While golf participation is stable, Tiger effect gives industry a boost

As golf industry leaders gathered in the nation’s capital Wednesday, there were likely self-congratulatory messages, obligatory selfies and a celebration by those who see further proof that they continue to grow the game.

But there should also be a moment of thanks to the man who has the biggest impact on the game worldwide just by showing up and, even more significantly, by winning the most coveted major championship in golf.

Tiger Woods wasn’t in Washington for National Golf Day, but there was plenty of talk about the impact his fifth Masters victory has on the industry. According to the latest Golf Industry Report released by the National Golf Foundation, 74 million people watched or read about golf without playing in 2018, an increase of about 12 percent year over year. Part of the growth is “attributable to Woods,” the NGF says.

“When you go beyond the hard-core golf enthusiast and you’re trying to capture the casual masses, it is Tiger. It is only Tiger,” says Patrick Rishe, director of the Sports Business Program at Washington University in St. Louis, when asked about the impact of Woods’ latest win at Augusta National.

It’s no secret that golf faces tough challenges – as demonstrated in the continued trend of course closures in the U.S. (198.5 18-hole equivalent courses closed last year while 12.5 of the same type of courses opened) and the competition the sport faces in trying to attract busy adults and teens who don’t have free time or the resources to play.

But a Tiger resurgence changes the conversation around the state of the game, sports economists say.

“Even if you’re not a fan of his, you can at least appreciate the moment, if you’re being unbiased. You can appreciate the sense of history, and it adds that cool factor back to the sport when he’s playing as well as he’s playing,” Rishe says.

Even if Woods, 43, doesn’t add to his 15 major championships, the industry benefits just from having him compete on Tour.

“It’s going to be great for golf to potentially ride a second wave of Tiger Woods even if all he’s doing is contending; he doesn’t have to win by 15 shots,” says Todd McFall, an assistant teaching professor in economics at Wake Forest. “As long as he’s contending, it’s going to be really great for golf for as long as it happens.

“If you called me in a year and Tiger Woods won another tournament and contended in three or four, golf’s going to be in a lot better place than it would be otherwise.”

Outside of the Tiger effect, the National Golf Foundation provides a fairly positive outlook for the industry, not surprisingly, reporting that the sport’s participation base remains stable. It says about 24.2 million people played golf on a course in 2018, which was up from 23.8 million the previous year. The NGF counts anyone over age 6 in that participation figure.

The report says another 9.3 million exclusively played an off-course form of the game at facilities such as Topgolf or Drive Shack. The game’s overall participant pool was 33.5 million, up 4 percent over last year.

Steve Mona, executive director of We Are Golf, describes the industry as stable and evolving. “Golf used to mean an 8 a.m. tee time wearing khaki slacks, a golf shirt, a visor on forward and metal spikes, playing with a regular group you’ve been playing with for 10 years,” Mona says.

“But now it can mean 8 p.m. wearing cargo shorts and flip flops, an untucked shirt and a hat on backwards at a Topgolf or a Drive Shack. Just like almost any other form of recreation has evolved, so has golf. What we need to do as an industry, in my judgment, is to be open to the fact that people are going to come into the game in different ways.”

Mona acknowledges that not every person who hit balls at Topgolf will go on to play 18 holes on a course. But he’s optimistic that quite a few Topgolfers will get hooked. “We definitely think that that’s complementary to the on-course experience.”

SOURCE:  Golfweek

What you can learn from a Long Drive Champ

As a former world long-drive champion, I often hear from regular golfers that they’ll never come close to being able to swing like me. Not true. You can. If you copy even a little of my technique, the ball is going to come off the face of your driver hotter than ever. Try these things the next time you’re on the range.

CHEAT THE SCALE

If you just stood on a scale, it would give you your body weight. But if you push down, that number will go up. When I make a backswing, I’m loading more than 100 percent of my body weight into my trail leg (right leg for righties). So really push into the ground with your trail leg as you take the club back. It will help you create and store a lot of energy.

GET OFF THE HEEL

As you swing back, it’s OK if your lead heel comes off the ground. That’s going to help you make a bigger backswing—especially if you’re not that flexible. You’ll really load up on your right side.

