Let Me Be Your Caddy
Whether I am on tour playing in a Pro-Am or my home course, MacArthur Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida, I see plenty of amateur golfers. For the most part, they hit the ball well enough to enjoy the game and card some respectable scores. But what they don't do well is make good decisions on the golf course. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue. I can see them heading for a big number when they should be making par or bogey.
It really comes down to course strategy. Sure, method is important. But often the difference between making a double-bogey and bogey is the decisions you make while playing a hole. Hit a bad tee shot into the trees? Don't try to be a hero by going for the green. Put the next one back in the fairway.
There are so many opportunities to make bad decisions on the golf course, I almost wish 100-shooters played every round with a veteran cad¬die on their bag. A good caddie doesn't just clean clubs. He often helps you make the right choice -when to lay up, where to aim on a tough par-three, how to set yourself up for an easy two-putt.
Over the following pages, I'll be your caddie. If you follow these basic playing-strategy tips, I believe you will shave five to ten strokes off your next score.
Even the pros need a good caddie
From my old friend Squeeky Medlen to my current caddie Jimmy Johnson, I've been on the receiving end of a lot of good advice over the years. A caddie and a player - it's like a husband and a wife relationship. In fact, I probably spend more time with my caddie than I do with my wife. You've got to have that chemistry. I think a lot of great players have had that chemistry with their caddies over the years. And sometimes it's one shot on the back nine that can determine whether you come in first or third.
Let's take a double out of play
On this long par-three over water, you can fire at the flag
and try to birdie the hole. But, realistically, what are your chances of pulling this off?
Instead of trying to make a two, you should be more concerned with avoiding a five. Look at the overhead layout of this hole.
If you're a 100-shooter, your target should be the blue-shaded region. Notice how some of this area is off the green? That's OK. You can still chip on and make par, but it's an easy bogey for sure.
If you shoot in the 90s, aim for the red region.
Yellow is the zone for 80s- and 70s-shooters. But if you're not hitting it well that day, don't take any chances. Play for the red zone, too.
Play your favourite yardages
Knock it stiff for a birdie -
When do you go for a par-five in two? You have to weight up the situation. Do you really need to make an eagle? Is it paramount? If you're just trying to make a birdie or would be satisfied with a par, then I always say lay up to a position of strength. For me, it's 95 yards from the hole. You may feel more comfortable 120 yards from the flag than you do from 40.
Know your escape route
Don't get greedy -
I like to think of fairway bunkers in these terms. If you get into a weak position on the golf course, try to get back into a strong position as quickly as you can. That doesn't necessarily mean hitting it to eight feet from 150 yards out. It means making the next shot a lot easier than the shot you're facing. In-other words, your first concern in a fairway bunker is choosing a club that ensures you will escape. Everything after that is gravy.
Get it to the hole
My advice on putting is simple. The next putt should be easier than the last. That usually means getting the ball to the hole. As it rolls by, pay close attention to how the ball breaks away from the cup. Think two-putt.
Leaking Oil? Keep it low
To me, golf is a game in the air and also a game on the ground. People always forget that second part. When you're not hitting it well, try to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible. It's easier to manage your game and stay out of trouble.
But don't steer it
The golf swing is all about motion. Amateur golfers often try to steer the ball to the target instead of making a rhythmic, flowing swing. When you're hitting it poorly, focus on finishing your swing with a balanced follow-through.