The Layman's Guide to Smarter Golf

Smarter Golf

 

Article #7

PLAYING SMARTER GOLF IN THE CHAMPIONSHIPS

G’day Golfers, Average Joe here again with some average golfing wisdom for you. With the Championships coming up in a few weeks I thought some do’s and don’ts for you to keep in mind in the lead up and during the rounds might be appropriate for my latest article.  We mostly play stablefords these days but smart golf is smart golf no matter the format so these ideas will be a bit like a summary of all the other articles rolled into one and hopefully they will help with the four rounds where every shot counts.
DON’T – do anything out of the ordinary like buy new clubs or have a lesson in the lead up. Every lesson I have ever had has made me worse before I got better. The nature of most lessons is to change something in your swing, that takes a lot of time and effort and if you are focused on that you can’t possibly get the best out of your competitive round. The swing you have right now, has got you this far and played numerous amounts of awesome shots over the years, it is good enough to get the job done.
DO –Practice as much as you can in the lead up and in the week in between. As I have mentioned before, the best way to find improvement is to practice.Firstly, get to know your distances for each club but then spend most of your time on your short game – approaches from 100m in, chipping and putting. If you were ever lucky enough to shoot a par round of 72, at least 50 to 55 of your shots would have been from 100m in. if you shoot 90 it is likely to be around the 65 mark so it makes sense to practice these shots the most.
DON’T – be unorganised. The night before your first round, make sure you have everything you need and that it is in order. If your glove has a hole in it or you need a sleeve of balls make sure you allow yourself plenty of time before the round to get them sorted. Being rushed to get these all done 5 minutes before your tee time is a recipe for a disastrous first hole.
DO – Be prepared.  I’m a bit of a nerd but before a big or important round I make sure my clubs, shoes and towel are all clean. I have all the balls I need, my glove is in order or I have a spare one in my bag. I Get to the course in plenty of time to have 5 or 10 minutes chipping and putting and then the last thing I do before teeing off is to sneak on to the driving range and pick up 3 or 4 range balls that are lying around and hit the tee shot I want on number 1. This all only takes 15 or 20 minutes and leaves me relaxed and ready.
DON’T - drop your bottom lip. This is a pet hate of mine, and yes, I have done it plenty of times before. Golf is a game full of mistakes, you could shoot a par round and I guarantee you there will be shots in there that could have been better. There is no such thing as perfect golf unless you have 18 hole in ones. There is nothing worse for your game and your score than sulking through the round because of a few bad shots. Don’t ever give up on your round, you can always get it back with one good hole. Also, remember,the top 8 of each group across the 4 rounds qualify for the match play event. This is a great incentive to keep at it when a lot of players won’t. just simply finishing all four rounds in decent order could leave you in the top 8 for your group.

