My Dad was a carpenter, by trade–learned it from his father–and one of his favorite sayings was “the right tool for the right job.” When you need a screwdriver, don’t use a damn butter knife! I have since pleased and amazed my wife for getting all sorts of things fixed around the house with the right tools. As for golf, I’ve often kept my father’s wisdom in mind when facing one of the myriad of situations encountered when playing this daunting game. Dad never did take the time to watch me play golf when I was a kid, but that’s OK: He was a good guy who worked hard to provide for the family. And, like I say, he’s in my head when I approach a chip from five feet off the green with about 30 feet of roll to the hole. Wedge or 7-iron or hybrid or 3-wood or…putter? What’s the right tool for the job before me? Some amateurs would pull out a 56 degree automatically, because, well, that’s what they’ve always done for this situation or that’s what they saw the pros use on TV. And what often happens is a flub or a skull…like usual. When I was a kid, I got my game into the 70s using a 7 in that situation. Now, I’d probably choose a five hybrid. More margin for error; and at my age there’s much more error than at 17.
So, with 14 clubs to choose from, one of golf’s challenges is to pick the right club/tool for any given shot. A 50-yard pitch from a downhill lie? Not such an easy choice. It’s a shot that requires a lot of practice and there are not many practice areas around that offer that possibility. So instead of, say, a 60 degree wedge with a high chance of error, perhaps a 6 or 7 run up might make more sense. Play it off your back foot and stay down on it, trying to make good contact with a relatively short backswing. Probably a better chance of pulling this off than that wedge that would be so easy to hit fat. What else?
Let’s look at Bryson DeChambeau’s fiasco during the third round of the Memorial (aside: sorry to disparage your “brand”, big guy!). After going OB with his drive, he took a drop and tried to reach the green with his third shot from fairly heavy rough with a fairway wood, it seemed. His caddie probably should have grabbed that club from him, and said “No, no, BD. Let’s talk this over.” Any of us TV watchers could see that was the wrong tool for the shot at hand. If Bryson had more control of his mind at that point, he would have taken his medicine and chosen a club that would have gotten him safely back in play. When you’re out of position in golf, it’s best to get back in position as quickly as possible. Bryson then hit his next shot OB as well, and almost again with the shot after that, all with the same wood. His final score on that 15th par 5 was a 10, missing the cut, and out of the money as a result.
Now, after that initial drop, if he’d picked a club, say a 7 iron, to get him back on the fairway, he may have been able to par or bogey the hole, limiting the damage considerably. So Bryson’s main lesson for us higher handicappers had nothing to do with bulking up and adding distance; it had to do with cooling your jets after a bad shot, rationally assessing the situation, and choosing the appropriate club to get yourself back in play.
As Bobby Jones once said, “Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears.”
The other lesson involves knowing what each of those 14 clubs can do for you. As my father knew well the function of every tool in his toolbox, we golfers need to know how far each club will take us, their possible trajectory (for escaping from under tree branches), and their ability to extricate us from punitive rough. You want to minimize the emergence of doubt when you come to a tricky situation, or what club to choose to clear a water hazard, as examples. How you determine all this information about your “tools,” can only be done on practice ranges. In that regard, touring pros have it all over us amateurs, as they have access to practice areas and electronic equipment that give them precise data on each of their clubs.
The most important information is the distance each club will produce with full swings. Actually, this is easier than it seems, since once you figure this out for one iron, you just add or subtract ten yards and you’ve got it for the whole set. Same for hybrids. No problem with the driver, of course, since you just want to hit that Big Dog as far as possible (kind of like DeChambeau). In my case, I’ve had to recalculate those numbers with these serious illnesses I’ve been through. But that’s life.
I should mention, on a sad note, my Dad one day pulled “a Bryson” and had a very costly mental hiccup on the construction job he was supervising. Being a bit impatient (understatement, there), he called for a worker to toss him a brick from a second floor scaffold (first mistake). He failed to catch the heavy brick (second mistake) and it hit his leg leading to an injury (third mistake) that led to an infection that eventually took his life. If he had paused and come up with a better and safer way to get that brick, he would have had a much better outcome with the right tool for the right job…like a ladder.
So, as is often the case, golf mirrors life mirrors golf.
Congratulations to Jon Rahm who won the Memorial, and leaped frogged to World Number One, the first Spaniard since the legendary Seve Ballesteros to do so. The talented Rahm is but 25 years of age! “I love Jon’s game,” commented Jack Nicklaus, who hosts the Memorial. “He has a big, strong game–a bit like I did–I love what he’s doing here today.” But that hot temper of his might dethrone Jon eventually…
Speaking of Jack, he disclosed on the telecast that he and his wife Barbara, both 80, had contracted coronavirus. Thankfully, both have fully recovered.
Next PGA event is WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind in Memphis, starting July 30.
I’ve posted a new Equipment Review. It’s for a speed, rhythm, and flexibility training device call the Orange Whip Trainer.
Jim Stewart says
Nice post. The short game is my nemesis, as it is with so many of us.
Stephen Altschuler says
Thanks, Jim. And, as I age, mine too. I’m forever trying to reclaim that chipping touch I had when I was 17!
Jim Stewart says
This post reminded me of a video I watched that talked about using a 6- or 7-iron when chipping…to get more control and a longer roll. I used it last week and the results were encouraging. The older I get, the more I forget. Ha!
Stephen Altschuler says
Yep. And give the hybrids or 3 wood a shot too. If you can nail down those clubs for some chipping situations you will not only amaze your companions, but you’ll knock a few strokes off that handicap. BTW, the more I forget, the more I remember…who the hell I really am!
Have a good one, Jim.