AVOID THE SWAY

Feel like someone standing behind your back is grabbing a belt loop near your right hip pocket and pulling it toward him. In other words, sink into that right hip as you swing back, which will keep you from swaying away from the target.

PLANT AND BUMP

To start your downswing, replant your left heel if you let it come off the ground. I mean really plant it. Try to leave an indentation in the turf. You’re using the ground to create energy for more swing speed. Also, let your left hip shift toward the target. This bump allows you to stay behind the ball with your upper body so you can apply all your weight to the strike.

GO WITH THE FASTBALL

I don’t think about pulling the handle of the driver down toward the ball, and I don’t think about releasing the club, either. Instead, I get the sensation I’m throwing a fastball with my right hand. It probably comes from my time as a minor-league pitcher. This feel will really boost your speed down into the ball.

SHOULDER THE LOAD

You want your club moving its fastest as it meets the ball. To make that happen, get the right shoulder facing the target as you finish the swing. It’s got to keep moving. As long as my lower body leads in the downswing, this turn helps blast the ball way down the fairway.

JUSTIN JAMES, 29, 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, won the 2017 World Long Drive Championship. He plays a Krank Formula X Snapper driver (48 inches, 3.5 degrees of loft). He hit a 435-yard drive to win the championship.

SOURCE:  Golfdigest

This might go against your instinct when you’re in a bunker with a high lip, but the last thing you want to do is try to help the ball over the lip. When you try to force it up and over, it almost always comes out lower and slams into the face. Instead, do what I do.
First, try this drill. The biggest difference between hitting out of a normal bunker and one with a high lip is the amount of sand you need to take. To get the ball up quickly, your club should strike a lot more sand, and this drill will help teach you how much. Draw a circle in the bunker about four inches in diameter around your ball. Now get in your address position, playing the ball off your front foot. Before swinging, pick the ball up so all that’s left is the circle. We’ll get back to that, but first, two more things about address: Dig your feet in so you have a solid base, and open the face of your wedge before gripping the club. I know opening the face can freak out some amateurs, but don’t be scared. In a bunker, your wedge is designed to work when it’s open like this. In fact, you should keep the face open throughout the shot.
“DON’T BE SHY: TAKE PLENTY OF SAND TO GET OVER A HIGH LIP.”
Now here’s a key thought: When you swing, think about putting your hands into your left pocket as you come through. You can see me swinging toward my left pocket here. This forces the club to exit low, left and open, and cutting across the ball like this helps get it up quickly.
Back to the goal of the drill. I want you to make the circle disappear. To do that, you’re going to have to hit the sand a few inches behind where the ball would be, and swing through it with some effort. That’s the feeling you want moving through the sand in a high-lip situation. Practice the circle drill with my swing thought of getting into that left pocket, and you’ll make this shot a lot easier than it looks. — with Keely Levins
Stacy Lewis is a 12-time winner on the LPGA Tour, including two majors.
SOURCE:  Golfdigest

Poor weight transfer (and how we develop swing flaws)

I recall an old joke about a guy who was lost on a country backroad. He spots a local resident and asks for directions to a certain town. The local responds: “You can’t get there from here.”

Whenever I hear that joke, I think about weight transfer in the golf swing. Yeah, a remote connection, I’m sure, but it works for purposes of today’s story. The analogy is this: A student recently swung to the top of the backswing and asked me how to “transfer his weight to the left foot” (he was right handed). I replied, “you can’t get there from here.”

The reason most players do not properly transfer their weight or “turn through,” is simply because they are not in a position to do so. They literally must move away from the target and head for the trail side.

Here are a few examples of why.

Over the top

As the downswing begins, if the arms and club go out, not down, effectively the player is not swinging at the golf ball. If she keeps going from there, she will not hit the ball, or barely top it at best. This player is swinging at something in front of the ball, or outside of it. Shoulders spin open early, arms/hands go out but stay UP, and now the club head will very likely get to the golf ball LATE. But, and here’s the catch, anyone who plays often attempts to correct this swing bottom problem by reversing course!  The body senses the poor sequence and tries the right the ship by quickly backing up. Or casting. So, we get an out-to-in swing direction but a shallow attack angle! What I refer to a “left field from the right foot.’

