Does a certain hole have you stuck in Groundhog Day?
What if I told you that you had to eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for a month? Or you had to wear the same clothes for a month. Would you do it? Most of us would say “No way!” The iconic Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day presents just that situation. The “same old, same old” every day, such that you can predict the exact outcome.
It seems that one of the “game play” things I am consistently troubleshooting with my players is how they navigate the course. A lot of times it is with a member who is having trouble on a course they play several times a week, so there is an adverse familiarity with the layout — sometimes way too familiar. They tee the ball up in the same place (and the tee markers rarely move far enough to change the strategy/club selection), hit the same club and get stuck repeatedly with the same result. It’s like “Groundhog Day” every time they play that hole. They are stuck in an endless loop of the same error over and over again.
Below are two stories from two players of different skill sets — a PGA Tour player and a player at my academy course. They both had specific holes that gave them fits.
Jerry is a member that I have worked with for several years and his handicap has progressively dropped from 12 to 5. He hits the ball with a nice little draw throughout his bag and has become a very consistent ball striker.
Recent history had him struggling with our 7th hole. It is a double-green, par-4 of average length with water all the way up the right side and a green that tilts toward the hazard on the right. It has a big runoff to a grass valley on the left of the green. The low area, which sits several feet lower than the putting surface that runs away from you, is dead. Jerry hits that fairway nine times out of 10, but just can’t shake a miss to the left that leaves him in the valley of death. He would come up to me and tell me about his bogey or double on No. 7 from the middle of the fairway after every round.
On EVERY approach, he would have a full 7 or 8 iron and hit it left, no matter what he tried to do mentally. It was a hook or a pull into that spot like a magnet. It got to be such a joke that I told him if he did it again that the club was going to put a plaque there with his name on it.
So after one round, where he told me of another miss left, I asked him to go through the last few times he played that hole and his entire process for the approach. What he described was the same for every approach; visualize a nice high draw, take a practice swing and feel the shot, pick his target and then setup and swing. Invariably, the ball went left into the valley of doom. So I told him, let’s do something different. Familiarity can breed repetition if we are not careful. We just get into a robotic mode of making the same decision without conscious thoughts and analysis.
What I proposed was hitting a different approach shot. We chose a little knockdown shot for the next time he played the hole. Then the time after that I wanted him to hit a little cut in there. Then a draw. Then a three-quarter shot. It didn’t matter what it was, I just wanted a different shot into that green for the next five times he played the hole. And guess what — it worked! He started to hit the green regularly. We found a go-to shot where he’d consistently hit the green.
This helped him make a few pars and the occasional birdie. It got so much better we were forced to put the plaque on hold.
PGA Tour player
I was working with a player out on Tour a couple of years ago and we were at the Sanderson Farms Championship when it was played at Annandale GC. He was telling me of his continuous struggles with the 17th hole — I could tell it gave him nightmares. He loved the rest of the layout, but No. 17 really got under his skin for whatever reason. The tee shot just did not fit his eye, which subsequently made finding a workable ball flight and shot shape to play the hole a big issue. I always tell my players that every course will have a hole or two that gives you fits. You have to find a way to play those holes and avoid a double or triple bogey that will blow up your scorecard.
Here’s how we fixed it.
Instead of playing a full practice round, I suggested we play just that hole until he loved it. Why bother with the other ones you know you can play well? So we went out to No. 17 and discussed what has happened in the past.
- What club he normally tried to hit?
- What shot shape did he try to put out there?
- What did he see as he visualized the shot?
After lots of data was shared, we chose several shot shapes with different clubs. I had his caddy pull out a few balls and we stood on the tee and hit four or five shots until he settled on a flight and shape with a club he felt would easily hit the fairway. Over the course of the event, he hit the fairway every time and made steady pars using the club, flight and shape we determined on the tee during the practice session.
So what’s the lesson? Next time you step on your “Groundhog Day” hole, commit to a different shot than the one you’re used to playing — one that makes you feel more comfortable. It may just open the floodgates for success on that hole in the future!
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The Wedge Guy: What really needs fixing in your game?
I always find it interesting to watch how golfers interact with the practice range, if they do so at all. I certainly can figure out how to understand that some golfers just do not really want to get better — at least not enough to spend time on the practice range trying to improve.
