TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm: Where to hit, how to watch for all 18 holes

POTOMAC, MD - MAY 3:
Camilo Villegas, right, walks along the 17th hole at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms during a practice round of the Wells Fargo Championship May 03, 2022 in Potomac, MD. 
 (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
POTOMAC, MD - MAY 3: Camilo Villegas, right, walks along the 17th hole at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms during a practice round of the Wells Fargo Championship May 03, 2022 in Potomac, MD. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

The PGA Tour arrives this week at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm for the Wells Fargo Championship. The course underwent a major renovation beginning in 2007, with an overhaul to all 18 holes transforming a venue that once drew frequent criticism from players.

TPC Potomac, which has hosted events such as the Kemper Open and the Quicken Loans National, has also had some less dramatic renovations in recent years, including flattening the greens and widening the fairways.

Tour players will navigate a par-70 layout at 7,107 yards, with the course record (62) set in 2018 by three players. All three — Abraham Ancer, Francesco Molinari and Kevin Streelman — are in this year’s field of 156, which begins play Thursday morning.

Billy Hurley III — who grew up in Leesburg played golf at Navy and won the Quicken Loans National in 2016, when it was held at Congressional — knows area courses as well as anyone, so it made perfect sense to enlist The Washington Post first-team All-Met selection for a hole-by-hole analysis of what players can expect from the first PGA Tour event in the area since 2018.

Framing the course for patrons is acclaimed area chef Jon Krinn, who has a 1-handicap and is the former owner of Clarity in Vienna. The Whitman High graduate played college golf at Emory and most often can be found working on his game during infrequent time away from being a private chef.

All hole renderings courtesy of Full Swing.

No. 1, par 4, 443 yards

Hurley: “You want to be as far right as you can without missing the fairway. It’s a dogleg right, so if you pull it a little bit, your second shot’s longer, and if you get in that left rough, it’s really thick over there normally. ”

Krinn: “It’s a tough opening tee shot because of the potentially blind second shot, but a great place to watch the first tee balls of the day from a good group is from behind the tee box. That provides an excellent vantage point.”

No. 2, par 5, 642 yards

Hurley: “They built a new tee box there, back maybe 25 or 30 yards or so, which puts the right fairway bunker in play for most players. It’s no longer where 50 percent of the field can cover that right fairway bunker. It’ll be a little more playing out to the left and get maybe a little bit of a cut to go around it.”

Krinn: “You can hug the right side and give yourself a chance to go for it in two. A great place to watch the tee ball is that go zone down the fairway, sort of the 320 mark, and see someone try to go for it because it’s a pretty difficult second shot to try to get on the green.”

No. 3, par 3, 229 yards

Hurley: “The green kind of slopes inward from both sides, so missing it short-sided on either side is bad. When the wind’s out of the left, it’s difficult because there’s a little overhanging tree that doesn’t quite let you start it as far left as you might want to.”

Krinn: “Very difficult par-3 for that early in the round, and also it’s a long shot, so I think the place to watch is around the green because you’re going to see a lot of short-game magic. You’re going to have a lot of players missing the green. . . . It’s a pretty long shot.”

No. 4, par 4, 442 yards

Hurley: “Number 4 is all about the tee shot. Guys will hit driver, and guys will hit 2-iron, depending on how firm the fairways get, if there’s rain or whatever. You can hit a little draw 2-iron that’ll run forever for some guys, or you might want to hit driver because you definitely want to get it down there inside 170.”

Krinn: “This is a great tee shot to watch because there’s slope toward the lake. It’s a sort of thread-the-needle tee shot where I would say you have to bait it toward the hill to keep it from rolling down toward the water.”

No. 5, par 4, 362 yards

Hurley: “The water’s not really in play. I mean I’ve hit it in there, I’m ashamed to say, but it was a really bad golf shot. It’s just about avoiding the bunkers, and then it’s a wedge from there. If you hit it too far right in the fairway you’re blind. Even though it’s a wedge, you’re not going to see the bottom of the flagstick.”

Krinn: “No. 5 is a great place to watch a bomb tee shot if they try to go for the green. If you watch from behind the tee box you can get a great sightline.”

No. 6, par 4, 492 yards

Hurley: “If you don’t hit a good tee shot, then you’re really laying it up for the most part, unless you get a great lie in the rough and a good number and kind of can squeeze it up the front left opening to the green. It’s really about hitting a good tee shot and then putting it in the middle of the green and taking your 4. Threes are going to be hard to come by.”

Krinn: “The toughest hole on the front nine. Fun to watch from the tee how close the players cut it to the right side to that hazard to get a better angle into the green. That’s a tough tee shot because the farther left you go, the longer it is, and the farther right you go, the closer to the hazard you are.”

No. 7, par 4, 452 yards

Hurley: “Most guys will clear the bunker to the right unless it’s into the wind. All things being equal you should see a lot of good second shots into a green that’s difficult to read. Even from 15 feet it seems the ball just wants to go the wrong way.”

Krinn: “It’s a bomber’s hole. The green’s pretty receptive, so I’d say they’d be going all over those pins. It’ll be fun to see them be aggressive if you want to watch from behind the green.”

