Former US Amateur Champion Byeong-hun An finished in a share for the runner up spot behind Brooks Koepka in the 2013 Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts.
The promising 22 year old Korean talks you through the ins and outs of the stunning Macdonald Spey Valley lay out, set against the magnificent backdrop of the Cairngorm maintain range.
Hole 1, par 4, 363 yards
“It’s a fairly tight hole, but you can hit driver and be aggressive, over the trees on the right. It all depends where the flag is. The right side is pretty wide open but it depends if the rough is long or not. I think it’s worth a driver off the tee but otherwise, a three iron or hybrid is a pretty good option here because you want to be just before the tightest part of the fairway and you will still have a pitching wedge in.”
Hole 2, par 4, 377 yards
“This is just a regular par four. You start with a driver generally, but sometimes I would go with a three wood because if there is no rain the fairway will firm up and it will roll a lot. It’s not a short hole, although they pulled the tee box up for one or two of the rounds last year. If the tee is at the back you’ll have to hit a driver to have an eight or seven iron in. It’s pretty tight and left to right and it’s not easy from the left rough. Par is a good score here because the green is tricky here, sneaky and long.”
Hole 3, par 4, 468 yards
“If you want to be aggressive you go with a driver here but if it’s downwind you’d rather have a longer shot in because it’s hard to stop it on the green. When the pin is back right, the front of the green is downhill and it’s pretty firm. A driver will have you 60 or 70 yards in, depending on the wind. I think I hit three wood three times and driver once last year. It all depends on where the flag is.”
Hole 4, par 3, 210 yards
“This is a pretty straight-forward par three but with a tough green. It slopes back to front and it has two tiers. I think I was hitting six iron in but, again, it all depends on the wind because the wind changes every day. I hit six to the middle of the green, sometimes five to the back of the green and maybe a seven if it’s downwind.”
Hole 5, par 5, 635 yards
“This is a pretty tight hole. On the left side there is heather but if you hit a good drive you’ll have a short club. When it was downwind I think I had a six or five iron in but when it’s into the wind I think I had a three wood that didn’t even get there. Overall, the tee shot is downhill with a little dogleg right. There is a little speed bump on the fairway and if you hit it, it will go straight right and down the hill. Then you’ll have six or five iron in. The greenside is pretty wide on the left and around the green is not that hard. It’s definitely a birdie hole if it’s downwind, if you don’t get one you’ll lose a shot. I really like this hole, it’s one of my favourites."
Hole 6, par 3, 205 yards
“I remember this hole always being into the wind, only once it was downwind. I was hitting seven iron. It is a short hole but it gets really tough when it’s into the wind because they had a flag on the front right and there’s a big tier left to right. I hit it well on this hole all four days last year, I didn’t miss the green once. The green is quick back to front, left to right so it’s tough.”
Hole 7, par 4, 432 yards
“Another tricky hole. You can either lay up from the tee and leave 180 yards into the flag, but if you go for driver it’s pretty tight both on the left and right. If you go left, you’ll kick left into the heather but you’ll have a short shot in, maybe 100 or 90 yards. It’s a short hole but not easy because it’s a tight fairway and a blind tee shot. The green is on the top of the hill and it slopes right to left, back to front. It’s not one of the easy holes."
Hole 8, par 4, 396 yards
“I think most people lay up with a three wood or even hybrid if the fairway is firm because with driver you can run through the fairway into heather. You’ll still have a pitching wedge I think. There’s nothing in and around the green so it’s not the trickiest of holes.
Hole 9, par 4, 330 yards
“You can hit driver here but it’s a bit risky because there is heather everywhere. The heather on the left is in play and the right side there is out of bounds. You’d obviously rather hit it from the heather than out of bounds! I think I laid up all four times last year. It’s a short hole so you probably still have a wedge in and the green is not too hard. There is no water or bunkers around the green and it’s pretty flat.”
Hole 10, par 3, 196 yards
“When the pin is at the back here you have to be careful not to hit it long because it’s not easy from the back. The green slopes to the front and when the pin is in the front right there is a little tree in the way. If you get unlucky you might hit a tree but you’d rather go for the middle of the green. It’s not a short hole, it’s maybe a five iron in, so you’d rather just go for the middle of the green all four days. It’s a par hole, for sure.”
