I did a clinic before a couples event this week. I generally let the people determine what subject I will discuss. They decided they wanted to learn about Course Management, as long as that meant determining how to decide what is the best way to play each hole.
Good question! We all look at the hole from the tee and decide how we are going to play the hole. This is a good start in the process, but not always the best. Remember, the architect uses terrain, sand, water, trees, rocks, anything they can get their hands on when designing the hole.
The purpose of utilizing all these elements is not just to define where the hole goes, but to present the desired look to the players. Part of “the look” is intended to play with the golfers mind, to intimidate the player and make them see things that may not really be there.
For example: How often have you played a new course and seen a hole where the driving area is very tight off the tee. After trying to steer the ball into the narrow fairway, you end up hitting to some undesirable place far from the fairway. Now you realize the fairway is quite open. You can’t wait to play it the next time!
It’s OK to formulate your plan for playing a hole from the tee, but don’t formalize it until you have stood on the green and looked back towards the tee. Often times you’ll see a completely different hole, and the easiest or most logical line to follow is more obvious than from the tee.
Things like the lake may not come out into the fairway nearly as far as it appeared when playing the hole. I would much rather play my approach shot from the left side of the fairway OR EVEN the left rough than from the right side of the hole. Or, there is no point in trying to hit over creek and bushes because I then stand a good chance of going into the sand.
And, “What if I hit a bad first or second shot and it takes me 3 to get where I wanted to be in 2?” Generally it’s best to avoid the risky shots and stick to your plan as much as possible. Remember, shots you know are high risk have a high probability for penalties. It’s not worth it.
Planning your play from the green will give you a better perspective of what you need to see, not what the architect wants you to see. Give it a try…it does work!
Kim Anders is a PGA Professional at Estrella del Mar Golf Community residing in Mazatlan, Sinaloa Mexico. You can reach Kim via email at email@example.com.