Effective Play – Failure Is Not An Option!

Right fairway here is better than left because the green slopes severely to the right. And there is a ‘false back’ to the right on the green.

“The winner of a golf tournament is the player who fails the least.” – Ben Hogan

Success on the golf course is always less – less strokes. Less swings, less ball flights, less putts. And, this is where you count your score…So, how do you get more out of less, and have more fun playing golf?

You need Effective Plays. These are different options – or more importantly, “choices” – you have on the golf course, and you have more than you might think. Because failure is not an option!

What are the choices you have?

1) Aim

2) Shot Selection

3) Club Selection

4) Risk Management

What affects your choices?

1) Yardage

2) Grass Conditions

3) Slope

4) Wind Conditions

5) Obstacles

6) Landing Zone

Every time you hit a shot you make some allowances for these different conditions you’re facing. Which means, those conditions are affecting your choices. To be more successful and fail less, you need to play with the conditions instead of against them. Any single condition can affect your flight in any direction or trajectory, so it is helpful to know something about each.

For one thing, your dominant ball flight. Do you fade/slice, draw/hook, hit it straight, or seemingly hit it anywhere? In addition to your dominant flight, here’s a quick guide to condition influences, and what can happen when they get more severe.

  • Yardage: This will change with every shot, and will change as you consider the following variables.
  • Grass: More grass = pull/draw/hook   Less grass = push/fade/slice
  • Slope: Above feet = pull/draw/hook     Below feet = push/fade/slice
  • Downhill = lower/push/fade/slice   Uphill = higher/pull/draw/hook
  • Wind VARIABLE! Wind is NOT a constant force, but we usually think of it as a constant.
  • Into the wind: higher/shorter/makes any curve worse
  • Downwind: Lower/farther/makes any curve a little less
  • Cross:  Obviously influences in the direction of the wind, but since it is not a constant force it can make your shot curve more or less depending on whether you are curving it with the cross direction or against it. And, curving against can either knock it down or it may cut through the cross. This is why you see the pros being so indecisive on the par 3 #12 at the Masters.
  • Obstacles: You want to avoid them, right? You must choose a flight that avoids them. When curving thee ball, the rule of thumb is to pick a safer landing zone!
  • Landing Zones: You have different slopes, obstacles, and even ground textures. First, does the ground accept or reject your incoming trajectory? In other words, will the slope accept – make it stop, or reject – make it bounce and roll?

So how do you succeed? If you noticed the conditions above that are in bold above, the first 2 are less grass (tight lie) and ball below your feet. Both of these will influence the ball to fade. Combine that with hitting into the wind and not only can the ball slice, but depending on the severity of the wind you may lose 1 to 3 clubs in distance.

Now, the question is not “how do I hit this straight”. The question is, given these conditions, what do I have to do to get the ball closer to the hole? The answer is to use an Effective Play. Choose where you want to “play” the ball, and since each of these will make the ball fade, it can easily become a slice. As it increases in severity you should choose from where to aim, a swing adjustment, a longer club selection, and a much safer landing zone.

What makes you fail? You can have exactly the same set-up and swing as you use on the range (consistency!), and because of these conditions you can easily fail if you don’t consider them – in other words, failure to assess and adapt to the conditions. Since failure is not an option, you need to recognize when the conditions will prevent your ball from achieving your intended flight.

What makes you succeed? Effective Plays! When you analyze the conditions and use them to your advantage by making the right choices to work with the conditions. This may not lead to consistency, but it can lead to something just as important – maybe more: predictability!

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