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Friday, November 3, 2017

Tommy Armour on Smart Strategy

Back in 1959 the legendary Tommy Armour wrote a humorous book called A Round of Golf with Tommy Armour. It's the story of Armour's friend Bill who, at the beginning of the book, has decided to quit golf because he plays so badly. Armour talks him into playing as his partner in a foursome with the argument that Bill simply plays stupid golf, and he says he can dramatically improve Bill's game without changing his golf swing. Armour says that Bill just needs to use Armour's brain for a change.

Yes, it's a funny book. But in the reading of it you learn how to make smart decisions on a golf course. Today I thought I'd just share a few basic thoughts from the third chapter, as Armour coaches Bill down the first fairway.

His first act is to teach Bill how to tee up his golf ball on the side of the tee that will give him the most room for a miss. (You want to tee the ball so you have lots of room to curve the ball toward the middle of the fairway, not toward the rough.) Armour tells Bill:
"Get in the habit of visualizing your objective, figuring out your strategy so that even if you don't hit your shot well you won't be in trouble. You've got to be thinking that there are wise places and stupid and dangerous places for you to have your ball on every one of the eighteen tees. If you tee your ball thoughtlessly on all, or most, of the eighteen tees, you are liable to produce a horrifying addition to your score."
A simple thought, that one, yet one most players continuously ignore. Armour notes that it takes effort to develop the habit of making smart choices because most players, while they know that they're playing golf, forget that they're playing a golf course. In all the years they've played their home course they've never realized there might be a best way for them to navigate their way around.

Armour cautions the reader with this:
The ordinary golfer shouldn't be discouraged if he doesn't make fast progress in learning to read the course and to govern himself accordingly. He discovers that it takes some experience to discipline himself so he deliberately shoots short and for strategic position, instead of taking a chance on pulling off a perfect shot.
One other thing I'll mention -- because it's so simple and yet can improve your score so dramatically -- concerns recovery shots. Armour is comparing Bill to a young professional he played with whose poor thinking cost him a championship:
His mental error was exactly the same as that of the 100-shooter who is in the rough farther away from the green than he possibly can make in one shot, yet tries to get distance out of the rough. He doesn't execute the shot perfectly, and is in worse position than he was before attempting the recovery, with one more shot on his card.

The simple, logical policy in such cases is to play two easy shots: one easy recovery shot and the next an easy shot to the green. About 75 percent of these situations find the thoughtless golfer playing three or four exceedingly dangerous shots instead of the two safe ones.

Why? Because he doesn't use even the minimum amount of brains.
Most of us have a tendency -- no, an obsession -- with trying to make the hero shot, convincing ourselves that we will make a miracle shot although we got into this mess because we couldn't hit an easier one!

Remember Armour's advice when you start trying to think your way around the course: Play short of trouble when you can't cover it easily (a long shot with a hazard near the end of it comes under this warning) and aim for the widest landing areas available. If you hit into trouble, hit one easy shot out and leave yourself an easy shot for your next one. And don't overestimate how far you can hit the ball out of the rough.

These few bits of advice alone can knock several shots off your score if you just apply them consistently. And the fewer shots you need, the more fun golf becomes.

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