The Australian Masters 200- My trip
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THE ZONE Featured
The Zone- that airless floating indescribable place we wander off to when we seem to have our best rounds of golf. What is the zone? And HOW can we visit it more often in our journey to better golf?
Let’s change the word “Zone” to the word “Comfort” instead….because that is what it really is....
How many strokes per round does the average golfer waste due to poor decisions? If I told you a 20 handicap player could be a 15 handicap player within a month only by making better decisions would you believe me?
While we all want to improve our golf swings so we can hit longer drives and straighter irons and we all want to chip it close and one putt every green- the truth is a good golf swing and short game is only a part of being a successful golfer. The major area of improvement that is available for ALL golfers is to learn the art of manging themselves better around the golf course.
Course management. We hear that phrase all the time. Do we listen? We love to quote Sam Snead's famous line "you have to dance with the gal you brought" but how many golfers actually bring those words into context with their actions?
Over my years as a professional golfer plaing in pro am events before the tournaments I have witnessed countless poor decision making from golfers. The shot selection and the things they try to attempt almost always play a much bigger bearing on the disastrous scorecard they hand into the scorers hut at the end of play than their golf swing could ever do.
We all have a standard ability- this is based on our handicap. To go outside this standard or level of ability and attempt shots we have no right in attempting is every golfer's downfall. We compound the mistakes by venturing farther into trouble when trying to escape a predicament.
The practice range is for fine tuning our golf swing. When we hit the first tee our goal should be to play golf and not golf swing. Golf is about scoring. Golf is about minimizing mistakes and keeping big numbers off the scorecard. Big numbers come more often from a bad club selection or a poor choice of shot. Attack or defend? Pitch or chip? Chip or putt? Wood or iron? Even something as simple as how to tee up the ball correctly between the markers can save us strokes throughout the course of a round.
So here are a few guidelines that will help knock strokes off your score:
* Leave the driver in the bag. If a hole has given you trouble in the past or doesn't suit your eye choose a 3 wood or even an iron. The first goal on every hole is to get into a position that makes the next shot possible. Length is not always a determining factor in how we need to play a hole to bring us the lowest score available.
* If you tend to draw your 3 wood and tend to fade your driver play each hole accordingly. Almost every time a hole bends right to left and I need to bend it around the corner I myself still use a 3 wood. My 3 wood normally draws a little. My driver doesn't turn over as much so I play to my abilities. I select a 3 wood on holes that require a right to left tee shot. It allows me to make a confident swing without trying to do something extra with my swing.
* When a hole shapes from left to right tee your ball up over near the right tee marker. This gives you a little more space to start the ball up the left and move it around the dogleg. It is much harder visually from this tee off position to hit a push or over cut the ball as your visual aims you left. The opposite applies for a hole that curves from right to left. If you are on a par 3 hole and feel like you may have too much club in your hand for the shot, move back two club lengths. Give yourself and your mind some extra space to be able to play the shot to the best of your ability. The tee shot is important. We get to have the ball in our hand and can choose where we place it. Use it to your advantage.
* When in trouble being a hero is not always the recommended procedure. They say trees are 90% air but experience tells us otherwise. Do not compound the mistake. Get the ball back in play first and foremost. You can always hit your next shot from the fairway onto the green and make the putt for a solid recovery by playing smart.
* Play to the fat part of the green on approach shots. If the pin is on the left side of the green make it your focus to hit the ball right of the flag. If the pin is tucked on the right side of a green dont be ashamed to aim to the left. A 30 foot putt from the safe area of the green hands down beats having to play a bunker shot or chip from a swale or the rough.
* If a 40 yard pitch shot is not your strength then lay your approach back farther to a distance that is. Closer to the green doesn't necessarily mean better. If you have trouble lofting chips in the air- don't attempt it on the course. Chip around the bunker and give yourself a putt. Wasting shots by taking two or three chips on a hole is a red cross on the card. If you aren't a good chipper and can putt the ball- PUTT it. They only give out prizes for score- not for bravery or how you do it.
* Make your own decisions. Do not expect good results by using the same club as a playing partner. YOU are the one who has to hit the shot. A decisive decision is better than a guess based on outside influences.
* Know the rules.Understand what your options are in case you do have to take a penalty drop for an unplayable lie or from a water hazard. The rules can actually help us if we know where we can drop the ball and we can use them to our advantage at times to allow ourselves at least an opportunity to salvage a stroke.
