JUDGING DISTANCESIf you're like the rest of us who "SUCKATGOLF", you've spent most of your practice time focusing on making solid contact and hitting the ball far and straight, and there's nothing wrong with that. There is however another variable to nestling one up close to the pin and that is judging distance. Distance control is something the pro's have down to an art, but something few amateurs get overly concerned about until they're over the ball on the course.
Here is a simple homework assignment that will help you gauge distances and in turn feel more confident that you've got the right club in your hand for any given shot:
1. Take note after your next round of golf how many shots you lost by misjudging the distance. It will most likely be more than you think. This will give you the motivation to proceed to step 2!
2. Go to a range or field where you can hit balls AND be able to walk out later and see where they've landed. (If you just don't have that kind of area or shag balls available, the regular range will have to do.) What you need to do is hit a half dozen or so shots with each club and make note of where the "average" shot lands. If you hit 10 seven irons and the average is 150 yards, THAT is your 7-iron distance. Jot it down. Do this for every club in your bag. If you hit a real clunker don't count that, same for "worm burners" that wind up 180 yards out. Take your normal smooth (or not so smooth!) swing. You're trying to find your "comfortable" average range. No need to prove to anyone how far you can hit your seven iron right now.
Now equipped with the information on YOUR average distance for every club in your bag, you can approach your shots on the golf course with the confidence that you have the right club for the shot at hand.
This can prove especially helpful when you play a lot of different courses and don't "just know" what to hit. The pro's have a caddy who maps the course and can tell them exact distances from anywhere on the course. If Tiger knows he hits his wedge 150, and he's 145 out, he can ease it up a bit and should be right there. When you're playing a new course you don't usually have the luxury of a caddy, but today many course have detailed scorecards with distances from whatever crazy spot you may have landed. It's hard sometimes to trust the card or markers, as they're not always exact, but if you don't have anything else to go on at least you can stand over the shot knowing that IF the card and markers are correct you've got the right club.
I know this seems like a lot of work, and knowing your range doesn't mean you'll execute the shot. But every variable you can clear your mind of when over the ball will make it that much more likely you'll make a good swing.
So what are you waiting for? The clubs are in the trunk, get going! ...and don't forget your pen and note pad.