Your 15th Club
By birdieXris on 3/24/11
Chris "birdieXris" Embardino is the latest oober to send us a column. When we say "oob Users Rock!" we mean it!

We all love to play golf. During that time, how much of your time is actually THINKING about playing golf? There's a name for this sort of thing, it's called "course management" and I've found that many of the players I pair up with, both friends and strangers, don't really have a good grasp of what it really means to "manage" one's game. It would seem the opposite, but most amateur players don't think enough about their shots while on the course. That's not to say they don't think about shot shape and lie, but there's more to it than that... Maybe this will help.

Know your game: Basis for improvement under any circumstance. Obviously, we've all tried to drive the 325 yard par 4 hole at our local muni. It's fun, and it's something to strive for - heck, you may have even made it that day when the wind was 20mph at your back. Realistically, it's not something many of us can, or should even try to do. I know I can't, so when I see a 325 yard hole with bunkers guarding and long rough, I take out a 4-iron and poke it down the middle. This is the basis for course management. I have nothing to gain by letting loose with the driver because while being 50 yards out in the fairway is great, there's also a chance I'll be 50 yards out in a bunker/ in the rough/ out of bounds/ etc. Hitting the 4-iron, leaves me a wedge in. Hit that on the green, close if possible and make some putts.

Know your strengths and weaknesses. We all try to stay positive on the golf course, but you still have to think about what happens if you "miss the ball". Say 60% of the time you hit your 8-iron, the ball goes left. Good, at least you're consistent and you know it. If the pin is on the left side of the green, or there's dead trouble left, you should be aiming for the right/middle right of the green. Why? If you hit it good, you've got a putt at it. If you pull it, you're probably going to be even closer. On the other hand, if you took aim at or near the flag, you'd be ok if you hit it good, but your miss would cost you another stroke or maybe even two when you miss the green to the left. Don't just aim; play your "good shots". Everyone's good shots are good, the real question is: how bad are your bad shots?

Take your licks. When you hit into trouble, the chances of pulling off a miraculous shot are pretty slim. Sometimes a pitch into the fairway and a wedge onto the green is just as good, or better, than a scuffed hybrid from behind the trees into the greenside bunker. Look ahead. Most courses are set up so that tees and greens are kind of near each other. If you see a green near the tee box or on your way to the next hole, take note of the pin position. Yes, the course uses colored flags, but HOW FAR in the back is the pin? It will help when you're in the fairway and wondering about the space you can get away with. You also may not get to see it when you get to that hole, and let's face it, we've all run into some Red, White, and Blue pin positions that were obviously placed by a disgruntled greenskeeper.

Finally, concede to your ability. There's no shame to be felt if you're a 20 or a 3 handicapper. We all have those numbers for a reason. It's not a crime to want to get better, but do it by practice, BEFORE getting on the course. Don't try to hit the "knock down, punch, choke up fade 8-iron riser" if it's not something you've spent at least two entire jumbo buckets at the range working on. There IS shame when that shot goes awry and knocks out the beer girl. I know for a fact that 68 can be shot using standard shots and full or percentage swings, even from the trees. No magic flight.

Everyone has bad days, and your bad days can be a whole lot better if you start thinking your way around the course.

Some great tips I've picked up along the way:
  • "take more club" isn't always right - When the pin is in the back and a full shot will get you JUST ABOUT there, go with it. Worst case, you'll mishit and fall short on to the green, but swinging lightly with more club may cause you to go over.

  • 10 feet of incline is roughly one club.

  • Tee up on the side of trouble. - OB left and trees right? Tee up on the left. Hit away from the worst trouble and keep your ball in play.

  • Look at the tree tops - the wind may have been gusting before but now you don't feel it. The tops of the trees never lie. If they're swaying, the wind is still blowing.

  • And last and most important came from the king himself, Arnold Palmer: "Hit it, find it, hit it again and have fun doing it."

This was written by Chris "birdieXris" Embardino, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo source

[ comments ]
rmumph1 says:
Good Article, this something I need to work on. Know your shots and play the shot you do best.
Banker85 says:
good points all around, i played two roundsso far and have been taking my licks and it has been paying off. twice i had chance(slim) to run a hybriud under trees up to the green but both times i opted for a chip out and iron from the fairway both rewarded me with pars. I dont get why some guys who have been slicing all day will hit driver on short par 4's they would reach maybe once in a lifetime, hit the higher percentage shot. I to have been figuring out my misses (left this year) and been trying to compensate for that still a work in progress. Also on shorter par 5's when the driver isnt working hit an Iron off the tee then another then leave yourself maybe a short iron or maybe wedge to green and try and make some putts.
aaronm04 says:
Good stuff, Chris. Yeah, course and game management is hugely overlooked by many, including Phil Mickleson.

Two pieces of advice I follow religiously are on Par 3's and 5's. For Par 3's, use the whole tee box. If you're between clubs, especially if there's a forced carry, take the longer club and move two club lengths behind the current tee (which the rules allow). It'll take a little more off of that longer club.

For Par 5's, think more about your second shot. Don't just wail away with your longest club like I see so many do. If you're not going for the green, figure out what full-swing club you want to hit into the green, and then calculate what club you'll hit from where you are to get to that distance.
guzzlingil says:
nice article and some solid points to remember.....
sepfeiff says:
Good article BX, keep em coming
manny.101 says:
Great article! Very true with "Tee up on the side of trouble. - OB left and trees right? Tee up on the left. Hit away from the worst trouble and keep your ball in play." Although I can not hit a fade to save my life with a driver of the tee!
birdieXris says:
@manny - you don't need to work the ball, it's just a game of vectors. think of it as an isosceles triangle with the furthest corner as the point on the fairway you're aiming to. from the right you hit strait to the left toward the trouble, from the left to get to the dame point you're hitting away and to the right to get there. it's actually opposite if you're trying to hit a fade. for that you'd want to cheat right a little to start the ball on a line that won't curve way off the right side of the fairway. :-) that's getting technical and splitting hairs now though.
bkuehn1952 says:
Thoughtful and well written, thanks. Some good reminders for me as the season starts. Maybe I will remember the tips as I contemplate hitting that low cut riser from the woods.
Jake Bogardus says:
10 yards of incline = one club
birdieXris says:
@jake - good catch
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