Our Goal: Improve our golf swing through toil on the range. Practice the shots we aren't as well equipped to perform on the range. When our technique and confidence in these shots improves then and ONLY then should we attempt them during a round out in the field of play.
Try taking a few of these pointers out when you next play and the results you are after will be very attainable.
Whenever possible do your practice in a controlled environment. By this I mean if your course allows you to hit your OWN balls at practice ....DO IT. The experience of hitting your own golf balls out into the distance can really help fine tune your learning experience. Growing up I had 100 balls in my shag bag. I would hit this entire bag of 100 balls with my wedges and then the same amount with my short irons and then onto mid irons and then long irons and ultimately the woods, which adds up to a lot of balls in a day. After each 'repetition' of 100 balls I would have to go pick them up. Knowing I had to retrieve my own balls zoned me in to taking more time between shots. It made me zone into my target. It made me be much more precise in my practice because I didn't want to have to walk too far off the beaten track to retrieve the balls. And God help me if I lost one and came back to start the next batch with only 99 or 98 balls in my shag bag.
I know many golf clubs supply range balls for revenue and for ease and people regard this as the easiest method, but hitting unsentimental range balls provides a different environment in the mind. From my experience I become less attached to the shot knowing I didn't have to retrieve the ball I was about to strike. However if you can get out to a field or hit balls on an unused hole (as Hogan did at Shady Oaks) and know each ball means something when the time comes for 'pick up' then you will be amazed at how much more in tune we become with our swing and mental capacity.
Having seen a lot of driving ranges in my time I always marvel at how many folks just use the rapid fire approach... Wham..wham..smack..... without even watching the ball land or use the outcome as feedback for their body and mind. They look like they cannot wait to just scrape the next ball over from the pile and feel content to just tell others that they are working hard because they hit 125 balls yesterday. Jack Nicklaus always said it is the quality of the practice and not the quantity. He practiced on the range with the same intensity as if he was on the 72nd hole of The US Open.
Most driving ranges are flat. How many perfect flat level lies do we actually get to play from on the course in a true round of golf? Not many at all except for tee shots. When we practice we have control of the ball. We bring it over from the pile with the toe of our club and place it on a beautiful tuft of grass. Sometimes we even tee it up at the end of our previous divot for a better sense of security in obtaining a good strike. Golf unfortunately just doesn't pan out like that when we are playing the course proper. When I had practiced for a while I would then grab a handful of balls and wing them up in the air or just spin around with my arm extended letting balls fly out of my hand at different intervals. I would do this with all 100 balls in the bag maybe 10 at a time. Where ever they came to rest that is where they got played from. It didn't matter if they ended up in tall grass, a divot, on pine needles or behind a tree. That was the result that ball had received and my only option was to admire the lie, plan the route and execute the shot. If it didn't come off as planned then I had learned something that I could implement into my thinking or feel the next time one of my random ball tosses ended up in the same predicament.
The same thing goes when we are working on our pitching or chip shots and bunker play around the practice green. The golf ball can be very discriminate in it's nature. When we are playing golf the ball seems to find it's way into some incredible positions that we can scarcely believe at times. My conclusion to this is if it got there.... there must be some way out of there also. And this is why practicing wisely, preparing for all conditions and possibilities benefits us out on the golf course. Not only will we have a reasonable knowledge on how to attempt the shot we are facing because we have actually played the shot before and experienced it before, we also welcome the opportunity to become less 'mentally scarred' from these supposed 'bad breaks' we are encountering. Our brain will become more aware and prepared and say "I've got his shot"... instead of the normal hands in the air and "why me?" reaction when faced with these 'unfair' breaks that want to wreck our pysche and our score all in one foul swoop.
Reminds me of the old saying... "practice doesn't make perfect"... "perfect practice makes perfect".....Perfect we won't be as golf is the most difficult game ever invented........ but we will be prepared....and that is half the battle.
The 2012 Masters is almost upon us. The Augusta National Golf Club has furiously fought through many changes in recent years in an attempt to keep up with the modern game and the technology wars of the clubs the players wield and the golf ball and the obscene distances it is now traveling. We are now seeing a varied assortment of winners of golf's first major based on these alterations to how the game is now played....