While out looping today 3 of the players in the group were commenting on our 4th driving it right up the gut all day. This got me thinking.. The ideal line of the best golf holes isn't straight down the pipe.
Every green and pin position dictate the ideal line of play. Contours and slope affect the ball once it is on the ground, but a keen golfer will be able to use the width of the fairway to angle his approach and best take advantage of the roll. Even more, a good golf hole can dictate the line of play, forcing golfers closer to hazards and various sides of the fairway in order to gain distance as well as the optimum angle for approach.
In the pictures we have two examples where the ideal line off the tee is nowhere near the center cut. In the first photo (Quaker Ridge #11) the ideal line is the right edge of the fairway. Not only is the ideal drive here rewarded with a clear shot to the green, around the tree on the left, but the green is much more receptive. A tee shot right in the middle of the fairway may leave the golfer with a partially obstructed path to the green, and there is the possibility of not being able to hold the green with a left-right ball flight.
The 2nd picture (Kiawah Ocean Course #18) the right side of the fairway is a far shorter route to the green. Just past the bunker the hole turns downhill with a sharp slope that rewards distance. This slope doesn't run perpendicular to the fairway though, it is angled, so that a drive closer to the bunker on the right has the greater chance of catching the slope, rewarding both distance and accuracy. Even if you cant hit it past the bunker, the second shot will play nearly 10 yards closer because of the angle, as the hole splits off to the right.
While you will rarely have a lousy day hitting it from the center cut, there are often ways to get more out of your accuracy by analyzing the hole, being creative and taking a little bit of a risk.