DO – forgive yourself and focus on the next shot. Yes vent, get angry at yourself for a duffed chip or a sliced out of bounds, drop an F bomb if you need, but then get over it. Give yourself say 10 seconds to get it out of your system then hit the reset button. I can accept a bad round if I know I tried hard on every shot but just had a bad day. I hate it when after 2 bad shots I have a sook for the rest of the round and ruin it for me and my playing partners. Treat every shot as its own event, not just every hole or every round, every shot.
DON’T expect too much -the course will be set up at its hardest, the first round coincides with the monthly mug and we will be off the blue tees. The pins will likely be in tricky positions, like way over to the right on 4 or up the back on 18. Understand that you are not going to have a pb each round. Remember your handicap is what you are capable of not what you should score. If you are off 15 a score of 90 off the blues might not be ideal or what you were hoping for but it is probably realistic for at least 2 of your rounds.
DO – pre plan your rounds.  I have a little note book with 1 page devoted to each hole on the course, it has a couple of notes on it around clubs to use and what I should expect. I don’t look at it much anymore because I have played hundreds of rounds in Dalby but it looks something like this.
Hole 1, 290m straight ob on right, aim away from the fence, wide open fairway – driver, should par.
Hole 2, index 1, dogleg right, long iron to corner, mid iron to green, accept bogey. Etc.
If i am following this plan and I bogey 2 I am not going to be upset because it is the hardest hole on the course and I know I will have 8 or 10 bogeys and this will probably be one of them. If I happen to par it, it’s a bonus. Each page ends in either, should par, can par or accept bogey, this keeps my emotions in line.
DON’T – try and be someone you’re not.Play your game, if you are a fade/slicer don’t try and draw one around 17, you’ll likely end up in the dam or the prickly pear on the right or you will snap hook oneo.b. on the left. The same is true if you are a draw/hooker, don’t try slice one around the corner on 2, you’ll likely end up behind the new shed.Hit something you know you can, not something you wish you can.
DO – aim for the centre of the green not the pin on most occasions.Depending on your skill level, if you are further than 50 or 60m away you are better off aiming for the heart of the green. We have a natural dispersion so some might go straight to the middle but some will go a little left and some will go a little right, aiming at the middle gives you more room for error.
Don’t – whinge about the greens. Everyone is playing on the same course, if you get a bad break and have to putt through a sandy patch, accept it and do your best to knock it close. If you are worried about how the ball rolls on it, be proactive, go out on the greens and practice your putting across those patches so you know what to expect. Either way accept it for what it is and move on.
DO – think about your approach distances. There are very few holes, if any, that have more trouble at the front of the green than over the back. If you are between clubs, always go for the shorter one, a chip on from the front fringe is almost always a lot easier than a chip on from over the back.
DON’Tfeel like you have to play a shot that looks pretty.For example if you are not confident with your chipping contact, don’t feel like you have to play a big high flop shot onto the green. The easier play is a bump and run with say an 8 iron that dribbles on and runs for a few meters. I know a certain wily old fella at the club that putts from almost everywhere within 10 or 15m of the green and he does just fine (in fact I think he is the current C grade champion, wink, wink, nudge nudge). Play the shot that will get you onto the green 90% of the time, not the one you think your mates will appreciate.
DO – keep your ego in check.  Similar to the last point, if the smart play is to punch a 9 iron sideways out onto the fairway from under a tree, then do it. The alternative is to go for the glory shot that more often than not results in another tree and a double bogey. Same with your driver, if you have been slicing it badly all day then change it up and hit a 4 or 5 iron off the tee. Remember you are playing an accumulative of four rounds, if you take the safer/smarter option it will save you shots in the long run.
BE PARTICULAR ABOUT YOUR LIE – We get a preferred lie on every shot, so use it. I see so many high handicappers hardly worry about their lie or just put it any old where. A bad lie can make or break your shot. Be particular, make sure it is sitting up nicely.
AT THE END OF EACH ROUND – pull your round apart, what was good and what was bad? Try not to repeat the same mistakes time after time. Come up with a new plan for the next round if something didn’t work. If you putted terribly, spend time at home that night getting your confidence back over the putter.
MOST IMPORTANTLY – HAVE FUN – my golden rule for golf is enjoy it at all costs regardless of your score. Golf takes a half a day out of your weekend, that’s 25% of your only 2 days off. The championships are 4 rounds in 2 weekends,if a bad score has you whinging and complaining about everything and everyone, then stay home with your wife or your kids or your dog and mow the lawn. Golf is hard, more often than not it will not live up to your hopes for your score that day but if it was easy, it wouldn’t be any fun. A golf course is a beautiful place to be, if nothing else, enjoy the banter, the beers and the mateship and be grateful that you are able to play at all.

