It was probably 9 or 10 months ago when I was sitting on my couch watching a little Golf on TV with my son and he said something to me that kind of spun my head around.
“Dad, I like watching the ladies play because they hit it around everything, the guys at the Masters just hit it over everything.”
I’ve had this thought on many occasions but it was quite something coming out of the mouth of an 8-year old. Essentially what he was seeing was the difference between chess and checkers. If you watched any of the Evian last week you were probably treated to a ton of birdies from the best players in the world but the beauty is how those birdies were attained. In most cases a total surrender to the design of the golf course all while relying on precision to get it done. This is not to say that Rahmbo, Phil, and Xander don’t play with the strategy, they do at a master class level but it’s also with the aid that if a hole allows, a long poke with the big stick can bring a 490 yd par 4 to its knees. It’s awesome to watch but hard to replicate for normal folk.
Well for one swing speed plays a huge role, 99% of the players that tee it up have speeds closer to the LPGA/Champions than the PGA Tour. I’m sure some folks in the forums somewhere are huffing and puffing but it’s the truth. Secondly, LPGA/CT players play golf courses as they are designed where PGA players might play 75% with all the long carries, cutting off doglegs, etc.
This is not a commentary on the distance debate, it’s a wake-up call for us weekend warriors that want to get better. The fastest way to lower your scores is not hitting it further, it’s setting up your mind, your bag, and your ego for efficiency.
Since taking the Callaway gig I’ve seen what this looks like 1st hand. I’ve been to Major Championships on all Three Tours (US Open, PGA, Sr PGA, and the ANA Inspiration) and what I saw was quite fascinating and oddly inspiring for my own game. NOW before I get going, the player that won the ANA was hitting BOMBS but was being chased by a player who was the polar opposite. Just saying, didn’t want you to think I was negating something. The young lady hit the driver like a damn God that week.
These are 3 things that LPGA and Champions Players do that we should all do. YES, even if you are a low handicap bomber, these can still help.
- Play to a FULL shot: When I was at the ANA INSPIRATION I followed Emma Talley and Yani Tseng for their practice rounds and one of the things I loved about their prep was the focus was always on finding a full shot into the green. At no point was there any concern as to a forced carry, pounding it way down there or playing to a narrow part of the hole. Always working away from trouble, always playing to the fat part of the fairways, and always finding the tee club that left them with a FULL shot into the green. I love this. I suck at this, I find myself with more 1/2 shots and awkward 3/4 distances than I care to admit. Not effective for a guy that plays twice a month. You know the drill, melt a drive down there, 60 yards in, nice 5. #rallykiller
- The bag setups are built for control: One of the things I was dying to see was the bag setups for the Champions Tour players at Southern Hills. My God was it a sight for sore eyes. TONS of Hybrids, Barely any 3-irons, and the gapping was flawless. Take Olin Browne for example (Callaway Staffer #1). His entire setup is built for height and spin. “I love loft,” he told me, “if you play with too little you have nowhere to go, most of us know how to take loft off but to try and add it is not the way.” You would be surprised that a good number of the iron lofts on The Champions Tour resemble specs you would see 20 years ago IE 36 degree 7 iron, 48 degree PW, etc.
- SPIN. SPIN. SPIN: You’ve heard me preach that “Spin is King”. On both of these Tours spin is something that is cherished. If the spin goes down for any reason you better believe the player will find clubs that mitigate that with the launch and descent angle. Hence why you see more Apex Pro, Apex ’21, 7-woods, 9-woods, 11-woods, etc. It’s not forgiveness they want, they all hit it out of the middle a ton, they desire launch windows that help them score. SPIN and its younger brother’s steep descent angle are paramount to control.
I was chatting with Retief Goosen at Southern Hills and at the time he was testing a new Epic Speed 3-wood. Goosen still POUNDS it, 170+ ball speed but he’s also a player that has always played with spin. When I asked him about what he looks for in a 3-wood, “I want it to go up with spin, not ballon spin, control spin. I don’t want a 2nd driver, I want a lay-up club.” It’s funny that with all the technology at their disposal, VERY few of the Champions Tour players hit their irons any further now than in their younger days, the only club that they even considering maxing out is the big stick. BUT not at the cost of control.
So Whats the Point Wunder?
I’m writing this because more than ever we ALL have the opportunity to look at our games in a different way. Start to look at distance as a secret weapon and not the benchmark of your whole game. Trust me, that’s a thing. It’s easy to get caught up in hitting BOMBS, I get it. But get honest, do wanna you be the longest player that finishes at the bottom of your flight or the saltiest that wins his club championship. Next time an LPGA or Champions tour event pops on SIT AND STUDY, watch where they hit and why they hit it there. You’ll thank me.
Be the player that is sneaky long and shoots his handicap on any course and not the player that pounds it and shoots 90 on a 6 handicap. That ain’t cool.
Take me for example, I chased getting longer for 4 years and my game SUFFERED. It was awful. I added spin with CSX, better launching irons Apex ’21 and a Driver that never dips below 2400RPM’s of spin. My handicap is now back down to a 1… and my golf swing didn’t get any better, it still sucks. I just got smart and stopped kicking my own ass.