One of the most important elements of playing great golf is eliminating mistakes with your tee shots through smarter club selection.
I have watched way too much golf on TV over the years. I will literally watch any tournament that is on.
Outside of so much wasted time on the couch, I have picked up several things watching the pros play so much. One of the more valuable concepts that I think we can learn from them is their club selection off of the tee. Watch how many times a round they are hitting clubs less than driver, it’s usually quite a few. That is because they are managing their risk, and you should be too.
With a longer club and lower loft, your margin of error increases. For the most part, you bring parts of the golf course into play with a driver that you would not with an iron or 3-wood. Of course we are all still capable of hitting a terrible tee shot with the safer club, but I’m speaking about averages. I’ve heard excuses for using the driver all of the time that sound like, “I can’t hit my 3 wood, or I don’t like my hybrid”. Then practice with them more! Also, let’s not forget the fact that everyone just wants to crank one out there.
One of the main things holding my game back for many years was my mistakes off of the tee. My round would be moving along, and then all of a sudden I would spray my driver out of bounds, and that familiar sinking feeling in my stomach would return. There is no bigger momentum killer than having to re-tee your ball. Ultimately, I realized that I was taking on too much risk with my club selection, and bringing double and triple bogey into play when I should have been making bogey at worst.
On a short par 4 I was trying to get that 60-90 yard wedge shot, and I was costing myself valuable strokes when I couldn’t hit the driver accurately. So I started doing what the pros did. I took out my 3-iron hybrid and was leaving myself with 120-150 yards instead. All of a sudden I was racking up more pars, and my scores were improving.
Most of us are not good enough to convert wedges to birdies consistently, that’s where the pros make their money. With a more aggressive play, amateur golfers are just setting themselves up for higher scores without the reward. You can make par from 150 yards, or even 200 yards on the fairway. You will have a much harder time if you’re out of bounds, or stuck in the trees.
There is no shame in keeping the driver in the bag, and I know most of us are just dying to bash one out there!
Your goal on every tee shot should be to give yourself the best opportunity for keeping the ball in play. If you know that a hole has trouble, just take it out of play as best as you can. Getting 30-50 yards closer is not worth it in most cases. During a round this can be a harder strategy to implement because we’re always looking to take that gamble. On average you will end up with a better score if you are smarter about your club selection, I promise you.
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Photo by Zach Dischner/CC BY 2.0