Your Brain - The Ultimate Game Improvement Tool
I watch lots of golfers play this crazy game, and one of the most common mistakes I see is the almost trance-like approach to the game most take, especially when they play the same course often.

I can assure you that if you will engage your mind at a higher level . . . analyze holes and specific shots and explore the alternatives . . . you will cut strokes from your score.

Here are some examples.

1. I recently joined a very nice club, with an opening par five of only 495 yards. Well, a great drive can put the average good player in position to go for the green from 210-225, but there's water on the left, bunkers on the right, the green slopes to the water and is very firm and fast.

Like the other guys I play with, I began playing this hole with a driver off the tee, then a 5 to 7-iron to lay up just short of the green.

Then I realized this puts the bunker in play off the tee, and the water in play on the second.

Then it leaves you with a 30-50 yard pitch into a firm green.

So, as an experiment, I started hitting 4-wood off the tee, which cannot reach the bunker (and the fairway is wider there), then a 4- to 6-iron to the 100-yard mark, again where the fairway is wider.

That leaves me a full gap or sand wedge to the hole, which I can spin better.

I’m making more birdies than before and almost never an opening bogey. I drew some strange looks when I started doing this, but now several others guys are doing the same thing.

THINK ! There are several ways to approach each hole – which one gives you the best odds for par or bogey, and the least chance of a big number ?

2. We have very firm greens, and when the pin is cut close to the front, especially downwind, you often cannot stop the ball anywhere close.

So everyone just complains and keeps trying.

I woke up to the fact that taking one less iron and intentionally trying to land short of the green would often result in the ball jumping up onto the green, but at the very least would leave me an easy uphill chip to the flag, usually from inside of 30’.

On this course that beats the heck out of a long putt from the back of the green.

THINK ! Your best approach shot is not always at the flag or even the green.

3. Our 10th hole is a bear. It’s a dogleg right, with a prevailing left to right wind.

It’s the #1 handicap hole and anything right off the tee is dead but there’s a bunker straight away on the left that is also big trouble.

It took a while, but I finally realized that a 4-wood or “bunted” driver off the tee would not get to the bunker, and while it leaves me 175-185 from the green, at least I’m almost always in the fairway.

This elevated green is hard to hit anyway and behind it is dead, so I find that this approach lets me hit a draw 4- or 5-iron into the green, with my goal always to hit it short or skip it up onto the surface.

I average about 4.5 on this hole now, and rarely make a double, which on the number 1 handicap hole, is totally acceptable to me.

THINK !  Even for a low-handicap golfer, they are not all “par” holes. And you guys that play to double digits, there are plenty of “good bogey holes” out there.

Let me know your own stories of engaging your brain to lower your scores.
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[ comments ]
Mike says:
Great post Terry.

I've been using my 3-wood a lot of late, off the tee and am only 10 yards behind my playing partners and sometimes even or ahead, as I usually hit it around 245-255.

The 10-25 yards I lose from the driver is no big deal for me and I really like the fairway ... a lot !
new2golf says:
I use Google Earth to make a game plan for most courses I play. I start from the green and measure back from the center of the green to my favorite approach distance. If that location is favorable, measure to see what I need off the tee. If you can keep your approach shots (as many as possible) the same distance, you have come close to bringing your range game to the course.
david says:
my dad and I went scotland in 2001 for the greatest golf trip of my life. We made it onto Carnoustie twice. On the long and troublesome par 3 16th (it's was around 220 yards fro our tees, which is a driver for me) I decided to hit a 4 iron well short, and pitch it in and try not to make a bad score. I had par putts inside of 10 feet both days, and although I missed them both, that nasty hole was not a card wrecker for me.
Pappy says:
I took up golf again on a serious basis about a year ago (after a decade-plus hiatus due to injuries). I came to the conclusion that, like a 3-legged coyote, if you didn't have 'legs' then you had to use 'smarts' if you were going to eat.

It meant relearning how to play and learning how to make my limitations work for my game. I'm still working on it. But I'm finding it a lot more interesting; it's a lot more enjoyable trying to conquer a hole by strategy than by beating it into submission.
webster miller says:
Played in a scramble recently where all the pins were cut way up front on hard fast greens. We birdied (or eagled) all but five holes. Of those five holes, three where really short par 4's where we had less than 50 yards left to the flag. Of course we were unable to stick anything close. Had we been smart we would have hit irons off the tee to leave a full wedge into the greens.
wedgeguy says:
Great posts, guys. I'd love for more of you to share your personal stories of where you used your head to beat a hole. I saw one last week where a playing partner had a terrible lie and had to keep a shot very low to try to run it up on the green -- even a hooded 4-iron would have been tricky. So he pulled a driver, and half-topped/bunted it about 75 yards, rolling it just over the green to the back fringe. I think he could have tried that with a number of other clubs and failed to keep it low enough to stay out of the low hanging trees.
Rick Wirey says:
wedgeguy says:

I apologize for the oversight, but I do not have that email. The yips, (or as my friend once said, "wedgilepsy" is tough, but here are my recommendations. 1. Focus your attention on rotating your body core and quieting your hands. 2. Relax your grip, especially with your "pincher" fingers of your right hand -- make swings with your thumb and forefinger completely off the club. 3. Practice slowing your tempo, so that you feel like you are just letting the arms fall through the impact zone, and 4. Focus your attention on the path of the hands, not the path of the clubhead. Get comfortable and confident just swinging the arms/hands back and through their address position, without any attention at all to the clubhead. This will help you move away from "impact anxiety", a much friendlier description than the "y-word". Let me know if these things help.

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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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