A Moment of Inspiration
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.
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.
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
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
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).
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!
Oliver C. Morton
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