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Driver or 3-wood off the tee?

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I’ve been in a driving slump lately. Balls that once reliably went straight and (by my standards) long now may go left, right, or may not be long enough even to reach the trouble they are mistakenly headed toward.

Maybe four or five times a round now, my once trusty big stick sends a golf ball off into the no man’s land where good scores go to die.

By the 16th hole a few days ago, a friend who’d just closed me out suggested I use 3-wood off the tee instead of my erratic driver.

[quote_box_center]“You can’t hit it any worse,” I think is what he said.[/quote_box_center]

I didn’t listen to him of course; I hit driver like I always do and I finished OK. But it made me wonder, maybe I should hit 3-wood sometimes. I went out to some local courses to ask other golfers how often they hit 3-wood instead of driver.

“You’re giving up, what? Twenty yards hitting 3-wood?” Craig asked when I prodded him on the subject over a beer after his round at Greystalks.

“I suppose, yes, maybe 25,” I said. “But you’re trading that distance for accuracy.”

“Son,” he answered with his southern drawl, “you haven’t seen me hit 3-wood then.”

For players who pound the ball with nearly pro-like distance, giving up 20 yards, even on a 430-yard par-4, doesn’t really make that much difference; they sometimes happily trade that distance for accuracy.

[quote_box_center]“When I need to be in the fairway,” long-hitting Paul told me before teeing off, “I’ll hit 3-wood. But on most holes I use driver. It’s part of why I love golf, hitting a big drive. And I can fly those fairway bunkers on the right…”[/quote_box_center]

Of course sometimes the set-up of the hole dictates 3-wood instead of driver.

“I hit my driver 260 or so with maybe 230 yards carry,” Anthony said at Greendale GC. “If there’s trouble around 250, then I hit 3-wood off the tee. If the trouble ends before, say, 215, then I go over it.”

“What about trouble left or right?” I asked.

“I keep my driver straight enough,” he answered confidently.

For most golfers, the 3-wood is a more accurate club than driver off the tee.

“On a tight hole,” Steven, a 6-handicap in his mid-30s told me, “if there’s trouble right, I’ll consider hitting 3-wood. My usual miss with the driver is right, not left.”

Short par-4s are also a time when some weekend golfers choose the 3-wood off the tee.

[quote_box_center]“No way, boss,” Darrin contradicted me. “A short par-4 is when I want to power my drive as far as I can.”[/quote_box_center]

His friend Larson was standing with us on the driving range.

“I’ll try and lay-up to 80 or 90 yards for a full sand wedge on a short-4,” he said, “but I’ll use my hybrid probably, or maybe the 4-iron, not the 3-wood.”

“That’s playing it smart,” I said.

“Usually, not always,” Darrin interrupted. “There’s nothing worse than him trying to lay-up and then hitting the ball into trouble. I have to tell him there’s no whining in golf.”

I read somewhere that a good way for players to decide when to hit 3-wood rather than driver is to play a practice round on their home course hitting both driver and 3-wood (or whatever your longest wood is) off each tee to compare the results.

I tried it. I went to Verde Greens Country Club on a warm-to-hot Sunday afternoon in the Coachella Valley. I played a match: a Titleist ball with the driver vs. a Bridgestone with the 3-wood.

I had the course virtually to myself. That is, no one was there to see me skim my first drive 110 yards off the tee. I immediately put the Bridgestone on a peg and hit the 3-wood really well. I thought maybe I was on to something, but eventually both balls made a bogey on the par-5 opener.

The driver clearly struggled at the start, leaving the 3-wood/Bridgestone team in better shape off the tee through the first five driving holes. Despite that, the match was tied in holes, though a greenside failure left Titleist a stroke down.

Then driver hit its stride, with the Titleist finding the fairway on six of the next seven holes. Those favorable drives led to a stretch of pars and a two-hole, one-stroke lead.

When it was all over, on the 14 test holes (non par-3s), the Titleist and driver won match play 2-up shooting 68 to 3-wood and Bridgestone’s 69.

The driver and 3-wood each hit tee shots that led to five GIR, and three of those were the same holes, handicaps 3, 12 and 14, two short par-4s and a par-5.

On three of the 10 par-4s, the approach shots for the driver/Titleist were wedge distance, three times they were 7-irons and the others were long irons or hybrids. The 3-wood’s approach shots four times were another 3-wood, three were middle irons, two were wedges, and one was a 9-iron.

The driver outdistanced the 3-wood on nine of the 14 test holes by an average around 18 yards. Four of the other five holes were short wins by the 3-wood and the other was the aforementioned 110-yard driver on the opening hole.

The 3-wood/Bridgestone combination hit the fairway 12 of 14 times with one major screw-up. The driver found only nine fairways, hit two bunkers and had two misses right and one short.

An important difference I noted came on the three longest par-4s. On those, the second shot after the 3-wood drive was another 3-wood. And on one of those holes the Bridgestone had no chance to reach the green in regulation, while the Titleist was left with a hybrid 3-iron approach.

What to make of this?

It was just one round and there’s not enough data to be conclusive; clearly though, I’m capable of hitting both good and bad shots with both the driver and the 3-wood. If I only knew which was going to be which in advance.

