When Correct isn’t Effective, or Effective isn’t Correct

By Bob Duncan

Golf is simple: hit the ball in the hole in the least number of strokes.

It’s that last part that started all the trouble!

So much has been written about the golf swing that some things are taken as mandates, but the bottom line is if they don’t work effectively on the golf course then they’re not the most effective way to play golf.

There is a difference between doing what is correct in practice and what is effective in play. We’re all trying to do what is correct to hit a golf ball on the practice range. But, what is effective on the golf course can be different from what was correct on the range.

Many times I’ve seen players mis-hit a shot that ended up close to the pin, and their response was negative because “it didn’t feel good”, or “that wasn’t what I was trying to do”. How does a shot that ends up in a desirable place become a negative for the player? C’mon man! The plan worked, even if it didn’t work in quite the way the player wanted.

Let’s consider what the plan is for your next golf shot: You are choosing the swing, the club, and potentially the trajectory and curvature of the shot. The better the lie is, the more you can do with it. The worse the lie is, the less you can do with it and the more likely you are to mis-hit it.


We all agree that performance changes on the golf course, and likely so because of changes in slope, lie, and wind. Take a tight lie for example: the ball is tighter to the ground, and more difficult to hit high. The shot is probably going to be mis-hit slightly lower on the face, causing the flight to be lower and shorter than normal. Correct performance on the range is now compromised, and knowing this is very valuable to the player – effectively, players know that this will more likely happen, and will play FOR this to happen. After all, how often do you get a lie as good as you had on the range?

Here’s another scenario: On the range you’ve found a “secret move” that seems to help you strike the ball more solidly and you’re ready to take it on the course. You get on the first hole and have a lie that is 4 degrees below your feet. Will that same secret move you perfected on the range work here?

It might if you adapt to the slope! But if you don’t adapt, that secret move will present the club in the position it worked on the flat range – which probably isn’t the same on this slope.

So, back on the range, you’re learning what it takes to hit the ball solid and straight. How do you decide if a movement or position you are trying to accomplish is what you should be doing?

It needs to be battle tested on the golf course. Test it from a good lie and a bad lie, from slopes and rough and fairway bunkers. Chances are it may not work everywhere, which also becomes good information. It may be effective in one case while ineffective in another.

The key is to focus more on the effective positions, movements, and “plays” that you use from different places on the golf course, rather than on the range. Like, playing for a tight lie to go lower and shorter than normal…

What is the evaluation of doing something correctly? If it works effectively where you need to use it – on the course.

Bob Duncan is a PGA Life Member, a Master Clubfitter, and developer of the Golfer Positioning System.


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