When you see the flaw from this perspective, it becomes perfectly obvious why. Because, if the player kept going without a mid stream correction, they might top every shot, mo in an effort to get the ball airborne, the player lowers the rear side, raises the front side and swings UP from the outside. So you do bottom out nearer the ball, but you’ve introduced a HOST of other issues. I’m not saying this is a conscious effort in the less than two seconds it takes to swing the club, I’m saying that it develops unconsciously over time. And the more one plays, the more they “perfect” this sequence. In my experience, this is how most, if not all, swing faults begin. Correcting a fault with another fault. It is truly ingenious, really!

Steep Transition

If the swing gets to the top and does begin down inside, unlike above where it begins down outside the line, or over the plane, but the club starts down on a very steep incline, it is headed for a crash;  keep going from there, and you’re likely to stick it straight into the ground or, at the least, hit it straight off the toe. Again, over time, the player senses this, and develops a motion of “backing up; reversing the upper body to flatten the golf club and get it onto a reasonable incline to strike the ball. I see this day in and day out. The inevitable question is: “Why can’t I get through the shot”? Because…you had to reverse the upper body to avoid an even greater disaster..

These are just two examples involving improper weight transfer. But if we see other swing flaws in this light, I think it explains a lot. For example, “raising the handle,” or “standing the club up,” lower body extension (“humping”), holding on through impact, casting, sending hand path far away from the body (disconnection), all these can can almost always be attributed to something that preceded those flaws. That is, they are rarely the root cause, they are the REACTION to another position or motion. They are “save” attempts.

Here’s another way of describing it: Many, in fact most, steep swings result in a shallow attack angle.  Many open club faces at the top of the swing actually hook the ball, many closed faces at the top of the swing hit slices or at least high blocks, and so on. How do I know this? I have stood right next to golfers for almost 40 years and observed it up close and personal on the lesson tee.

If you are serious about long term improvement, real effective change in your game, you will need to work on the fundamentals that will put you in a position from which you do not have torecover, or execute a “fit in” move to survive. Get a good high-definition, slow-motion look at your swing, get your Trackman or Flightscope feedback and take a close look, in terms of what I’m referring to here. It will be eye-opening to say the least.

I would agree that one CAN learn to live with some save moves and achieve a certain level of success, albeit less consistent in my opinion. In fact, when most people hit balls, that is what they are practicing. As always, it’s your call.  Enjoy the journey.

SOURCE:  Golfwrx

Masters 2019: The eight most underrated shots at Augusta National

Bob Jones once said of Augusta National, “We want to make bogeys easy if frankly sought, pars readily obtainable by standard good play, and birdies—except on par 5s—dearly bought.” And over the years Masters fans, both in person and via television have come to recognize some of the more obvious places where that holds true. The tee shot at the par-3 12th or anywhere on the No. 11 through No. 13 stretch known as Amen Corner, for that matter. The second shot on the par-5 15th is another visible example. However speaking with more than 15 past champions for the hole-by-hole course tour section of the Masters Journal—including multiple champions Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Nick Faldo—has led to an appreciation for the more subtle but no less demanding shots one needs to pay close attention to if they’re to play well at Augusta National. Here are eight shots players face that might not capture our eye immediately, but surely command players’ attention.

The second shot on the par-5 second hole
Whether going for the green in two or playing for position short of the putting surface, what many think of as simply another fairway wood or long iron play is actually a precision play. The plan for how to approach this shot completely depends on where the pin is located. If the pin is back left, the second shot must be to the middle or right. In fact, well right of the green is never bad because the pitch shot is uphill. Conversely, missing left leaves a downhill shot that is tough to stop. Most Masters competitors will tell you the sand is a better place to be than left or long. As for going for it in two blows, that’s an awfully tough shot as it is off a downhill lie and you’re trying to hit it high and soft. That’s difficult for even the most skilled players. The par 5s at Augusta National are more about where you place the ball on your second shot than anything else and perhaps there is no better example than No. 2.

