If there was a gameshow that offered £1 million for hitting a fairway with your driver, how would you attempt to do it?
You’re standing on the 18th tee at Worplesdon (450y straight par 4), you have to use your driver, you have to hit the ball at least 75% of your maximal driving distance and the ball has to come to a stop on the fairway. That’s it, thats the game, but you only get one shot at it. How would you approach this task, what would be your recipe for success?
This is a similar predicament to what the leaders in tournaments face often as they get to the final hole; hit the fairway and the trophy is there’s. The first step to this challenge for the pro’s would be creating a plan, would it be the same for you? Would you hit your shot straight or with curvature? How much power would you give the drive, 70%? 100%? Where would you aim? On what side of the tee would you put the ball down? What swing thoughts would you have?…suddenly a plan seems very important, after all there is £1 million on the line! Usually this plan is shaped by the layout of the hole, the conditions and the hazards the players face, but in our gameshow we have a dead straight fairway in front of us with no bunkers in play. As a result we’d expect players to aim straight and hit it straight but I think you’d be amazed at how many don’t. In reality, deep down our plan is etched in to our game based on what we are good at, what we know we can achieve and what we like to do. This is the recipe we have formed.
Like the food variety, these recipe’s are formed over time, refined over and over again throughout years until the flavouring and seasoning is spot on. Then, we practice cooking them a number of times before suddenly the recipe card is not needed, we don’t need to measure the ingredients and sub consciously bang out a brilliant dish with ease. This is what the pro’s do with their golf. In our gameshow, world #1 Dustin Johnson would almost certainly hit a fade, Bubba Watson would most likely hit a huge slice and Rory Mcilroy would probably hit a little draw, why? because they know that is their best chance of hitting the fairway. As we see with golf swings, there is no one way to play golf, you must figure out what works best for you and it must be based on your strengths. All 3 pro’s mentioned have natural shot shapes that match up to their techniques, DJ has a strong grip but holds it off with immense rotation, Bubba is an incredibly handsy, feel player and Mcilroy get’s so deep in his turn the club path naturally get’s a bit in-to-out.
So when you are next thinking about making some changes to your technique, ask yourself, do they match up to what you are trying/like to do? How will they affect your recipe? Will you still be able to produce your go-to shot? I firmly believe it is important to be able to hit a wide variety, if not all of the shots but you must also be able to repeat a particular shot well. The idea of not aiming for the straight shot is probably a blog for another day, but the main reason is due to probability, the straight shot requires both the club path and club face to be heading towards the target. When aiming for curvature using the path and face differential, we are more likely to start the ball in the right direction and get it curving the way we want to, a.k.a. getting both matched up. If we went for a straight shot but accidentally got our club path travelling slightly left, with the club face pointing left we are in serious trouble for example. In order of priority with your recipe, learn to get the ball curving how you want to, then you can learn to get it starting on the correct line for that shot. When on the driving range, have a go at hitting to a target with a 7 iron, 5 balls straight, 5 balls with a fade, 5 balls with a draw, 5 with a 6iron softly and 5 with an 8iron at full power, noting down each time where they ended up. Which set of shots do you think will be the most successful?
‘But what if we can’t curve the ball on purpose?’ The most important thing here is intention, what are you trying to do with each shot? There should always be a plan in mind, just like you have when trying to get the ball past your opponent in a game of tennis. I’d like you to take this gameshow analogy onto the course in future. Set yourself mini challenges, hitting fairways, hitting greens and getting short game shots within 3 feet. If you are not sure what you’re ‘go-to’ shot is at the moment, put yourself under immense pressure and you’ll soon find out. What you will really learn is it’s not how, but what you do, that matters.
P.S My choice would be a small fade that starts at the left side of the clubhouse, teed up from the right side of the tee box and hit hard.