Still, the overall advantage was with the driver, though perhaps there’s something to be gained by not automatically grabbing it on every par-4 or par-5.

I can’t tell you now what club I’m going to use on No. 1 next Saturday, I don’t know. But I do know that at some point in the round, after a poorly struck driver or 3-wood, I’ll probably think to myself: “I should have hit the tee shot with the other club.”

Do you sometimes hit 3-wood off the tee? What’s your game plan for using driver and 3-wood? Let us know in the comments section below. And read the humorous story of Don “Tin Foil” Reynolds as he tries to shoot the round of his life: check out 7-ironpress.com. Get free shipping on Tom Hill’s paperback, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth, with the code GOLFWRX, or $4 off on the e-book when you enter the code GOLFWRX1 at check-out. It’s a great Father’s Day gift.

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Tom Hill is a 9.7 handicap, author and former radio reporter. Hill is the author of the recently released fiction novel, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth, a humorous golf saga of one player’s unexpected attempt to shoot a score he never before thought possible. Kirkus Reviews raved about A Perfect Lie, (It) “has the immediacy of a memoir…it’s no gimme but Hill nails it square.” (kirkusreviews.com). A Perfect Lie is available as an ebook or paperback through 7-ironpress.com and the first three chapters are available online to sample. Hill is a dedicated golfer who has played more than 2,000 rounds in the past 30 years and had a one-time personal best handicap of 5.5. As a freelance radio reporter, Hill covered more than 60 PGA and LPGA tournaments working for CBS Radio, ABC Radio, AP Audio, The Mutual Broadcasting System and individual radio stations around the country. “Few knew my name and no one saw my face,” he says, “but millions heard my voice.” Hill is the father of three sons and lives with his wife, Arava Talve, in southern California where he chases after a little white ball as often as he can.

40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. Ed

    Sep 16, 2022 at 12:07 pm

    Great another single digit golfer’s opinion on 3 wood vs driver off the tee. I love the comments from those who just don’t understand why you just don’t use the driver or that all you need to do is choke down a bit. After 15 years of practice and lessons I still spray the ball all over the place with the driver my second shot is 90% of the time from the rough or behind a tree or drop from lateral or water hazard. When I play 3 wood I shoot in the mid 80’s with the driver mid 90’s. I know in theory if I can hit the 3 wood straight and far I should be able to do the same with driver but after 15 years of trying I have decided to shot lower scores instead.

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  4. Trey Wingbat

    Aug 31, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    I don’t understand how it’s easier to hit a 3 or 5 wood off the tee rather than a driver? If I want to hit a shorter shot, say 240 yards or so off the tee, I simply choke down on my driver, and it does the trick every time. The bigger club head seems to me like you’d be much more consistent off a driver than a 3 or 5 wood.

    I do also choke down on my pitching wedge and gap wedge when within a certain distance, so maybe I have the entire concept of choking down to a tee (pardon the pun), and most people don’t even consider this.

  5. Chris

    May 30, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    I often use 3 wood on uphill drives, and downwind drives. My overall total distance is often quite similar in those 2 situations and the 3 wood gives me an accuracy advantage. And on tight longer holes I’ll often reach for 3 wood or hybrid even if it’ll leave me an extra club or two in on the approach because after I analyzed stats it made an approximate .2+ strokes per hole difference in those situations to find the fairway.

  6. et

    May 26, 2015 at 1:01 am

    all goes out the window when you mess up the conservative 3wood off the tee to end up 200 plus out for the second shot.

  7. Jeff

    May 24, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Yall haven’t moved up to the white tees yet? Ha. Keep spending money. See ya next year.

  8. Lowell Madanes

    May 24, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    A lot of the decision is really based on how accurate you are with your driver. If you are talking hooks and slices then for sure we would be in for using 3 wood off the tee. If you are talking slight pulls and pushes, then I would stick with the distance over accuracy. I average 285 off the tee and my 4 wood gets me in the 245 range. Would I give up 40 yards in order to be a little straighter. Answer would be no in my case. I would much rather be further up an extra 40 yards and be off of the fairway in the rough rather than 40 yards back and be in the fairway. Mind you my example here is a staight forward par 4 that has typical bunkers. Each hole and each course will vary and taking one over the other is personal preference. Go with which club hits it the furthest and most accurate.

  9. Paddy

    May 21, 2015 at 11:03 am

    I struggle to answer this question too. I’m an aggressive player and always use the driver (except for par 3s of course) with a handicap of 13. My driver swing speed is between 95-98 mph and carry 230 yards with a maximum distance of 270-280 yards on a good day. Recently I’ve started to reduce my swing speed by 20% to allow for batter accuracy as I usually have a disgusting slice at 100%. Using my 3 wood at 100% swing, I can reach 250 yards on a good day with accuracy. I’d always ask my playing partner for advice on what to use on each tee and his response is “driver – always driver” so I tend to use my 3 wood on my 2nd shot for par 5s. I issue is that I lack the confidence on using the 3 wood off the tee even though I am more accurate with it than the driver, I guess the thought that goes through my head is how embarrassing it would be if I miss hit the 3 wood off the tee as the other plays may judge me and have a misconception that I think I’m better than them as I use a 3 wood instead of a driver off the tee. A couple of weeks ago, I was paired up with a golfer who could easily hit 300+ yards off the tee with his driver and only used it a handful of times on that round. So I asked him how he determines what club to use off the tee and his response was; any holes that plays 380 yards or below, he uses his 3 wood and this will increase your confidence with every 3 wood shots. So going forwards, I’m going to use this rule and see how I fair compared to using the driver for every tee.