 


 

Article #6

PRACTICE HARD ~ PLAY EASY

G’day golfers, this week I wanted to have a little chat about practice. Now I know it’s not for everyone, most recreational golfers don’t have the time or inclination to practice at all but if you are someone that wants to improve and be a better golfer or a lower handicap player, then unfortunately you will have to practice or play more or both, to do that.
I don’t believe mindlessly bashing one ball after the other on the range with no purpose constitutes good practice.  I would much rather go and play 9 holes and just throw some extra balls out whenever it suits in different scenarios to say punch out from behind a tree or some different chipping situations. To me that is more purposeful. The main problems I have with the range is that the balls don’t go as far so you can’t really gauge your shots properly and the other thing is it is very easy to fall into the trap ofthe raking and bashing situation.
The range however does have its place. Below is a list of some of the things I would use the rangefor in my Practice

  • Testing a new club – the range is a great place to get the feel for a new club. You can hit lots of balls and quickly work out if a certain club is for you
  • Working on your set up – grip/posture/alignment, you still want to be hitting balls but don’t need to be overly concerned with the result, it is more about forming the habit
  • Working on a swing change – I’m not an advocate for big swing changes at all, but sometimes you might have had a lesson and want to tweak something and the range, not the course, is the place for that.
  • Working on ingraining your pre shot routine – see last weeks article
  • Working on a contact fault with a particular club–say I have noticed in my last few rounds that I topped a lot of fairway woods off the deck, I might want to hit 20 or 30 on the range to get my confidence back.

I know some people would prefer to go to the range and hit 50 balls than do 9 holes and that is fine. If that is you, trying to make it more like a game situation is much more beneficial then just working through your bag raking and smacking balls everywhere.
Next time you’re on the range try “playing a round”. Imagine you are on number 1 tee box and hit a tee shot with your driver. Now put your driver back in the bag and get whatever club you need to hit the green on your next shot. For example, number 1 is about 300m, if you smoked your tee shot up the middle and hit it about 230m then pull out your 70m club and hit the shot you would on the course. If however you cut your tee shot into the trees on the right then pull out your 6 or 7 iron and practice the punch shot you would need in that situation. When you feel like you would be on the green, move on to hole number 2 and go through that scenario.
Another option is to just pick a random club with each new ball you are hitting. That way you might for instance hit a 5 iron followed by a 9 iron followed by a 3 wood. There has been lots of research on this type of random practice recently and it has shown that it is much more beneficial because it is more like what you would do in a round.
In any of these situations you should alwayshave a specific target and always go through your full routine with every shot, take your time and hit each shot with purpose and intent. A good way of trying to avoid the rake and bash balls scenario is to leave the range balls in the bucket 10m away so you have to walk back and pick one up each time rather than just dragging it over.

Practice doesn't make perfect.Practice makes permanentPerfect practice  makes perfect - Routine Excellence
If you are someone that is trying to break 80 or 90, in my opinion, you should spend most of your practice time on chipping and putting. It is the area where we all have most of our shots in a round so also the easiest area to shave shots, there are many simple drills you can experiment with and you can also do it at home if need be.
I love the concept of “practice hard, play easy”. When practicing set yourself some challenging scenarios that is quite difficult to complete. For example, with putting,set up 4 markers around a hole at say 1 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock, preferably with a little bit of slope, about 4 or 5 feet away.  Depending on your ability, your goal might be to knock in 8 in a row, (just adjust the distance to make it easier or harder) if you miss one you start again from scratch and you can’t leave until it is completed. Watch Hideki Matsuyama do it here https://www.golfmagic.com/pga-tour/how-long-would-it-take-you-complete-epic-hideki-matsuyama-putting-drill .
I can tell you from experience if you have been there for 30min trying to finish this little game and it is getting dark there gets to be quite a lot of pressure on you to knock that last one in or risk having to start all over again. That is exactly the feeling you want to have when practicing. Again, be sure to use your pre shot routine each time.
You can do the same thing with chipping, put some tees in around the hole making say a 3 foot circle and see if you can get 10 in a row inside the circle, again adjust the size of the circle to suit. It doesn’t matter how big or how small or how many, it just has to be challenging enough so that it gets the juices flowing and the knees knocking when your close to completing it. The idea of these games is that you are putting pressure on yourself to play a good shot just like you would in a competitive round. Getting used to that feeling and the pressure that comes with it is the only way of getting better at it.
Gary Player once said “the harder I work, the luckier I get”. A lot of people want to be better but most of us don’t want do anything about it. Whether it is business, health, fitness, weight loss or golf, if you want to improve and be better than you are now, you have to do more than you are doing now, it is as simple as that.

