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2007-03-13 13:00:00

How to win at Wii Golf

My Credentials

To establish myself as qualified to teach on the topic, I submit the following screenshot of my best score to date:

In Wii Golf, better scores require a mixture of skill and luck.  A score of 12 under par is approximately the best one can expect in a mistake-free game.  Even then, you'll need a little bit of luck, simply because some holes are exceedingly difficult if you've got a 30 mph wind going the wrong way. 

Still, if you eagle all three of the par fives and birdie the other six holes, the result is 12 under par.  In this case, that's not exactly how I did it.  I choked and made birdie on the 5th hole.  Then I got the stroke back with a fluke eagle on the 6th.

The point remains:  12 under par is the score you are likely to get if you make no mistakes.  Anything better than -12 is going to require significantly more luck.  For example, if you play a mistake-free game and ace one of the par threes, you'll get -13.

Anyway, my best score is 12 under par.  In addition, although I don't have photo evidence, I've made a Hole-In-One four times, and I've made an Albatross (aka "Double Eagle") once.


This weekend I set up a camera on a tripod and took pictures while I played a game.  In this article I'm going to walk through that game one hole at a time.

Note that I am only writing about the finer points of the game.  I assume you already:

The target reader is someone who thinks that on any given hole, par is a big disappointment and bogie is a disastrous failure.


Hole #1, Par 4

This is a birdie hole, but eagle is very possible if the wind is just right.

Your first shot is simple.  Just put the ball in the fairway.  Stay out of the trap on the left and the rough on the right.  Length isn't going to matter much.  If you have the wind behind you and smack the ball hard, you can end up with a second shot as short as 60 yards or so, but there is no huge advantage in doing so.

On your second shot, if you are fortunate enough to have favorable wind, you should actually be trying to hole the approach shot for eagle.

More realistically, you'll just try to stick your approach shot close to the hole and make the putt for birdie.  This green isn't terribly difficult.  I've seen three possible pin placements.  Back right, back left, and front.  Back right is the easiest.  Back left is the hardest, since the sand trap in front prevents you from rolling onto the green.

I am convinced that an ace on this hole is impossible.  With a 30 mph wind at your back, hit the ball as hard as you can and you will still land around 40 yards short.

I've eagled this hole on several occasions, but not this time.  I made a basic birdie to start the game at one under par.


Hole #2, Par 3

Play for a birdie in this hole.  With low wind and a little luck you can ace it.

The default aim is left of the trap.  Don't do that.  There is no reason to go around that bunker in the front.

Instead, hit the ball straight for the pin, compensating for wind as needed.  Try not to hit the ball too hard.  Ideally, you want to land in that strip of fairway-length grass between the front bunker and the green.  That will slow the ball down and keep it on the green, hopefully within 10 feet of the pin.

If you land in the trap, don't despair.  Holing the ball from the sand isn't as hard as you might think.

In this case, I had no wind at all.  Salivating over the possible ace, I smacked the ball just a little too hard and landed about 12 feet from the pin.  And then I choked and missed the easy putt.  Fuming at myself, I settled for a very disappointing par to stay at -1 for the round.


Hole #3, Par 5

This par 5 offers a reasonable chance at eagle, although certain types of wind can be very problematic.

On your first shot, you want to take the ball between the two trees as shown in the picture to the right.  This will give you a good chance of reaching the green with your second shot.  If you play around the dogleg instead of going between the trees, the green is basically unreachable in two shots.

Side wind makes it rather tricky to put the first shot between those two trees.  As with any other side wind shot, you'll need to compensate by aiming left or right, but the precision required here is greater than most situations.

You will also need to land that first shot in the fairway, so controlling the distance is tricky.  With zero wind, you need a nearly full swing, being careful not to overflow and cause a slice or hook.  With any significant wind behind you, the primary risk is hitting the ball too far and landing in the rough on the right side of the fairway.  If the wind is against you, it's very difficult to hit it far enough to stay out of the rough near the trees. 

