by Stan Utley
Teacher’s Comments: You CAN get better without improving your swing.
In The Art of Scoring, short game guru Stan Utley offers a refreshing approach to the science of getting the ball up and down. Rather than concentrating on the nagging details of technique, Utley treats scoring as an exercise in problem solving.
Utley begins by following three players—two ten-handicappers and a nineteen—around a course, showing how correct decision making in their shots makes a big difference in their scoring. In the end, he makes the convincing argument that players of every ability can lower their scores through a better strategic approach:
… to score consistently, you need to know more than technique. I’m going to show you how to see the options around the green, pick the right one, and then make your technique match the shot you see in your head. You’re going to start hitting shots with intent—and that’s what separates poor game players from good ones.
In fact, Utley says, average players can gain far more than Tour players by improving their strategy choices—primarily because most amateurs don’t actually have a strategy.
Picking the right shot requires knowing your strengths, and in the second chapter, Utley offers a rationale and a system for keeping track of short game statistics. He calls them your short game and putting handicaps. Acquiring solid statistics on your game is a key to making good strategic decisions.
Scoring strategy is at the core of this book, but Utley does use two chapters to describe three basic short game shots: the basic pitch, bunker shot and lag putt; and three simple solutions for more complicated ones: the mid range pitch, the shortside out of the rough, and the long bunker shot. In truth, its likely that every decent player has these shots in the bag already. But with just these six, Utley says, you can tackle virtually every situation you’re likely to find. The key is properly applying each.
Proper application is the focus of much of the rest of the book. Through chapters on short game, bunkers and trouble shots, and putting, Utley describes a variety of scenarios, tells how to evaluate each, and offers some options for playing from that lie. Its all good advice, but there’s a lot to remember on the course.
Fortunately, like a good teacher, Utley offers a lesson summary at the end.The last chapter is a Quick Reference Guide that summarizes the lessons of the previous nine. In a practice round, I may actually photocopy these and stick them in my bag—or enter them into my Blackberry’s memo pad—for reference. The summaries are for me actually worth the price of the book.
Utley’s Art of Scoring is a short, but good work. Recommended.