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Instruction

2 ways to avoid falling into the playing partner bomber trap

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Earlier this season, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlory played together at the Genesis Open. To everyone's surprise, Tiger had some impressive speed. Some seriously impressive speed, actually. So much speed that he hit it past McIlroy on multiple occasions — and it left him rattled.

"I’m going to go work on the range," McIlroy said after the round. "I put my driver up a click in loft at the start of the week. I might have to turn it back down again. I don’t like him hitting it by me."

It makes the recent news about Tiger's injury all the more gutting, and yet also outlines a reletable problem for the rest of us.

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Christian Petersen

What is the ‘bomber trap’?

The bomber trap is when you play with someone who rips it past you, and causes you to swing harder as a result. It rarely goes well.

Which brings us to the question we put to a couple of Golf Digest’s low-handicappers: How do you stop your confidence getting shaken — and your game affected — when you're playing golf with someone who mashes it past you: so what's the secret to avoiding it?

1. Look away on the tee shots

Drew Powell, +2.6 handicap

My advice when playing with someone who bombs it past you? Lose the ego. Sure, it doesn’t feel great when you’re reminded on every fairway that they got you by 20 again, but distance is one aspect of the game, and it’s likely that your partner isn’t thinking anything of it. If you’re busy comparing yourself to your playing partners all day, you’re not going to have much fun, and worse, you’re not going to be much fun to play with.

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Thomas Barwick

That said, for many of us, that’s not practical. The ego is always there, and when your buddy keeps sending them well past you, the natural tendency is to try and swing harder. In college, one of my teammates would cruise at 185 mile-per-hour ball speed. Translation: comically long. I’m not short, but I don’t carry the ball 320 yards like he would, so I would routinely be 20-plus yards behind him—unless he hit 3-wood, in which case I might keep up with him.

After a while, I learned the only way to keep his speed from affecting my swing was to not watch him hit. Whenever he was on the tee, I’d just look away. It might sound dumb, but this way there was no chance my subconscious could convince me to speed up.

Another solution is to form your own identity as a golfer and embrace it. Maybe you’re not the longest hitter but you’re a great iron player or have an air-tight short game. Lean into your strengths and build confidence off those. It’s something shorter PGA Tour players do so well. They know they can’t keep up with guys like Rory, but they understand their games are built around other strengths that allow them to compete.

Finally, when you’re in the fairway hitting first, view it as an opportunity. If you knock it closer than your buddy who is 25 yards ahead, you can put a quick end to their incessant chirping about how they outdrove you. As disheartening as it is to be the shorter hitter, the one with the lower score gets the final word.

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Fredrik Skold

2. Remember there’s no quick fix

Luke Kerr-Dineen, 1.1 handicap

This just happened to me. I was playing with a guy at my club last weekend who absolutely roasts the ball. It's only natural when someone is hitting it so far past you that you swing a little harder, and Drew is spot on with all his advice. I'd only add one rather harsh truth:

There's nothing you can do about it, and swinging harder isn't going to help.

Listen, if you're being out-driven by an embarrassing margin, that may be a wake up call generally. But swinging harder on your next drive isn't going to work, plain and simple.

Power doesn't work like an on-off switch. You're not going to magically hit one 50 yards longer. If you're serious about hitting the ball longer, then go speed train. Start training in the gym. Get fit for a new driver. Take a lesson. That's how you gain power. There's no quick fix, so don't bother trying to find one.