Have you ever found that sometimes your game completely changes when you leave your home course?

Sometimes getting too comfortable with a golf course can actually hurt our game. Playing the same course over and over often requires that you hit similar shots over and over. I say similar because we will never play the course the exact same between two rounds but you will often have similar distances to greens — on par 3s for example. Now certainly if you are playing a tournament or an important round that is the time where you want to be as comfortable as possible with the golf course, but if you really want to improve your game you need to take yourself out of your comfort zone.

Usually I am going to say that entertainment (non-instructional) golf movies are not the best source of good advice but every now and then a real gem does stand out. In this particular case I am going to use the scenes from Tin Cup where Roy plays a round with garden tools and also when he shoots even par with only a 7-iron.

Now, I am not telling you to go to your local course with a bag full of garden tools but what we can learn from this is creativity. With most amateur golfers (high and low handicaps alike), I see they have only one way in their mind to hit each club — a 7-iron goes 160 yards, an 8-iron 150 yards, and so on. The problem is that these same people would never think to hit 7-iron if they were 140 yards from the green.  Being locked into a set mindset will not benefit you in golf. In this game there is no right or wrong —  it is instead about options. How many ways can you get the ball in the hole? Options are what make Phil Mickelson’s short game as good as it is. For any shot he comes up to I can assure you he is thinking of several different ways to get the result he wants.

One of the best ways to take yourself out of any comfort zone is to play a round with only a few clubs. Limit yourself to three or four clubs and see how you can get around the golf course. Another benefit of this drill is after doing it several times you will realize which clubs really make a difference in your actual score.

Club selection when you are only allowed a few clubs can make a world of difference. Another way is to play from different tees. I don’t recommend going back to a longer tee box than normal but certainly don’t be afraid to move up. Play a few rounds from the front tees just to change things up.  It may hurt the ego walking up to the short tee boxes every time, but it will help in seeing the course from a different angle and having to hit different shots than normal. One of my favorite drills, from Jim Flick, is to hit every club in your bag 100 yards (Use the 14-Club Rule.) Again the purpose of this drill is to show that there are many ways to get the ball in the hole. The best thing for you is to give yourself options.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum.

By Matt Newby

Matt Newby is a PGA Member and Certified Personal Coach at GolfTEC in Irvine, Calif.  He has more than 10 years of experience as a teacher and other facets of the golf business. In the past he was mentored by three PGA Master Professionals and has worked with the instructors of Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington, Jerry Kelly and Inbee Park.</em>

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  1. Depth perception is very important to golfer. Playing the same golf course over and over again really doesn’t test your depth perception because you know the golf course so well. Before you even reach your golf ball, you know what golf club you will use because you have played the same course so many times before.

    If you go to a golf course that you haven’t played and you haven’t walked off the distances, you can get an idea about how good your depth perception is. If you find that you are not too comfortable with your distance, you may not have the best depth perception. If, on the other hand, you do feel comfortable with the distance and your shots are ending pin high, then you may very well have very good depth perception.

  2. Troy,

    You are 100% correct, Playing with just a few clubs will do exactly that…help you learn new shots. The more options you have at your disposal the more likely you are going to execute. If you typically only play on the weekends I would suggest giving this a shot late during the week before dark. Usually at this time the courses have a lower rate so you are not spending a whole weekend green fee to just go out with a few clubs. Thanks for the feedback!

  3. I can definitely relate to us. Having played my local course most weekends for the past 20 years you tend to get used to hitting the same clubs into the same holes.

    I actually enjoy playing around there in winding conditions last weekend because it enabled me to play a lot of long clubs with a lower ball flight.

    I have heard playing a round with just a few clubs is a great way to develop skills and learn new shots.