When thinking about strategy, plan for your best and prepare for your miss
In Part 1 of this series, we talked about how filling our brains with the right thoughts will clear our mind to make the shot.
Now the question becomes “What should I think about?”
The answer lies in a simple axiom: Plan for your best shot, prepare for the miss.
Plan for your best shot
First, ask yourself the question, “If I hit this shot perfectly, where will it end up?”
This question isn’t as simple as it might seem. From the tee, we might automatically say, “The perfect shot will end up in the middle of the fairway.” But what if the pin is tucked to the right side of the green. In that case, the left side of the fairway is better.
The key here is the word “perfect.” In other words, if you could walk to the spot where you’d like your ball to be and drop it there, where would it be? Remember, the perfect shot sets up the next shot. It’s always about the next shot.
That sets us up for the second part of the equation.
Prepare for the miss
Now that you know exactly where you’d like your shot to end up, the next part is very important. Where is the best place to miss?
Almost every hole has a place that is a bad miss. For example, the fourth hole at Toad Valley has out-of-bounds along the entire left-hand side. On that hole, the worst miss is obvious. So if you’re going to miss, you want to miss right.
The miss on other holes isn’t as obvious. For example, the first hole I navigated during my playing lesson with Rob Randall was a par-5 that had a huge bunker down the left side, about 260 yards from the tee.
At first glance, it’s tempting to think, “Don’t want to miss left.” But looking at the right side was even more harrowing. About 5 yards off the fairway, the ground dropped off steeply, at least 20 feet straight down, into some trees and extremely long grass. You could play from there, but you’re going to be in trouble.
In this case, “preparing for the miss” meant that if I was going to miss, it was going to be in the bunker. I could still make par from the bunker. The chances of making par from the gully on the right were very small.
The perfect shot in this case was middle of the fairway. The best miss was left. So I lined up on the right side of the tee box and aimed it toward the right side of the bunker. If I hit it perfectly, I’d be in the fairway. But if I missed a little right, I’d be in the fairway.
But what about a miss to the left?
That brings me to the most important part of “preparing for the miss.” You have to know your own swing. In other words, how do you normally miss?
I know that for my game, my misses off the tee are usually to the right. I rarely pull the ball, and I almost never hook it. The chances of missing left were probably less than 10%. So I felt confident that my ball would not end up in the sand.
That’s the way you need to think through your shots. Fill your brain with shot strategy, and you’ll clear your mind from swing mechanics. You can play freely.
In my case, I hit the ball just a hair thin, but right on line. I ended up about 5 yards to the right of the large bunker on the left, setting up a fairly easy second shot.
So to summarize:
- Plan for the perfect shot
Look at the shot in front of you. Where will the perfect shot end up? Remember, the perfect shot is the one that sets up the easiest next shot.
- What’s my normal miss?
When I’m off target, where does it usually go?
- Prepare for the miss
Where would I need to aim the ball in order for my miss to leave me in the least amount of trouble?
Do the same for each shot, and you’ll be well on your way to lower scores – and more fun!