Golf Talk With Greg Holman – #111

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This golf blog is especially for junior golfers that want to shoot better scores on the golf team this spring or for anyone that wants to avoid one hole ruining your score.

I played four years of high school golf and two years of college golf and quite often if it weren’t for one hole I would’ve shot a decent round. I’m not going to tell you to play conservatively all the time. I like to see a high school golfer take out a driver and bust one down the middle of a narrow fairway 300 yards. And if you can do that in the early spring, you have my praise. But I’d like you to think about the different places where you can make a big number. The trees, the sand, OB, and the green. You can recover from a stray iron shot or a bad chip, but let’s look at the trouble spots one at a time and I’ll use my background for reference.

I first broke 50 when I was 12 but I had to conquer the 9th hole at our local public course first. The hole was slightly uphill, 355 yards. I averaged 180-200 yards on a drive back then, so the hole was reachable in two and quite often all I needed was a bogie to shoot 49. Did I mention the drive had to negotiate a tree-lined fairway? After 200 yards the fairway opened up but I couldn’t quite hit the ball far enough to escape the trouble.

After hitting the ball in the trees on the right a dozen times and making 6 or 7, I finally decided I wasn’t going to bogie the hole until I could keep the ball in play, and the way to do that was to draw the ball away from the right side. So I went to the driving range and with the help of an instructor, I learned to hit a high draw. 50% of the time I found the fairway even with the last tree with a clear 155 uphill hot to the green, just about 5-wood distance and I could par or bogie from there.

Fast forward to high school.

For the longest time I was stubborn and always tried to pull off the miracle shot. If I did it once, why can’t I do it every time? Again in high school, I hit enough greens and putted good enough to shoot par but if I got in the trees, rather than taking my medicine and pitching out to play for a bogie, I had a tendency to fire a 3-iron through a small opening in the trees. Next thing I knew, I had a 7 on the card.

One 9-hole match that still sticks in my mind was the time I was even par going into the 18th hole, a 557 yard par 5. It played long in the spring, usually a driver, 3-wood, 7 iron for me. On that particular day I was pumped up and got to within 100 yards of the green in two, then I bladed a wedge over the green. I was stunned because I had been hitting it good all day. So I trudged up the hill to find my ball over the green in hard pan on a downhill lie. I wanted to make par so bad I tried to pitch the ball with a sand wedge. Three fat shots later, I was on the green in six and settled for an 8 and a 3-over 39. The best score that day was 38. Why didn’t I putt the ball? Putt my third shot, get it somewhere on the green and then two-putt for a six, good enough for medalist honors with a one over 37.

Fast forward to college golf, where you generally play more difficult and longer courses.

The one thing that gave me fits, besides fighting a hook. (My draw at age 12 had turned into a violent hook at times if I forgot to turn my lower body,) is sand. Most of the courses I grew up on did not have sand traps. In college it becomes a fact of life. I eventually learned to hit the splash shot with my sand wedge, but what about the buried lie? Even pros have trouble with this shot, but the idea is to just get the ball on the green and avoid the big number. Remember if the bank is steep there is no rule that says you can’t muscle it out sideways. You don’t have to always shoot at the pin. Basically to hit the shot you should probably pull the pitching wedge or 9-iron because you want to dig, not skim. Pick a spot about 3 inches behind the ball and drive down hard. Expect the ball to come out like a line drive and run. Don’t get cute with the shot. The idea is to just get the ball somewhere on the green.

In closing, a quick word about OB.

An OB or lost ball can quickly ruin a round. Generally I will hit away from out of bounds. If the OB is left, tee up on the left side of the box and hit away from the trouble, like you were picking up a ten pin spare in bowling. Conversely, if the OB is right. Tee on the right side of the box and hit left away from penalty land.

There are other ways to play the shot. You can aim near the OB and work the ball the other way. For instance if the property line or road is down the left side, hit the ball down the left side and cut it away from the trouble. If you have trouble cutting the ball you can use a weak grip. It’s very difficult to hook the ball if you pull your right hand over more on top or turn your right hand to the left. Experiment on the range.

I hope these tips will help you avoid the big number and you have a great high school season. If you have any questions, email me at [email protected], hit em’ straight!

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