Be smarter off the tee

Last time we highlighted shot dispersion off the tee and used the 17th tee at The Open as a reference. Hopefully this also triggered some self-reflection of your own game. As I mentioned, on course lessons have been great for both the golfer and myself as your coach, firstly its in CONTEXT (i.e. on the course where the game is played), conversations arise naturally which leads to exploration and allows golfers opportunities to discuss strategies for certain holes/shots.

In this blog I aim to provide more food for thought as you work on your game this winter and debunk one of the golfing myths I hear too much!

Let’s start with do you understand your patterns and tendencies off the tee?

  • Patterns in terms of ball flight; your dispersion off the tee not just with driver but also other clubs 
  • Your pattern of club delivery and what causes the big miss?
  • How you react to certain holes/situations both physically and mentally?

Often, I find players:

a) don’t understand why the ball flies the way it does, and

b) a lack of awareness for where the ball was struck on the face.

These are key if you are to ultimately self-diagnose and self-correct on the course. We are all guilty of ‘losing our swing’ on the course, feeling helpless as we watch tee shot after tee shot find trouble. This is the point – can you learn to limit/reduce these occurrences and reduce penalising shots whilst out there. Penalty shots aren’t just lost balls, they include chip outs, hazards, fairway bunkers.

Here is a simple practice exercise and all you need is some athletes foot spray powder and two alignment sticks. Aim is to strike the ball out the cnetre of the clubface and start the ball online (through the alignment sticks), the two red arrows in the image could be your theoretical fairway.

Hit 10 drivers and after each shot; note strike location, start line and then its curvature. This will start to educate you on your patterns, add in some reflection and you may understand why you struggle with certain tee shots/holes.

Example:

ShotStrikeStart LineCurvature
1HeelLeftLeft to right
2CentreLeftLittle/none
3CentreCentreLeft to right
4HeelCentreLeft to right

Once again, this is a key focus point for me – helping golfers develop their practice strategies, on course thinking and ensure their lessons are improving performance and not just ‘going through the motions’.

MYTH BUSTING – A Tour Pro has modified or developed their swing to eliminate one side of the course… Run a mile if you hear this theory! 😉

For the 2022 season, the PGA Tour average was 15.71% tee shots finding the right rough & 13.28% finding the left rough … hardly eliminating one side of the course!

The same season, the top 3 drivers of the ball were as follows:

Right RoughLeft RoughAverage from Centre of FairwayFairway hit %
1st – John Rahm15.38%10.99%28’5″62.50
2nd – Cam Young17.20%16.35%26’8″58.67
3rd – Rory McIlroy13.09%12.30%26’3″58.06

Once again, it hardly supports the theory of eliminating one side of the course despite your natural shot shape (draw or fade to be simple).

If you think logically, how can we truly eliminate one side of the course? Think of all the environmental factors that we are not in control of; wind, bounces, slopes, style of hole. Then think of shot strategy, it might be better to be in the left rough than risking the right side of the hole with out of bounds or penal bunkers.

Now, it may be that a certain ball flight suits you better in the fact it is more reliable and/or gives you better dispersion. This is very different to changing your swing to eliminate one side of the course. Once we have identified this, we then create practice strategies to help maintain and improve such.

Please don’t fall foul of this myth!