Second shot on the par-4 third hole
The shortest par 4 on the golf course at 350 yards also presents one of the approach shots Masters participants fear most. Although a mere pitch of only some 50 yards for those hitting driver off the tee, the elevated green (only some 35 feet in depth on the left side) can turn what appears to be a very simple situation to a trying one in short order. The shot, although short, must be exact. Come up the slightest bit short and the ball will embarrassingly roll back almost to where it was struck from. Take too much caution not to do that and the ball might end up over the green, leaving a nervy chip. Rarely has such a short shot provided so much consternation for players.

The putt from the top right of the green on the par-3 fourth hole
Usually hitting the green on the 240-yard, par-3 fourth hole would be a satisfying play. However, if the pin is located on the front left and the tee shot is equal or past the hole on the right, an argument can be made that the player is facing one of the most difficult putts on the entire golf course. From there the slope is falling away from you with a fairly big swing to the left and the odds of a two-putt drop dramatically. Tiger Woods had a chip shot from the right-hand side of the green in the final round of 2002 and said it might have been easier than Retief Goosen’s putt from the top right. Woods made par and Goosen made bogey, so apparently so.

The tee shot on the par-4 fifth hole
Although the tee shot on this hole in prior years wasn’t a gimme, it wasn’t exactly a cause for angst, either, as players had the ability to carry the fairway bunkers on the left or comfortably play out to the right side with a 3-wood. That’s changed in 2019 as the tee has been moved back some 40 yards and to the right, making it play straighter. The bunkers also have been moved (although, in true Augusta National fashion they look the same as ever to the eye), now requiring a 310-yard-plus carry to clear them. With that being a non-starter for most players, the choice is to lay up short of them, leaving an uphill approach of some 200 yards or try to thread it in the fairway to the right of the bunkers with a driver. Regardless, what once was benign has now become beastly.

Tee shot on the par-3 sixth hole
Three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo once called Augusta National, “the most nerve-wracking course in the world.” A microcosm of that is the tee shot on the par-3 sixth, particularly when the pin is located on the back right shelf. In that instance, the generous-sized green shrinks significantly in usable size. “I’ve always regarded the tee shot here to the back right-hand pin as my barometer for the week,” Faldo told the Masters Journal in 2006. “During practice rounds I aim for that spot and if I keep putting it up there, then it means my iron game is accurate. To fly a ball from 180 yards down a hill in a breeze to an area about the size of two dining room tables, well, you know your game is spot on.”

Second shot on the par-4 14th
The 14th has the distinction of being the only hole at Augusta National without a bunker. It doesn’t need one. While it lacks the glamour of the water holes on the second nine, 14 is a good, solid par 4 and one reason is the approach to a green that took some imagination to design. Although there are some pin positions that are accessible, there are others where the margin for error is slight. The green has a large swale in front and shoots off in several directions. That’s why approach shots—even ones struck just a few feet off line—can roll away from the hole some 30 or 40 feet or more.

The lay-up shot on the par-5 15th
We know, we know. We don’t want to be talking about no stinking lay-up on one of the most exciting holes on the golf course. But the saying about a man knowing his limitations comes to mind here. Masters competitors often face two decisions here. Whether to go for it in two is one. When golfers decide the prudent play is to lay up short of the water, then it’s where to lay up. Although most everyday players view a lay-up shot as simply slapping it down the fairway short of the penalty area, the pros know a lay-up shot is like a shot in billiards where the current shot is played to best set up the next. At 15, almost without exception, it’s about 80 to 90 yards from the pin and on the left side of the fairway. That, players say, leaves a flatter lie than on the right-hand side and offers a better opportunity to spin the ball off the flatter lie.

Putt from left side of the green on the par-4 17th
With all the dramatic looks on Augusta National’s second nine, the 17th hole appears to be a bit nondescript, especially since the Eisenhower Tree came down in an ice storm in 2014. The green, however, requires a player’s full attention as it is a deceiving putting surface that rolls off in several directions, with the slopes seemingly never bringing the ball towards the hole, but rather work it away from it. Raymond Floyd fell victim to the hole in 1990, when he appeared to have the Masters won. Holding a one-shot lead playing the 17th, Floyd got a little careless with his approach and it trickled to the left side of the green, with the pin on the opposite side. Now having to putt up and over the ridge, Floyd misjudged the speed and three-putted, eventually losing to Nick Faldo in a playoff.

