Just got back from upstate NY where I got to play one of my favorite courses, Orchard Creek in Altamont, NY. I had a 77 on a tough, very wet course. Drives were only rolling about a foot, and the rough was pretty wet. The sand in the bunkers was heavy. The greens were still fast as usual though. Things I learned during this round:
1) Putting Speed
The best way I’ve found to control my speed on fast greens is with a stroke that is short on the backswing and long on the forward swing. With this stroke my speed was not only much better but the roll was truer. I marked my golf balls with alignment lines and I was amazed at how true my putts were rolling with that end over end roll. Although unfortunately I didn’t have any short birdie putts, I was able to make plenty of long (10+ feet) putts for par which went a long way toward saving the score.
2) Reading the Line
I’ve been writing about how many putts I lipped out, or burned the edges on. I realized that this came from reading too much break into the putts. It is a difficult thing to change because when you are used to reading a certain amount of break it is actually uncomfortable to play less break than that. I had to learn to trust that the amount of break was actually correct even if it seemed like too little.
Yesterday I went to the putting green to practice armed with an excellent practice aid to help me read the greens. It is basically a circular level that shows you in what direction the green is breaking at the point where you place it. I learned to correlate the amount of change on the level to the amount of break and I really was shocked at how much break I had been reading into the putts. Once I started to play less break and feel comfortable with it I started sinking a lot of putts on a fast practice green.
Combining #1 and #2 above really allowed me to feel comfortable putting. It led to making a lot of nice long putts. A few putts that didn’t go in where on exactly the right lines, they just needed a bit more speed. Overall I was very happy with my putting.
3) Approach Shots from 120 Yards
This shot has been troubling me lately. It’s not a full pitching wedge, and it’s too much for a sandwedge (52 or 56 degree). I started playing a knockdown pitching wedge and it turned out to be the best way to hit this shot for me. I had a number of these during the round and I started feeling very confident from this range. As a result I hit many more greens today then usual.
4) Short Game
This is the one area that let me down today. I feel like the 77 could have been a 74 or maybe even a 72 if my short game had been on. Pitches from 15 to 30 yards where my biggest weakness during the day and turned some pars into bogies. This area definitely remains fertile ground for improvement and I look forward to being a much better short game artist next season.
I did a lot of things well today on a tough course in cold, wet and windy conditions. I was very pleased with my play and saw some serious room for improvement still. But I do feel like it is doable and like I should be able to reach mid to low seventies next season on a regular basis.