Thursday, June 12, 2008

Playing an Unfamiliar Golf Course

My favorite golf tournament of the year is the men’s United States Open Championship. While I was never blessed with the opportunity to play in the event, I have been fortunate to have worked with a couple of players who were preparing to play. Many of you will have your own US Open type experience this summer. It may be as a participant of a member guest, or a charity event, or a round of golf with a person who can be of some influence on your career. All of these events usually happen at a golf course you have never played. Now I am sure that many of you are laughing right now, thinking their no comparison, but I can assure you anxiety is anxiety, at any level.
The common problem for the US Open participant and the everyday player, is dealing with unfamiliar golf course conditions. The length of the rough is a common topic when discussing the Open, but I can assure you we all face Open rough conditions every spring regardless of what golf course we frequent. So the rough is probably more of an adjustment for the Tour player than the everyday player. Another is the length of the golf courses. This year’s Open could be played at around 7600 yards. For the everyday player this seems unbelievably long, and it would be if the golf course was set up like the golf courses we play everyday. The difference is that for the Open and more exclusive resorts and clubs, the grass length in the fairways is much shorter. For the Open participant they have to adjust to the speed of the closely mown fairways. The ball bounces and rolls much farther and with that they must chose the perfect line off the tee to keep the ball in play. For the everyday player the adjustment is not so much with distance, we love the ability to hit the ball farther, our problem comes from not being accustomed to hitting the ball off a tight lie. The ball sits up nice and high on the fairways at home and when presented with a perfect lie on a fast fairway we panic, unsure of our ability to get the ball airborne. I wish I had a nickel for every time I have heard how someone went to a special event, drove it great and hit the irons lousy.
So how to fix do we fix this problem? First, play the ball down or as it lies. If you always play preferred lies, how can you learn to play from a more difficult lie? Second, practice by hitting 3 woods off a bare lie, or a mat. Finally, remember that the key to hitting down on a shot from a close lie is to keep the club moving. The swing thought is down and THROUGH, not just down. Next week – putting on faster greens.

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