  10. RobG

    May 21, 2015 at 10:08 am

    I have a young family and I work in the consulting industry, the only time I get to play golf is with clients, suppliers, industry sponsored tournaments, and company scrambles. When playing in those situations it’s almost always white tees in the 6000-6300 yard range. If I hit driver off the tee on most par 4’s I’m left with awkward 60-90 yard approach shots and since I don’t play that much those shots are very difficult. I would much rather hit 3W off the tee and give up 30 yards so I can hit full wedges and short irons into greens.

  11. Desmond

    May 20, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    On tighter holes, I typically forget to grip down 1.5 inches for more control because I’m working on swing thoughts …. lol

  12. Rich

    May 20, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    I will hit either depending on the course set up at my home club. For example, the 10th is a 389 metre par 4 from the tips. I hit driver from that tee because I can’t reach the fairway bunker. If the tees are forward, I hit three wood because the fairway bunker is in play for driver. It would be the opposite on 16 though. 351 metre par 4 and if the tees are back I’ll hit short of the fairway bunker with 3 iron or something and if the tees are up, I’ll hit driver over the fairway bunker. If it’s driver or 3 wood or whatever else, the shot you play should have the highest percentage for you to have your best score, not just pound it down the fairway.

  13. Alex

    May 20, 2015 at 11:48 am

    I always go with my driver, save a very short par 4 that needs a hybrid. The thing is the driver is the club I feel most confident about in my bag. Now the other day I took 5 clubs for a quick nine. I grabbed my 3 wood instead of driver and I realized I can hit it really long and straight off the tee. So I’m considering now.

  14. Dave S

    May 20, 2015 at 10:57 am

    I go through highs and lows with my driver as well. Currently I can’t hit it in play to save my life, so I left it in the bag for two round in a row on two pretty tough courses. I played better than I would have hitting driver. For me, getting a ball in the fairway (or at least in the first cut with a look at the hole) means a world of difference in my scores. Like most amateurs, I suffer from the one or two blow-up holes a round that wreak your score. That Par 5 where you hit your drive into the trees that then requires you to hit 3/5 wood off the deck on your second shot to even have a shot at bogey, ends-up turning into a triple, murdering your score. If I hit a ball over 200 yds into the fairway, I’m pretty much guaranteed no less than bogey since I’m decently proficient with my irons, short game and putting. But I just cannot afford the errant tee shot… Until I can get to the range for a long practice session to hopefully work out the kinks in my driver swing, I’ll be hitting 3w for the foreseeable future.

  15. Pete

    May 20, 2015 at 10:04 am

    I hit 3-wood 12 of 14 times a round. I actually only grab the driver if I have lost some confidence after a bad tee shot with my 3-wood (because the face is so big). I hit the 3 just as far, if not further, and definitely straighter. I bought the Callaway X Hot 3 Deep to make this 3-wood a mini-driver. Works great, and I am contemplating dropping the driver all together and adding another hybrid. Definitely worth a try.

  16. Kurt

    May 20, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Good test; interesting and well written article.

    For me, I think the call is situational. Some days, if getting stuck with the Driver (my fault), then the 3W is a stop gap. I tend not to overs wing that club and it ends up in play.

    Further, on certain holes, I think the decision comes down to confidence. Everyone has holes that don’t “fit their eye.” Don’t overthink it. Hit the 3W on those holes, sacrifice the distance, but save the stroke or poor result because of a less than committed swing.

  17. Golfraven

    May 20, 2015 at 4:55 am

    Currently making friends with my 3 FW then my driver. Even with same shaft I am hitting it better with the wood and more consistent. For now the driver will only be used on the driving range.

  18. Mike

    May 20, 2015 at 3:30 am

    Well written article on your experience with the driver / 3 wood trade off.

    I’d advise you to purchase Richie Hunt’s work, namely Pro Golf Psynosis 2013. He studdied tour stats and numbers (so i agree the data suggests more elite level performance principles) but his research led to designers listening and the design of clubs such as the SLDR mini driver / phrankenwood.

    His research is sound and also takes into account the likely proximity to the hole from both driver follow up shots and 3 wood shots, both fairway and rough.

    He is a fellow writer for this site.

    Nice work Tom.

  19. Philip

    May 19, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    I’ll continue to hit 2 wood until I can hit my driver further (no slice/duff/hook). Besides my max with both is the same, so until I can pipe my 2W straight down the middle with a draw/fade that was by choice – in the bag it’ll stay.

    • adam

      May 20, 2015 at 12:25 am

      farther

      • TheCityGame

        May 20, 2015 at 9:50 am

        Love it when people correct others and they’re incorrect, or only marginally correct in very specific circumstances.

        http://grammarist.com/usage/farther-further/

        “Many counterexamples could be found, however, and using further in place of farther is never an error”

      • Jeff

        May 24, 2015 at 3:41 pm

        Nothing wrong with the use of further in this instance. It would be better to completely learn the language you are attempting to correct than learn a few rules and and replacements. Yeah, I before e, most of the time, not always. Read books, not Internet forum replys. Stop being pedantic, it’s unoriginal. You’re just mad cause dude stripes his 2 wood and you think you should dribble your driver further/farther, see, doesn’t matter. It can’t always be your way.

