Play the hole backward

By Hank Haney Photos by Dom Furore
June 09, 2010

A big difference between a good player and a mediocre one has nothing to do with the quality of shots they hit. Better players visualize clearly where they want the ball to go, but just as important, where they're willing to miss. Good golf is as much about having playable misses as it is about hitting quality shots.

A solid round is a collection of strong positioning decisions -- one at a time. First, you see where you want to hit the ball, and you pick a starting point, shot shape and trajectory. Then, you think backward from the green and find the spot where a miss leaves you with the easiest next shot.

For example, a hole with a deep fairway bunker -- one where you can't get to the green -- calls for a tee shot that, at worst, misses away from that bunker, even if that means the rough on the other side. Tour players are always more upset about a bogey from a bad decision than one from a bad swing.


Groove Rule: It's Not Only About Spin


You've probably heard some of the reports about tour players adjusting to the new groove rule for the 2010 season. A lot of the talk is about how players are going to have to adapt to V-shape grooves and how the ball will spin less off wedges and other short irons, especially from the rough. It'll be interesting to see how those changes shake out, but there's another part of the story that many people are overlooking.

When players can't spin the ball around the green the way they're used to, they'll have to switch to a softer-cover ball to get some of that spin back. A softer ball will not fly as far off the driver, or from clubs through the rest of the bag. That's going to put long irons in more players' hands and place a premium on ball-striking.

Anything that makes the game harder for everybody is something the most talented players are happy to see. Tiger's irons already conform to next year's rules, so he's not going to have as big an adjustment period as some of the guys will through this fall and into the early part of next season. Stay tuned to see what happens.