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The Final Frontier

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Here we are, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the final piece of the jigsaw, the missing link (and other such dramatic build up lines 😉). Over the last few articles we’ve been slowly building a robust approach to solid Course Management. As a reminder the pieces are:


Now we’re going to enter the final realm of Shot Choice specifics; simple considerations to banish those Big Numbers from your Scorecards:


Range of Tolerance

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It’s vital to recognise you’ll not hit every Shot where you’d like. You’re going to miss; the key is to keep your misses playable - assertive shots to conservative targets!

If your tendency is to Fade the Ball (ball curving left to right in the air for a right handed Golfer), and the Pin is tucked up against a Bunker on the right of the Green, don’t go shooting at the Flag. Give yourself margin for error and aim 10-15 yards left of it, so the Ball can Fade toward the middle of the Green.

Consider the consequences; Make sure to aim where a miss doesn’t cost you an immediate shot or two (e.g. out of bounds, water hazard, unplayable lies). The key to shooting low Scores is eliminating double and triple bogeys caused by misses that don’t give you a chance to recover.

With that in mind here’s some advice on how to approach the Key Shots you’ll be faced with:


Off The Tee (Par 4’s & 5’s)

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Your Tee Shot is simply meant to put you in the best possible place to hit your Approach Shot close, or help get your ball into a layup position where you can hit it close when playing a Par 5. Many Players refer to this a “leaving you with the best angle in” i.e. leaving your Approach Shot with the biggest possible margin for error.

Choosing the correct club is a 2 part process:

  1. Check your Yardage Book for your predetermined Go Zone (See Part 4) or use your Rangefinder to re-establish your Target/Zone distance.

  2. Grab the Club you’ve decided to use and make some practice swings from where you’re going to tee the Ball up. As you make these swings, clearly establish the Shot you want to hit and what you’re going to focus on while you hit. If you’re struggling to Commit to the Shot, grab another Club and go through the same process. One club will simply feel better in your hands. Your gut knows best. Go with it.


Approach Play (and Tee Shots on Par 3’s)

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Know the Lie of the Land:

Many approaches are into a green that is slightly angled to the line of play. This offers a clear ‘safe line’ in – the higher land protects anything hit to that side. It also causes the Ball to move down the slope (if hit there) and identifies the side not to miss, as it leaves a much tougher up-and-down.

Hitting the Green from 180 yards or so is difficult for most Golfers, that’s why a smart Approach strategy needs to take into account which areas make a good leave for an up-and-down (see Part 4: Go Zones). That said, this is also a Shot that will reward a creative, positive approach, so planning for the best while protecting for the worst is never a bad way to go.


Uphill or Downhill Targets

It’s important to understand the influence hitting to an Elevated Target has on Distance. Yardage Markers & Range Finders measure the straight line Distance between two points, however you also need to know how much Uphill or Downhill the Target is located.

Land Angle and Trajectory play a major role here. The higher the Trajectory the steeper the Land Angle (and vice versa). Here’s a great video from TrackMan University and some summaries to help you understand the influence Elevation has on your Yardage:


Hitting Downhill

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Shots hit to a Target that’s below you have a Steeper Land Angle, resulting in Less Bounce and Roll. The following highlights the influence Land Angle has on Carry Distance:

  • When the Land Angle is 45° the Ball Carries an additional 1 yard/ft/m for every 1 yard/ft/m the Target below you.

  • When the Land Angle is Shallower, say 30° (e.g. when hitting Driver) that number increases to an additional 1.75 yard/ft/m for every 1 yard/ft/m the Target is below you.

  • For a Steeper Land Angle, say 60° (e.g. when hitting a Wedge into a Headwind) that number decreases to an additional 0.6 yard/ft/m for every 1 yard/ft/m the Target is below you.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the more the target is below you the Steeper the Land Angle becomes by default (and vice versa for a Target that is above you). This results in less Roll/a Ball that stops quicker.


Hitting Uphill/to an Elevated Green

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Shots hit to a Target that’s above you have a Flatter Land Angle, resulting in more Bounce and Roll.

You can use the same calculations from the Downhill section for the Reduction of Carry Distance when hitting to an Uphill Target (although the amount Uphill Targets loose is a little more than Downhill Targets gain) i.e.

  • 30°: 1 Yard = -1.75 yrd/ft/m

  • 45°: 1 Yard = -1 yrd/ft/m

  • 60°: 1 Yard = -0.6 yrd/ft/m

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How to Apply:

  1. Establish the Straight Line Carry Distance to your Target as well as the amount it is above or below you.

  2. Choose the appropriate Trajectory & Land Angle.

  3. Accommodate for the appropriate Bounce and Roll to establish your Carry Distance:

    Uphill = Less Carry + More Roll
    Downhill = More Carry + Less Roll


Play Smart!