  20. Jonny B

    May 19, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    For me it is dictated by the hole. I tend to hit a fade with my driver, and a draw with my 3 wood. I average about 265 with driver and 245 with the 3 wood. I like to hit driver but if the hole doglegs left or runs out of fairway I am going with 3 wood. I’m equally accurate with both and usually hit about 50% of fairways.

  21. I

    May 19, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    I do not give up much yardage at all if any. For some reason both my 13.5* 3-wood and driver travel around 270ish (may be a swing flaw in my driver)……instead I use it for the shot shape needed, driver to fade and 3 wood to draw. Henrik Stenson inspired me to use 3-wood a ton off the tee, for me 3-wood and driver are equal as accurate, I just prefer the flight of the 3-wood more

  22. Andy muir

    May 19, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    I played all last season with only 3 wood in bag, never lost much distance but kept ball in play on fairway all the time. Gave me the confidence to buy new driver this season after working on my swing with the 3 wood.

  23. Joel

    May 19, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    I use 3-wood on many holes of my 7,400 yard home course. It’s for a few different reasons.
    1. The fattest part of the fairway is my three wood. Why should I hit driver if both clubs give me a wedge in and the driver would fly to a skinnier part of the fairway?
    2. I can control my distance and spin the ball better on a 3/4 or full wedge than a 60 yard pitch.
    3. On a very narrow hole where I have to hit the fairway because…
    4. I do hit my 3-wood straighter
    Having said that. Where trouble is, distance and direction is the primary reason to pick my tee shot club followed by the rules above.

  24. Mandark

    May 19, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Only 68? What a horrible dilemma.

    • Desmond

      May 20, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      It was for 14 holes according to the writer — no par 3’s.

  25. rer4136

    May 19, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Somewhat baffled. You shot 68 and 69 and say you struggle off the tee?

    • Bryan P

      May 19, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      that was probably the scores from the non-par 3 holes… so add about 12 if there was 2 a side and its 80-81. I think he said the comparison was on the non-par 3 homes so I would assume that is what the scores were from. I could be wrong though.

    • Tom HIll

      May 19, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      no, no, no I wish – for the 14 test holes – the par 4s and par 5s, I shot 68 and 69 – for the round it was an 82 and an 83

  26. F M shouse

    May 19, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Hit 1 iron off tee one of the new driving irons from calls way or taylormade or old one like vft. Practice long irons for into greens either run up or high shots. Focus on wedges and putting. Move up to white tees have s beer and enjoy. Use driver only to show playing partner that you can blast it into next county if you want too.

    • Philip

      May 19, 2015 at 8:30 pm

      If I cannot get my woods under control I will go all irons by the fall. My irons 4 – PW have been saving my bacon whenever my woods get me into trouble.

  27. Nate

    May 19, 2015 at 11:43 am

    My driver tee ball is usually a high baby fade that carries about 270 and rolls to about 295. Sometimes I can really get a hold of one and hit it about 320. When I miss, it is always way right. My 3 wood carries about 250 and usually has a low boring trajectory which leads to about 20-30 yds of roll. My miss is a pull left. I like to lay back off the tee and go with 3 wood when there is trouble right. I am not any more accurate with my 3 wood than my driver so if I need to hit a fairway, I will got with a 3 iron that I can hit about 230-235 when struck well. I am really lucky because I can hit my irons really high, so hitting a low to mid iron into the green isn’t usually an issue.

  28. Tony

    May 19, 2015 at 11:25 am

    I haven’t carried a driver for roughly 3 years. I’m not a stellar golfer, basically a straight bogey guy, but my #1 problem has always been getting off the box in one piece.

    My 3 wood (2008 Cleveland Launcher) is my spirit animal. When it’s on I hit it like a dream. Despite my handicap, I’m a long hitter (being 6’4 helps), so not having a driver doesn’t really hurt me terribly much. For some reason, the larger clubhead triggers something in my brain and makes me incapable of hitting it.

    I guess it really depends on the player at the end of the day. I have friends who score worse than me but their driver is the only club they hit consistently well. I’m the opposite.

  29. Leon

    May 19, 2015 at 11:24 am

    I got an easy solution: cut your driver shaft to 43″ instead of its current 45″-46″. Change to a lighter grip or add some weights on the head to bring the swing weight back to your preference. Now you have a big stick with the same length of a 3 wood but offers lower loft, tons of more forgiveness, higher COR (titanium face vs steel face) = longer distance, and what else? Confidence!

    Unless you can manage the 3 wood to reach the par 5 in 2, otherwise, replace it with an additional wedge or something that helps your short game.

  30. TR1PTIK

    May 19, 2015 at 10:49 am

    There are certain holes on my local muni where I need to bench the driver unless I want to flirt with OB and I typically hit my 3-wood between 240-250 off the tee so it’s a good option for me on a lot of the short par 4’s in my area. I’ve also knocked my 21* hybrid as much as 235 off the turf and hit a 270+ tee shot with it yesterday (thanks to a 10mph tailwind). Needless to say, I’m not lacking for distance if I use something other than driver – I just really like to hit it because of the potential for even more yardage.