In any of these situations, if you end up in the rough, it will be impossible to reach the green in two.  So if you end up in the rough on your first shot, forget about eagle and try for birdie by laying up.  Then try to stick your third shot close to the pin and make the putt for birdie.

In this case, I had very favorable wind.  My first shot went right between those two trees and landed on the right side of the fairway with 270 left to the green and a 24 mph wind at my back for the second shot:

I hit my approach shot onto the green, 21.6 feet from the cup and holed the putt for eagle.  Current score is now 3 under.


Hole #4, Par 3

This par three is maybe your best chance at a Hole-in-One.  If the wind isn't too strong, it is often possible to stick the ball very close to the pin.  And with a little luck, it will just drop into the cup and save you the trouble of a putt.

But most of the time, you'll just settle for birdie and move on.  Hit the ball directly at the flag, making appropriate compensation for the wind.

I don't usually end up in too much trouble on this hole.  The bunkers are rarely a factor at all.  In heavy wind, my tee shot might land left or right of the green.  Even then, the chip-in birdie is quite possible.  Most of the time, my tee shot lands on the green.  Usually I make the putt.  Occasionally I don't.

In this case, I hit my first shot poorly and missed the green, but I made the chip-in for birdie:

Four under par.


Hole #5, Par 5

This hole is another very good chance for an eagle.

In general, you should play around the dogleg in the fairway.  With just the right kind of wind, you can cut the dogleg off as shown in the picture to the right.  When this works, you get the benefit of approaching the green with an iron instead of your driver, thus making it more likely that the ball will stay on the green instead of rolling off the back side.  But this whole approach is somewhat high-risk/low-reward.  Playing the fairway is simpler, since this green is basically always reachable in two shots anyway.

Just stick your first shot at the corner of the dogleg, being very careful not to hit the ball too far.  If you end up in the trap, eagle is out of the question and you'll be struggling just to make birdie.

On your second shot, you'll be hitting driver uphill to the green.  Unless the wind is strong in your face, the green is usually quite reachable.  In fact, you are more likely to roll through the green than to stick it on. 

This green is one of the more difficult ones on the course.  It's rather common to end up with an eagle putt and miss it.

In this case, I hit my second shot way too far and missed the green completely.  I salvaged birdie, but eagle is what I had in mind.  Oh well, 5 under through 5 holes isn't too bad.


Hole #6, Par 4

Nothing fancy here.  Birdie this par 4 and move on.  An eagle here is a very rare event.

I've tried many times to shorten the hole by not going back and forth over the river.  It seems like it should be possible to shift my aim to the right and fly the ball into that patch of rough near the green.  Unfortunately, every time I've tried this shot I ended up in the river.  I still think it can be done with a good tail wind, but even if so, it's a very low percentage shot, and I don't think it will help that much anyway.

Put your first shot over the river in the fairway, being very careful to stay out of that sand trap.

Your second shot will be a tricky iron play.  Unless your first shot was very long, you'll be hitting your second one over that bunker.  If you clear the bunker, there's a good chance you'll roll off the back edge of the green.  A little wind in your face can help a lot.

Once you get there, this green is one of the more difficult ones on the course.  Some of the putts have a lot of break in them.

If you're trying for a mistake-free round, hole #6 is one of the most likely places to trip up and make par.  In this case, I ended up facing a very difficult putt, but the birdie dropped in the cup to bring me to -6.


Hole #7, Par 4

If you follow the fairway, this is the toughest hole on the course.  It's quite difficult to make birdie that way.  On your first shot, you'll have trouble ending up with a clear view of the green.  Typically you'll have a tree in your way.

Luckily, there's a shortcut.  Most of the time you can cut the dogleg and go straight for the green on your first shot, as shown in the picture to the right.

But if the wind is severe, going through the trees can be difficult or impossible.  And it's a high risk shot.  If you come up short, you'll get the penalty stroke for being out of bounds and find yourself back on the tee hitting your third stroke.