What is most puzzling to me is how many golfers completely ignore the rationale for going to the range to at least warm up before they head to the first tee. Why anyone would set aside 4-6 hours of their day for a round of golf, and then not even give themselves a chance to do their best is beyond me. But today, I’m writing for those of you who really do want to improve your golf scores and your enjoyment of the game.
I’ve seen tons of research for my entire 40 years in this industry that consistently shows the number one goal of all golfers, of any skill level, from 100-shooter to tour professional, is simply to hit better golf shots more often. And while our definition of “better” is certainly different based on our respective skill level, the game is just more fun when your best shots happen more often and your worst shots are always getting better.
Today’s article is triggered by what we saw happen at the Valspar tour event this past Sunday. While Taylor Moore certainly had some big moments in a great final round, both Jordan Spieth and Adam Schenk threw away their chances to win with big misses down the stretch, both of them with driver. Spieth’s wayward drive into the water on the 16th and Schenk’s big miss left on the 18th spelled doom for both of them.
It amazes me how the best players on the planet routinely hit the most God-awful shots with such regularity, given the amazing talents they all have. But those guys are not what I’m talking about this week. In keeping with the path of the past few posts, I’m encouraging each and every one of you to think about your most recent rounds (if you are playing already this year), or recall the rounds you finished the season with last year. What you are looking for are you own “big misses” that kept you from scoring better.
Was it a few wayward drives that put you in trouble or even out of bounds? Or maybe loose approach shots that made birdie impossible and par super challenging? Might your issue have been some missed short putts or bad long putts that led to a three-putt? Most likely for any of you, you can recall a number of times where you just did not give yourself a good chance to save par or bogey from what was a not-too-difficult greenside recovery.
The point is, in order to get consistently better, you need to make an honest assessment of where you are losing strokes and then commit to improving that part of your game. If it isn’t your driving that causes problems, contain that part of practice or pre-round warm-ups to just a half dozen swings or so, for the fun of “the big stick”. If your challenges seem to be centered around greenside recoveries, spend a lot more time practicing both your technique and imagination – seeing the shot in your mind and then trying to execute the exact distance and trajectory of the shot required. Time on the putting green will almost always pay off on the course.
But, if you are genuinely interested in improving your overall ball-striking consistency, you would be well-served to examine your fundamentals, starting with the grip and posture/setup. It is near impossible to build a repeating golf swing if those two fundamentals are not just right. And if those two things are fundamentally sound, the creation of a repeating golf swing is much easier.
More from the Wedge Guy
- The Wedge Guy: It’s not all about distance
- The Wedge Guy: Are you really willing to get better at golf?
- The Wedge Guy: Anatomy of a wedge head
Clement: It’s hard to hit the driver badly when you’re doing this
Mu and I go through the swing of the driver in slow motion to show the difference between hitting at the ball and then trying to move it to target versus collecting the ball from the top of the tee and releasing it into the flight plan. Check out the video to learn what this means for your golf swing.
Also: Congrats on Savy getting another personal best of 337 yards at the WLD event in Mesquite!
How to hit a fade…according to YouTube, a robot, and GolfWRX members
How to hit a fade. At some point, if you aren’t a habitual slicer of the golf ball and are able to hit a draw with regularity, in your quest to become a better golfer, you’re going to want to know how to do this.
Without debating the relative merits of a draw versus a fade, it’s agreed that working the golf ball both ways is key to to scoring, positioning off the tee, and risk minimization. If you’re a golfer who is currently only slinging draws, we have some advice for you on how to hit a fade from three very different sources.
How to hit a fade…
…according to a robot (that is, A.I. language model ChatGPT):
A fade is a type of golf shot that curves gently from left to right (for a right-handed golfer). If you want to know how to hit a fade, follow these steps:
- Set up for the shot: Aim your clubface at the target, but align your feet, hips, and shoulders slightly to the left of the target. This open stance will help promote a left-to-right spin on the ball.
- Grip the club: Hold the club normally, but slightly weaken your grip by turning your hands slightly to the left (again, for a right-handed golfer). This will help you hit the ball with an open clubface.
- Swing the club: On your backswing, keep your clubface square to the target for as long as possible. Then, on your downswing, try to swing slightly from the inside to out, which will help produce the left-to-right spin on the ball. Finally, make sure to follow through towards the target with a high finish.
