Learn From Your Past

June 09, 2009

MEMORY SERVES Not sure what club to use? Even if you've never played the hole before, try to recall similar situations, and use your experience to help you decide.

I like the par 3s at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland, where I won my second Senior British Open, in 2005. They play at different lengths and in different directions, requiring a variety of clubs. That's one of the chief ways I design my courses.

At the 248-yard third hole that year (above), I had to hit long irons and 3-woods. But on the 187-yard, downhill 17th, I won with a soft 8-iron to end a sudden-death playoff with Des Smyth of Ireland.

To boost my confidence in the playoff, I drew on the experience of playing the hole earlier in the day. In regulation I hit a full 8-iron to the very back of the green -- about a foot from death down a steep embankment to the deepest rough on the course. So in the playoff I aimed better and took something off the 8, leaving it short of the hole for a pretty easy par to Des' bogey.

The lesson is simple: If you have success in a situation, remember how you achieved it, and try to repeat it. If you fail, remember that, too, and make adjustments.

THOUGHTS FROM TOM: Speaking of downhill shots, I find it's more difficult to judge distance going downhill because the ball is in the air longer. My rule with the 8-iron is that the ball will carry 10 yards farther for every 10 yards of drop. By the time I get to the 4-iron, I double that extra distance.

*Watson is the golf professional emeritus at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. *