 


 

Article # 5

EMOTIONS & PRE-SHOT ROUTINES


G’day golfers, average Joe here, I hope you all had a great Christmas and managed to get a few rounds of golf in around all the family, food and frothies.  today I want to talk about our emotions on the course and how we can keep them in check by using a consistent pre shot routine.
If golf was only about technique and had nothing to do with emotions, and comfort levels then how the hell does Greg Norman lead the 1996 Masters tournament by 5 shots going into the final round and yet ends up losing by 6 in an 11 shot turnaround? Did he suddenly forget how to play? Of course not, his emotions got the better of him and it still haunts him (and me) to this day.
There is a heap of other examples of these meltdowns from the pros but what about us mere mortals. Does this scenario seem familiar? You are looking forward to your round all week, you might have a putt on the carpet at home and a few chips around the back yard getting primed for a great round. You get to the course nice and early and hit some range balls and they are all coming out well. You then drop 4 balls on the putting surface and knock them all in from 6 feet. You head over to the first tee feeling determined to have a decent score for the first time in a while. You then proceed to rack a very disappointing front 9. At the half way mark you say “bugger this” you go in and grab a couple of beers for the back 9, start joking with your mates about “there’s always next week” and forget about your score and just play for fun. What happens? You come good and rack a really good score on the back. This happens to me regularly.
How many times do you stand over a 6 footer for par, taking your time and really concentrating on getting it in only to have it lip out? You then proceed to drag it back for another go and without even looking at it, you knock it dead centre. Or what about spraying your tee shot over the fence on number 4 and because you have already ruined the hole you put your next ball down and without a second thought, you smoke it up the middle 30m from the green.
This is because we play better golf when we don’t care about the result. When we are stressed or fearful of the result our muscles get tight and our body doesn’t work like it should. Learning how to get on top of these types of crippling emotions is much more important and valuable to your golf game than having a pretty swing or having that brand new driver.
I’m not saying you should play recklessly but all your care should go into the process of each shot not the result of the shot or the result of the round.  We should be assessing the wind and lie and slope, choosing a club, choosing a smart target, picturing what your shot should look like and making sure your alignment and stance are good. After that, you can pull the trigger knowing that you have done everything possible to allow for a good result. If you happen to put a bad swing on it, or you get a bad bounce or it is a little soft or a little hard, then so be it, that’s golf, accept it and move on to the next shot and try again.

If you’re the type of player that likes to keep track of your stats during the round like how many putts you have or fairways you hit for example, you can do the same thing with your preshot routine. On your score card put a little tick or cross for each shot on each hole where you felt you did a good or bad job with your pre shot routine. If you smash a drive 280m down the middle while you were laughing with your mates standing over the ball, that’s a cross not a tick. At the same time if you feel you did everything well before playing your shot yet still missed the green from 65m then give yourself a tick. These marks are not about the result of the shot but about the quality of your pre shot routine. If at the end of the round you shoot a 90 and you have 45 ticks and 45 crosses then you did a good job only 50% of the time and you have a lot of room for improvement.
Like anything, you have to practice it to get better at it. When you’re on the range, don’t mindlessly smash one ball after the other without a thought, that is a waste of time. Try picking a different target using a different club each time, more like a game type of scenario, stand behind each ball and develop a process for you that works.
If you develop this type of routine and become consistent with it, your overall scores will come down because you are not worried about missing the fairway or the green or the putt, or your score, you’re just focused on your process and what you can control.
The idea of using this routine and trying to do it the same way every shot is that it can alleviate the stress that comes with thinking about the outcome. If you can concentrate on that part of the game and forget about long range outcomes like the score on that hole or the total round score it will help you stay in the moment.
Unfortunately, those boring old cliches are true, focus on one shot at a time and focus on the process not the outcome and better golf will follow..

