By Robert Bicknell

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August 5, 2007

Yardage Books are like Bus maps…

An old saying is that "you’ve got to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going" which makes a lot of sense, especially on a golf course and, fortunately, the holes are numbered...which helps mentally impaired players such as yours truly.

If you watch the Tour professionals, they are always consulting their Yardage Books, which are essentially detailed maps of the golf course and have precise measurements to certain landmarks and check-points. This allows the player and his caddie to know exactly where they are in relation to the green (and the pin), from any given spot on the hole.

For those of you who need a more graphic illustration of how important a yardage book is, imagine if you had to get around Hanoi or HCM City by bus. The first thing you’d do is buy a map with the bus routes, then carefully plan how to get from point A to point B with as few headaches as possible and while you’d probably still end up in Lao Cai somehow, its the theory which is important.

Personally, I’ve stopped taking buses because no matter which bus I get on, I end up in Lao Cai. In fact, the only time I didn’t end up in Lao Cai is when I got on a bus which said "Lao Cai" on it. That time I ended up in Angkor Wat. Its not the bus’s fault, I just seem to be cursed like that.

Regardless of my problems with buses, a Yardage Book works just like a bus route map.

Tour pros plan out the way they want to play the course before they start a tournament. Even before the player arrives, their caddie has walked the course and measured it carefully. Watching Tiger Woods in the US or British Open is a perfect example of how to "think your way around a course." He once won "The Open" without hardly ever taking the driver out of the bag. Not too strangely, he was also almost never in a bunker.

He planned it that way.

A fellow competitor once called Ben Hogan the "luckiest player in the world" following a spectacular round because "while all the other players were hitting from horrible side-hill lies, Hogan was always in a flat spot with a decent lie.

The same player corrected himself after the next round, also paired with Hogan, by saying, "I was wrong, he’s the smartest player in the world because he played from exactly the same spots today."

Yep. Hogan knew more than anyone that the game of golf is played primarily in the mind and made countless notes about each course he played. He knew exactly where he wanted to be, then selected the club which would put him there and avoided all the trouble which was waiting for the others.

Unfortunately, not too many golfers think that way. They always pull out the driver on par fours and fives (unless there is obvious danger) and almost always use the sand wedge from inside 100 yards to the pin.

Around the green, the automatically reach for the lob wedge to fly the ball to the hole, so I guess you could say these players never "chip" because when you fly a ball further than it rolls, that’s a pitch shot.

Unfortunately, this is indicative of one-dimensional thinking and actually increases the odds of them scoring higher than their real capabilities. By not knowing how to use all 14 clubs in the bag at least three different ways, they are actually putting themselves at a disadvantage against players who do.

Hey, why have 14 clubs in the bag when you can have 42?

People used to marvel at Seve’s shot making abilities and claimed that he was never in trouble, not even in a parking lot, because he could dream up a shot to put himself back in play. Tiger does the same thing, as do many of the top players today because they know how to work the ball.

When you get the time, head to the range and learn to hit different shots using different clubs. Try choking down on a 4-iron. Learn to fade and draw. Learn to chip with every club in the bag.

Your game will improve and you’ll have fun doing it.

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