With practice, you can usually get through the trees without much trouble, and when you do, this par 4 suddenly becomes an eagle hole.  About half the time you'll end up in the trap.  That's fine.  I've made eagle from the beach on this hole lots of times.

An eagle here on #7 is actually your best chance at scoring 13 under for the round.  You'll have to birdie all the par 3's, eagle all the par 5's, birdie hole #1 and #6.  An eagle on #7 takes quite a bit of luck, but less luck than an ace on a par 3.

By the way, since this par four is reachable in one shot, I assume that a hole in one is possible.  But I've never done it, and I think it's exceedingly unlikely.

In this case, I ended up on the green with an eagle putt.  Unfortunately, it was a tough putt, rather long and curvy.  I missed it and settled for a tap-in birdie to bring me to 7 under for the round.


Hole #8, Par 3

I'll admit I simply don't like this hole.  It's the longest par 3 on the course, so you have to play driver off the tee.  Sometimes it's tough just to get your first shot to stay on the green.  I've aced the other two par 3's twice each, but I've never made hole-in-one here on #8.

Note that your first shot is steeply uphill.  The distance meter is usually a little inaccurate because of this.  In my various attempts to not fly the ball into the trap behind the green, I have put a lot of balls at the bottom of the water in front.  Don't flirt with the edge of that cliff.  Make sure you hit the ball hard enough to get up around the green.

Despite all my complaining, hole #8 is usually rather good to me.  I usually make birdie here, as I did in this case, taking my score to 8 under par.


Hole #9, Par 5

This is my favorite hole on the course.  It looks difficult, but it's not at all hard to make birdie.  With the right kind of wind, eagle is quite possible.  I even made an Albatross here once.

On your first shot, check the wind and decide whether to go for the left island or the right.  If the wind is against you, even a little bit, the left island is difficult or impossible to reach.  Play it safe and go for the right.  Then play for the green.  It's a long driver shot, but usually doable.  Most of the time you'll end up behind the green.  Chip on and one-putt for birdie.

On the other hand, if you make it to the fairway on the left island with your first shot, life is good.  Your second shot up to the green is quite a bit shorter from here.  In fact, you should consider approaching the green with an iron instead of a driver.  That's the way I made the Albatross, by holing my iron approach shot from the left island.

Regardless of how you get there, once you arrive on the island with the green, things get simpler.  This is the easiest green on the course.  The cup is situated at the top of a small hill, and the pin placement never moves.  You will almost always end up with an uphill putt that has little or no break in it.

Note that the fifth island here is not terribly useful.  Don't play over there unless you're in some sort of trouble.  For example, if you hit your first shot to the right island and your second shot finds the water, your drop zone will be in the rough on the right island.  Hitting from the rough, you can't reach the green even with a driver, so you have to shift your aim over to the right and play for that other spot.

In this case, the wind was very kind to me indeed.  I had 16 mph at my back, so I smacked my first shot onto the left island.  With only 173 yards to the green, I switched the club selection to the iron and put my second shot on the putting surface.  I had a 35 foot eagle putt, but on this green, that's not terribly hard.  I holed the putt for eagle to finish the round at 10 under par.



I consider 10 under par to be a respectable score, but this was one of those disappointing rounds that could easily have been better.  I played the second hole poorly, resulting in a heinous par.  Missing the eagle putt on 5 was inexcusable.  On the 7th hole I had an eagle putt which was difficult but makable.  A score of 11 or 12 under was within reach.

Anyway, I'm mostly done playing Wii Golf for a while.  I could try for 13 under, but instead of "a flawless round with a little luck" I would need "a flawless round with a lot of luck".  The motivation just isn't there.

Besides, it's time to turn my attention to other things.  This week is the release date for the Wii version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07:-)

PS.  Don't forget that two Wii systems are included in SourceGear's prize drawings next week in our booth at SD West.