Sunday, 11 December 2011

A Hackers Guide To Royal Ascot - Hole 12 (Henry Cotton)

We've reached the 12th hole, named after the three time Open champion who has been associated with Royal Ascot since playing in the inaugural boys championship in 1921. This Boys Amateur Championship has now grown into an major event on the golfing calendar and some of the modern greats have tasted success in it.

 This hole is ranked as the hardest on the course according to the stroke index and is a 409 yard par four which doglegs at a ninety degree angle. The course planner describes the hole:

"Don’t ruin a hard fought for score at this point, play well within your limitations. Drive at part of fairway you can see. Play your second towards green and if you have to, use your short game to secure your par. The green is receptive."

The 12th - a daunting tee shot and a tough second to follow
For many, the ideal shot is straight down to the corner of the dog leg which leaves a second shot of some 200 yards or so. However the braver golfer can risk carrying the large tree adjacent to the 11th green and then trying to fly the row of smaller trees that line the right edge of the fairway. Successfully do so and you are left with nothing more than a short iron into the green. However fail to make it and bogey or worse is almost always the result.

The simple tee shot is normally the safest on the 12
The second requires excellent club selection. It usually plays down wind but there is a large bunker some thirty yards short and right for the sliced approach and a pair left and right of the green to welcome anything drifting off line. If you are too long there is a slope at the back of the green and the ball will run towards the environmental area some ten yards behind the green. As you cannot enter this protected area a penalty drop from the drop zone is the result so caution must be exercised.

This green is another that runs from front to back and has a big swing on it from right to left as you approach. There is thick rough either side of the green and it makes playing a finesse shot to land the ball close very hard. A large green by Royal Ascot standards it is imperative you get the right club. A putt from front to back or vice versa will really test your touch and nerve.

Get the right club in your hand as there is danger all around
As with so many holes on the course the drive is paramount. Even if you don't risk the carry, par is possible although coming in with a fairway wood, hybrid or long iron does make it a tough ask. The best plan for most is to find the fairway, play into a favourite distance and try to make an up and down. It usually plays close to 6 in monthly competitions and so there is no shame in making a five nett four and walking off to the next tee.

I've had more than my share of disasters. It usually involves being too greedy off the tee and having to play a recovery from behind or underneath the row of trees. If you fail to recover properly, the next is usually from juicy rough and brings the bunker short right into play. From there it is easy to come up short or hit it too well into the environmental area. However there have been rare moments of genius and the odd birdie (nett eagle!!!) thrown in from time to time. It's a good matchplay hole. Giving or receiving a shot here it is never over until its over. I've played a club match and given a shot here and still won it with a 6.

It is a well designed hole that asks a lot of questions. Are you brave enough to go the short route? Can you hit a straight one to the corner of the dog leg when you really need to? Do you have enough firepower to get home in two? Can you find a two putt when you reach the green?

So there you have it. As Clint might have said standing on the tee "do you feel lucky punk?" Take it on and succeed and you'll be richly rewarded with par or birdie. Fail to make the grade and the card may take a terminal hit. A hole that earns it spurs as the hardest on the course.

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