As I was playing yet another course for the first time yesterday (the Tradition, and in the same day, the Fazio at Treetops), I started to wonder if my nomadic ways are a help or a hindrance to the development of my game.
I have a “home” course—Green Oaks in Ypsilanti—and in those friendly confines, I generally play well. I know what clubs to hit off the tee, and the location of likely misses. Barring a tee mishit, I also know what club I’m going to use on the second shot. There are in fact several clubs in my bag that I’m sure have never been used at Green Oaks.
It’s all a bit staid, and in that sense works against me. Playing there, I don’t develop new shots, or work on every club in my bag. I get used to the feel of the ground, and the texture of the sand. Much of what I learn there doesn’t travel well.
Still, my home course is the place where I groove my swing. I can focus more on process and less on results. Green Oaks is the place where I go to get my swing “healthy” when I’ve lost it.
Exploring new courses offers different opportunities. On a new track, I often find myself at unfamiliar distances on uncomfortable lies. I am forced to use clubs I would never use at Green Oaks. Those are positives. A good golfer, I think, has the ability to use all 14 clubs in a variety of ways. Playing new courses forces me to push my game.
On the other hand, my play—and swing—suffer. After playing four or five “away games,” I find that my basic shots—driver, six and seven iron, pitching wedge and putter—are not as reliable. I start popping up my drives, chunking the irons and pushing the putter. I think that it has to do with slightly different setups and stances for the relatively unused clubs on unfamiliar lies. I’ll hit a five wood with the ball just below my feet—something I would never see at Green Oaks—and when it doesn’t work quite right, make an adjustment. That adjustment carries over to the next shot and before I know it, everything is askew.
I wonder if I would be a better player if I played seventy percent of my rounds at home, and thirty away or the other way around (as I do now).