How to play a Dog Leg in Golf

The Dog Leg in Golf: What’s the Best Strategy?

Have you ever wondered what is a dogleg in golf?

If you’re just getting started in this great game it’s a good question to ask as there are so many things to learn. Between the gambling games involved, golf terms, and equipment, it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed with all aspects of the game.

Today we’ll help you understand the term dogleg in golf and the surrounding strategy to help you play your best (and avoid a dreaded double bogey).

How to Play a Dogleg Hole in Golf 

Key Takeaways

  • A dogleg hole in golf is one that isn’t dead straight but instead “crooked” and bends like a dog’s hind leg.
  • Doglegs are an integral part of golf course architecture and require players to add more strategy to their tee shot.
  • These types of holes are usually “risk-reward” holes that might bring in more trouble like penalty areas (water hazards), thick rough, or out of bounds. 
  • Par 3s are the only type of hole to never dogleg as they’re much shorter in distance. 

Keep reading to learn more about this type of golf hole and how to play doglegs effectively.

Dogleg Hole Design

Dog legs in golf are a very common design feature that has been around for a long time. Instead of playing a hole dead straight, there is a bend from the teeing grounds to the green. It resembles the bend of a dog’s leg – hence the name.

Doglegs can go right or left and generally there is a mix of them on most golf courses. These types of holes might favor one type of golfer vs. another.

For example, if a hole turns right (the green is to the right of the tee box), this usually favors a fade player. Someone who hits a fade can aim left and rely on their left to right ball flight to hit the fairway.

While a right to left dogleg is better for someone who plays a draw shot shape. This type of golf hole is good if you’re a right handed player who hits a draw or a left handed player who hits a fade.

It’s generally easier to shape a shot in the direction of a dogleg hole.

Most of the time these holes are “risk reward” holes as there might be trouble looming on the tee shot. For example, let’s say it’s a dogleg right with water on the right side of the hole. Sometimes you can hit over the water (a big risk but a great reward) or choose to lay up left in hopes to get yourself into a good position for your approach shot. 

How much a hole doglegs depends on the course designer; some fairways subtly turn left or right while others might turn up to 90 degrees. These are very drastic and require a lot more consideration and decision-making off the tee. 

These types of holes require a little more strategy and we’ll outline how to play them below. 

Dog Leg Golf

Dogleg Right

A dogleg right is when the green is well right of the teeing grounds. These types of holes are great for players who tend to fade the golf ball as the fairway is shaped in that direction. 

In general, it’s ideal to hit a fade on these holes as you can start the ball down the left side and watch it fade to the middle of the fairway. These types of holes are sometimes challenging to hit a draw as you’ll need to start the ball over trees, rough, or other trouble and hope it curves back to the fairway. Visually this is challenging for golfers and you really have to commit to the shot. 

Dogleg Left

A dogleg left is when the green is well to the left of the teeing grounds. These types of holes are great for players who tend to draw the golf ball as the fairway is shaped in that direction. 

In general, it’s ideal to hit a draw on these holes as you can start the ball down the right side and watch it draw to the middle of the fairway. These types of holes are sometimes challenging to hit a fade or cut shot as you’ll need to start the ball in the opposite direction. 

Just like the other types of doglegs, visually this is challenging for golfers and you really have to commit to the shot. Otherwise, you might hit the dreaded double cross in golf

Create a Tee Box Strategy

Whether you’re playing a dead straight hole or a dog leg, it’s always important to have a tee shot strategy. Regardless of if it’s a par 3, par 4, or par 5, you want to spend a few seconds getting clear about the best way to play the hole. So many golfers just pull a club they always hit (or driver) and swing away. 

However, if you watch the best players in the world you can see they are intentional with everything they do. On the tee box they speak with their caddies, discuss the distances, wind, where to miss, and what the best club is for the shot. They then go through their pre-shot routine, focus on the target, and go.

Even as an amateur golfer you want to do a similar process – even if you don’t have a caddy. Here’s how…

Tee Box Strategy
  • Identify the par of the hole and total distance.
  • Use a golf GPS handheld device, app on your phone, yardage book, or GPS in the cart to see the layout of the hole. Is it straight, dogleg right or dogleg left hole?
  • Next, identify if there is any trouble on the hole such as out of bounds, fairway bunkers, or penalty areas (aka water hazards). 
  • Figure out the best shot shape – straight shot, fade, or draw? Then identify the proper landing area.
  • Trust your gut if you want to hit a drive in the direction of the hole or go against it. For example if it’s a left dogleg and you like hitting a 3-wood draw, this is a solid choice off the tee. 

Thinking out this tee box process will help you hit the best tee shot possible and hopefully give you the best chance to hit a good second shot.

Should You Cut the Corner? 

Some doglegs have a lot more risk-reward scenarios like a short driveable par 4. In some instances you can “cut the corner” of the dogleg and leave yourself a much shorter approach shot. 

However, there is usually a risk to taking a more aggressive line. For example, let’s say a hole doglegs right and there is out of bounds right. If you cut the corner you can have 30–40 yards less into the hole. But if you miss it right, it could be OB or blocked by trees.

What should you do?

It depends on a variety of factors and isn’t one size fits all approach. Instead, think about these things on the tee box to make the smart choice.