Gary Player once said of Augusta National that “every shot is within a fraction of disaster. That’s what makes it so great.” The above shots would appear to further solidify Player’s claim.

SOURCE:  Golfdigest

How to handle a downhill lie and hit the green

If you play a lot of hilly courses, you’re already familiar with uneven lies, including those of the downhill variety. This tricky position—in which your leading foot is below your back foot at address—can be very challenging, especially from short fairway grass. To ensure solid contact and a pin-seeking approach shot from a downhill lie, you’ll need to make the following three basic setup changes.
SET SHOULDERS PARALLEL
Your normal iron setup won’t work for this lie—the clubhead will bottom out too soon and you’ll make contact with the ground behind the ball. Instead, hold your club across your shoulders and tilt your spine toward the target until the shaft matches the slope of the hill. Once your shoulders are parallel to the slope, move on to step 2.
Learn how to conquer any downhill lie.
MOVE YOUR WEIGHT TO YOUR DOWNHILL FOOT
It’s critical to make ball-first contact from this lie, so play the ball in the middle of your stance (or at least slightly farther back than normal) and shift about 75 percent of your weight to your front, or downhill, foot. This will encourage your body to move in the direction of the slope, rather than hang back.
TRACE THE SLOPE
Last, extend your arms through impact so that the clubhead travels as low to the slope as possible. By swinging on the same plane as the hill, you’ll ensure ball-first contact and a smooth, full finish— and maybe even a birdie opportunity.
SOURCE:  Golf.com

Masters 2019: Patrick Reed recalls nerves, lessons learned from Augusta victory last year

But Reed said this week that he did not step on the first tee feeling too confident about how that fateful Sunday (because they’re all fateful Sundays at Augusta) was going to go. He was paired with Rory McIlroy — whom he would go on to crush — but all he was doing early was trying to get off the first tee box.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” Reed said on Monday. “… I slept great Saturday night, woke up Sunday and just kind of had this, just, calmness about myself and about the day.  … I felt like I was hitting the ball well. I felt like I was putting well, felt like I was chipping well. Just kind of felt like another day at the golf course.”

Then it flipped on him.

“Then all of a sudden, once I left the putting green by the first tee and I walked to the first tee, when I stepped foot on that first tee, I was like, ‘Oh, man,'” added Reed. “Butterflies were going, I looked at [caddie] Kessler, Kessler looked at me, and Kess goes, ‘Don’t worry, I feel it, too.’ He’s like, ‘Let’s just get off this first tee.’ And when I stood up there, he goes, ‘All right, here’s a 3-wood,’ and I looked at him, I go, ‘We just can’t go right.’ He goes, ‘That’s fine, then hit it left and let’s go.’ I hooked the tee shot a little left, and once I got up to that iron shot, the nerves went away.

“I expected the nerves. I expected the nerves to be there a little longer than what I expected, but I was able to get myself in the right mind frame and the mindset going in that the nerves left me after I got done with the first tee shot, and then it was just go out and play golf and get back to what I was doing earlier in that week.”

It was fascinating to hear such an accomplished player talking about feeling the weight of that moment, the biggest moment of his career. And Reed actually bogeyed the first while McIlroy birdied the second to draw within one at the time. But Reed blitzed him and played the rest of the day in 2 under while McIlroy played the rest of his round in 3 over.

Reed also talked about what he would tell his former non-green jacket-wearing self if he could go back in time about how to play the course and what to do and what not to do.

“I’d start off by telling myself to hit more fairways and to leave the ball below the hole,” said Reed. “You know, it’s one of those places that every time you seem to go there, whether it was the first tee all the way even through last year, you just learn new things about the golf course year in and year out. It’s one of those places that even if you have the perfect game plan, you have to execute your golf shots.