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1: Flag Position: Attitude for Latitude

On tough approach shots, the flag is not so much your target as the basis of your strategy. e.g. The pin is cut just over a deep bunker and on the more dangerous side of the green – the right; going right at it is a fool’s errand. Clearly you can get at the pin from the left side of the green. Look for the shot that gives the widest margin for error, and play accordingly.

2: Club Culture: Take More

Hands up if you think you drive the Ball more than 217 yards. Many of you, I expect. Yet this is the figure revealed by the Arccos data-tracking system that represents the average amateur’s Driving Distance. Technology has taught us that we don’t hit the Ball as far as we think we do, and that relates to Irons as well as Woods – Arccos’s average 7-iron figure is 143 yards. Being honest with your Distances is key to hitting more greens, so if you’re not sure of your distances with each iron I recommend you book a TrackMan Session.

3: Line Drawing

Every Golfer knows to check wind direction, but sometimes we can be fooled. e.g. a strong wind off the left is masked by the high terrain to the left of the green. If the pin is sheltered and you’re fortunate to be hitting your Approach shot after your playing partners’, watch their shots through the air for evidence of wind. Also be aware of the Lie of your Ball e.g. A Ball below your feet and the general terrain sloping from left-to-right can join a left-to-right cross-breeze in pushing a right-handed Golfer’s Shot further right (and vice versa).

4: Pre-Shot: Action Pre-Play

Our body responds to the messages provided by the brain. If your brain has a very clear idea of the Shot you’re trying play, it can send the appropriate instructions to your muscles. This is why Pre-Shot visualisation/imagery is so important – it allows you to form a sharp image of the required shot that your body can respond to. Use all your senses and plenty of detail to make your image as sharp as possible, from the feelings in your hands, the sound of the ball off the face and to the sight of it landing on the green.

5: Get Creative

Every Approach Shot you face is different, and this should be reflected in your strategy. Instead of picturing a straight Shot and trying to execute a robotic, repeating Swing, try to see some shape and rehearse the movement – draw or fade – that could deliver it. Getting creative with your Approach helps you develop skill and adaptability, and encourages you to hit the Shot appropriate to the challenge - be flexible vs principled!


Smart Short Game

The same principles above are applicable to Short Game Shots, however there are 3 additional aspects to be aware of:

1: Lie

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There is very little agreement throughout the industry on what constitutes great Wedge Play, especially with regard to Technique, but one thing most will agree on is that the Number 1 Wedge Skill for a Player and priority for a Coach is helping each student produce consistent Solid Contact. Without it, touch, confidence, tension level and focus all suffer. So Contact is Primary, and the Lie of your Ball has an overriding influence on the Shot you’re able to play and the associated Skill.

Ensure your first port of call when deciding the Shot to Play accommodates for the Lie. A general rule is if the Lie is poor use more Loft.

2: Landing Spot

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This goes back to the previous section on Approach Shots; establish the Shot you want to play i.e. what the ball needs to do to finish in or very close to the hole. The first step is to identify the place you want to land the ball then determine how much roll is required to finish in or (ideally) within 3 feet of the hole.

As a general guide, get the ball on the ground as soon as possible. As I mentioned above, the Lie of your Ball, as well as grass type and slope, play major determining factors, so make sure to pay attention to all of these when deciding what Shot to play.

3: Finishing Zone

This one is pretty simple; leave yourself the simplest Putt if you miss (usually uphill). Be assertive, not stupid 😉👍🏻.


Putting

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To be honest, this entire article could be absorbed by the nuances of the Short Stick, and illustrated by my previous article “Putting: Face vs Pace, who Wins”? However, in the interests of simplicity here’s some tips for solid Putting Tactics:

Being a good Putter can be distilled down into Mastery of 3 Key Elements:

  1. Pace Control

  2. Green Reading/Break Prediction

  3. Start Line

So, when it comes to Tactics lets focus on Number 2: Green Reading. Here’s some advice for effective Green Reading:

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  1. Approach the Green from the Lowest Point. That’s where the Ball will break to overall and gives you the best perspective.

  2. Initially Read the Putt from the Low Point. It will give you the best perspective. Then Read it from various other angles in order for you to make an effective Prediction of what the Ball might do.

  3. Establish the Pace you want to hole your Putt - Pace determines what your Ball will do on the Green i.e. The required Read & Start Line. Dead Weight Pace makes the Hole Bigger than if you attempt to hole out using a Faster Pace. Do this by making Practice Strokes while looking at the hole, then get in there and make it; keep the time in-between your Practice Stroke and the Strike to a minimum (without feeling rushed).

