Life on the green: Professional guidance to the perfect golf game

Life on the green: Professional guidance to the perfect golf game

The truth is, there’s no correct way to swing a golf club. Look around at the players on Tour; no two swings are the same, yet they produce similar results. Some win more than others, and there are some similarities, but you can find a lot of variety. Take Bubba Watson, John Daly, and Jim Furyk, for instance; all three had incredible success, but you won’t find large numbers of teaching pros promoting their swings up as the ideal. There’s no universal way to swing a golf club. The only thing that matters is getting the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible. Bird Golf Academy says, “Since no two people/golfers are the same, how could we then teach everyone the same way…there are many ways to swing a golf club.”

In the same way, there’s no one correct way to play the game either. Swinging the club is only half the battle. I’m not talking about breaking the rules or changing your format. I’m talking about strategy. Every golf course is different, and I’m not talking about the design. Where a golf course is located has a big impact on how you play the game. Your strategy or approach may change slightly between Wichita and Denver, or Miami and Las Vegas. If you travel any significant distance to play golf, chances are high that your approach will need to change.

ELEVATION

A great golf shot is a combination of accurate distance and direction. If you get those two elements correct, then you’re going to be successful. That’s why understanding elevation’s impact is so crucial; it’s going to affect the distance of your shot. Now, if you don’t live in the mountains, you probably don’t think about elevation a whole lot. Wherever you play golf, that is your baseline. If you hit a 7-iron 150 yards at your home club and then travel to play golf in Vail, Colorado, you’ll need to know what to compare. You probably already knew that higher elevation makes the ball go farther, but it’s not as simple as just adding one or two clubs less for each shot. Instead, a great rule to follow is adding 2% for every 1,000 feet above sea level. That means if you’re going to play in Hilton Head, South Carolina, but live in Salt Lake City, the difference is about 4,000 feet, so you’ll hit the ball 8% shorter. The best way to fully understand the contrast is to experience it at a place like the Hilton Head Island Golf School at Palmetto Hall Plantation. Golf schools located in unfamiliar areas specialized in teaching you how to adapt your strategy to their region.

GRASS

Believe it or not, the type of grass also matters. This may change from course to course in your hometown. On a larger scale, though, different regions of the world can only grow certain kinds of grass. Your golf ball will respond differently to each of these and can influence the distance and direction of your shot. For example, zoysia is a type of grass that you’ll find in the Southeast United States. It will almost lift the ball up like it’s sitting on a small tee. Often, the results of shots coming off your clubface will have a lot more spin. Even if you’ve never hit an approach shot that sits or spins on the green, you might see your ball back up 5-10 feet when hitting off zoysia. That may sound nice, but it’ll change the club you select when hitting your shot. Chances are, you aim to land the ball around the same proximity to the hole on every approach shot. With zoysia, you may need to add a club because you might back the ball up a bit.

More importantly, different types of grass will change how you putt. For example, you might be accustomed to a certain speed or amount of break to play. It’s important to know what type of grass you usually putt on and the characteristics of that grass, specifically grain. The grain is the direction of the blades of grass. Some grasses, such as bentgrass, have little to no grain, so it’s not a huge issue. Other grasses, like Bermuda, will have significant grain. The grain will impact both the speed and break in a putt, so make sure you consider that when moving between golf courses. One tip: In greens with grain, look at the hole. There will be a side that is “burned-out” because the blades are growing away from the hole. That means the putt will break more towards the burned-out side of the hole.

The difference in the playability of the grass differs greatly between Chicago and Palm Springs. The Classic Club and their golf school will teach students how to read a Bermuda grass green properly to have the most success in that area.

No matter where you play golf, be aware of what you call “normal.” When you travel and check out new golf courses, you can adapt your game to the requirements of the area.

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