The Final Frontier
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
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)
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:
Check your Yardage Book for your predetermined Go Zone (See Part 4) or use your Rangefinder to re-establish your Target/Zone distance.
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)
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:
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
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
How to Apply:
Establish the Straight Line Carry Distance to your Target as well as the amount it is above or below you.
Choose the appropriate Trajectory & Land Angle.
Accommodate for the appropriate Bounce and Roll to establish your Carry Distance:
Uphill = Less Carry + More Roll
Downhill = More Carry + Less Roll
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:
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
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 😉👍🏻.
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:
Green Reading/Break Prediction
So, when it comes to Tactics lets focus on Number 2: Green Reading. Here’s some advice for effective Green Reading:
Approach the Green from the Lowest Point. That’s where the Ball will break to overall and gives you the best perspective.
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.
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.
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