  31. Carlos Danger

    May 19, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Stopped carrying a 3 wood about a month ago for a number of reasons:
    1. Picked up a 19 SLDR and it goes really far. I can get it out there to 260 off the tee. Which at my home course (and pretty much any course) is plenty far.
    2. I play a fade with my driver and if I miss I miss soft right. Rarely miss left. I play a draw with all my other clubs and if I miss with a Fwy/hybrid it goes left. If I miss with a 3W it goes WAY left.
    3. I rarely hit a 3W from the fairway…and if I do I can count on my hand the successful shots I have hit with it. Why risk a bad shot to hit it 265-70 (3W) when I know I can hit a safe 240 shot with a hybrid?

    So… I took the 3w out and added a driving iron that gives me a nice 230ish low ball flight. Loving the setup so far. However…I LOVE 3 Woods so its really hard not to put one in the bag. I have 3 or 4 sweet 3w setups sitting here but hopefully I can stay strong and stick to the setup that is working for me.

    In closing, I would say that if you hit hybrids well, I would test out a lower lofted hybrid (16-17) and see what kind of results you get. If your finding the fariway more often…maybe thats ht move for you.

  32. B

    May 19, 2015 at 10:15 am

    If driver is going to leave me with more that 70 yards but less than 115 then I will opt for 3 wood. Would rather have a full pitching wedge than a partial lob or sand wedge into the green.
    If I want to hit a draw that flies high and stops quickly I will opt for 3 wood. If I feel that hitting a great drive on a par 5 will still leave me with a risky long iron or hybrid, then I will take 3 wood or the hybrid on the par 5 tee and take my 3rd from 130-160 yards.

    There are a few other special situations that would make me go in that direction but I cant think of them right now.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 RBC Canadian Open betting preview: Breakthrough PGA Tour winner likely in Canada

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The PGA Tour is heading north of the border to play the 2024 RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. 

This will be the seventh time that Hamilton Golf and Country Club will be hosting the Canadian Open. The previous six winners were Rory McIlroy (2019), Scott Piercy (2012), Jim Furyk (2006), Bob Tway (2003), Tommy Armour (1930) and James Douglas Edgar (1919). 

Hamilton Golf and Country Club is a par-70 measuring 7,084 yards and features greens that are a Bentgrass and Poa Annua blend. The course has been open since 1915 and is one of the oldest golf clubs in Canada. 

Since we’ve seen it last, the course underwent a $8.5-million restoration guided by Martin Ebert.

The RBC Canadian Open will play host to 156 golfers this week.  Notable players include Rory McIlroy, Sam Burns, Cameron Young, Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Sahith Theegala and Alex Noren.

Past Winners at RBC Canadian Open

  • 2023: Nick Taylor (-17, Oakdale)
  • 2022: Rory McIlroy (-19, St. George’s)
  • 2019: Rory McIlroy (-22, Hamilton)
  • 2018: Dustin Johnson (-23, Glen Abbey)
  • 2017: Jhonattan Vegas (-21, Glen Abbey)
  • 2016: Jhonattan Vegas (-12, Glen Abbey)

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Key Stats for Hamilton Golf and Country Club

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Hamilton Golf and Country Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

The best metric to start with is Strokes Gained: Approach. Proficient iron play is a requirement anywhere, and this statistic will help target the hottest golfers. With the winning score likely being very low, players will need to be dialed with their approach shots. 

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Corey Conners (+1.14)
  2. Kelly Kraft (+1.06)
  3. Rory McIlroy (+0.88)
  4. Patton Kizzire (+0.87)
  5. Alex Noren (+0.76)

2. Good Drive %

Hamilton is a short golf course, so keeping the ball in the fairway, or just off, will be more important than bombing the ball this week. 

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Kelly Kraft (+89.3%)
  2. Daniel Berger (+87.9%)
  3. Nate Lashley (+87.6%)
  4. Chan Kim (+86.6%)
  5. Aaron Rai (+86.1%)

3. Bogey Avoidance %

I expect golfers to go low this week, in order to compete, limiting bogeys will be crucial. 

Bogey Avoidance % Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Alex Noren (+10.6%)
  2. Brice Garnett (+10.6%)
  3. Aaron Rai (+11.3%)
  4. Kevin Tway (+11.4%)
  5. Henrik Norlander (+11.4%)

4. Strokes Gained: Total in Canada

This stat will boost the players who’ve done well in Canada over the past 36 rounds. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Canada Over Past 36 Rounds

  1. Rory McIlroy (+4.28)
  2. Tommy Fleetwood (+3.07)
  3. Aaron Rai (+2.91)
  4. C.T. Pan (+2.80)
  5. Gary Woodland (+2.21)

5. Strokes Gained: Putting

Shorter courses with a lot of birdies being made tend to turn into putting contests. I believe a good putter will win the RBC Canadian Open.

