Unless you’ve treated yourself to a round somewhere special, caddies aren’t provided in exchange for a green fee, sadly. When you step onto the first tee, you’re on your own. A GPS device can help, but it’s not quite the same as having your own bagman to help steer you round and save a bunch of shots.
You have to learn to be your own caddie and think like a tour pro. Richard Logue has caddied on the professional circuits for 16 years, during which time he’s worked with some of the best players in the business. Who better to offer a few course management nuggets?
1. Attack vs Defence
Knowing when to err on the side of caution and when to attack is an area where pros normally excel. Amateur golfers can make vast improvements in this area simply by improving their decision-making.
‘It’s a myth to think that pros take every single pin on,’ says Logue, who’s currently working with England’s Matthew Southgate, runner-up at this year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. ‘It’s about playing the percentage shots when you can. It’s easy to get drawn into what guys are doing on TV, like Phil Mickelson playing a flop shot, for example, but these guys are doing it day in, day out.’
Logue suggests using the ‘traffic light’ system to improve your course strategy, a favourite amongst a number of players he has worked with.
‘Pros might have a green light flag, where it’s fairly central and there’s not much trouble around, so you can be short or long. Then you’ve got a red light flag that you can’t miss left, right or long. You might have to be short to leave an uphill putt.’
The next time you’re given the pin sheets for the day, take a moment to study them and formulate a plan, as opposed to just sticking them in your back pocket. And remember, not every flag is a green light.
‘It’s a myth to think that pros take every single pin on – it’s about playing the percentage shots when you can’
2. Running Hot
Logue has witnessed many a player lose their rag in a pro-am – and rarely does any good come of it. Whilst everyone has their own way of dealing with a poor shot, he suggests adopting Lee Westwood’s mentality.
‘He’s got a fantastic temperament,’ says Logue, who has also caddied for Robert Rock, Søren Kjeldsen and Max Kieffer, all of whom play their own way.
‘We played with Lee in Germany this year and he hit an approach into the water. He dropped a shot and on the next tee he vented some frustration, just to himself. He got it out of his system and immediately got back on it.’
So, it’s Okay to have that fire in your belly, as long as you stay in control and don’t dwell on it.
3. Aim Small Miss Small
Every shot counts and every shot should get the respect it deserves. That means two things: firstly, you should have a very precise pre-shot routine, one that will focus the mind. Secondly, it helps to pick a target, whether that’s down the fairway or into the green.
‘Pros are very good at narrowing the target,’ explains Logue. ‘They won’t just aim at a set of trees, for example; they get more target specific. Try putting a fictitious flag on the fairway and aiming at that.’
It might be that you’re laying up on a par 5. How many times do you blob a hole because you’re too vague with your target? By aiming small, you could miss by five or ten yards either side, but because you’ve narrowed the target, you’re probably still going to be in good shape.
4. Club Selection
If there’s one mistake Logue witnesses more than any other during a pro-am, it’s poor club selection. More specifically, amateurs have a tendency to not take enough clubs.
‘Amateurs often think they hit it further than they do,’ he says. ‘They might have their pitching wedge yardage down at 130 yards but that would be a perfect shot in nice conditions. My advice would be to take one extra club and swing it smoother. You’re probably not going to hit it perfectly every time. With an extra club, if you don’t quite catch it, you still might end up pin high.’
There’s nothing wrong with being confident, but for most amateur golfers – and certainly weekenders – it pays to be realistic. ‘You’ve got to realise you’re an amateur golfer; you’re not doing this for a living. Some shots aren’t going to be perfect. It’s about taking heed of the situation and thinking smarter.’
‘Amateurs often think they hit it further than they do – take one extra club and swing it smoother’
5. Find Your Go-To Yardage
When it comes to the wedges department, the pros have their yardages dialled in to very specific distances, which they’re also able to manipulate. Amateurs can make major gains in this end of the bag – as much as a 25% improvement according to Logue.
‘You only have to hit 20 shots to different targets down the range with each wedge and you can work out where you’re most comfortable,’ he says.
‘Matthew [Southgate] likes anywhere between 95 and 100 yards. That’s not to say he’s bad from 75 to 90, but the research he’s done says he’s better from 95 to 100. That’s something amateurs can work out for themselves.’
This is an easy win, and not one that even requires TrackMan, just a bit of time down at the range.
6. Mastering The Weather Conditions
You might check the weather the night before a round so you know whether to pack waterproofs, but caddies do a lot more to earn their crust.
Knowing the direction of the wind will help, and certain weather apps are available; just be sure you’re not breaking any competition rules during play.
Then, when it comes to executing the actual shots, and playing into the wind, Logue endorses that old saying, ‘Swing with ease in the breeze’.
‘Amateurs tend to try and hit the ball too hard into the wind, so it just spins too much and ends up going nowhere. Take more club and hit it smoother. Rangefinders are all well and good, but you’ve got to be smart in the wind.’
*7. Reading Greens *
Logue is no stranger to getting down on his front to help his player read a putt. It’s whatever it takes at the top of the game where small margins can make such huge differences.
No one’s suggesting you do your best Camilo Villegas impression on every green – the Colombian frequently used to lie flat on his stomach to check the contours – but you should at least take the time to study your putts from both sides of the hole.
‘You can get three different reads for a six-foot putt depending on the speed the player hits it,’ he explains. ‘You often see amateurs just standing behind the ball and seeing it from there. You do need to see it from more than one angle to get an appreciation of the line.’
There you have it. Who needs a caddie?
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