Accuracy, Distance or Course Management?
On the back deck of the country club the other afternoon, the talk turned to drivers and driving distance vs. accuracy. I listened to several of our members banter about the subject, brought about because Victoria Country Club is a demanding driving course – it has narrow, tree lined fairways with heavy Bermuda rough -- but it’s not overly long for the most part. Finally, the conversation turned to how to get more out of a driver – distance- and accuracy-wise. So the attention turned to me as "the golf club guy".

[Since today’s post isn’t directly from a reader, I’m going to tell you how you might win a FREE V-SOLE wedge at the end.]

I preach over and over that the surest way to add 5-15% to your average driving distance is . . . hit the ball with the middle of the face! Even with the big drivers, a ½” miss will cost you 7-9%, and a 1" miss increases that to 12-15%. No golfer can make that up with clubhead speed. We’ve all experienced that drive or two a round that just went forever. Well, you didn’t just crank up your clubhead speed on that one – you hit it in the middle of the face. So then, and only then, did you get the optimum efficiency from your swing. And the surest way to do that is to grip down on your driver about 2" or so, where you can make better contact with the ball.

But there’s more to optimum driving than ball/club contact. I challenged the guys that they were missing fairways because they were driving into the narrow parts of the course which the architect designed to challenge and punish long hitters. Ours was designed in the 1920s and redesigned in the early 1980s, when equipment technology was well short of what it is now. So, when you examine the par 4s and 5s at Victoria Country Club, you find that about 20 yards back from that narrow, intimidating section of the hole where your drives find the rough more often than not . . . . is a nice wide, friendly part of the hole where the architect determined that most players would play their approach shots from.

Hmmmm. What a concept – analyzing how to play a hole by looking at what the architect probably had in mind when he designed and built the hole in the first place. I find that paying more attention to the course architecture can pay big dividends when you are trying to score better. And it’s fun, too. Since I’ve really started paying attention to this aspect of course management, I’m hitting lots more fairways and greens, and enjoying more of the golf experience.

I’ve written before that your GIR percentage will be much better with a 6-iron from the middle of the fairway than a punch out of the trees from 20 yards closer. And if you will look at your favorite courses differently . . . through the architect’s eyes . . . you might find a whole new experience, and lower scores are in store for you.

Now, about that FREE V-SOLE wedge. All you have to do is send an email to me via the "Ask Terry" link below. I’ll pull a name from the hat on Friday and announce the winner. And I’ll have a very special surprise for all the rest of you who send me your email to enter this drawing.