Strokes Gained: Putting Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Mackenzie Hughes (+1.04)
  2. S.H. Kim (+0.84)
  3. Matt Kuchar (+0.74)
  4. Ben Griffin (+0.72)
  5. Sahith Theegala (+0.66)

The RBC Canadian Open Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (30%), Good Drive % (25%), Strokes Gained: Canada (15%), Bogey Avoidance % (15%), SG: Putting (15%).

  1. Aaron Rai
  2. Rory McIlroy
  3. Sahith Theegala
  4. Patton Kizzire
  5. Justin Lower
  6. Shane Lowry
  7. Tommy Fleetwood
  8. Alex Noren
  9. Kelly Kraft
  10. Jhonnatan Vegas

2024 RBC Canadian Open Picks

Tommy Fleetwood +1800 (FanDuel)

Tommy Fleetwood was incredibly close to winning last year’s RBC Canadian Open. The Englishman took Canadian Nick Taylor to four playoff holes before losing on Taylor’s miraculous eagle putt from 72 feet.

Despite being at a different course this year, Fleetwood is still a great fit for this event. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 23rd in the field in good drive percentage and seventh in bogey avoidance. The course is a shorter, plotters track, which will suit Fleetwood’s ability to hit it accurately from tee to green.

Tommy has gained strokes off the tee in six consecutive events. Those events include some big events such as The Masters, the PGA Championship and the Wells Fargo Championship. In those six starts, he has three top-15 finishes.

It’s been well documented that Fleetwood is yet to win on American soil and has looked like a different player when in contention outside of the United States. While it’s most definitely a mental hurdle that the 33-year-old will need to overcome, it doesn’t hurt that this event will be north of the border.

Martin Ebert, who redesigned Royal Liverpool and Royal Portrush, redesigned Hamilton as well. Fleetwood finished 2nd at Royal Portrush in 2019 and T10 at Royal Liverpool in 2023.

Backing Tommy has been frustrating at times, but I’m still of the mindset that betting on talent will eventually pay dividends.

Alex Noren +2500 (BetMGM)

Alex Noren is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. The Swede has an incredible eight straight top-25’s on Tour, with two of those being top-ten finishes. Noren has gained strokes on approach and around the green in all eight starts and has gained strokes off the tee in seven of eight.

Despite the strong results, the concern with Noren has been his inability to truly get into contention. However, this golf course feels like the right one for him to change that. He’s not incredibly long off the tee, so the shorter layout should help him. In his last 24 rounds, Noren ranks 6th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 8th in Good Drive Percentage and 3rd in Bogey Avoidance.

Noren’s ability to keep the ball in the ideal spots and limit mistakes should serve him well at Hamilton this week. In an event where accurate drivers should shine; he will have an advantage on the field. He hasn’t won on the PGA Tour, but the 41-year-old has ten wins on the European Tour. Being outside of the U.S. certainly won’t hurt Noren’s case.

Sam Burns +2800 (FanDuel)

Sam Burns had an excellent showing in Canada a few years ago, finishing in a tie for fourth place at the 2022 RBC Canadian Open a week after winning the Charles Schwab Challenge.

After a hot start to the season, Burns has struggled over the past few months, but has seemed to find some form with his irons in recent weeks. He finished T13 at the Wells Fargo Championship and gained 2.0 strokes on approach for the week. His irons were even better in the two rounds at the PGA Championship (+1.51 strokes per round), but a balky putter cost him the weekend, as he lost 5.1 strokes on the greens.

Burns is a player who can win an event with a hot putter and has done so in the past. He can make birdies in bunches and is one of the few players in the field that can win in both a difficult event and a shootout.

Robert MacIntyre +8000 (FanDuel)

Robert MacIntyre showed some life at the PGA Championship, finishing in a tie for 12th. For the week, MacIntyre ranked 16th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 18th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

The 27-year-old is a high upside player who has shown he can compete in big events. He’s also been putting great recently which I believe is one of the most important factors this week. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 6th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

We’ve seen MacIntyre play well at Open Championships and Martin Ebert, who redesigned Royal Liverpool and Royal Portrush, redesigned Hamilton as well. MacIntyre finished T6 at Royal Portrush in 2019.

Bobby Mac has gone toe-to-toe with some of the world’s best players at the Ryder Cup, and I believe has the right mentality to beat anyone if he finds himself in contention down the stretch.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Early season wedge game tune-up

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Depending on the part of the country you call home, you might just be getting into the 2024 golf season, or you might be several months into it. Either way, your scoring success this season – like every season – will likely drill down to how good your game is from 100 yards and in.

The best way to sharpen your wedge play is, surprise, spend some time refining and practicing your technique. Whether it’s winter rust or mid-season sloppiness, your wedge game can be a serious cause of frustration if and when it goes sour on you.

If you want to be sharp when it really counts, give it some time and attention. Start with a detailed look at your fundamentals – posture, alignment, ball position, grip, and grip pressure – and then advance to an examination of the actual chipping and pitching motion of the swing.

No matter what your skill level might be, I am convinced that time spent on the following drills will yield giant rewards in your scores and enjoyment of the game. There is nothing quite so demoralizing and maddening than to hit a good drive and better-than-average approach shot, then chunk or skull a simple chip or pitch, turning a par or bogie-at-worst into a double or even more.

