Thursday 20th April 2017
I have been keen to go around Prestbury Golf Club with DT since I joined it as I knew he has played it many times before with some PGA Tour guys. I was keen to get his opinion on a few tactics around the place as well as discuss some mistakes I am making on the course. It is all well and good hitting hundreds of balls together on the range. You get into a rhythm, a flow. Load up, set yourself, practice swing, hit, reload and repeat. Always off the same lie. That is a lot different from – setup, hit, raw emotion on where its gone (good or bad), walk for a few minutes, assess the lie, make a decision based on what you see then hit it again – good and bad. Can you see the difference? Making real time mistakes and mis-management are all part of letting DT get to see how I am losing shots on the round so we can work on cutting them out and attacking this handicap.
Here are some of the key parts of my game that we discussed on the course:
- On Tee Decisions
- Driving Technique
- Around The Green – Shot selection
- Bunker Play
- Overall Course Management
On Tee Decisions
Like many golf clubs, the season started properly this month which meant the back tee boxes have just been brought into play after playing through the winter on a shorter course. At Prestbury that meant the white tees were introduced for the first time last week which added an extra 226 yards to the course. Off the winter tees its possible to go around with a fairway wood, even low iron off the tee and still be in positions to attack the green in two on most holes. Off the whites though your leaving yourself too much too do with that so you have to be confident off the tee with a Driver. It is a beautiful but punishing course if you are a bit wayward, with mature tree-lined fairways and well positioned bunkers to contend with. As DT and I approached every tee box we discussed what I had been hitting here in the winter and what I should be going for in the bag. To be honest most times its was straight for the Driver in every case. The par 4, 5th hole and the 8th holes are examples where you don’t need to be Driver but most other cases it was the only choice. Even that discussion now though just took a bit of indecision out of my mind – like Jordan Spieth and his WWAD wristband – I know knew What Would DT Do.
Like many high handicappers I will need a lot of work with the big stick until I am confident and consistent. To my luck the course around Prestbury is setup to suit a slight fade on most holes which is my natural shape. When I make a mistake with the driver its usual a bad cut and open face, from coming across it on the path, resulting in a big swing to the right. Or it is an over compensation swing that pulls the ball into a hook or straight left shot from a closed down club face or over compensated swing path. From the course lesson there will be a few things that I will try to remember moving forward that will take some range work to really hammer in there later this week:
- Get the setup and alignment correct to begin with on the chosen target line. Trust that target line then and commit to it. Make sure feet and club head are all lined up.
- Swing in the same smooth rhythm that I do with my irons, that I am hitting well at the moment.
- ‘Feel’ like I am trying to draw the ball with that in to out path, keeping club head facing target line on impact. Without over doing it to create a whip – thats where practice is needed!
- Hold the club at its full handle length. I have a tendency to come down an inch or two for some reason without thinking about it. This then brings the club head closer to me encouraging off centre hits.
Around The Green – Shot Selection
I had got into the habit of landing around the green and automatically grabbing the 56 degree wedge to chip up and onto the green. The problems I was having were:
- Fatting the thing by putting the club head into the turf before the ball, causing the grass to move the ball and getting nowhere near the distance I needed.
- Thinning it through and past the pin by doing the opposite.
- Decelerating on the way down – basically lack of commitment and being sure on what I was doing.
Rather than purely technical work on the above, DT got me starting to think some more first about what club I had in my hand. Instead of reaching for a 56, we started using a 6 iron around the green which can be more forgiving once you have the weight right. Hitting more of a putting stroke with it which then creates a yard or two of loft and controlling the distance. With a 6 iron you are less likely to fat or thin it. It is possible to hit it too hard though so I will do some work on this down at the short game area at Prestbury.
Another option we looked at is when to putt off the green. Hank Haney (Tiger’s former coach) said that the worst putt will always be better than the worst chip – so always use your putter if you can. There were times when it was handy – its just another thing where distance control is the key. Then there were times where you would like to putt from off the green, however the rough or something about the terrain between you and the nice pure putting surface meant the chance of it being a true hit and going where you sent it were reduced. So instead of going through it you had to go over it.
Of course the chip has a place and I have to get better around the greens with all the clubs. Remembering to use the bounce of the wedge and getting through the ball confidently.
My bunker play is ok as a rule. A bit hit and miss though rather than consistent. I would say 60% hit 40% miss. Sometimes it can be PGA Pro level sometimes it can by pick up, go home and try another sport level. I have been known to put it to 2 inches from a hard lie and I have been known to ping it onto the next tee box by catching it too flush instead of the sand behind it.
We did some work in the bunkers around the 7th green noting the following things:
- Don’t automatically reach for the 60 degree wedge, the highest I have in the bag. The 56 is technically the sand wedge and that can get more distance if you need to run a bit on the green. If you have short sided yourself or the bunker has high walls, then sure get as much height as you can.
- Don’t overdo it with the sand. We checked some of the marks I was making in the bunker and on bad ones I was taking a good foot of sand!! Instead of a couple of inches to lift the ball up softly. Visualise that crisp £5 note and whip it off there smoothly with a follow through.
Overall Course Management
Other than the topics already discussed, it was just invaluable to get a grip on DT’s thoughts on managing Prestbury hole by hole. When he thought to just go for the green, when you need to lay up (not often with DT!!) and where the lines were to be aiming at off the tee.
In conclusion the lesson helped a lot, with some things to work on and some decision making help I will take into the competitions over the next few weeks. Something important that came out of it though that will have an impact was that DT had a Titleist T-MB 2 Iron in his bag. Perfect for a couple of the shorter holes off the tee and Par 5s to hit a long 2nd shot with an iron instead of a wood. I got myself down to American Golf at Trafford and have ordered one to be delivered in the next couple of weeks!
DT hitting down the 6th Hole – a Par 5 towards the Club House: