Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Some Observations from Bay Hill

I went to Bay Hill this week to catch some action on Saturday and Sunday and here's some observations.

1. Bay Hill is a really fun tournament to go to. The parking and shuttle is a short ride from Universal Studios with only $10 for parking. I've been to events where it's $25 for parking and a 30-40 minute shuttle ride before.

But, there's a real party atmosphere there as the course is surrounded by homes with people throwing little parties and watching the golfers go bye. I was shocked how fun it was.

2. The course was your typical Arnie design, one of the most underrated designers in my mind. Arnie is adept at doing little things in his design that make the most out of the land he has to work with. #1 and #10 is a great example. Doglegs where you can't really see around the corner, but you generally don't want to cut the corner to begin with. It's not a blind tee shot, but since you can't see the hole from the tee, it gives you the feel of not knowing what's around the corner. Palmer also uses a lot of greens that tend to sit lower which usually adds an aesthetic to the hole design.

3. While Palmer design courses usually have some severe slopes, you just cannot leave the ball above the cup on tour. Your chances of 3-putting go up dramatically. If you leave yourself with a sidehill putt, your chances of making it go down, but you can usually 2-putt. But, avoiding downhill putts is really crucial on Tour.

4. I think that's one of the reasons why the long hitters who can hit it high have an advantage on Tour. They can hit less club and hit it higher in the Danger Zone. #2 at Bay Hill is a great example of this. It plays 218 yards into a shallow green. I watched Kevin Chappell hit a 4-iron well and go long because the green is so shallow and then have almost no chance of 2-putting on such a downhill putt. Then somebody like Bubba Watson hits a 6-iron about a mile high and can keep it below the cup much easier.

5. The best tournaments to go watch live are the ones at courses you have played before. It makes it much easier to gauge yourself against the Tour pros. For instance, I watched JB Holmes play and I *know* that he hits it far. But, I couldn't quite appreciate his length off the tee because I couldn't gauge it against my length off the tee since I've never played Bay Hill before.

6. The only Tour pro that I saw in the field that consistently makes that 'sound' that separates himself from the others was Gary Woodland. Not even Tiger could quite do it as much as Woodland does.

7. It's amazing how much these guys fire at flags. #3 was a good example on Saturday because the pin was tucked back left and hugging the water. The green has a swale on the right side which makes for a tough putt unless you hit it pin high. But the green is very narrow once you get about pin high. I saw golfer after golfer fire at that flag without batting an eye.

8. I think the main thing I see from the Tour pros is that they are very aggressive on approach shots and more conservative on tee shots. However, being 'conservative' on tee shots means that they are still aiming for the fairway. It's just if there's trouble left, they make sure to hit down the right side of the fairway and vice versa.

9. If you want to play on Tour, you probably need to learn how to hit the 3-wood very well off the tee. They don't seem to use it all that often, maybe 1-3 par-4's a round. But when they do use it, it's usually needed. We have to remember that the ball rolls more on Tour than it does at a home course because the Tour's fairways are much tighter. But, if you want to go to that next level, a 3-wood is a very valuable club to learn how to hit.

10. Everything I've researched and concluded with regards to metrics was accurate. Danger Zone shots are crucial and that's where most of the bogeys come from. Go For It's usually see lower scores than players laying up. Impeded shots are killers. Downhill putts and chips are really hard to make or to save par.


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