 

Article # 4
LOWEST SCORE WINS
Question… What should my golf swing look like? Correct answer, WHO CARES!
We play golf, not golf swing. The aim of the game is to get the ball in the hole in the lowest number of shots and how that looks is irrelevant. If the game was called golf swing Adam Scott would win every comp he ever played in and Matt Wolf and Jim Furyk would never play the game. If you analysed the swing of the top 100 pros on the us tour you would see 100 different swings and they are all millionaires so there is no perfect model. By the way check out Adam Scott’s swing herehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5a3i06hL5W4
It just does not get any better.



Obviously, there is a certain amount of technique involved in the swing and everyone can always be better but if you have ever piped a drive down the middle or hit a green from 150m out, or dropped a 15 foot putt then you already have the ability and technique to shoot decent scores. What you need to learn is how to get yourself into thatstate, mentally and physically, that allowed you to hit those great shots.


When I say physical, I mean the set up and grip. These are things we have complete control over and should be consistent in. through practice, work out what grip and set up works best for you and then be very particular about doing it the same every time. This consistency will result in better shots.
How do we get better at that free flowing and casual state of mind that results in better scores? Well old Average Joe here is no sports psychologist but DR Bob Rotella who has written many books on golf is, and, in his book, Golf is not a game of perfect, he says “Golfing potential depends primarily on a player’s attitude, and on how well he thinks”. And also “You cannot hit a golf ball consistently well if you think about the mechanics of your swing as you play.”
It’s like anything else you want to get better at, you have to practice. Practice letting go during a round, get out of your own way and just play. If you are standing over your shots thinking about your left wrist or your hip rotation, there is no way you can play good golf.
Swing technique and mechanics are for the range but when you get on the first tee for a competitive round you have to trust the swing you have that day and work with it, be consistent with your set up, pick a (smart) target and fire away.
Too often, we don’t fully commit to the shot at hand, we doubt the decision we’ve made or the club we have chosen, “is it a hard 8 or soft a 7 iron.” We have a practice swing, then we rush the shot, duck hook it over the fence, and think we have a technique problem. That’s not a technique problem or a swing issue, it’s a thought process problem.
One way of eliminating these brain explosions is to try and keep track of your level of commitment to each shot. Did you pick a smart, specific target, see what you want it to look like off the club, take a deep breath and pull the trigger with a clear mind and a good set up? If you use a process like this and do it before every shot you will see improvement in your scores.
If on the other handyou’re hesitant, worrying about the fence on the right or the creek in front, or how you had just 3 putted the last hole or your angry still because of the double bogey you just had, you can’t expect your next shot to be a good one.
I recently heard Tiger Woods talking about how he often gets angry at himself for a bad shot or a bad decision on the golf course and he said “I’m ok with getting angry at myself as long as I get over it and make my next shot as important as breathing”.Now that’s serious commitment.
If you can treat each shot as its own event rather than part of a hole or part of a round then you will see more improvement on your focus which in turn will lower your golf scores, after all Lowest score, not prettiest swing, wins.