If you’re keen to learn more about the nuances of Putting and how you can improve, I highly recommend you purchase a copy of The Lost Art of Putting.


Reflection

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  • Keep your misses playable - assertive shots to conservative targets

  • Establish your Go Zone and Commit (to the Shot AND your Shot Focus)

  • Planning for the best while protecting for the worst is never a bad way to go

  • Accommodate for Elevation: Minus Yardage for Uphill and Add for Downhill

  • Be Creative with your Shot choices, adapt to the situation - be flexible vs principled!

  • With Short Game: Be assertive, not stupid 😉👍🏻

  • Putting: Approach the Green and read each Putt initially from the Low Point, oh, and Pace is King;It determines the appropriate Read

Congratulations! You’re at the end! You made it! I hope you found the above and the previous 4 Articles on Effective Course Management useful and insightful? I’d love for you to get in touch if you have any questions or comments. I’ll do my best to answer and if I don’t know, I’ll make sure to refer you to someone that can!

Thanks for reading!

Oliver C. Morton

www.TheLeadingEdgeGolfCompany.com


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A Moment of Inspiration

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It’s a typical British Summers Afternoon in the South Yorkshire Countryside. A 14 Year old Boy sits transfixed in his living room, glued to the drama unfolding in the Sandhills of North Carolina. The Leading Man of the Drama is a charismatic American, donning plus fours and a flat cap. Wonderfully expressive, uncharacteristically honest and immaculately skillful.

The drama that unfolded that afternoon sparked something inside the Boy. A passion and desire to emulate the ability and joy he was witnessing.

Unfortunately, the Boy never emulated what he witnessed and the Leading Man was taken from us far too young. However, his inspiration and wisdom lives on in the Boy (and others like him), that were inspired by what they witnessed in that afternoon.

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If you haven’t already guessed, I was that Boy, The Leading Man was Payne Stewart and the event was the 1999 U.S Open.

“Why are you telling us this Oli?” I hear you cry. Well, the following concept is something I’ve reworked from something Mr Stewart and his Caddy, Mike Hicks’ did that week, so I felt it was fitting to set the scene.


Go Zones!

In the years Mike and Payne worked together, Payne never carried a yardage book. That was Mike’s responsibility. However, the 1999 U.S. Open was the only week Mike ever saw Payne with one. Payne marked every spot on the Course where you didn’t want to hit the Ball, they called them “Grey Areas”.

Side Note: In 72 holes, Payne hit his Ball into one of those so-called Grey Areas once, and that was on the second hole on Sunday!

Whilst identifying areas to avoid worked for Payne, it’s not something I advise. Instead, I like to flip the concept on its head, suggesting Players identify the Areas or “Zones” they WANT to hit their ball to; “Go Zones” if you will.

I believe this is a more positive approach, and it automatically identifies the “No Go” Zones. Establishing Go Zones is a better strategy than simply identifying a Club to use as it helps you adapt to Environmental change (something I covered in Part 3: The Environment) e.g:

  • “It’s 200-230 Yards to my Zone” = 😀

  • “It’s Driver off this tee” = ☹️

I like Players to do this by colouring Zones in their Course Guide/Stroke Saver e.g:


A Game like Chess

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A good way to think of this is that you’re establishing a Game Plan for a Chess match, where you know what the oppositions moves are going to be.

Questions are a useful way of establishing this e.g:

  • “What’s the best way for me to get my ball round this course/hole in the least amount of shots?”

  • “How am I going to Birdie this Hole?”

  • “What does the Ball need to do to get into my next Go Zone?”


Work in Reverse

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It’s important to identify your Zones from Green to Tee (from Pin to Peg). Working the hole backwards makes you start with the end in mind.

When establishing your Zones, make sure you stick with the Principle of “Assertive Shots to Conservative Targets” (I’ll discuss this further in Part 5 - Play Smart!).

When preparing for a Tournament it’s also very important that you avoid “Playing” the holes during your Practice Rounds (unless you’re having a Match with your Peers, I like that ;). Use it as an opportunity to determine what Ball Control Skills need to be on point and establish your best Strategy; Establish your Plan(s) and execute. I say “Plans” because you need to accommodate for different weather/ground conditions (again, something I covered extensively in Part 3 - The Environment).


Reflection

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The fundamental message is that if you want to play your best, prior planning goes a long way: The simple process of identifying Areas/Zones you want to be playing from, coupled with positive intent can have very real benefits on your Scorecard.

We are all different, with different mindsets and skill levels, so ensure you tailor your tactics accordingly.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the above and found it useful? Stay tuned for Part 5: Play Smart!

Kind regards,

Oliver C. Morton

www.TheLeadingEdgeGolfCompany.com

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