Core activation

The key to a solid short game is to synchronize your arm swing with the rotation of your body core. They simply have to move together, back and through impact into the follow-through. When I’m about to start a short game session, I like to begin with the club extended in front of my body, with my upper arms close to my chest, then rotate my upper torso back and through, to give me the sensation that I am moving the club only with my core rotation, with the hands only having the job of holding on to it. In this drill, you want to ensure that the clubhead is exactly in front of your sternum as you rotate back and through. When you lower the club into the playing position, this puts the upper end of the grip pointing roughly at your belt buckle and it stays in that “attitude” through the backswing and follow through.

S-L-O-W motion

I believe one of the most misunderstood and destructive pieces of advice in the short game is to “accelerate through the ball”. What I see much too often is that the golfer fails to take a long enough backswing and then quickly jabs at the ball . . . all in the pursuit of “accelerating through the ball.” In reality, that is pretty hard NOT to do if you have any kind of follow through at all. Relying on that core activation move, I like to make very slow swings – back and through impact – experimenting with just how slow I can make the swing and still see some ball flight. You’ll be amazed at how slow a body rotation can be made and still make the ball fly in a nice trajectory.

Windows

I’m borrowing this term from Tiger Woods, who often spoke of hitting his iron shots through certain “windows,” i.e. first floor, second floor, etc. For your short game, I simplify this into hitting short pitch shots on three different flight trajectories – low, medium, and high. I have found the simplest way to do this is to use the same swing for each shot and determine the trajectory by where you place the ball in your set-up. Start by finding the ball position that gives you what you consider to be a “normal” trajectory with your sand wedge. Then, hit some shots with the ball just one inch back and forward of that spot and see what trajectory you get. You can then take that to another level by repeating the process with your other wedges, from your highest lofted to your lowest.

Ladder drill

For this exercise, I like to have some room on the range or practice area that lets me hit balls any distance I want, from ten feet out to about 25 yards, or even more if you can. I start by hitting a basic chip shot to fly precisely to a divot or piece of turf I’ve targeted about ten feet in front of me. The next shot I try to land where that ball stopped. I repeat that process until I have a line of balls from ten feet to 25 or so yards from me. With each shot, I repeat it until I can land my shot within a foot or less of my “target ball.”

The idea of this kind of practice with your short game is to hit so many shots that you feel like you can do anything with the ball, and you can take that confidence and execution skill to the course. You can literally work through a few hundred shots in an hour or so with these drills, and there’s nothing like repetition to build a skill set you can trust “under fire.”

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge betting preview: Tony Finau ready to get back inside winner’s circle

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After an action-packed week at the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour heads back to Texas to play the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth.

Colonial Country Club is a 7,209-yard par-70 and features Bentgrass greens. The difficulty of the event this week will be influenced by course setup and/or wind. The last four seasons have all produced winners with scores between -8 and -14, with the two most recent playing extremely difficult. Last year, Emiliano Grillo won in a playoff against Adam Schenk at -8, and in 2022, Sam Burns edged out Scottie Scheffler in a playoff at -9.

After last season’s event, the course was renovated by Gil Hanse. I expect the course to stay true to what the original design intended, but will improve in some areas that needed updating. Jordan Spieth, who is one of the most consistent players at Colonial, told Golfweek his thoughts on the changes.

“I always thought courses like this, Hilton Head, these classic courses that stand the test of time, it’s like what are you going to do to these places? I think that’s kind of everyone’s first response,” Spieth said. “Then I saw them, and I was like, wow, this looks really, really cool. It looks like it maintains the character of what Colonial is while creating some excitement on some holes that maybe could use a little bit of adjusting.”

The Charles Schwab Challenge will play host to 136 golfers this week, and the field is relatively strong despite it being the week after a major championship.

Some notable golfers in the field include Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa, Min Woo Lee, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and Akshay Bhatia. 

Past Winners at Charles Schwab Challenge

  • 2023: Emiliano Grillo (-8)
  • 2022: Sam Burns (-9)
  • 2021: Jason Kokrak (-14)
  • 2020: Daniel Berger (-15)
  • 2019: Kevin Na (-13)
  • 2018: Justin Rose (-20)
  • 2017: Kevin Kisner (-10)
  • 2016: Jordan Spieth (-17)

Key Stats For Colonial Country Club

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Colonial Country Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Approach will be a major factor this week. It grades out as the most important statistic historically in events played at Colonial Country Club, and that should be the case once again this week.

Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  2. Ryan Moore (1.00)
  3. Tom Hoge (+0.96)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+0.85)
  5. Greyson Sigg (+0.83)

2. Strokes Gained: Off The Tee

Both distance and accuracy will be important this week. Historically, shorter hitters who find the fairway have thrived at Colonial, but over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of the players in the field use big drives to eliminate the challenge of doglegs and fairway bunkers.

The rough can be thick and penal, so finding the fairway will remain important.

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  2. Keith Mitchell (+0.90)
  3. Kevin Yu (+0.87)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+0.81)
  5. Min Woo Lee (+0.80)

3. Strokes Gained: Total in Texas

Players who play well in the state of Texas tend to play well in multiple events during the Texas swing. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over past 36 rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.16)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.97)
  3. Tony Finau (+1.91)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+1.68)
  5. Justin Rose (+1.62)

4. Course History

Course history seems to be much more important at Colonial Country Club than most other courses. The same players tend to pop up on leaderboards here year after year.

