The Masters and how watching carefully can lower your scores.

Other than The Ryder Cup every two years, this is my favorite golf tournament to watch. When Nicklaus won in 1986 (still the best tournament of all time), that was a great moment in sports for me along with the US Hockey team winning in 1980 and Rocky Balboa beating Apollo Creed in Rocky 2.

I decided to start talking about “playing” the game this week in particular, because this is where the top players in the World show how the game is “played.”

The way these guys are going to manage their games at Augusta is going to be analogous to the way the average amateur SHOULD manage his/her game on the courses they play. It is a great analogy because the relative difficulty of the course vs. the relative skill level of the players, lines up almost perfectly, so there is a lot to learn.

For the next four days, watch how they play away from pins and purposely over club, or under club. The three best examples I can think of off the top of my head are when the pin is in the front on 9, front right on 12 and back left on 16. All of the players doing well will play way past the pin on 9 because the ball will roll all the way back to them if they are short. On 12 when the pin is front right, all of the shots are middle to long, and left. On 16 (Tiger’s miracle chip in notwithstanding) they play way right of the pin and let the green bring it back to the left.

I see amateurs time and time again pick the club for the yardage the pin is and aim right at it assuming they are going to hit it perfectly. That ends in disaster 4 times out of 5 for most. The best players in the world don’t know their exact yardages on every shot, nor the perfect direction. Even the leaders on Sunday make some errors.

When I hear a 15 handicap say he hits his 7-iron 153 yards with a 5-8 yard draw…it takes all my will power and what little tact I have to not laugh at them. Not to be rude, but if you can’t break 70 on a regular basis, multiples of 5 is all you are allowed on your club distances…and don’t get me started on the 5-8 yard draw.

The players that are going to be in contention on Sunday are the ones who spend 3 1/2 days hitting it 30 feet to the fat side of the green and pick their spots 3-5 times during each round when the pins are accessible. That is the way you all should play regularly and you will be amazed at how much lower you shoot.

I have been saying this for years. If you add up the cumulative expectations a 15 handicap has on every shot during a round of golf, he would shoot between 54 and 62…and ends up shooting 90 trying to perform to those expectations.

If a 15 handicap tried to hit every shot with just having bogey as his ultimate goal on every hole…he would shoot about 79.




  1. Paul

    …no truer words…On a par 3, if the flag is middle to back, I take less club so my ball will end up on or near the front of the green so I can chip/putt for par. Just the opposite if the flag is in front–more club. Thinking this way is stress-free golf and leads to lower scores naturally b/c as you said, you’re not concerned about hitting the shot perfectly. Think of your clubs as tools and use them to get around the course. Forget what number is on the sole of the club. Thanks, Monte, very sound advice, which I will put into play this season.

  2. TexasGolfer

    I could not agree more. I also think the use of rangefinders has contributed to ams becoming too “flag bound”. One of the golf announcers used to say that “you can never be too far from the pin if you are in the center of the green”. With few exceptions during the course of a round, no truer words were ever spoken.

  3. MS Golfer

    Sort of off-topic, but if you can catch the bit in the new Golf Magazine (I know, before you gag and laugh at how dumb I am and have I never read this blog, hold on) because the article about Rickie Fowler’s game is along the same approach you’re talking about and what most should shoot for. He breaks down his swing that comes down to “forget the mechanics, line up, pull the trigger.” I think it’s a nice breath of fresh air to see a player actually PLAY golf shots.

    Btw, go Tom Watson!


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