As important as knowing your distances is knowing your tendencies. I’m always amazed when a playing partner steps up to the tee, plants his ball in the center, and announces: “Look out. I have no idea where this is going.” Often as not, the high-handicapper takes a mighty swing and slices the ball into the treeline. It’s probably the same result eight out of ten times.
Rare indeed is the player whose swing is so erratic that he truly has no idea where the ball is headed. More likely, the weekend warrior is either delusional, or uninformed.
The delusional player knows he’s going to slice (or pop it up or hook or whatever), but because he once in a great while hits a ball that behaves, has convinced himself otherwise. A related delusion says that even though it’s always a slice, THIS time, I’ll figure out the magic move and drive it right down the middle. The uninformed player has simply never thought seriously about his game and really doesn’t have a clue.
Knowing your ball flight tendencies can save you pile of strokes on the course. If nine times out of ten you slice a club, you can plan for that by aiming to compensate. Similarly, when lying behind a line of trees, it pays to know which club will carry you over the leaves.
The solution to knowing what your ball is going to do is to collect raw data. The next time you play, ask the appropriate questions. Does your driver slice, draw, fade or hook? How high does it fly? What does the three wood do? The five iron? Your pitching wedge?
Chances are that your shot shape varies from club to club. One will induce you to a low draw, while another consistently slices. I tend to slice my longer clubs, except for the driver, which I hit with a fade or a hook. The shorter clubs also trend toward a fade. Knowing how each club tends to perform will allow you to choose the correct tool for each job.
As you play your next few rounds, keep track of the ball’s flight path. Note both the shape of the horizontal flight and also of the height. I found that a good way to do this is to draw a sketch of each shot on the illustration of the hole on my scorecard. This method allows for quite a bit of post round analysis.
The trick, as with most mental golf tips, is to actually remember to put them into play. If you already have a handy card with your club distances recorded, include a note about each club’s shot shape. Then, when setting up to take your shots, remember to play your percentages.
This mental golf tip is an excerpt from The Five Inch Course: Thinking Your Way To Better Golf.