Human beings are predisposed to favor either creativity or analysis in their thought processes. Take cooking for example. We prepare a successful meal by either following a recipe or inventing one on the fly. I am definitely in the latter camp, and believe that when we identify with a trend, it’s probably best to play golf in a similar fashion. I had an epiphany recently. I have always thought I trended scientific, but now believe the opposite is true, and realize my current technical approach may be hurting my game.
Do you play with a laser range finder? I do and my regular golf partner has a GPS device. These are wonderful instruments of precision and we normally share information on most shots, so I have the distance to the flag, the distance to the front, middle, and back of the green, as well as distance to any hazards or hidden course features at my disposal. When I factor in wind direction and speed, condition of the putting surface, and my current swing key(s), it feels like I’m trying to land a 747 on a small runway in a 20 knot cross wind. I’ve been consuming all this information for a long time and have been struggling to hit shots when thinking so precisely. I think there’s a connection because I had more success when I simplified by calculating yardages old school (using sprinkler head distances to the middle of the green and adding or subtracting estimated yardages for front or back pin placements). Lately I’ve also noticed I’ve had good results executing difficult recovery or partial shots where my approach has been very simple.
Here’s two recent shots side-by-side to illustrate. Shot 1: Yesterday I had a short approach into a par-5. I measured 54 yards uphill to a back flag. It was downwind, and the greens were running fast. I had 60 yards to the back. I thought, “lob wedge to 51 yards” but tried to be too precise and shut the face a little and the ball trickled over the green into the fringe about 25 feet long leaving a treacherous downhill putt, which I promptly three-jacked. I’d have been better off playing for the middle of the green. Shot 2: Last week, I drove a ball under a tree with low hanging branches. I had 160 yards left but could not elevate a shot. I thought, “hit a low 130 yard 3-iron then let it run up”. Now who practices that shot on the range? Not me, but I just rehearsed a simple little half flip with the club and hit the shot as planned. My target was much less precise, but I felt more relaxed during my pre-shot routine than for Shot 1. Why? I believe Shot 1 had too many technical inputs and Shot 2 didn’t. It allowed me to take a creative approach that my brain was comfortable with.
So what to do now? It’s quite possible that I’m not using the information at my disposal correctly or maybe it’s just too much information. I’m going to experiment on my upcoming eastern shore golf trip Friday to Sunday. Friday’s round is at Heritage Shores which I have played twice and am less familiar. I’m going to use the laser and GPS. Saturday we play Eagles Landing which I have played over a dozen times and know where to hit it. So I will go old school and pace off yardages and simplify. Sunday at Baywood Greens will be the more comfortable of the two approaches. I will let you know how it goes next week.
Do you over-complicate your approach on the course? Hope not.