“It’s almost like every tournament you play, but … more penalizing times a hundred. You can get away with missing golf shots at other events, but when you go to Augusta, any little weakness in your game or any missed golf shot you’re going to get penalized for it. I mean, one thing I’d tell myself is you just have to make sure you’re really sharp on every aspect of your game.”

It was a plan that worked in 2018. If it works again, Reed would become the first back-to-back champ since 2001-02 when Tiger Woods did it. If it doesn’t, he’ll be doing the thing he dreads the most.

“My least favorite moment is going to be when I have to return the jacket and I’m not allowed to have it in my closet and wear it around the house and out at places,” said Reed. “It’s definitely going to give me motivation to go out and try to repeat as well as try to win multiple.

“Even the times I’m not actually wearing the green jacket, to be able to see the green jacket sitting in your closet or sitting in an area where you’re always kind of walking by and you’ll see it, it just gives you motivation and kind of picks me up and tells me that you want to keep it around. You want to keep it around as long as you can. The only way you’re going to do that is continue winning at Augusta and continue winning the event so you can have it year in and year out.”

SOURCE:   CBSSports

Finish Your Swing Left of the Target

Proper Set-Up And Alignment Leads To ‘Full Circle’ Swing

We have all heard it. When getting information about aim and alignment, we often hear to “finish your swing facing your target.” Don’t do it — you will likely hit a shot that will not end up on line. You need to finish your swing facing LEFT of the target.

Look at all the Tour pros out there, they are clearly facing well left of their target at the finish, and that goes all the way back to proper set-up and address. Here’s how to put it all together:

AIM AND ALIGNMENT

First, place your hands on the grip, keeping the clubface square.

Then, aim the square clubface to the target on the line you established from behind the ball. The leading edge of your golf club will be at a right angle to the target line.

Next, align your body (checking feet, thighs, hips, and shoulders) parallel and left of the target line, addressing the golf ball.

If you feel as if you are really left of your target, you will be aligned correctly. Do not align your body to the target…aim your club at the target and align your body left of the target! (For left-handers — right of the target)

Last, with confidence, trust your aim and alignment and make your best effort to create the shot. Even if you do not hit it perfectly, it will likely be on line, heading towards the intended target—a great miss!

COMPLETE YOUR SWING

This is accurate information: Left is “Right” (correct) at address. However, finishing with your belt buckle facing the target line is stopping short of the full completion of the swing circle.

When you finish a good golf swing, your belt buckle will actually be facing LEFT of your target if you have completed the swing circle. The ball will track towards the target on the line you established in your pre-shot routine, but your body will not finish facing the target. If it does, it could result in a shot that leaks to the right of the intended target.

Think in terms of the two lines at address that might help you understand this critical piece of information relating to the completion of your golf swing motion.

Imagine that the target line is the “ball target” and the parallel line you have lined up your body on is the “body target.” The two lines are parallel at address and remain so during the swing motion, but it is just the golf ball that (hopefully) ends up on the “ball target” line you established.

Ideally, you will end up in a balanced finish position, facing the “body target” line you set at address, clearly left of the ball target line. The swing circle motion has been completed, allowing both the operator and the equipment to hit a shot “on line” to the target!

Understanding this very thing has been instrumental for improved aim, alignment, and result with my students. See if this perception change alters the directional reality of your golf shots.

As my students and I often say about these actions that improve your motion and game, “If you can, you MUST!”

LPGA Master Professional/PGA Honorary Director Deb Vangellow 

SOURCE:  Golftipsmag

Golf: PGA Tour drives idea of setting its own rules into rough

(Reuters) – PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan ruled out his organization creating its own rules on Wednesday, saying he is happy to leave that task to golf’s two global governing bodies.

The rules of golf have been in the spotlight after new ones were introduced for 2019, with the biggest update in 50 years leading some players to being openly critical of and in some cases hostile towards certain tournament rulings.

World number four Justin Thomas described the new rules as “terrible”, while journeyman Andrew Landry called them “garbage” and called for the PGA Tour to create its own.

Monahan, who recently reminded players that the tour had been heavily involved in the rewriting of the rules, on Wednesday strongly defended the “fantastic” U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient governing bodies.

