This post will be done for casual rounds of golf. In terms of preparing for an upcoming tournament, I would recommend spending most of your focus on shots around the green. In general, I don’t think strategies off the tee are overly complicated and difficult to determine. One can usually see where they need to hit most tee shots even if it is the first time they have played the course. The more difficult strategy to determine is on the approach shots because you need to know where you can miss and that is often times hard to tell unless you have actually practice hitting those short game shots around the green.
For this post, I’m showing a course that I’ve played before. In a future post I will look at a course that I am going to play for the first time. Here’s how I look at things using Google Earth. The course in question is Orange County National’s Panther Lake course.
For starters, I carry the ball now about 275 yards on a good strike with ‘normal conditions.’ However, we should realize that even Tour players don’t always hit perfect tee shots and have perfect conditions. I typically give myself 20-yards, meaning that I feel comfortable with any shot that I need to carry less than 255 yards off the tee. I’m still trying to play for my ‘average swing’, but I recognize that my average swing may miss the sweet spot by a small amount or may launch lower or higher than I want or there might be some heavier wind in my face, etc.
So when I’m looking at Google Earth overviews, I’m generally looking for where to aim off the tee and how much carry I have to get over certain obstacles like bunkers and water.
Here’s the 1st hole at Panther Lake. You’re probably not going to get much roll off the tee as it slopes uphill.
Here’s hole #2, a dogleg left par-5. I wanted to see what it would require to carry the trees on the left in order to take a shortcut to the hole.
It’s about 262 yards to carry that tree. While I should be able to carry that tree, there is little reason to attempt to do so because if I hit it down the center of the fairway, I’m still going to have about 210 to 220 yards to the hole. Obviously, being closer to the hole is generally better, but anytime I know I’m going to have between my 3-wood to 5-iron on my next shot, I want to keep that ball in the fairway because scores dramatically increase when you’re in the rough with a long club than when you’re in the rough with a short club. If this was a par-4 and cutting over the trees could be the difference between a 9-iron or a 6-iron, I would consider it. But with a long club in my hands, I want to keep this in the short grass. Lastly, if I happen to have a good tailwind on this hole, I know what the carry distance is just in case. That is in a nutshell is what it this is all about. It's not about guaranteeing that you'll hit great shots, but it is about being prepared so I can give myself a chance to hit great shots. I can always deal with lack of execution, but not giving myself a chance is a different matter.
***From there, there’s not a lot to go over as the holes are fairly simple. I want to be on the left hand side of fairway on #3 if I can do it. I want to be on the right half side of #5 if I can help it. #7 is a little tricky…a par-5 with a large wetland right in front of the green and I might have to lay-up on the second shot:
I don’t start to face another critical tee shot until the 9th hole, a 428 yard par-4 that doglegs right with water on the right.
The thing about this hole is you can’t just blindly aim left as even if you avoid the trees on the left, the lies are difficult. Unfortunately, you can’t really see it on Google Earth very well. However, I wanted to know what the carry was to the final tree on the left anyway and use it as a landmark of sorts. I know that the distance is 271 yards to that final tree.
Dr. Bhrett McCabe has often talked about asking yourself ‘In an ideal world, what shot would you like to hit?’ The reason for this is that too often golfers (myself included) try to do what I call ‘over-hedge their bets.’ In this situation, aiming at the final tree will likely prevent me from missing the water. But, it will also likely prevent me from putting myself in a good position on the approach. More importantly, aiming at that final tree is creating a mindset where I’m still focused on water and in the end, that’s likely to cause me to make a weak pass at the ball. So, not only can I screw myself over by aiming at that tree and making a good swing, I can really screw myself over by aiming at that tree and making a weak swing because my focus is divided between the water and the tree.
I feel the better play for myself would be to aim inside the left edge of the fairway.
This is also a shot that I may want to visualize trying to hit on the driving range before the round as well, so when I step up to the 9th tee, I've already hit this shot countless times before.
Now we get to the 10th hole, a 530 yard par-5 that goes uphill.
This leads us to the 624 yard, par-5 14th hole.
Finally, I finish with #18, a 570 yard par-5 with a split fairway.
The right fairway I have to contend with the bunkers in the middle and the bunkers on the right. Furthermore, I will actually have a shorter distance to the hole (slightly) if I were to be in the left fairway. So, my aim here at the left edge of those bunkers in the middle and trying to hit a small draw.
Overall, I’m using Google Earth as a guide. I even might be wrong on some of the strategies, but since it is a casual round I have nothing to lose and I can always learn from that the next time I play the course. There’s no reason to over-think this. It’s just something I use to better understand how to play the golf course. The next time I post something on this, I will try and take a look at a golf course that I have never played before and show how I would use Google Earth to come up with a strategy playing a course blind.