If you are reading this post, you were probably intrigued by the title of this article. As a 5 handicapper it is difficult to consistently play against players who are significantly better. As with Osprey Links, that is a challenge at most public courses. However, I think it is important that all golfers, regardless of your skill level, play golf with better golfers as much as possible. And that is exactly what I did last Saturday when I played my Match Play round against Brooks.
Brooks has a handicap of 1 and watching his smooth swing it was easy to see why. He has a long controlled swing with every club and his tempo was consistent with every club in his bag. His approach shots were deadly accurate and regardless of position, he played the ball to proper side of the hole to set up his putt. After the first hole, I realized that I would have to play my best to beat him and advance to the finals of the Osprey Links Match Play Championship.
Additionally, Brooks was a great person to play golf with. He was even-tempered and his course management approach to our round was clear on the first hole. On the first hole, he had a chance to pound his ball to about 25 yards from the green, but elected to lay up at the 100 yard marker. After hitting his ball to within 10 feet on his approach shot, (repeatedly through out the round I might add) it was obvious he was playing to his strengths. We discussed course management throughout the round and his strategy was to keep the ball in play and force me to make birdies to beat him. It was a perfect strategy for our match.
If I was going to estimate our final scores, I would suggest Brooks shot par or 1 under. I probably shot a 76 or 77; definitely not good enough to beat him. I was playing against a better player and looking back I was learning so much as we looped the course. Brooks closed me out on the 14th hole, but the game was a bit closer than the score indicated. Playing golf with better players does have its learning benefits.
I thoroughly enjoy playing golf with better players. They afford me an opportunity watch a more refined swing, strategy, and approach to golf. After going down early, I decided to make the most this round and glean as much as possible from Brooks that will help my game. After 3.5 hours of watching a smooth swing, here is what I came up with:
Tempo is king. I need to work on my tempo with my shorter irons. I have a tendency to be quick and as such pull the ball to the left on shorter shots. To improve my short game, I will need to hit the range and focus on my wedges.
Course Management is important. Course management under 150 yards is critical to low golf scores. Brooks hit to various distances depending on his next shot. At one point he layed up to 125 yards because any closer would have made stopping the ball on the elevated green very difficult. I will continue to work on my course management skills.
Pre-shot routines set up your aim. Brooks never faltered with his pre-shot routine. Every shot he meticulously went through his pre-shot routine. And as a result, his GIR was up in the 75-80% range. He did make a few miss shots, but his misses did not hurt him at all. As a result of his stellar play, I am going to be more diligent on using my pre-shot routine.
With all the benefits of watching a better golfer, I did learn something from his one bad hole. Brooks hit is ball long, but was still on the green. I was on the fringe and just missed the green, but considerably closer to the pin than Brooks. During my chip, I double hit the ball! Yup, a double hit! I have not double hit a ball in years. After using colorful language under my breath, I chipped on and two putted. I was in for a smooth 6. I thought about telling Brooks to pick up, since he was lying 2, but something inside told me not too.
Brooks made his first putt and completely miss it and as a result, he was 18 feet past the hole lying 3. Now, if Brooks had lagged his putt to within 10 feet I would have asked him to pick up, he did not so I kept quiet and watched. Surprisingly, Brooks hit his 4th shot past the hole by 8 feet! Then, he lipped out his 5th shot and tapped in for a 6! I mean, what are the chances he would 4 putt!
The lesson I learned is to never concede a putt for a win unless it is very obvious. This hole, although I halved it, was a turning point. If I had won the hole (as I should have) then I would have been down 2 and had some momentum. Unfortunately, I did not and as a result, I could not get anything going. Such is the way of playing better golfers.
Generally good players will match each other shot for shot. In the case of our round, we did for about 70% of the time. Our best “anything you can do, I can do better shot” happened on the 11th hole. This 175 yard par 3 shot was not difficult, but did require a straight shot. Brooks was first to tee off and hit his shot t within 6 feet. Not to out done……
Playing with better golfers is good for my golf game. They offer an opportunity to see insights that I would not normally see. It is interesting to watch them play and see areas in my game that need improvement. Playing golf with betters golfers is good for your golf game!
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!
Written by Jim Burton from The Grateful Golfer blog.