Is this a "good" GCA hole? Do I understand GCA?

Thanks to the Refuge and those on it I’ve spent a lot of time learning about GCA. A lot more so in recent weeks. But it got me thinking: At my local course (Mill Creek Country Club, Mill Creek, WA) what holes could be considered “interesting” or “good architecture?” It’s a Ted Robinson design, traditional PNW course that is fairly tight, although this spring they have removed a lot of excess trees and started widening fairways. However, a lot of holes are of the “hit it straight or you’re punching out” variety.

My first thought on a good GCA hole is #6. It’s a shorter straight-away par 4 at 352 yards but, IMO, it gives you options off the tee. See below.

Originally I was hitting 3W off the tee, usually landing it around 2 but sometimes flaring it out to 3 and blocking myself from the green due to the trees near 3. If you end up near 3 you can aim towards 5 and try to cut it back, but if you land at 5 you will have a tough up-and-down due to some elevated areas off the green and a green that slopes away from you as you hit from 5 towards the green. If you cut it too much then you risk landing in the bunker or catching the slope into the water.

You can take out driver (or a long 3W) and hit it right up the middle hoping to catch the hill just after 2 and ending up at 4 for a 30-50 yard pitch. But there is OB on both sides and your window narrows with the OB on player’s left coming in as you approach the green and trees on the right coming in as well. These are not wide fairways and I’ve only done this successfully once.

I’ve found that the best option is to take a long iron or hybrid and land short of the fairway bunker (position 1), then have a low-mid iron in. This also gives you a chance to hug the left side of the fairway and give yourself a better angle to a back-right pin. This position is the widest point between OB stakes on either side and from anywhere on the fairway you have a clear view to the entire green. From this position, I’ve noticed that my average on the hole is about 0.5 strokes better over the same number of rounds played.

So, in my own conclusions, this seems like a simple yet well-designed hole because it gives you options. You can take on the fairway bunker and trees and hope to catch the downslope towards the green or you can lay back off the tee and have a longer but clear shot to any part of the green. Do you agree? Disagree? Or is this just a simple hole with no real GCA features? Do I need to go back to GCA school? Let me know what you think!


Without seeing it on the ground/in-person, I’d say in general it looks pretty decent, if not a bit narrow. Good design should give you decisions to make, and the best designs aren’t A vs. B, but more of a gradual A+ vs. A vs. A- vs. B+ vs. B vs. B-. With position A+ being the absolute closest to a hazard or penalty.

On this hole, it does look like challenge the bunker/left side is going to give you the best angle into the green, whereas a flair out right is going to give you a terrible angle.

Without seeing it from the ground and seeing how far right you can go before you don’t have a shot…I’d have to say it really isn’t a great hole. You don’t have a lot of options. If you can hit it long and straight, you hit it to 4. If you can’t, you have to hit it to 1. 2 (and also 4) seem to bring in a lot potential disaster without providing as much incentive. For me I’d probably pull hybrid every time (because I know 99% of the time I will hit straight down the middle) and try to get it to about 120 out so I have a full wedge to the green.

Great question. Many of us of wrestled with these types of questions. Thankfully @DeepFriedEgg and his pal @endangeredspiethies built a nifty little flow chart to help us answer these things once and for all. See below:


My flowchart is much shorter because I’m a simpleton.

Does it have OB?
-> Yes: Bad hole.
-> No: Good hole.


This is helpful, thank you.
However, it does lump most PNW courses into the “no width/angles” group or the “Yikes, ok but how many (trees)” group. Which I guess is the nature of PNW golf.


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@jaytarbzzz pretty much nails it. It’s a fine hole operating on one of the most basic strategic options around, which is fine given the narrow corridor the hole exists in. Because the green is protected on the right, you would prefer to approach the green from the left side of the fairway, thus the left side of the fairway is protected by that fairway bunker. So the question is how close you want to get your drive to that fairway bunker, or how else you’re going to get around it. The more you bail right, the worse your angle gets.

Whether there’s anything else going on based on slopes, we can’t tell from an aerial.

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How far is it to the OB on the left and right? Are they really in play if you take driver? Taking it off that corner with a fade and catching the down-slope sounds like a good play, but if you do that and double-cross yourself with a hook, are you OB? Also, what about that pond? Is it reachable if you flare it too much to the right with driver?

Which I think is kind of true for many PNW courses. A lot of people love Salish Cliffs, but I thought it was really boring and a pain in the ass considering every hole is seemingly dead straight and flanked by lateral hazards on either side. I played in 25mph winds and it was impossible. Does it look cool? Yes. Is it good GCA? Probably not.

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One of the finer pieces of work to ever come out of the Refuge.

You dont really have options. Its considerably wider for driver than less than driver. Its a mediocre hole at best.

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It’s not difficult to put one OB with driver, but no most people could not reach the water even if they caught the slope. Here is the hole from the tee.

OB is maybe 10 yards off the path to the left and maybe 15 yards to the right of the right edge of the photo.

How many years away are we from finally getting rid of OB and everything becomes a lateral hazard?

Out of Bounds may be the dumbest rule out of all the sports.


Disagree. Keep it on the course.


Nope. It’s not good.

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That’s what I was afraid of…

Oh okay so when you’re playing Bandon and it rolls into the Pacific you re-tee because you need to “keep it on the course”?

You can hit it in the ocean and it’s a lateral hazard. Yet a ball rolls 1 inch on the wrong side of a stake, still on the property and you’re walking back to the tee box. Makes 0 sense and slows down the game.

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If you want to argue dumb holes due to OB, fine. But no. OB is not bad.

With your username, youd think you might appreciate 6 at Carnoustie.


Isn’t this the reverse, where it gets narrower closer to green?

Not from what i can see in the original pic. Looks like its super tight with trees and bunker, and if you hit driver past that, its more open in the rough.