Lesson TeeOctober 26, 2011

Take Advantage Of All Available Information

Learn what's important, and know how to use it.

One of the big differences between tour players and amateur golfers has nothing to do with the swing. Professionals always approach a shot with more information; they understand what facts are most important--and they know how to use them. The more pertinent information you have, the better decisions you can make before you hit a shot.

On tee shots and second shots into par 5s, professionals want to know how far it is to the trouble, so they can pick a club that eliminates any chance of hitting it there. On shots into the green, they want to know three numbers: (1) the distance to the front of the green, (2) the distance to the back of the green, and (3) the distance to the flagstick. Armed with those yardages and the knowledge of where the trouble is around the green, tour players can select the right club for the shot -- and miss in the right place.

Amateurs often choose a club according to the yardage to the flag or to the middle of the green -- and they assume a perfect shot. A better strategy is to get the yardage to the back of the green, and pick a club based on that number. You'll be long every once in a while, but your average shot will be much better.

HANK HANEY, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional, runs the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy, in Hilton Head Island. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Keegan Bradley

LONG LIVE THE LONG PUTTERS

It's amazing. As soon as Keegan Bradley (right) became the first player to win a major using a long putter, a lot of people spoke up about wanting to ban those putters from the game. There's no way the United States Golf Association should outlaw extended putters. First of all, they help players who have the yips -- the most difficult problem a golfer can face -- continue to enjoy the game. Second, I understand and appreciate protecting the values and records in golf, but the most important thing is growing the game. Long putters keep people playing and competing, and they keep the golf fun. What's wrong with that?