How to Drive the Ball on a Dogleg Hole

By Steve Silverman

golfer tees off on dogleg left

Dogleg holes can be incredibly challenging and difficult for accomplished golfers, but they can also present an opportunity to put pars and birdies on the scoreboard depending on the wind and weather conditions. Dogleg holes get their name because of the way the hole turns right to left or left to right in the middle of the fairway. If the wind is with you, you can cut many yards off the hole. However, if you are facing the wind or the hole is exceptionally long, it can be especially difficult.

Dogleg Left Golf Holes

Difficulty: Moderate

  1. On a hole that bends sharply to the left after you have teed off, you have to decide whether you are going to follow along with the fairway or try to "cut the corner" by flying over a hazard on the golf course. If the dogleg comes within the first 200 yards of the hole, you may want to go over the hazard and cut the distance. However, if the dogleg doesn't come until 225 yards or more, go down the fairway with a shot that moves from right to left.
  2. Give yourself a chance to hit into the green with as wide of an angle as possible. This will determine whether you go down the right side or the left side of the fairway once the hole has turned to the left. If the green is on the right side of the fairway, hitting from the left side may give you a greater angle of approach and more margin for error. If the green is on the left side of the fairway, you give yourself an easier approach angle if you come in from the right side.
  3. Learn how to hit a draw shot. This is an important shot throughout your round and it is vital on a dogleg hole that bends right to left. In order to hit that draw, use a slightly wider stance than usual and play the ball about one ball length closer to your back foot. Aim to the right of the target and adjust your shoulders so that your left shoulder is aimed to the right of the target. Turn the head of the club so it faces your target directly. Use your normal grip.
  4. Don't overthink the dogleg left hole. You have to know your range. If you are trying to hit a draw so that your ball flies into the part of the hole that bends to the left but it is past where you can drive the ball, just hit a straight shot and make your adjustment on the second shot. There's no reason to hit a draw if the ball is just going to change course and veer off into a hazard.
  5. Work on your draw shot at the driving range. Most right-handed golfers can hit a fade (left-to-right action) fairly easily but have to work on their draw shot quite a bit to learn to hit it consistently. Try to hit at least 20 draw shots every time you go to the driving range.

Dogleg Right Golf Holes

Difficulty: Moderate

  1. Determine whether you have a shot at cutting the corner on the dogleg right hole. If you get good distance on your drives and the dogleg is less than 220 yards from the tee, you may want to go for it. For right-handed golfers, you will want to hit a fade (left to right movement) so you can get the ball on line to the green.
  2. Alter your aim in order to get over the hazards. In most cases, you will be hitting over trees on a dogleg hole. If you are trying to get over a high barrier on a short hole, use a 3-wood or a 5-wood instead of your driver. Aim to the right because that's where you want the ball to go.
  3. Open your stance a bit. While your body and arms will be aiming to the right, take your front leg (left) and aim it a bit to the left. The combination of your foot placement and your aim will cause your ball to fade in a left-to-right manner.
  4. Play it straight if the dogleg is more than 250 yards away. Trying to cut the corner on a long hole is a big mistake. You will end up with a poor result or a lost ball. Hit the ball straight and in the middle of the fairway. That will give you a great angle on your next shot when you will have to hit a fade to come around the corner and put yourself in position to hit a short wedge for your third shot.
  5. Do not try to overpower the ball under any circumstances. It is your technique and skill (and not your power) that will help you overcome a long dogleg hole. Concentrate on your form and make a smooth, steady swing rather than a powerful one.

How to Attack Doglegs on Windy Days

Difficulty: Moderate

  1. Check the direction of the wind. If it is blowing to your right and the dogleg goes to the right, play it aggressively if you are a big hitter. Instead of trying to hit your drive down the middle, hit it to the corner of where the fairway starts to bend. If you can hit the ball far enough to carry to that corner, your ball will get great bounce and roll toward the hole.
  2. Play a very low shot if the wind is blowing the opposite way of the dogleg. You may want to use your driver or a 2-iron on the tee and play it a little bit back in your stance. This will keep the ball low and keep the wind from affecting your shot.
  3. Play a low shot if the wind is in your face and do not swing too hard. You are not going to overpower the wind. The best thing you can do is cut through it. Play the ball closer to your back foot by about one ball length and keep your head down and follow through.
  4. Play a draw shot if the dogleg bends from right to left. To do this, close your stance a bit so your front foot is about 2 inches in front of your back foot. When you address the ball, turn the clubhead slightly to the left. This shot will work especially well on this type of hole because a draw goes from the golfer's right to left. If you have the wind blowing to your left, this can help you hit an exceptional drive.

Tips & Warnings

  • Plan your shots carefully. If you are ahead in a tournament or a match and you face a dogleg on the 16th hole, don't put your round in jeopardy by trying to hit over the dogleg when you don't need to take the chance.

About the Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.