Part I: 3jack.blogspot.com/2013/07/3jacks-prep-for-florida-mid-am-part-i.html
From what I’ve encountered with golfers of all levels is that they are caught between two thoughts on strategy with golf. There is the old adage ‘those who fail to plan, plan to fail.’ And there is the other old adage ‘everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face’ (this was not invented by Mike Tyson, it’s a very old boxing phrase).
I believe golf strategy is very important. The issue is that it is very fluid in nature. Meaning, that it changes from shot to shot.
Let’s take the 10th hole at my home course, Walkabout GC, and use it as an example of how golf strategy is ‘fluid’ in nature.
The idea is to favor the left side of the fairway. The water does not really come into play. But, if you look over to the right where I drew a yellow ‘X’; that is the place to avoid. The yellow ‘X’ is a gulley where it is almost impossible to reach the green from due to the poor lie the golfer will likely end up with. The left side not only avoids the gulley on the right, but the lie is usually the flattest on the course and it gives the golfer a better angle into the green.
Obviously, the strategy is to aim for the left part of the hole. However, if we ‘get punched in the face’ and hit it where the yellow ‘X’ is located, we still have to figure out how to strategize the hole from there.
One of the smarter things I’ve ever heard came from Jim Furyk who pointed out that after he hits a bad tee shot on a par-4, he tried to picture that he’s playing another par-4 from where his ball lies. Obviously he wants to ‘birdie’ it from that spot if possible, but he wants to make sure that he doesn’t ‘bogey’ it from that spot. So in this case, if he were to hit his tee shot in the gulley, he would envision himself playing the hole as a par-4 from that tee shot (essentially trying to make no worse than a 5 on the hole).
I believe that in this situation, part of the visualization of the hole should be to picture a ‘new fairway’ and the path to the hole. In the example above, if we were to hit a tee shot in the gulley and tried to play it as a par-4 from there, the hole now plays almost as a dogleg. The fairway is off to our left and the ideal position off our next shot would be to find the left side of the fairway in order to give ourselves a better angle into the hole.
What I see out of many golfers, myself included, is that they either think that any strategy is a lost cause or they give up any semblance of a strategy if they do not hit a shot according to plan.
To me, golf strategy is a must. I just think that golf strategy is usually not overly complicated and it’s about understanding simple factors that will give the golfer the best odds of hitting their shot as close to the hole as they can.
I think simple golf strategies are about understanding basics of when to leave your driver in the bag, which in reality should be the golfer’s last option. It’s about understanding what side of the hole is most advantageous IF the hole is designed that way. It’s about understanding what your up-and-down chances are like from different locations around the green. And it’s about little things like certain shots playing longer than the yardage suggests. Understanding that you’re more likely to make an uphill putt than a downhill putt.
Often times, no real strategy on a golf hole is needed. It’s either too plain or simple and it requires nothing out of the ordinary. Like #1 at North Shore GC, a drive-able par 4 that is fairly straight forward.
Or the hole can be extremely difficult to the point where the golfer has to simply hit quality golf shots. #1 at Walkabout is a great example. The golfer cannot hit anything less than a pretty good tee shot and then a pretty good approach shot. You’re essentially looking to make par and get out of there.
In past tournaments, I have tried to make it about the ‘process’ instead of the ‘results.’ This usually meant goals of:
• No Double Bogeys or Worse
• No Back-to-Back Bogeys
• No 3-Putts
I have found that worrying about the process presents just as many issues as worrying about the results. For instance, if I double bogey the first hole with a 3-putt, now I’ve just failed to achieve 2 of my ‘process goals.’ And I still have 17 holes to play. It’s not exactly the best way to put yourself in a good frame of mind to come back and turn in a good score.
The other part is that I believe it starts to give a golfer a conservative mentality. They start thinking about ‘not screwing up’ instead of getting shots close. And as my research has shown, more often than not golfers screw up because they try to not screw up and they leave themselves with more difficult 2nd shots. This is something I will discuss in 2013 Pro Golf Synopsis quite extensively.
Instead, I won’t have any particular goals that I will set. I will just try to rack up birdie opportunities that are inside 15 feet and par saves that are inside 5 feet.