Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Few Quick Tips

Somebody recently commented that I should try and put together a few tips for golfers, seeing as how I spend most of my days watching people swing golf clubs. I wouldn’t consider myself to be an expert on the game, and please, take these suggestions with a grain of salt, but I have to say that I do see many of the same mistakes on the golf course, and if I can at least present these mistakes to you and get you thinking about ways to avoid them, you should certainly see some improvement in your game. I owe my playing ability these days to caddying because I can think my way around the golf course. And I know all of you can too.

I think the main theme among all of these little tips would have to be a “loss of ego.” Too many times I see golfers going for the green when they shouldn’t, listening to their partner when they shouldn’t and hitting the wrong club because 2 years ago they could hit that club far enough. So first and foremost, have a good idea how far you hit each of your clubs (up-to-date yardages, not what you could hit when you were 23 years old), and DON’T be ashamed of those yardages. Be proud of them, because they are the tools you’ll need to negotiate the golf course successfully.

Dave Pelz says that when you’re putting on the greens, speed is 4 times as important as line. For the most part, I would have to agree with him. I think most players need to be able to adapt a little faster for speed. During the first 2-3 holes of every round you play, take your time on the greens and really get a feel for the speed. Don’t be so anal about the line (at least initially). Line it up where you think you should, but focus completely on pace. As a caddie, nothing breaks my heart more than to see a player hit the ball on my line too hard, blowing it through the break and missing the putt. “It doesn’t break.”

Yes it does, you just hit the ball too hard. But most players do not understand that, and so they lose confidence in themselves and the bad feelings just seem to snowball the rest of the round.

Secondly, while I think speed is the most important aspect of putting, I would also urge you to work on your putting stroke enough so that you have no problem STARTING your ball on your intended line. Your putting stroke doesn’t have to be perfect. As long as you start out on line and your speed is good, you’re going to see a greater percentage of putts going in. Also, by being able to start your putts out on line, you’ll have a much easier time with 4-footers as well as some of the faster down-hillers.

Next, I think knowing the relative trajectories on your irons will help. If your ball is buried in the rough, what iron can you use that will still get the ball out of the rough without any worries AND advance the ball the farthest? Most players cannot assess their lie correctly even after addressing the ball. They’ll be 200 yards from the green and grab the rescue club out of their bag because they can hit their rescue club 200 yards. Well, if the lie is decent enough, go for it. But what if you have a flier? What if the ball is sitting down slightly? Knowing trajectories will pay HUGE dividends in other situations as well: Do you need to keep your ball under a branch? Yes, and I know a 5-iron will do just that. What about the lip on this fairway bunker? Well, I know I’m 180 yards out, but I have to hit a 9-iron here just to make sure I get out.

These things may sound like common sense, but I guarantee 90% of the golfers I work with don’t know when to take their medicine.

Play to your own strengths. If you’re great off of the tee but can’t hit a long iron, then don’t hit a long iron until you’ve practiced a little more. The course I work at has a couple of short par 4’s. Maybe it’s because they’re playing with caddies, but 85% of the players I’m working with will ask for a long iron or rescue club to hit off of the tee when there’s plenty of fairway out there for a driver. They’re thinking: “Hey, it’s a short hole, so I should lay up. I don’t NEED to hit driver.” Well, that may be true, but if you CAN, then HIT IT. A 90 yard approach is easier than a 130 yard approach. Sure, you could argue that perhaps a 90 yard approach out of the rough is harder than a 130 approach from the fairway, but there’s also a good chance that lay up shot could be in the rough as well, ESPECIALLY when most players can’t hit their long irons consistently. Now you’re 130 in the rough instead of 90 in the rough. So I guess my advice is, become REASONABLY proficient with your driver. As in, you hit the fairway at least 75% of the time.

Last but certainly not least: Have some fun out there. What is it they say? A bad day on the golf course is still better than a good day at the office? Mr. Chokesondick will hit 1 or 2 bad shots every 5 holes, and he’s livid each time it happens. Meanwhile, his friends are smoking cigars, telling dirty jokes and drinking beers. They’re loving life, and Mr. Chokesondick is getting more and more irritable as the day progresses. I’m not saying I forbid you from swearing or throwing clubs. Hey, it happens. Sometimes you just can’t believe the breaks you’re getting. All I’m saying is, after you throw that club or after you shout your “fuckity-fuck-fuck-fuck” to the heavens, smile and laugh about it. Because this is a great game we’re playing. And if that sounds too preachy or not cynical enough for you, think of this: physiologically, anger builds up tension. The more tension in your golf swing, the worse you play. Also, golf is a very EXPENSIVE game to play. And after spending all of that money for clubs, balls, tees, your bag, clothes, shoes, greens fees, five hours out of your day AND that silly-ass hat, WHY the fuck would you go through all THAT just to be pissed for 4 hours? Why not just play on your company softball team and swing at a slow pitch?


Kiwi said...

Great stuff JB, those last 6 or so lines are right on the $$$

Anonymous said...

Terrific post. Take your medicine is right. I read a tip somewhere that you should always play the shot you can make 8 out of 10 times instead of the shot you can make 2 out of ten times. Sounds easy right??

Not so easy when your ego gets in the way. I've scored 7 or 8 on a hole when I could have hit PW, PW, PW, putt, putt for an easy bogey.

afteru2 said...


Really glad to have you back. As a fellow caddie, it's always interesting to read your posts and think about how true it all is.

Jam Boy said...

Really appreciate you reading afteru2...please let me know if I'm leaving anything out...hahaha.

And you're right anonymous. It all sounds too easy. In fact, right after I posted I went out with some fellow caddies for a match and definitely missed a few golden opportunities because I was trying to cut a few corners. So I certainly empathize with the golfers I work with, knowing full well that I still have trouble taking some of my OWN advice.

Ahh Golf. What a great game.