Golf Strategy

Excerpted from chapter 1 The Game of Golf & The Art of Business

As we approached his ball, Bob was still clearly wound up. He

had put it into the fairway, and I know he wanted to par the

opening hole to build momentum for the day. I was afraid that this

goal was going to affect his judgment.

Bob’s ball was just past the 200 yard marker in the center of the

fairway. 196 to the center of the green. He had already pulled out

his 5-wood.

“OK, let’s analyze the situation here,” I said. But Bob was

already looking toward the green. I say looking “toward” because

the green was obscured by the 50 foot maple trees in the “elbow” of

the dogleg. In Bob’s mind, he hit his driver 230 yards and his 3-

wood 205-215. In reality, he averaged about 15 yards less than that

with those clubs. He imagined that he could hit the green from here

with his 5-wood.

“Let’s take a moment and think this through,” I began. “You

don’t have a clear shot at the green. Those trees are fifty feet high,

so you’ll have to clear them, which raises the trajectory and

shortens the distance. While you may not be able to see it from

here, the fairway narrows as it approaches the green like the neck

of a bottle. The green is narrow, and is at a thirty to forty degree

angle to you. It’s got bunkers on either side.”

“OK…” Bob trailed, practice swinging the 5-wood. “So, what

are you suggesting?”

“Bob, the odds of you clearing those trees and carrying about

190 yards over the rough and right side bunker to the front of that

green are, well, they’re low odds..”

“You want me to lay up? There goes my chance to start the

round with a par.”

“I’m just being honest here, Bob. You will almost certainly take

two strokes to get onto that green from here. What do you want the

second shot to be? A punch shot out of jail in those trees that has

to come in hot and bite to a stop on the green? A wedge out of the

sand? A lob wedge from the rough around the neck of the green?”

“What do you suggest?”

“Well, let’s divide by two.”


I explained. “Since you have to take two strokes to get on that

green—unless you can hit the one out of twenty shot here with the

5-wood—let’s cut the distance in half and take two equal swings.

Why force a 170 with the wood and then manage a 30% swing

with a wedge to get on? Aren’t you most comfortable with a full


“Yeah, I hate the partial swing stuff.”

“OK, so you’ve got 196 yards to center of the green. Let’s cut

that in half: 98 yards. Two full swings with the pitching wedge.”

Bob looked disappointed. “I’m center of the first fairway at

Bethpage Black. You want me to hit a pitching wedge for my

second shot? That’s not the way to start my day.”

“Bob, don’t let the first hole jitters get to you. Two full swings.

First one puts you center of the fairway, past the dogleg with less

than 100 yards to go. Second full pitching wedge puts you center of

the green. Putting for par.”

Bob was tense. This is not how he saw his day beginning. I

knew that this was a far better beginning then he would have if I let

him hit that 5 wood and it ended up God-knows-where.

“You know, I do this all the time at work,” said Bob.


“Come out of the gate too amped up. That’s what my partners

say. I want to jump to a head start with every new client or project.

Phil always tells me to remember it’s a marathon—not a sprint.”

“Phil’s right,” I said, smiling. “Listen to Phil, and listen to me.

We have eighteen holes out here today. There will be par

opportunities. This isn’t one of them. Be patient.”

He thought for a moment, but the group behind us was waiting

on the tee. He shook his head, put the 5-wood back in the bag, and

pulled out his pitching wedge. The tension left him as he addressed

the ball. He took nice, full, and relaxed swing.

And he hit it through the dogleg to the center of the fairway,

landing almost on top of the 100 yard marker. “You’ve got me

playing lay-up golf on a dream course, Scott.”

“I’m getting you off to the start of your best round ever, Bob.

Don’t let the first hole jitters rattle you. Let’s think our way around

this course.”

Bob had a great look at the green. The constricted neck of the

fairway was lined up directly in front of him, and he had the whole

length of the narrow green to work with. The bunkers on either

side were out of play unless he sliced or pulled it badly. Bob’s

second pitching wedge—his third shot of the hole—was a perfect

clone of the first: 100 yards straight as a ruler.
What do you think happens to Bob? Get the rest of the book at

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