This series is designed as a self-help troubleshooting guide. By focusing on the fundamentals related to your handicap we will help you achieve the lowest score and not search fruitlessly for the perfect swing.
In conjunction with our ‘analysis matrix’, we hope to provide the tools for your improvement.
The ‘FUNDAMENTALS’ series includes:
FUNDAMENTALS FOR A HIGH HANDICAP – ABOVE 18
Strategy might not seem fundamental to you as a high handicap but this blog is designed to freshen up your approach to the importance of decision making. With eighteen or more shots to play with your primary focus is to make bogeys. You must avoid potential disasters or weaknesses at all costs. This approach seems negative but it is simply the realistic appreciation of your game. If only one in five drivers finds the fairway, then choose a shorter, more lofted club to get the ball in play on a narrow hole. Playing like this might mean you regularly take a different tactic to your playing partners but in a medal or competitive environment the lowest score always garners respect.
In summary always choose the shot that offers the biggest margin for error. The advice may sound startlingly obvious but it is a big change of habit to change the way you think on the course. Play that shots that you trust yourself with and play away from hazards – you don’t have to try and hit it 200 yards over the water!
FUNDAMENTALS FOR A MID-HANDICAP – FROM 10-17
If you regularly play the same course in competition it is time to create a game plan. If you can make six to nine pars and avoid a nightmare hole you will easily play to your handicap. Short par threes and par fours provide great opportunities for pars. Stay away from risky strategies on these holes – avoid the temptation of certain pin positions. Remember that despite what you see on TV tour pro’s do not fire at every flag. They are very keen to avoid difficult shots.
Many enthusiastic club players marvel at the consistency of senior golfers. They generally have limited ability to create distance and height on their shots but this is easily countered by avoiding trouble. Nick Faldo’s quote that a good score is about ‘the quality of your bad shots, it is not about the quality of your good shots’. Remember that next time you hit the links and don’t get drawn into a distance competition!
FUNDAMENTALS FOR A LOW HANDICAP – FROM 0 – 9
Tiger Wood’s revealed a key strategy for his approach to the game when he stated that every round, every tournament is like a game of chess for him. So what does this mean? It implies a foresight, an ability to think and plan ahead. For most golfers this means the hole that is in front of them but for a top touring pro it can mean the whole tournament. A lot of well designed modern course offer the golfer plenty of risk and reward. A reachable par five surrounded by water for example or a narrow dogleg on a par four.
A professional does of course have the ability to perform any shot, but they will make their strategy based on their strengths. Jim Fuyrk may decide not to ‘go for it’ on a risky par five for two reasons, 1) his low ball flight would make it very, very difficult to stop a three wood on the green and 2) his wedge game is excellent so without taking any risk he has a great chance at birdie. Unless the player who takes the shot finishes inside 40 feet, they are statistically more likely to three putt than two putt.
It is important to have this type of perspective when planning your strategy for the round. Another detail which will help you make an informed decision on club and shot choice is to understand yardages. The advent of the rangefinder has made players lazy. If you are trying to hit it exactly by the hole then you only need one yardage but most players would be happy with the middle of the green with anything more than a short iron.
A key yardage for better players is the distance to the back fringe. It helps make the decision when you are between clubs. For example if the pin is 140 yards away you maybe think a really good nine iron would be perfect. The reality is that anything other than perfect leaves you with a chip or bunker shot from short of the green. If you knew that it was 160 yards the back edge you would be much more likely to hit a smoother 8 iron. Hit more greens in regulation by working out the strategy that gives you the biggest margin of error.
FUNDAMENTALS FOR AN EXPERT – BETTER THAN SCRATCH
If you can plan a strategy based on your strengths in advance of the event you put yourself in better shape. Making emotional decisions as you get to your ball (I need a birdie or I can’t believe I missed that last putt) can make a round go south very quick. If however a mistake is seen as a blip in the game plan, that you believe you will recover from later in the event, you are likely to keep a cool head and make better swings.
It is very interesting to watch the Open Championship each year as the players battle it out over 72 holes of links golf. If it becomes firm it is very noticeable at how defensive players become with their club selection with the majority using irons of the tee. They could continue with hitting driver but the percentage of shots finishing in the fairway is very low. You may be 70 yards closer after a driver but if you cannot create any spin from the semi rough then there is a lot of skill and fortune required to enable the ball to finish close. From the fairway you may be hitting a longer club but it is possible to generate significantly more spin from this good lie.
The other ‘chess’ aspect of links golf is the short game. Downwind putts or chips onto a firm links green are so difficult to judge it pays off if you can leave yourself into the wind around the greens. It is the same theory that applies on courses with extreme slope on the greens such as Augusta National. In every post round interview players mention the focus they place on leaving it ‘below the hole’ all day. Uphill putts allow you to be aggressive with your stroke and play less break. To do this effectively a knowledge of the pin positions is required to create your strategy. Take a ‘chess’ approach to your strategy and play your best golf!
You may also enjoy our links and parkland strategy articles, click here to view