image source Erik Charlton
I have been fortunate to work and play golf with some very good players, ranging from players that have played in the US and British Amateur tournaments to players that have played on the professional mini tours and the PGA Web.com tour. One of the things they talk about on every shot they make is what is the miss? In other words, if you miss hitting your ideal shot, where do you want to have the miss go. An example might be on your approach shot to a green, there is water on the right side of the green and the pin is tucked on that side. The miss would be to aim at the pin and have the ball end up in the water, almost assuring a double bogey, at least. The right shot would be to aim more to the left and have the ball work toward the pin. If the perfect shot is not executed and the ball moves straight or misses left, you are left with a makeable up and down. I cannot stress this type of thinking enough.
The pros think of this on EVERY shot they take. They do this from the tee box to a chip on the green and sometimes, even on a putt. I mention this because as every pro has this in their mind, they don’t always execute that shot or sometimes in the pressure of the moment don’t apply it. In watching Jordan Spieth over the four days of the Masters, in my opinion, his misses were better than the rest of the fields miss. No one hits perfect shots all four days but Jordan when he missed never found himself in a position where he was going to waste shots.
His out of position shots left him in all the right places on the golf course where he had a legitimate chance of getting up and down. At the highest levels, all of the players hit great shots. What separates the great ones from the average over a tournament and time is where their miss ends up. Tiger Woods when he was at his best usually led the PGA Tour in scrambling. Sure he had a terrific short game but the real skill was that his misses were in better places than the other players most of the time.
How can we apply this to our game and save strokes?
We amateurs don’t think the way the pros do about a miss. We are merely trying to hit a good shot. That is our focus and when we don’t pull off a good shot, which is most of the time, we end up in a bad place. Think about this, the tour pros think about their miss on EVERY shot and they hit almost all of their shots well. We never think about our miss and hit most of our shots poorly. Who really is in need of that type of thinking? WE ARE.
Next time you are out playing, before every shot, look at where you do not want your ball to end up, anticipating that a miss is likely and play to where that miss won’t get you in trouble. If you hit a good shot, then great, if not, you have not put yourself in a place where you are going to waste shots. I bet you can save 3-5 strokes a round.
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