 


Article #3  (01 Dec 21)

KNOW THY SELF


G’day golfers! Average Joe here again.
I hope you have enjoyed my first 2 articles. Today I want to delve a bit deeper into the idea of getting to know our games inside and out.
Some golfers are happy just getting out on the weekend with their mates, enjoying a beer and the company and treat their golf scores are a bit of an afterthought, and that’s great. Most golfers however, I believe, want to get better and score more consistently. If you are in the latter group, you really need to understand your own game, firstly because really knowing your tendencies helps you know how to attack a golf course, but this knowledge also points you in the right direction for any practice.
Last week I spoke about finding your true distances with your clubs and that is very important but there are 2 other areas we should start taking note of, they are, dispersion patterns and ball flight tendencies. Now I know, for some people they will be looking to stop yawning and keep scrolling at this point but bear with me while I explain their importance.
Ball flight tendencies is the easy one. All golfers on any given day can hit it anywhere, even the pros, but in general we all have a ball flight that either tends to go more often right to left (draw/hook) or more often left to right (fade/slice). Without even thinking about it you would know which you are straight away but what takes more investigation is how often and how far. Once we are armed with this info then we can more confidently pick our targets on each shot during a round.
Depending on how serious you want to get you can either work it out yourself on the range roughly, or you can have a range session with a pro with a ball tracking device and it will tell you the exact numbers. The below pic is a graph you can get out of any such device, it tells you how far, how wide and your ball shape.I wish this was mine but it is a 2nd tier tour pro in the US.Basically, he is hitting it about 280 yards with a nice draw and all balls landing within about 30m of the target line or with a total dispersion of about 60m.

“fair dinkum Joe” I hear you say, “why do I need to know this rubbish”. OK, I know it’s a bit full on for some people but stay with me, here’s the good bit, let’s just deal with the driver in a real-world scenario. Say my name is “Sammy Slicer” and I know if I hit 10 tee shots, they will all travel about 260m, 8 will go from left to right with varying degrees of how far, 2 will go relatively straight and the dispersion, or the distance from the widest ball to the other widest ball, is about 70m. Armed with this info, I can now stand on the tee box on any hole I play and adjust my aim point accordingly. For example, on hole number 1 in Dalby, if I simply aim at the green every time, 2 will end up near the middle of the fairway, 4 or 5 will end up on the right side or in the right trees and the others sail over the fence and into the beautiful Myall creek, ending in a double bogey or worse.That’s giving too many shots to the course and is not smart golf. A smarter option for Sammy Slicer on our hole number 1 would be to tee up on the right side of the box and aim at the ladies tee box on number 2. Say what? Yep, that’s right, the couple of shots that go straight aren’t ideal but they are probably on number 2 fairway, a sand wedge away with a clear track to the green, the rest are either on the fairway or the very worst are in the right trees. The most important thing on holes like number 1 and 4 for Sammy slicer is avoiding the fence, and a big number, at all costs, if this means aiming for the other fairway then do it, it will bring your average scores down on those holes over the long term.
Good old shotlink tells me that even the best pros have a dispersion of around 50m with their driver, if you hit it over 250m, even if you’re a scratch golfer, you will have a dispersion distance of around 60m to 80m between your widest shots. if there is no serious danger off the tee, and by that, I mean water or out of bounds, then it’s all good, Sammy can just aim down the left side of the fairway and fire away. Obviously, everyone’s results and shot shape will differ slightly but the same theory applies. If your Harry Hooker, number 1 won’t worry you but you had better have a strategic plan that takes away the danger and consequently the big number, with driver in hand on numbers 15, 16 and 17. That’s what smart golfers do.
I think sometimes people get too caught up in what ‘looks’ like good golf or what we are ‘supposed’ to do. The thought of purposefully aiming for another fairway seems mad but the only thing that counts in the end is the number you write on your card. I have lost count of the number of times I have stood on number 16 only a few over and not wanting to ruin my round with an OB. I simply aim way right and smash it over the trees onto 17, usually only leaving a short iron into the green. Some will say that is negative but I don’t care about that, I only care about my score and what is the smartest option. I have taken the big number out of play and if I am only 130m away with a clear shot to the green and I still have a bogey, that is not the fault of the tee shot, it would be because I have had some other poor shot along the way.
Smart golfers can plan their way around a course this way because they know their shot tendencies and the same principal will apply to every club in the bag.
Ben Hogan once said that “golf is a game of misses” if you know where you miss 90% of the time, you can allow for it, and score better, after all, isn’t that the name of the game?



