#TuesdayGolfClinic: Avoiding Trouble and Taking a Big Number



You ask. We answer.

Welcome to another edition of #TuesdayGolfClinic in which we field your golf questions submitted via social media (Facebook and Twitter), through comments at this blog and via email.

Q: Whenever there is trouble (water, OB, sand, etc.), my ball will always find it. How can I avoid trouble on these holes to prevent taking a big number?

submitted by Kyle Richards on Facebook

Thanks, Kyle. The way your question is worded, it must be your ball’s fault. You need to play a ball that doesn’t find trouble!

Seriously, though, here’s the first thing to know: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Even PGA Tour pros struggle with trouble of all kinds. Watch Russell Knox at the famous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass.

Following are a handful of tips for your consideration.

Play away from trouble. Whether it’s a lake bordering the tee, a pin near a sand trap, or a carry over a canyon or water, on most golf holes (not designed by Pete Dye) there’s a safe play away from trouble. Some call it a bailout shot. That’s OK. It’s also called smart golf. If you’re not an elite golfer, pick a safe target and distance for your shot—especially if you’re trying to avoid that big number.

Don’t under club. Take plenty of club and swing smoothly and with added confidence. Sometimes golfers overestimate their ability to carry trouble. If you’re basing your carry on your best shot with a particular club, you are putting too much pressure on your swing and game.

“You really have to have a good understanding of a comfortable yardage for whatever club you’re hitting,” said PGA Professional Chad Parker at PGA.com. “And you have to be realistic, especially on a carry shot like [over water]. If you mishit it and it goes in the water, you’re done.”

It’s in your head. Work on the mental aspect. Instead of thinking about the trouble, focus on your target and visualize the shot, including where your ball will end up. Trust your shot preparation and make your normal swing.

“Have a clear thought in your mind,” Parker said. “Instead of thinking, ‘Don’t hit it in the water,’ you should be thinking, ‘I want to hit my 9-iron 130 yards to the left-center of this green.’ That should be your swing thought and then try to execute that positive vision in your mind.”

Don’t worry about your score. As odd as it might sound, forget your score. Try not to think ahead. Stay in the moment and simply hit the next shot.

Finally, if you do find trouble and take a big number, shake it off as quickly as possible. It happens to everyone. Go on to the next hole and play your game. Don’t try to do anything heroic.

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Neil Sagebiel

Neil Sagebiel is a golf writer and author of two golf books published by St. Martin's Press, THE LONGEST SHOT and DRAW IN THE DUNES. He lives in Floyd, Virginia.

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