See you Friday.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
I just wrote an article on nearly this very subject recently. Course management is ESSENTIAL to good play. There's no substitute. Your luck will run out at some point in time, and the only way to get around it is to protect yourself and your misses. It's not about how far you hit it, or how strait - it's WHERE you hit it in relation to the course "penalty zones". Great article Terry!
Werepuppie says:
Absolutely!The tee shot is the most penal shot in golf if you do not hit it in the fairway.
SD Charlie says:
Sonovabeesting! This past weekend was windy and I was spraying the ball all over the place with my driver, and even with the 3W. Not only does it hurt the score when all your 2nd shots are actually 3rds, but it really took my confidence down a few pegs. The holes where I found the fairway or close to the fairway yielded far better results. (Obviously)
kingwood hacker says:
I wish that driver length was more of a factor in these fitting systems that the clubmakers are coming out with. I know that the new adams driver lets you adjust length, I just wish some manufacturers (taylormade) would quit with the myth that for us average guys, a 46"+ driver = longer tee shots.
golfmapper says:
I'm a instructor at our course, one of the first things that I teach is that it is much easier to hit from a fairway then it is from the ruff. Even playing with members and guest, I try to show them how to play the course and play the smarter shot. I love older course because you just can't go out a bomb it on every shot.
putz says:
I recently did the "park the ego" thing and chocked down a bit on my driver and slowed down my swing. Strangest thing, I didn't lose any distance and my misses were much better. I hate it when all those advice columns are right. Bad on me for not listening sooner.
DoubleDingo says:
I don't know if it was an optical illusion, but it looked like the pros I saw on tv Saturday had much shorter drivers than what is sold off the rack. My optimal driver length in 41" but usually go with 43" for the choke down. I am tempted to get my Cobra re-shafted with a True Temper Dynalite R-Flex at 43" in length and see what results I get. Or maybe a TT TX-90 shaft.
aaronm04 says:
There is a course I've played in SE Texas that, by most accounts, is not a great course. The greens are iffy, the fairway have a fair amount of weedage in them, and even the cart paths are in rough shape. The one thing I like about it is that there are several non-par-3 holes where you don't hit driver off the tee. As Terry said, you have to think about your tee shot and where you want the ball to land. Makes for a much more interesting round of golf (imo).
knh555 says:
I play mostly with my nine year-old son and as such, play shorter but well-kept and interesting courses. At the one we play most, I only pull the driver on one hole (nine-hole course), and that driver is an old Ping Eye2 laminated maple block. That is, I don't give a damn about an extra 20 yards, as that won't affect my score on these holes. There are only a few other holes where driver is an option, but it's not the smart play given the width between hazards/danger, so I'll often go with either a 4 wood or 3 iron. It's much more satisfying to consistently play to the course as designed than successfully hit the occasional Hail Mary.
legitimatebeef says:
So what you're saying basically is that course management = don't hit driver on every hole. I prefer to think of it as "pick the smartest play to get the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes", aka the basic objective of golf.
wedgeguy says:
"Course management" has many facets, not just driving. This article talked about examining the hole and course to see where the architect planned for the safest driving area, best approach to the green, etc. There is also almost always a "safe" side of a green to favor on your approach. Most greens have trouble on one side, and the opposite offers a "bail out" of sorts. That might be on any side, even long left or right. But it's almost always there if you look for it.
bkuehn1952 says:
Perhaps course management varies to a degree by ability. Driving the ball into tight areas versus taking less club and going for the wide spots makes sense when one has control over one's game. However, if one sprays drivers, chances are one sprays 3 irons/hybrids. True, the spray is less because of the shorter length of shot. Still, many times hitting from 100 yards in the rough is preferable to hitting from 160 yards in the rough. Giving up 60 yards for the sake of accuracy only works if you can actually hit the fairway with that 3 iron.
woobwoob says:
I've been arguing with my group for months now. I've been trying to make the experience more fun by not hitting driver every time. If I can approach with a 5i or less into the green, thats my goal now. So I only hit driver 2-3 holes a round. For me, it's just boring to continually hit Driver then wedge, then get the putter out. Thing is, my scores are dropping and i am having more fun. They just can't get their head around the fact that I may tee off on a par 5 with a 5i just to ensure I get a good look at the rest of the hole instead of trying to work the ball into a specific shape to be able to be setup good on my second shot.

But when I really want to piss them off, I show em that I can still drive past them with my 3w.
Bryan K says:
I'm the guy who has a 12* driver because I like hitting fairways more than I like bombing the ball 300 yards.
larrynjr says:
@bryan k, I have a 12* also and when I get a solid center hit, send it about 275. it's no 300 yards but i'll take it!
Niramas says:
I wonder how many of guys that talk accuracy are overswinging on the course. Most I'll wager.... and quit kissing up to the author every post. I can see your brown noses from here!!!!!
Bryan K says:
Niramas: I disagree with Terry regularly. This is a case where I totally agree with him.
Beekeeper45 says:
Great article, I used my 3w today after my first couple of drives were way off line. Now where does alignment fall into the sum of evils??LOL!!!
daytripper says:
Course magmt and to be able to be on/in front of the green, most of the time. And all depends on which set of tee boxes you play from. Short hitters have accuracy but reaches the green in 3 on a 4 par and can't convert a 1 putt for par?
Even the tour pros, how many one putts do they make scrambling for par???
Put short hitters on back tees and see if they can scramble their way to the scores they can shoot with a good short game. Because short means different distances for everyone.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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