Previous  Article #2  (25 Nov 21)

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS


Hi golfers, Average Joe here again.
Today I wanted to have a little chat about expectations and specifically around our own golf games.
Jack Nicklaus famously said “Golf is 90% mental and 10% physical”. So getting our mind working for us and not against us during a golf round is pretty important and our own unrealistic expectations are a big part of that.
The trouble with golf is, our best shots or our best rounds are few and far between but because one day 3 years ago I hit a 3 wood onto number 17 from 220m out, I think I can do it every time I step up. Or because one glorious day 10 years ago I broke par, I think I should be doing it every time I play. Unfortunately, our best golf or our best shot is the exception not the rule and we need to treat it as such.
Turning up to each new round expecting to break 80 because you did it once 6 months ago, will only add pressure that you don’t need and more than likely end up in frustration and disappointment.
Let’s deal with rounds on a whole to start with in a real world scenario. As I said last week, I play off single figures in Dalby and I feel like I should break 80 most weeks but a quick look at my handicap history tells me I only did it 5 times out of my last 20 rounds – 25% of the time.
I actually averaged 84 across those 20 rounds but I feel disappointed when I shoot mid 80’s and see it as a bad round. I don’t look at the 94 I threw in there as something I should hit every time so why would I look at the one-time 75 as the norm?  We need to look at those rounds as ‘outliers’ or the extremities of our rounds and basically ignore them when setting our expectations for our game.
Golf is hard, if you want to get better at it you have to either play more or practice more or both. Depending on your natural ability level, playing a couple of times a month will get you to a certain level and that is where you’re likely to stay unless you start to play or practice more. Having honest, fair dinkum, realistic expectations around your scores, depending on how much you play, is a good way of alleviating frustration and making your next round more enjoyable.
Now let’s talk about individual shot expectation.
The first part is our distances. We often base our club selection on that one knifed 5 iron with the wind behind us on a baked fairway that went 190m. That one doesn’t count any more than the one you hit fat that doesn’t make it to the ladies tee. Again they’re outliers. If you want a fair dinkum average of how far you hit each club (and you should have that info) you need to go to the range, hit 10 balls with each club, take out the outliers and work it out from there.
Don’t use range balls for this exercise, they don’t go anywhere near as far.
I know we are not pros but we need some sort of guide. For example, I hit my 7 iron 145 – 150m, if the required distance is at either end of that range I’ll make a club selection based on the conditions like the lie and the wind, downhill or uphill etc. if I have gone through that process, I can accept the result, good or bad.
The final part on Expectations that I wanted to touch on is around the results of our shots and what we lowly amateurs perceive as a good or bad shot.
The USPGA has a program called Shotlink and it keeps all the data of every shot played by every golfer in every tournament which I find amazing and very helpful (nerdy I know).
If you watch golf on TV like The Masters for example, you can be forgiven for thinking that every approach shot lands next to the pin and every pro makes every 20 foot putt.  In reality, that’s not the case. The golf channels and the commentators have to make it look like that for excitement, and the coverage has to jump around from hole to hole so it is basically a continuous highlights package. The pros miss plenty of fairways, greens and short putts, we just don’t see it.
These Shotlink stats are good to know because the knowledge of what the pros actually do, as opposed to what we think they do, are chalk and cheese and it actually frees us up as average golfers to forgive ourselves if we miss a short putt or miss the green on approach.
For instance, we stand over 6 foot putts like we should knock them all in without a 2nd glance, tour pros who are blessed with super natural ability and spend their lives playing and practicing, only make 7 out of 10 six foot putts on average.
If we make half of our 6 footers we should be absolutely stoked. What about 10 footers? Tour pros, 4 out of 10, if we make even 1 out of 10 we should be very happy but we rarely are. It drops off a cliff for the tour pros outside of 10 feet with them making lees then 2 out of 10.Let’s not forget they are also putting on perfectly manicured greens, no offence to our green keeper but put them on royal Dalby at the moment and see how they go.
The moral to the story here is... if you make the odd 10 footer that’s great. Otherwise knock it close and 2 putt and you will be no worse off than the next bloke.
“What about approaches”, I hear you say. Pros knock it stiff from everywhere. Do they? From 120m out, or roughly the distance of our number 14, tour pros average proximity to the hole is about 23 feet away, or about 7m. A quick measure of our number 14 green on google maps tells me that it is about 13m wide and 20m long. If the pin is in the middle, that’s less than 7m on each side so according to shot link a lot of pros are missing that green to the left or right from 120m away. This blows my mind because we stand there and chastise ourselves every time we miss it. With this knowledge in hand, a better way for us to approach this shot is to say, “Anywhere on the green here is a good result, but if I miss, it’s not the end of the world”.
Next time you’re on the course, remember, golf is hard and we are not pros. Have realistic expectations about your round and each shot, this in turn will lower the pressure gauge and you just might find yourself enjoying each round more and in turn lowering your scores.
*****