Hole 11, par 4, 456 yards
“No driver here because you’d have to hit over the bunker and everything slopes from right to left from the landing spot. I think a four or three iron off the tee and it will kick to the left but it doesn’t run out off the fairway. The trees come into play if you go too far left. It’s a pretty long hole, you’ll hit a three iron and still have a five iron in, especially if it’s into the wind. It’s not an easy hole. There’s a fall at front of the green which will rolls all the way back, maybe 30 or 40 yards. The green is pretty tight, left side is heather and lots of danger on the right. Definitely one of the hardest holes on the course.”
Hole 12, par 4, 486 yards
“Another tough holes, one of the tightest holes on the course. It’s really important to hit on the fairway because left side is trees and you would have no shot to the green, same on the right side. There is heather on the right and a little tree comes into play, and it’s not easy from the fairway bunker either. But it’s not a long hole once you hit it on the fairway, then you’ll have a nine iron in. The green slopes from front to back and it falls away from the middle both sides. It’s not that hard though once you’re hitting from the fairway.”
Hole 13, par 5, 534 yards
“A dog leg left but there is more room on the left than you think. Into the wind you have to go for the middle of the fairway, slightly to the right – I don’t think it will run out to the bushes or heather – so it’s a pretty common place to go for. You can’t really see the green from the left side of the fairway. The wind was helping last year and you could go a little bit aggressive on the left side of the fairway, over the bunker. You’ll have a four or five iron in and it’s reachable whether you go left or right. It’s not easy around the green, with bunkers on the right and heather. Left side is wide open so you can just chip or hit a bunker shot and it’s not a tricky green. The key is the drive on this hole.”
Hole 14, par 4, 420 yards
“An uphill par four, which is a driver hole, although long hitters can hit three wood. Everything slopes left to right but last year there was just bushes on the right, no heather, so it wasn’t too bad. On the left side there is heather so I think I always aimed for the right side of the fairway and draw it in. The green slopes left to right, uphill with a false front and I think you can go aggressive with the second shot because there is nothing at the back really.”
Hole 15, par 4, 422 yards
“A downhill par four, where I've seen some people hit a driver to the left, over the heather, but I haven’t hit a driver on this hole for the last two years. If you miss right you’ll be in the water, because it’s 300 yards and it’s a downhill fairway. I hit hybrid all four days, middle of the fairway, and that left me with eight iron in, 160 or 170 yards. Short of the green is water and left side of the green is not good because it slopes left to right and it’s always a firm green, so it’s not easy to stop it. Right side is better than left.”
Hole 16, par 3, 229 yards
“A tricky par three because of the wind, it’s blocked by the trees so you can’t really tell what way the wind is going. It’s a long hole, I think I hit a four or five iron in. It’s not an easy hole and around the green it’s tough. The green slopes various ways, back to front and left to right. It’s hard to get it close here, definitely one of the holes. I’ll be happy with if I walk away with a par. You can’t go aggressive and I don’t think there were many birdies there. There are bunkers everywhere and it’s not easy from the sand.”
Hole 17, par 5, 523 yards
“A tight par five. I think you can get a shot back here. I think most people hit driver, but it’s really tight up there with heather to the right and left and a tree in the way, while the rough is also long. There is a bunker in the middle with is around 270 to carry so most people carry that. When it’s into the wind some people might hit three wood to the front of the bunker and lay up with the second shot. You have to hit driver to get here in two though. The left of the green slopes away and if you hit it too far you’ll end up in the trees or bushes there. Front right bunker is OK, as long as you don’t get plugged like I did once last year. I never had a chance of getting up and down from there, although I was happy to escape with a par. It’s always good to go short of the green because you’ll have a good chance of getting up and down from the front.”
Hole 18, par 4, 418 yards
“This is definitely a driver hole but if you’re a long hitter you can go three wood because it rolls a lot. There is a bit more room on the left but I think people tend to go right because the heather there is not too bad. It’s a short hole so you can hit a pitching wedge or nine iron in. The right side is not bad, depending on the lie you get. Brooks hit a pretty great shot out of there last year. It was a difficult shot because you can’t control the spin out of there and the green is a bit tight, especially with the pin on the left. Last year I hit a good drive right and I needed a birdie. I hit my second to three feet so it was an impressive shot. It’s a good play when you have a lead – hit it anywhere right for a short shot into the green and you can make a pretty easy par. It’s one of the birdie holes though.”