Whenever I give a playing lesson, the thing that I’m looking out for most is how a player approaches each shot mentally, and one of the biggest components of this mental approach is “picking the right shot”.
When I ask a student to talk me through their shot selection process, it’s very revealing. Too many weekend golfers simply play a shot that is either too high risk or simply put, “the wrong shot” given the circumstances. The “right shot”, is the type of shot that will, on average, get you closer to the target out of all the available options. In other words, if I was to put you in ANY type of situation on the course and give you 100 balls to play each type of shot, which would get the highest % of balls closer to the target?
Having worked with many Tour players and elite golfers, I see all the time how the choice of shot makes a difference in its success, especially in the short game.
Improving your Golf IQ
I’m not talking about playing shots that require more technical skill, but instead (through the benefit of good coaching and lots of practice) Tour players, have a higher “GOLF IQ” which saves them several shots per round on the amateur. This could be as high as 5-6 shots per round!
Let’s look at a few examples/scenarios:
You’re hitting a tee shot on a par 3 into a strong head wind. Do you:
A: Club up and hit the ball harder
B: Club up (by 2 clubs) and hit the ball at about 75%
C: Move the ball back in your stance to lower trajectory, club up and hit the ball softer
D: B or C
A is what the typical weekend golfer would choose. Swing harder into wind. But without the benefit of experience playing into wind, the amatuer typically doesn’t know that hitting the ball harder increases the spin on the ball (which gets increased further by the wind) and will take distance off, leaving you short. The right answer is D.
Here’s another one…
You’re in a fairway bunker about 150 yards out and there’s no wind. The bunker is shallow and you don’t need to worry about clearing the lip. Do you:
A: Hit your 150 yard club
B: Hit your 160-170 yard club
C: Pitch it out on the the fairway with a wedge
D: Not enough information
The weekend golfer doesn’t normally know the distance each club will hit the ball from a fairway bunker. One of factors in the distance you hit each club from the tee or fairway, is the compression the ball gets between the club at the ground. In the bunker, this compression is considerably less, so the ball will not travel as far. The right answer is B, hit your 160-170 yd club.
You’ve landed in the semi-rough off the tee and the ball is sitting up a little with a few blades of grass behind the ball. The blades of grass are pointing in the direction of the hole. Do you:
A: Hit whatever club you normally hit from that distance
B: Hit more club. The blades of grass between the club and ball will take yardage off
C: Hit less club. This has all the characteristics of a “flyer lie” and the ball will come out with little spin and fly further
D: Impossible to say
Answer: C. This has all the traits of a flyer lie and most Tour players would choose to hit less club (especially if the trouble is long).
These are just a few of hundreds of different scenarios where shots can be saved without actually improving your technical skills. It’s about improving your GOLF IQ.
There’s no better way to improve your Golf IQ than with a little practice on the course. If there’s no one behind you (and your playing partners are ok with it), drop a few balls down in different situations (like those above) and begin to experiment to find the best shot.
The more you improve your golf IQ the more shots you’ll save!
Photo courtesy of Presidio of Monterey