Confidence. If you’re swinging well that day, keep your foot on the gas and try to clear the corner. But if you’re having an off day, don’t make it worse by trying to play too aggressively. 

Wind direction. If the wind is moving left to right, that might lead to moving your ball closer to the out of bounds. But if the wind is gusting right to left this might actually help your ball stay in play and clear the corner. 

Natural shot shape. This is one of the most important things to consider on doglegs – which type of shot is your most natural. If you’re a natural fader of the ball, a dogleg right should fit your eye perfectly. But if you’re someone who likes to hit a right or left draw, it might make sense to lay back instead of trying to play a shot that isn’t “natural” to your swing.

Approach shot distance. Thanks to endless data from the PGA Tour and even amateur golf stat tracking (like Arccos Golf) we know one thing for sure; a shorter distance to the hole on your approach leads to a lower average score.

This is why we’re such big fans of speed training and working out to improve your driving distance. But on doglegs consider what the distance is if you laid up or cut the corner. If it’s only 10–15 yards, it might be worth it for the safer play. But if cutting the corner gets you 30 or 40 yards closer and fits the above criteria, it’s likely worth it. 

Cutting the corner on dogleg holes might be a good strategy but as you can tell, there are a lot of things to consider. All golf holes are different so always consider if a longer shot might be worth it vs. trying to cut the corner.

Also, if you’re in match play consider waiting until your opponent goes first. Then make the best choice based on their tee ball as it could be the turning point in the round.

Double Dogleg (Two Bends)

When talking about strategy it’s important to note that some holes are known as double doglegs. A.W. Tillinghas, a popular golf course designer, was known for making these types of holes and they typically only happen on par 5s.

As the name suggests these holes dog leg one way off the tee, then the opposite way toward the green. This requires an extra layer of strategy as you need to decide how to play the tee shot and second shot to avoid trouble.

For the tee shot stick to the same process we’ve followed above. With double doglegs you’ll need to evaluate your next shot using the proper approach shot strategy.

A double dogleg is a challenging type of golf hole so make sure to create a solid strategy.

Provisional Ball in Golf

Hit a Provisional 

If you find yourself taking the risk (aka hitting driver) on a dogleg hole but think it might be lost, hit a provisional. A provisional is a way to hit a “backup” shot just in case you can’t find your original tee ball. 

This will help you save time in case your first ball is lost and not have to run/drive back to the tee box. Just remember to always declare your second ball as a provisional with your group and notate how it differs from the original ball. For example, you might say, “I’m hitting a provisional, the first ball was a Titleist 4, this is a Titleist 2 with a blue line on it.”

Finally, if you think your ball is in a penalty area (not lost) you can’t hit a provisional ball. Instead, you’ll need to abide by the penalty area rules. Check out our full guide to hitting a provisional here

FAQs About a Dogleg Hole

Do you have more questions about golf course strategy? If so, keep reading through the most common questions and answers below. 

Why is it called a dogleg?

A dogleg is a type of hole that curves to the left or right and is named after the bend in a dog’s leg. These types of holes are popular with certain golf course designers and make it more challenging for players off the tee box. 

What is considered a dogleg in golf?

A dog leg is considered a hole that isn’t relatively straight off the tee. The green will be to the right or left of the box and the fairway usually is straight then veers in the direction of the green. 

How do you play dogleg holes in golf?

Playing a dogleg depends on a few things – first is the direction; either right or left. If you’re someone that hits a draw off the tee, a dog leg left should suit you perfectly. This makes it easy to start the golf ball down the right side of the fairway and let it draw back to the middle.

The opposite type of hole is great for someone who fades the golf ball. There are other things to consider though such as penalty areas, trees that might block your next shot, and more. 

How are doglegs measured?

This is a good question as these golf holes are different from a straight shot type of hole. They are measured as if you do not cut the corner but instead hit it down the fairway, then to the hole. If you cut the corner you’ll likely make the hole shorter.

My Experience

Dogleg holes used to intimidate me a lot more than they do now. Now, I stick to my single shot shape off the tee – a fade – regardless of how the hole moves left or right. This goes against common “strategy” and is usually ridiculed by TV announcers when pros do this.

So why do I always try to hit a left to right fade, even if the hole doglegs left? Consistency. After learning more about shot distribution through Decade Golf I realized that trying to hit a golf ball both directions was killing my accuracy.

Trying to play shots both directions brought in the two-way miss. Which led to a lot of missed fairways and out of position second recovery shots. 

Also, as someone who naturally hits a fade, trying to hit a draw is not a natural motion. So I have to think about it which leads to sometimes playing my golf swing vs. playing golf. This can lead to extra technical thinking and doesn’t allow me to get in the zone. 

Now, I get up and hit the same fade tee shot on every type of par 4 or 5. Playing one shot shape helps me pick targets easier, minimize the big misses for better accuracy, and ultimately have more confidence. 

Final Thoughts on Dogleg Holes in Golf

This type of hole is a unique challenge from the teeing ground but one of the reasons we love the game. Don’t forget, golf is a game that is all about strategy as much as anything else. Which is why it’s so important to have a solid plan for how to play each hole.

Most golfers spend so much of their time working on their swing but neglect other parts of the game like mental game, short game, and course strategy. While having a consistent golf swing is important, don’t neglect other parts or else you’ll lose a lot of shots around the green.