9 Holes with a Golf Expert -- Part 2: First Three Holes
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Recap from Last Time
Some suggestions to follow in your pre-round routine:
† On the way to the course, do some deep breathing to relax and visualize hitting a solid tee shot (swing, contact and ball flight).
† If time is limited, stroke some putts from different distances focusing just on the speed of the green; don't concern yourself with holing the putts. Hit a few half and 3/4 wedges focusing on making solid contact; don't worry about a target.
†Don't try to make any short putts; that's for a practice session. Missing attempts creates doubt and anxiousness.
† Play the first hole conservatively. Attempting to hit great shots can lead to early failure and disappointment. The goal is to get comfortable and warm up for the rest of the round.
First 3 Holes
Let's say I follow my conservative play advice on the first hole and make a bogie, 5. I didn't make any bad shots. I just missed the green a little with my approach and didn't get up and down. No crisis, no "other" score. Yes, I'd prefer making a par or better but it's only one hole; there are 17 left.
One of the best tips I've ever received came from my golf coach in high school. "The only important shot is the one you're playing." It took me many years to actually understand what he was trying to tell me. I definitely get it now, after failing to heed his advice many times in the past.
It's so important to keep in the present. What has happened in the past is done and cannot be changed. How you choose to to react to a past shot will affect future ones. Focusing on what's coming up will distract you from focusing on the present shot. How many times have you made a birdie and then started thinking about the "what ifs" for the round. You have a birdie, birdie start and ........ this could be the best round of your life!!! NOT!
In every round of golf, you're going to make mistakes, play some bad shots, even possibly have some bad holes. From the statistics of your past rounds, these are almost certainties. You can't predict when they will occur, only that they will. By keeping yourself in the present, you'll mimimize the number of bad shots because you'll be more focused on the task at hand, hitting a good shot.
So, I made bogie on the first hole. What do I think about that? How do I judge the way I played the first hole? I don't. It doesn't matter. It's done. Save the judgement for the 19th hole, when it's all said and done. A round of golf is made up of a large number of successive shots. One shot or one hole doesn't make or break a round of golf; but, a poor attitude can. What's done is done. The only thing I should now be thinking of is my next tee shot; that's it!
A few years ago, I did a statistical analysis comparing my opening 3 hole score to my final score. I found that starting out mediocrely was a just as likely to lead to a good round as starting out really well. There was no significant difference between final scores. If I started out really badly, say 3 doubles in a row, then it was likely that I would have a mediocre or poor round. In the coming months, I'm going to analyze a large sample of golfer scores to see if the trend is the same.
The First Tee -- Hole #2
Hole #2 at Salmon Arm Golf Club is a short par 4, dogleg left, measuring 330 yards. Trees on the left, trees on the right in addition to a fairway bunker. The fairway slopes slightly left to right. So again, for a slicer, the hole can be difficult off the tee. Driver is not the club for any player; getting the ball on the fairway is important. I usually hit a 3 or 4 iron (I haven't yet bought a hybrid). Having a longer shot into the green yields a better average score than trying to get as close to the green as possible.
Something I suggest you do this season for a few rounds is to leave the driver in the trunk of your car, and see what kind of difference that makes to your score. You might even choose to hit an iron off of each tee. Like many experiments, it will seem awkward at first, and that's why it's important to do this for a number of rounds, and take an average. I'm not advocating that you never use the driver, but it'll demonstrate how length doesn't always mean lower scores, especially if your misses are worse. It's important to "play the odds" and not take uneccessary risks.
The second shot is to an elevated, 3 tier green, thus club selection is a challenge. The green is elevated about 5 yards above the fairway (I explain how to simply make such a measurement and then use that info to adjust my club selection HERE). Let's say my yardage is 117 yards to the middle of green. The flag is on the front part of the middle tier. I would play this shot as about a 122 yard shot; for me, an in between shot (9-iron and PW). I'll choke down on a 9-iron about an inch on the grip which takes about 5 - 10 yards off my full nine iron distance. Choking down tends to shorten the swing a bit as well and gives me better control. I never try to hit a "hard wedge". Swinging hard increases distance and direction variability.
I hit a decent 9-iron right online but catch it a little thin. The ball lands into the rise separating the 1st and 2nd tiers, stops, and rolls down to the first tier. I could have hit a full 9-iron so that if I did miss it, I'd get to the 2nd tier. If, however, I hit a full 9-iron well, it would go long of the flag, get onto the third tier and leave me a difficult downhill putt. Best to play the odds short of the flag and have an uphill putt.
I'm left with an uphill 30 footer that's fairly straight. Because of the uphill, I judge the putt will play more like a 35 footer (click HERE to learn more) so I aim at a spot about 5 feet beyond the hole. I leave myself an uphill 3 footer. Recall that I purposely didn't putt any short putts on the putting green, therefore, I don't have a recent memory of missing short putts (you would definitely have missed some on the putting green).
Hole #3 is a 360 yard dogleg left par 4. The tee shot must carry 210 yards to clear a depression in the fairway, so hitting a 2-iron or wood is essential to leave a level lie for my second shot. A driver could carry too far through the dogleg. I usually hit my trusty 2-wood unless I'm into a stiff breeze. I aim to the right side of the fairway as I tend to hit my 2 wood straight or a little left. Trees guard the left side of the fairway and are jail. I choose to go for a slightly longer shot into the green, again, playing the percentages.
Unfortunately, I pull hook my tee shot and it ends up in the trees on the left. I find I could play a low shot under and through the trees and run the ball up to the green; the distance is about 100 yards. If I don't keep the ball low enough, I could stay in the trees or worse. I've pulled such a shot off before, but realize the odds are against me. Even if I do thread the needle, I still need to judge the distance well to avoid going over the green into more trees. I decide to chip the ball out sideways, alas, leaving me where my tee shot "should have been." I'm going to depend on my wedge and putting game to give me a reasonable chance at saving par. That distance of 100 yards and in is so important, the most important. Do you practice it often? Click
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I haven't hit the ball that solidly so far. My pull hook tee shot definitely indicates that I'm getting a little quick. The number one swing key I use when I'm having any problems, is keeping the transition between backswing and forward swing as slow as possible. That's where I find most players start to get quick, especially when feeling some stress. I'll try to even have a little bit of a pause at the top of the backswing and keep my grip pressure light. Both of these promote allowing the lower body to initiate the downswing. I usually use a count for my tempo: Back ..... aaaaaannnnnnnnnddddddd ...... through, giving myself lots of time at the top.
I hit a good wedge shot to a front pin position leaving myself a 12 footer. The pin is cut just short of a rise between the two tiers of the green. My ball is pin high and therefore has a about a 6 inch break in it which I read by plumbing and using my matrix. I hit a good put but under-read it a bit and make another bogie. Two over par after 3 holes, a mediocre start, but I do my best to just focus on the next shot. As my statistical analysis of my own scores has found, I'm just as likely to have a poor, mediocre or good round from this point. I can't undo anything that has happened to this point. My next tee shot is all the matters now.
Hole #4 is the #1 handicap stroke hole. We'll find out why next time. Take a look at it in the mean time. Send me some feedback or ask some questions before I put out the next newsletter. Use this simple
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