“We have always played by their rules and we’ll continue to play by their rules,” he said in Florida on the eve of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

“We were fully supportive of the new rules because we were a participant in creating them.

“(When) you roll out 50 new changes there are going to be some things that work well and some that create debate. Lost in some of the discussion is all the things that are working really well.”

The change that appears to have caused most ire has been one that does not allow caddies to stand behind a player and help line up a shot.

This has led to a couple of two-stroke penalties, and also one situation in which a player had a penalty rescinded after officials acknowledged the new rule was causing confusion.

The wording was then tweaked in an effort to make it clearer.

Another bone of contention is that golfers must now drop the ball from knee height, rather than from shoulder height as previously.

Rickie Fowler was the first to fall foul of this when he took a penalty drop from shoulder height at the WGC-Mexico Championship and was penalized one stroke.

SOURCE:  Reuters

STRATEGY FOR DOGLEGS

About to turn a corner? First, give that dogleg some thought

You say you can drive it 300 yards, but the last time you did it the hole was downhill, downwind and the ball caromed off the cartpath. You say you shoot in the low 80s, but you haven’t carded an 85 or better without two mulligans and a few generous gimme putts in about four years. When the question about what tees to play is asked, you’re already walking back to the blues or blacks. See where this is going? When it comes to this game, many golfers aren’t exactly honest about their current abilities—especially when assessing their next shot.

A common mental block is how best to play a dogleg hole with real trouble on either side of the fairway, says instructor Sean Foley.

“The ball tails off to the right for most of the golfers I see, so does it make any sense for them to stand on the tee box of a dogleg-left hole and try to curve their drive in that direction? No, but a lot of times they still try,” says Foley, a Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher. “What they should be doing is thinking of how to play the hole to the best of their abilities. In many cases, that means taking a shorter club, one that doesn’t peel off to the right as much, and just getting something out in the fairway.

“The reality is, sometimes the best you can do is give yourself a chance at a one-putt par. You have to accept that your game isn’t designed for certain holes, so your planning should change from How do I get home in regulation? to How do I avoid making double bogey?

That’s good advice, says sport psychologist Bob Rotella. Too often a visually intimidating hole, one that looks like it necessitates a specific type of drive, can cause golfers to divert from their strengths. Bad move.

“Mentally, you’ve got to stick with your game. Don’t let the shape of a hole solely dictate your strategy,” he says. “I wouldn’t try to hit a shot I didn’t know or usually play. If a driver doesn’t fit the hole, hit a 3-wood. If a 3-wood doesn’t fit, hit a hybrid, and so on. Do whatever it takes to put the ball in play. But be clear and commit to whatever shot you decide.”

If you can’t curve the ball to match the hole’s shape, another option is to use driver, but play for the “best miss,” says Hall of Fame golfer Tom Watson. If you analyze a hole carefully, that miss should be evident.

“When curving the ball away from the dogleg, the fairway becomes a smaller target,” Watson says. “The golfer must then think about where it’s best to miss the fairway, and this involves a lot of criteria such as length of the rough, where the flagstick is located, etc. For example, shortening the hole by missing in the interior rough sometimes can be a good option when planning your tee shot, but not on Pine Valley’s par-4 sixth, the hole you see here.”

If you’re skilled enough to be able to shape your tee shot with the dogleg, then consider how much of it you want to take on, Watson says. An accurate distance measurement to the part of the fairway you want to hit is key, but so is that whole thing about being honest with yourself.

“Knowing how far you have to carry the ball to clear a dogleg’s interior rough or interior bunker is not usually thought about by most golfers, but it’s critical,” Watson says. “That being said, most golfers don’t know how far they carry the ball with a driver, which is important in deciding the line to take when cutting the corner on a dogleg.”

That’s why it’s best to be generous with your target line, Foley says.

“If it’s a 200-yard carry and your best drives carry about 210 yards, you probably want to take a less risky route,” Foley says. “Better to be farther back in the fairway than trying to recover from being too aggressive with your line. The penalty for not making it on a dogleg is usually pretty severe.”

SOURCE:  Golfdigest