Fairways and Greens
This weekend is our club’s annual Member-Guest Tournament, so I’ve been practicing a little more than usual. My partner and I had two meltdowns in the year’s first “major” at our club, which cost us the tournament. We each took a turn having a mental vacation when the other was in trouble, leading to a triple and double bogey going on the card. No hole is hard enough to warrant that in a better ball format.

So, for these five nine-hole matches this weekend, my playing strategy is to focus on fairways and greens, and I’ve been spending time on the course figuring out the best way to do that on each hole. We’ll be playing the regular tees, rather than the championship tees that I normally play, so the tee shots set up differently for me on most holes. Yesterday, I played a “pre” practice round, and only put the driver in my hands five times. I found that my 4-wood was a much better play on many holes, leaving me shooting at the fat part of the fairway, and/or eliminating the chance of driving through the fairway on the dogleg holes.

That seemed to make a lot more sense than trying to thread a longer tee shot into a narrower section of the hole, just to try to get a club or two shorter shot into the greens. And the payoff was that I left myself in position to hit approach shots from nice fairway lies, which led to 16 GIRs. Hmmmm. Maybe there’s something to this advice from TheWedgeGuy. Maybe I should listen to him more often.

I’ve written a number of times about looking at holes differently sometime to give yourself an option as to how to play it. One in particular on our course is #11, a short dogleg left that entices you to hit a fairway wood or even driver, and cut off some of the dogleg to get a short wedge shot to the green. I’ve played and watched hundreds of tee shots on that hole by our better players, and I’ve seen some almost drive the green. But I’ve seen many more that end up under the trees because they didn’t clear the corner, or under the other trees because they drove it through the fairway.

Because it really galls me to give up a stroke (or more) on a hole less than 35o yards, a few months ago, I finally told my regular partner that I promised I would never be through that fairway again. So I’ve dropped down from a 4-wood or hybrid to a 4-iron the past few weeks, and have not missed that fairway since. My approaches are between a 7-iron and a pitching wedge, depending on the line and bounce my tee shot takes, and I’ve hit the green every single time since.

So, the moral of my story this morning is that every hole has several different ways to approach playing it. Just because you can hit a driver and get a short iron to the green, doesn’t mean that’s the smartest route. Often times, if you look at a hole through “new eyes”, you’ll see that a fairway wood or long iron might be a much smarter play. We can get in a rut playing the same course most of the time, and it’s interesting to change things up a bit on holes that give you the most trouble. Some just don’t set up to your eye very well, and others just “have your number”.

Take it back by slipping the course a mickey. Put the driver away and hit something shorter off the tee and see what happens. That’s my plan for the weekend. I’ll let you know how it works out.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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