Most aspiring players have a laundry list of things they feel must be done to take their skills to the highest level possible. They are building the foundation of mechanics that make for a repeatable swing, honing their focus to quiet the mind and relax the body on demand, and learning how to look at a golf course through the eyes of the designer. This article is about the last of these three subjects.
When building a golf course, a designer can manipulate the contouring of fairways, greens, and hazard placements, and visually trick the player concerning how the hole should ideally be played. The only way to be positive that you are picking the best shot that will set you up properly for the next one, is to play the hole backwards. Try this: walk onto the back of the green, and looking back toward the fairway, visualize the ball coming toward you and landing on a spot from where, regardless of pin position, a par could easily be made. We call this spot the “optimum center” of the green (a place where you feel comfortable that you could 2 putt to any hole location). Get a playing companion or your caddie to stand on the spot you’ve chosen, walk back to the location of your tee shot and look at where that person is standing from the fairway-to-green view. Often times it will be a significant distance from where the architecture of the green complex makes you visually feel that the ball should land. You should mark in your course notes a visual reference from the fairway to the optimum center, as well as a yardage. Learning to play to the optimum center of the green is like strategically playing nine-ball in pool, but without the nines (threes are better in golf – oh, you knew that already). Next time you have a round where you wish to give yourself the best possible chance of scoring low, take some time to study the course from the green-to-the-tee. You’ll find yourself making more pars and birdies, and far fewer bogies. Go get em!