No. 8, par 4, 467 yards

Hurley: “Another green that’s hard to get the ball close. The front of the green kind of runs away from you over the front bunker, and the back of the green kind of sits in a way that’s really hard to get the ball to stay close to the hole in the back left.”

Krinn: “It’s a straight hole, but the green is extremely angled, so a real premium on the approach shot. You have some sloping putts, so a deceptively good hole because of the green, which is where you want to be to watch.”

No. 9, par 3, 201 yards

Hurley: “Downhill par-3. You just can’t miss it right. The bunkers on the right are so deep and so narrow that oftentimes the face closest to the green, you come off that face and [the ball can] roll into the back and have somewhat of a downhill lie to a green that’s five feet above the ball.”

Krinn: “Signature hole on the front. Amphitheater green, great to watch the approach shot because it’s tough to judge the distance with that extreme elevation change. It’s probably going to be a two, three club difference even without the wind.”

No. 10, par 5, 572 yards

Hurley: “It’s certainly a birdie hole if you can hit a good tee shot, and that’s not simple because it’s a little sliver of fairway from either tee box. You can’t miss left because you have the huge penalty area, and you can bail out right a little bit, but if the rough’s thick, then it makes the layup really difficult.”

Krinn: “A great risk-reward par-5 with hazard down the left. Actually a tough layup if you’re not going for the green in two. It’s actually a precise layup, but a great hole to watch from either tee, go zone or up near the green.”

No. 11, par 4, 467 yards

Hurley: “There’s nowhere to miss the tee shot. You just have to hit a great tee shot. The right tree line is kind of just off the fairway and then obviously the penalty area on the left. Getting it in the fairway there is imperative. You’ll see plenty of 3-woods there as well.”

Krinn: “It’s the toughest approach shot on the golf course. It is an extremely difficult approach to hold the green, very tough, but a great place to watch from behind the green and catch some of the approach shots because if you’re watching from the fairway you’re too far away.”

No. 12, par 3, 167 yards

Hurley: “The thing here is really about the front-hole location. A front-right hole location is really hard to get the distance right because we’ve talked about it being uphill. If you miss it three steps short, it comes back down the hill 20 yards, and if you hit it 30 feet long, it’s one of the faster putts on the golf course.”

Krinn: “A deceptively tough par-3 because it’s uphill and often into the wind with a false front that’ll roll you all the way down back to the fairway. A good place to watch from behind the green to see those approach shots coming in. There’s going to be a lot of short-game magic on that hole, too.”

No. 13, par 4, 367 yards

Hurley: “Definitely scoring opportunities here. Pretty straightforward tee shot. Big fairway and not a driver, and then from there it’s just about getting the distance right. It’s a great green for a wedge. It can be tough to get the distance right.”

Krinn: “The tee shot’s simple, but there’s some demon pin positions on the hole. I mean you’ve really got to be precise, and if you miss short, it’ll roll all the way back down. It’s a really fun hole to watch wedge shots come in from behind the green.”

No. 14, par 4, 296 yards

Hurley: “Most guys will hit driver or 3-wood at the green. It’s kind of the drivable par-4 of the golf course. They’ve shaved down a lot to the right of the green. When we last played there, right of 14 was rough. Now it’s fairway and pretty steep running away from the green.”

Krinn: “A great hole to watch from behind the tee because I’d say 90 percent of the players are going for it. You’ll see a lot of birdies there. A hazard down the right, but that won’t be a problem for them.”

No. 15, par 4, 496 yards

Hurley: “It depends on the wind. If you can get it over the crest of the hill, then you can get a manageable club into the green. If you don’t get it to the crest of the hill, it’s long way home, 210 yards or so, 200 maybe from the top of the hill. Just kind of depends on where the tees are and how far down there you can get it.”

Krinn: “You can’t really get behind the tee to watch, I don’t think, so it’s actually a good hole to watch from the tee ball landing area and see players attack the pin downhill. Pretty receptive green, but the tee ball is tough.”

No. 16, par 4, 411 yards

Hurley: “If it’s downwind, then it’ll be less than driver for most everybody in the field, but you have to keep it up the right half of the fairway. The fairway kicks right to left, and if you get it five yards left of center, it’s going to kick down hard left, and there’s a tree that blocks you out from the left two-thirds of the green.”

Krinn: “From behind the green you’re watching shots into an elevated green in an amphitheater. Great vibe on that 16, 17 area.”

No. 17, par 3, 194 yards

Hurley: “It’s probably mostly about the wind there, trying to get the distance right being downhill, so you’re kind of factoring in two pieces. The back-left hole locations are the easiest because you have the most green to work with.”

Krinn: “Great place to watch the tee shot from behind with water all in front and down the right. You’ve got to carry everything to get on the green, probably playing a lot of fades in there to the back pins.”

No. 18, par 4, 464 yards

Hurley: “The bunkers on the left are dead, and then it’s a big green, but it’s small sections, so the four hole locations there might as well be on four different greens. Getting it close is really difficult because of how small they are. The easiest is going to be front right. I think hardest hole location is the back middle where there’s a significant tier to get up to the pin.”

Krinn: “I think this is a great tee shot to watch because you get to see that full-throttle, 18th-hole bomb. It’s a long hole, and it’s the finishing hole, and players will need to get as far down there as they can to set up the approach shot to that difficult green.”

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