needs improvement. This is an opportunity to strengthen a part of your game while keeping the other areas sharp. When implementing this into normal play, remember to use positive experiences from your practice sessions, and commit to your decisions.

Quick Recap

1. Start at the Green – Play the hole backwards.

2. Play to Your Strengths – Play the hole intelligently.

3. Determine Your Tee Shot – Set-up your second shot.

4. Review & Execute – Visualize and stick to your game plan.


Check out the last few months of tips that you may have missed:

Michael Loftin

Michael Loftin has been a Class “A” member of the PGA of America since 2007, and holds a PGA Certifications in Golf Operations. He has competed as an NCAA Division I golfer at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a Masters in Business Administration. He has a deep understanding of private golf facilities, where he provided extensive instruction, tournament operations, club fittings, and on course strategy. Michael’s instructional philosophy is not only teaching the students how to swing, but teaching students how to play.