I was listening to the post round interviews at the U.S. Open and I would like to relay along to you thoughts some players expressed when they were on the course.
All the time, I listen to amateur players saying, "I need to avoid that" when playing a golf shot on a hole that has trouble on it, for example water hazards, bunkers out of bounds, trees, etc.
That puts a negative thought in your mind and, when that happens, it is very difficult to make a full relaxed swing.
The pros were saying that they were trying to focus on a safe or conservative place to play the ball and make an aggressive swing to that spot.
Harvey Pennick used to say, "Take dead aim!"
Playing away from something is not aiming at all.
For example, when playing over a water hazard when the pin is in the front part of the green, know your own skill level. Do not try to play shots that you can't easily repeat time after time. Pick a spot 20-30 feet past the pin, take a few practice swings with the same force that you judge will make the ball go there.
See a movie in your mind of the ball going in the air and landing past the pin. Step up to the ball with only that thought in your mind and let it fly.
I have given the following analogy several times: What if I laid a plank 6 feet wide on the ground for 300 yards and asked you to walk the length of it. Could you do it? "Of course," everyone naturally answered. Now what if I placed that same exact plank over the Grand Canyon? "No way," all replied. Think about it for a moment. The reason for the fear is the negative thing that would happen.
If you have the trouble in your thought processes when you play, you won't be as tense as if you were walking over the Grand Canyon, but you'd definitely be tense and that will not help your golf swing at all.
Try that thought process the next time you play.
When your ball lies in a position that is impossible for you to play with a chance to better your position, taking a stroke penalty for an unplayable lie is a good option. What three options do you have to drop your ball?
Answer to last column's teaser:
If a player is standing close enough to the flag stick to touch it, is he deemed to be attending the flag stick? Yes.
John Lucas is the professional at Sky Ridge Golf Course and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.