Friday, August 7 2020


What's playing golf, really?

Update: June, 10/2018 - 09:00
Viet Nam News

by Robert Bicknell

One of the biggest problems facing people who are just taking up golf is understanding the difference between hitting balls at the range and actually “playing golf” and, believe me, there is a world of difference.

As a professional, I see this all the time. Guys are striping it at the range, but when they get to the golf course they cannot put together a decent round. So then they go back to the range and practice some more and have the exact same result the next time they go to the golf course.

The problem is that, while they learned to hit the golf ball, they never actually learned how to “play golf”.

There is a very old and true saying that golf is 80 per cent mental and only 20 per cent physical. Sure, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and others have upped the ante a bit, especially Tiger with his “Seal Team 6 workout” (which put unnecessary strain on his body), but the fact remains that regardless of how far these guys are hitting the ball now, the game of golf remains 80 per cent mental.

Hitting golf balls is NOT “playing golf”.

Another old saying is “there is more than one way to skin a cat”, although I have no idea why anyone would want to skin a cat in the first place. Perhaps it refers to trophy hunting for lions or something. In any case, the general idea is that there is more than one way to do something and its thinking like that which applies to “playing golf”.

How many times have you or others hit the same club, from the same distance regardless of circumstance? Probably most of the time because that’s what you programmed yourself to do at the driving range.

How many times have you automatically reached for the driver on a Par 4 or Par 5 without actually considering if it’s the best club for the given situation?

Yes, I know, people think a Par 5 is an automatic driver hole, but you’d be surprised that there are often better choices out there. Sometimes it’s a 3-wood. Sometimes it’s a driving iron. You have to consider the given situation. How tight is the landing area, are there any reachable hazards, are you hitting the driver well that day?

Distance isn’t the main concern when choosing the club.

Consider this for a moment. I hit my six iron 200 yards. If I hit it three times I have just reached a 600 yard par 5 and probably kept it in the middle of the fairway the entire time.

For me, 6-iron, 6-iron , 7-iron reaches at 570-yard Par 5 and, again, is in the middle of the fairway and middle of the green without any strife.

Like they say in car commercials, your mileage may vary, but the concept remains the same.

One of the best rounds I ever played at Kings Island’s Lakeside Course was the day I took a 5-iron, three balls and a putter. That’s it. Caddie was happy as hell with the light load. I was even happier after shooting 65 for 18 holes. Never found the rough, never found a bunker.

Which leads me to the second point… using each club many different ways.

When you’re at the range, don’t just hit balls the same way. Try to hit different shots with each club. Choke down on the grip and try to hit a 6-iron the same distance as a wedge. Try to hit high and low. Experiment with each club. Be creative.

Trust me when I tell you that you’re learn a lot about ball flight and exactly what you can do and what you cannot do.

Golf is more like playing chess than anything else. You have to look at each hole and develop a strategy on how to play it. Just whacking your drive without considering what your second shot will be isn’t playing golf.

My favourite approach club is a 9-iron, which I hit 160 yards. Therefore, when I’m on the tee, I’m doing the math to figure out what is the best club to drive with that will leave me 160 yards from the flag. In many cases, it’s not the driver.

Of course, when doing the math, consider elevations, wind, etc.

That’s “playing golf”.— VNS


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