Do You Golf Like An Artist or Scientist?

artvsscienceHuman 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.

Play well!

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About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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8 Responses to Do You Golf Like An Artist or Scientist?

  1. Brian

    Great article! I think we all over complicate things from time to time. I am interested to hear your results. My money is on the second round with no electronic measuring devices. You will be playing golf in the moment and enjoying your round more than ever! Play well during both rounds!

    Cheers
    Jim

  2. C. Baker says:

    Interesting post! BTW, I was in Ocean City a few weeks ago and we really enjoyed Rum Pointe. I preferred it over the Bear Trap but I must admit it was very windy at the Bear Trap and it had rained the night before so the bunkers will filled with water (e.g., not the best drainage). Enjoy your trip!

    • Brian Penn says:

      I have not played Rum Pointe but hear it’s awesome. Bear Trap is okay if not a bit overpriced. I do practice there regularly. Like their facilities and the location is close to our place in Bethany.

      Thanks!

      Brian

  3. Brian,

    Awesome observations here. I believe that most amateurs aren’t doing themselves any favors by having too many yardages or factors in their head, or even precise yardages to flagsticks. I think it helps the touring professionals but their control and precision is on a whole other level. Most of us just want to hit it solid, and if we chose the middle of the green as a target no matter where the flag was I think we’d do better in the long run. Like Dr. Rotella likes to say, “give up control to gain control”.

    Cheers
    Josh

    • Brian Penn says:

      Josh, I’m beginning to think that I’m less effective with exact yardage because I have a tendency to flag hunt when I shouldn’t be. Last weekend I was missing greens flag high in some awful spots. If I had played for the front/middle of greens or missed short, I’d have been much better off. Hence the change in approach. We’ll see what this weekend brings!

      Thanks,

      Brian

  4. mrj803 says:

    Hi Brian,
    A very interesting post which gave me pause for reflection. I suppose I’m a little of both and likely more the artist than scientist. A more thoughtful approach to the game may help me but my sense is finding appropriate balance is what I need. I may make my next round all about science and see how that goes for me. I appreciate the food for thought here!

    Thanks, Mike

    • Brian Penn says:

      Mike, the experimentation aspect of this is the fun part. Let us know how your next round goes. Maybe you’ll have identified a breakthrough that you can apply. Good luck and play well!

      Brian

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