What Is a Dogleg Hole in Golf?

Aerial view of dogleg hole at Wentworth Club
The dogleg, par-5 17th hole at Wentworth Club near London, with its teeing ground near the upper left and green at the lower right. David Cannon/Getty Images

A "dogleg" or "dogleg hole" is a golf hole that is crooked, like the hind leg of a dog: A hole that bends at some point along its length. The golfer tees off to a fairway that goes (generally) straight until reaching the bend, and then the fairway veers left or right and continues in that direction to the green.

Key Takeaways: Dogleg Golf Holes

  • In golf, "dogleg" refers to a hole that bends, as opposed to running in a straight line of play from the tee to the green.
  • The bend, often called the corner of the hole, can be modest or, on the other end of the scale, close to a right angle.
  • Such holes are considered fun to play by many golfers, who like the different look and different strategy.

Doglegs are very common in golf. They are favorites of golf course architects because they present challenges and options to the golfer. And for the same reason, golfers often enjoy them as well.

The bend in a dogleg hole can be small (20 to 30 degrees), significant (45 degrees) or in some cases severe (rarely, up to 90 degrees). The area where the dogleg bends is called the turning point or the corner.

Doglegs can be par-4 holes or par-5 holes.

How Golfers Use the Term 'Dogleg'

When the fairway goes right after the turning point, golfers call the hole a "dogleg right." When the fairway goes left, it is a "dogleg left."

A hole that bends only to a small degree might be called a "slight dogleg;" one that bends quite a bit (60 degrees or more) a "severe dogleg."

"Dogleg" can also be used as a verb: "This hole doglegs to the right about 260 yards up the fairway."

A hole that has two bends in its fairway — which only happens on par-5 holes — is called a "double dogleg."

The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms cites a 1902 article that appeared in Golf Illustrated as an early example of comparing such a hole to the shape of a dog's leg:

"This hole has been criticised by some on the ground that the player cannot play straight for the hole, the line for which is rather like a dog's hind leg."

Another citation is an article written by golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast in a 1926 issue of Golf Illustrated, in which Tillinghast claims, "Probably 15 years I originated the double dog-leg for a plan of a three-shot hole."

Playing a Dogleg Hole

To make good decisions about playing a dogleg hole, you need to know:

  • The distance from the teeing ground to the turning point of the hole;
  • What direction the hole turns after the corner, and how sharply it turns.

Obviously, as with any golf hole, you need to know what hazards and other potential problems lurk along the hole, too. You can probably tell about the hazards (at least until the hole turns) and the yardage to the corner based on what you can see from the tee box. But if you haven't played the hole before, you might not know or be able to tell how sharply the hole turns.

In that case, you'll have to check the scorecard to see if there is a hole schematic; look for same on any signage on the teeing ground; check the yardage book, if you have one, or check your golf GPS device; or rely on the local knowledge any of your playing partners might have.

If you can drive the ball farther than the distance to the corner, then you can consider (if you have the ability) trying to draw or fade the ball around the corner. You might also have the option of trying to cut the corner — fly your ball over the corner of the dogleg, to the portion of the fairway after the turn — if conditions and yardages are right.

Of course, a dogleg can restrict your options, too. If conditions aren't right in the examples above, you might be forced to take less club and play the ball to the corner yardage.

Note that the corner of a dogleg hole is often positioned at a yardage considered to be the landing area for the widest range of golfers.

Double-doglegs often offer even more risk-reward, but can also force you to play point-to-point.

How are Doglegs Measured?

Dogleg holes are measured along their most likely playing route. That is to say, they are not measured as-the-crow-flies from tee to green, but rather from the teeing ground to the corner, and from the corner to the green, generally down the middle of the fairway. The measurement is a sight-line measurement (today, most likely using survey equipment and/or GPS), not an along-the-ground measurement that takes into account contours of the fairway.