- Practice: Hitting a consistent fade can take some practice. Spend time on the driving range and experiment with different grip and swing adjustments until you find what works best for you.
Remember, hitting a fade is not about hitting the ball harder, it’s about controlling the spin and direction of the ball. With practice, you can learn to hit a reliable fade that can help you navigate tricky golf course layouts.
Hitting a fade takes practice, and it may take some trial and error to find the right adjustments for your swing. It’s also important to note that a fade is not necessarily the ideal shot shape for every situation, so it’s important to be comfortable with hitting a variety of shots on the golf course.
How to hit a fade…according to the most-watched video on YouTube on the subject
With more than one million views on YouTube, this video from Any and Piers of MeAndMyGolf not only covers hitting a fade but also discussing drawing the golf ball as well as hitting it high and low.
…according to GolfWRXers
And of course, our GolfWRX forum members have opinions on the subject.
The appropriately named PreppySlapCut said: “If the face is open to the path, the ball is going to fade. There’s several adjustments you can make to encourage that to happen, it’s just a question of what feels best for you and allows you to do it most consistently.”
Bladehunter says: “For me just the sensation of taking the club back outside your hands , and then swing left with a face square to target , while turning hard as you can makes for a pretty straight flight that won’t hook. Unless you stall and let your hands pass you.”
“That’s my take as an upright swinger If you’re really flat it’s going to be tough to time up and never have the two way miss Because you’re always coming from the inside and will rely on timing the face open or shut to see a fade or draw . For me it’s just set the face at address and feel like you hold it there until impact”
Dpd5031 says: “Had a pro teach me this. Aim a little left, stance slightly open, still hit it from the inside (just like your draw), but unwind chest hard letting handle follow your rotation so toe never passes heel. He called it a “drawy fade.” Ball takes off almost looking like it’s going to draw, but tumbles over to the right instead of left. Cool thing is ya dont give up any distance doing it this way as opposed to cutting across it.”
Scottbox says: “Jon Rahm is a good example. Watch the hand path of his backswing– his hands are not as “deep” as someone who draws the ball (i.e. Rory). And even though he has a slightly shut face, Rahm rotates his chest and hips very hard. Because there’s less depth to his backswing, the club gets more in front of him at P6. He’s most likely 1-2* outside in at last parallel. Brooks Koepka has a longer swing, but similar, in terms of his hand path– well above the shaft plane going up with less depth to his hands at the top, and slightly above the plane coming down.”
“Most good modern players rotate pretty hard with their hips and chest to stabilize the face, but the difference between those who draw it and those who hit a baby cut is often seen in the way they “engineer” their backswing patterns.”
Check out more of the “how to hit a fade” discussion in the forum thread.
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Feb 3, 2015 at 3:05 pm
You would think it was common sense to play different shot if the usual strategy is not successful or consistent. BUT we golfers are nature of habit and just won’t accept change at times. I like the idea of playing same hole over and over again until you figured it out. I play same course 99% of time and at times I just don’t thing what I suppose to do because I play the usual shots rather being more creative or look at alternatives. Will get this advise t heart.
Feb 5, 2015 at 9:45 am
You are right, we can become creatures of habit especially in golf. Have some fun next time you play that course. If you have a hole that has you stuck do something different with club or shot selection. One thing players tell me is that on some par 5’s they never go for it. Well go for it next time and you might surprise yourself and hit a memorable shot! Thanks for your comment…
Feb 2, 2015 at 3:54 pm
Excellent article Rob! I have been having a similar conversation with my new club pro the past few weeks. My arch-nemesis hole at the club is our 16th and it is very similar to your academy player’s. For me, it is a medium length par four dog leg to the left with a large left sided water hazard (pond) that encroaches on the intended landing area for your tee ball. Predominate winds from the south push all shots toward the water hazard. If you choose driver from the tee you have a tiny landing area with water left and OB right. Most layup with a long iron to 3w which leaves you with a 150-180 yards to the green. The green has water nearly upto the fringe and the right side of the green has a large down slope from the cart path to the green. For me, I usually bailout to the right and play for the up and down rather than risk the draw/hook into the water. A nice knock down punch shot may fit the bill rather than play for the hill with a little draw.
Feb 5, 2015 at 9:41 am
Thanks Doc for your comments. Like your thought about next time hitting a little punch shot in there. Get yourself out of Groundhog Day!