Pick up any golf magazine or walk into a golf shop and you will have a hard time not noticing an ad that promises to increase your distance. Every year the manufactures present the “new” clubs as being longer and more forgiving. This theme has golfers believing the easiest way to lower their score is by increasing their distance. They would like us to think that in order to be a single digit handicap you have to drive it 300 plus. So I have been asking myself, at what point does distance no longer become the dominate pitch in golf? When will we start taking an honest look at what really keeps people from shooting lower scores? Time for a dose of reality!
This week I have students competing in the SDGA Match Play Championship and have been in New York for the Credit Union Challenge spending time with Kim Kaufman. After spending five days watching some of the best women players in the world, I am reminded there are a variety of ways to play the game at a top level. I have walked with girls who hit the ball short and long and can report the leader board is a mixture of both. The same can be said for the SDGA Match play where one of my students who is consistent, but short off the tee is well into the final rounds. Short hitters are competing and winning at all levels.
In the last few years I have come to the conclusion that getting the ball in play off the tee is much more valuable than distance. When I watch my students play and look back on their poor rounds, it becomes very evident that the high scores came from curve in the golf ball not lack of distance. Shots that are flying into hazards, going out of bounds and into the trees put players in constant mode of recovery. Don’t believe me? Answer this, when was the last time you hit a ball OB as the result of not having enough distance? My guess is never! On the flip side, look back at your best rounds and more than likely you will recall being in the fairway most of the day.
As a golf instructor for 20+ years, I know the best players I have coached and played against were all great drivers of the ball. Consistently getting the ball in play no matter the distance is the first step to lowering your score. If you want to play better golf, spend your time and energy on controlling the curve of your golf ball no matter the distance. As I tell my students, “You can play straight but you can’t play crooked”.