Course History per round Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.31)
  2. Justin Rose (+1.70)
  3. Harris English (+1.66)
  4. Webb Simpson (+1.54)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+1.47)

5. Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass)

The Bentgrass greens at Colonial are in immaculate condition, and putters who roll it pure are at an advantage. Historically, great putters have thrived at Colonial.

Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass) Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  2. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  3. J.T. Poston (+0.87)
  4. Maverick McNealy (+0.85)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.74)

Charles Schwab Challenge Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: OTT (25%), Strokes Gained: Total in Texas (14%), Course History (17%) and SG: Putting Bentgrass (17%).

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Chris Kirk
  3. Tony Finau
  4. Billy Horschel
  5. Daniel Berger
  6. Maverick McNealy
  7. Adam Schenk
  8. Collin Morikawa
  9. Austin Eckroat
  10. Sepp Straka

2024 Charles Schwab Challenge Picks

Tony Finau +3300 (FanDuel)

Tony Finau hit the ball incredibly well at last week’s PGA Championship. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, gaining 9.3 strokes in the category, which was his second-best performance on approach this season (Farmers T6). Finau’s tie for 18th at Valhalla is ideal considering the fact that he played very well but didn’t have the mental and emotional strain of hitting shots deep into contention in a major championship. He should be sharp and ready to go for this week’s event.

Finau has been phenomenal in the state of Texas. He ranks third in Strokes Gained: Total in the Lone Star state in his past 36 rounds and just recently put up a T2 finish at the Texas Children’s Houston Open last month. He also has success at Colonial. He finished 2nd at the course in 2019 and T4 at the course in 2022. He missed the cut last year, however, that seems to be an aberration as he hasn’t finished worse than 34th in his seven other trips to Fort Worth.

Finau has gained strokes off the tee in 10 of his 13 starts this season, and his ability to hit the ball long and straight should give him an advantage this week at Colonial. He’s also gained strokes on approach in 11 of his 13 starts this year. His tee to green excellence should work wonders this week, as Colonial is a challenging test. The concern, as usual, for Tony, is the putter. He’s in the midst of the worst putting season of his career, but with a target score in the -8 to -13 range this week, he should be able to get away with a few mistakes on the greens.

Finau is one of the most talented players in the field and I believe he can put it all together this week in Texas to get his first win since last year’s Mexico Open.

Sungjae Im +5000 (BetRivers)

Sungjae Im is really starting to play some good golf of late, despite his missed cut at last week’s PGA Chmapionship. Im missed the cut on the number, which may be a blessing in disguise that allows him to rest and also keeps the price reasonable on him this week. The missed cut was due to some woeful putting, which is atypical for Sungjae. He gained strokes slightly both off the tee and on approach, therefore I’m not concerned with the performance.

Prior to his trip to Valhalla, Sungjae was beginning to show why he has been such a good player over the course of his career. He finished T12 at Heritage and then won an event in Korea. He followed that up with a T4 at Quail Hollow in a “Signature Event”, which was his best performance on the PGA Tour this season. At the Wells Fargo, the South Korean was 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and showed his skill around and on the greens.

Sungjae has had some success at Colonial. He’s finished T10 and T15 with two missed cuts scattered in between over the past four seasons. When he is in form, which I believe he now is, the course suits him well.

Im hasn’t won since 2021, which is an underachievement given how talented I believe he is. That can change this week with a win at Colonial.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout +5000 (FanDuel)

I absolutely love this spot for Christiaan Bezuidenhout. The South African is having a fantastic season and this is a course that should suit his strengths.

Prior the PGA Championship, Bez hadn’t finished worse than 28th in six consecutive starts. He’s not the type of player who can get to -20 in a “birdie fest” but can grind in a tougher event. He is a terrific player in the wind and putts extremely well on Bentgrass greens. Bezuidenhout has also had success both in Texas and at Colonial. He ranks 16th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course and 10th in Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over his past 36 rounds.

Part of what has made Bezuidenhout play so well this year is his increase in ball speed, which has been the recipe for success for plenty of players, including the winner of last week’s PGA Championship, Xander Schauffele. Bezuidenhout’s coach shared his ball speed gains on Instagram a few weeks back.

https://www.instagram.com/p/C6FCvK3S97A/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Now at close to 170mph ball speed, that isn’t enough to compete at the monstrous major championship courses in my opinion, however it’s plenty to contend at Colonial.

Bezuidenhout has been one of the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour this season and a win would put an exclamation point on what’s been his best year on Tour to date.

Brendon Todd +12500 (BetRivers)

Brendon Todd is the type of player that’s hit or miss, but usually shows up on the courses he has a strong history on and plays well. Todd finished T8 at Colonial in 2021 and 3rd in 2022. He’s also flashed some Texas form this year as he finished T5 at the Valero Texas Open in April.

Todd doesn’t contend all that often, but when he does, he’s shown in the past that he has the capability to win a golf tournament. He has three PGA Tour wins including a win in Texas back in 2014 (TPC Four Seasons).

Todd is a player who can rise to the top if some of the elite players aren’t in contention after a grueling PGA Championship.

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