Previous Article #1 (18 Nov 21)
Hello golfers! This is the first in a series of articles I will be writing for our club newsletter. Firstly, I wanted to introduce myself and give our members an idea of what I will be talking about.
I’m average Joe! I am a member of the club and have been, off and on, for many years.  I play off single figures but I am far from an expert or a golf pro and on any given day I can shoot anywhere between 73 and 90.  Plenty of golfers at the club are better players than me and you won’t read about any swing mechanics in my articles, they are simply, as the name suggests a guide to playing smarter golf. Although my mates like to refer to me as a ‘golf nerd’, I like to consider myself a student of the game. I have spent I lot of time over the years reading about, listening to and watching anything I can on the game and I am particularly interested in course management and strategies around each hole and each shot during a round. While the best way to lower scores is always to play more and practice more, I believe some of the ideas in these articles will help average golfers play more consistently in the long run and lower their scores by thinking about their game in a different way.
The first point I want to make is golf is a game, enjoy it!
I was recently on holidays at the coast and was excited to be able to squeeze in a round at a nice local course. I booked in a time on a Wednesday and found I was paired with an older gentleman in his late 50’s who was a member of the club and a respectable 12 handicapper. This particular club, like ours, has an out of bounds on the right on hole number 1 and my new partner proceeded to knock his first ball of the day way over the fence and ended up taking a 7.  After a 3 putt double bogey on number 2, and a swift fling of the putter into his golf buggy, I quickly realised why he was playing on his own, he must have run out of people to play with and for the rest of the round everyone from the groundsman to the bar lady got a serve for the poor golf he was playing.
I get it, golf can be very frustrating and I have been there myself, often, but this response to a poor round of golf ruins the day for yourself and more importantly the golfers around you. If you’re like me, I start looking forward to my weekend round on about Wednesday and there is nothing worse than finally getting there all excited about a great afternoon only to have it ruined by someone who has their bottom lip out, abuses everyone and everything and gives up after the first 3 holes. Don’t be that person.
Golf is harder and more challenging than any other game I have played, and that’s why I love it. I also love it because for 4 hours I get to ride around in a buggy, usually in perfect weather, with a couple of my mates, sipping on a XXXX, talking rubbish, taking the mickey out of each other and forgetting about the real world. How many games can you say that about?
I know it is easier said than done and as I keep saying I am far from perfect but if you find yourself having one of those days where you can’t do anything well, accept it for what it is, keep trying to work it out, put a smile on your face and just enjoy the ride.
Someone once said “if you want to find out someone’s true character, play golf with them”.
What’s your true character?

 

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