YOU are the most important part of this machine. Without YOU, there is no Way of the Playa. Without knowledge of yourself, how can you truly understand anything?
The only way to advance in golf is to understand you.
Self knowledge will guide our decisions, our habits, our direction toward whatever we want to achieve. If you do not know yourself, you usually live in denial, making poor decisions, judgement calls and in general, getting into situations where we wonder, HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE?
Be prepared. Knowing yourself is not easy and it’s never ending. You will need to be willing to understand what you do, why you do it and how to change it. Changing is difficult and denial and ego can get in the way. If you are honest with yourself, you can change your entire golf game in one round.
Carry distance - A self knowledge case study
BDog from my channel used to believe that his stock 7 iron distance was 170 yards. Any time I asked him how far do you hit the 7 iron, he would say “170”. He’d then proceed to be 10-15 yards short every time.
He thought he knew, but he didn’t know. The realization on his face when I had him on a launch monitor was a mixture of shock and supreme self discovery. His stock 7 iron was 155 to 160 yards. One out of fifteen would go 170 yards in the air. He thought the ‘carry distance’ was total rollout distance.
He was disappointed, but also relieved. Now he knew which club to pull on which distance from then on. This is knowing yourself so you can set yourself up for success. This is fruit that’s already on the ground. Just pick it up, and eat it!
Continuing to live in denial, hitting the wrong club would mean you keep going into difficult situations. This means less fun, and higher scores.
A basic golf self audit template
Answer these questions:
- What is the carry distance of every club in your bag?
This is information every golfer needs to know immediately after learning to keep a ball airborne 7 out of 10 times. If you cannot get a ball airborne 7 out of 10 times, you need to see a professional.
What is carry distance?
This is the distance the ball flies in the air from your strike, to where it LANDS. This does not include rollout. Using distances including rollout for your iron distances is purely ego. It is unhelpful.
Why do we need this?Use this info to make better decisions when faced with carrying obstacles or laying up. Use this information to select the correct club to reach the green.
You can purchase a home launch device which can help you on the range (link to product) (link to how to use product)
You can visit a local hitting bay and rent it for one hour. Remember to swing normal. The temptation is to SMASH the ball because there is no consequence. Do not rush this. Hit enough balls with each club to get your distances. The software on the Trackman or whichever launch monitor they have should be printable and will show averages with each club.
You can purchase a GPS watch (get affiliate link with Garmin and Bushnell) and use the watch to track your data automatically. You will need to be aware of how much rollout you are getting but for approach shots, it’s pretty easy to see because the ball will stop around the greens near where it lands.
- What is your shot shape?
There is no shame in being a fader or a drawer of the golf ball.
Your shot shape is your shot shape and you must accept it for now.
You’re welcome to change it in future once you have the skills, but every single amateur golfer can become a great player by playing their ONE shot shape.
I repeat: you do NOT need to shape the ball both ways to play off a scratch handicap. You can hit your single shot shape forever.
Why must I accept my shot shape?
The most important part after accepting your shot shape, is to AIM for it.
If you hit a fade, aim left. If you hit a draw, aim right.
Many people refuse to accept their shot shape, instead aiming and waiting for what I like to call the Phantom Draw or the Phantom Straight shot.
It never comes, and it hurts your game to live in denial of which way the ball moves in the air.
I don’t have a shot shape
If you do not have a shot shape, and miss both ways all the time, you must find a way to hit one shape more than the other or see a pro who can help you.
If your shape is prohibitive to playing enjoyable golf, you must see a pro or work on minimizing the shape. By this I mean, if you have a 40 yard slice, you need to get that down to a 10 or 15 yard fade. You can do this alone, or you can visit a professional.
- Are you playing the correct tees?
Playing tees that are too long for your distance and dispersion will kill all the fun in your golf game.
Playing the correct tees will bring you joy you’ve never felt before.
How do we find the correct tees? There are numerous formulas online on how to find the correct tee for your driver distance, or 5 iron distance or even 7 iron distance.
I have a simpler formula.
Handicap 9+ : play the tees where only two par 4’s are over 400 yards
Single figure handicap : play the tees where you can break 80 and when it becomes easy to break 80, play further back.
The ego makes people play the back tees on their bucket list course to experience it like the pros. The ego makes people play tees where they cannot even reach the fairways.
The irony is that if you play the tees where only two or less par 4’s are over 400 yards, you will have so much fun and enjoy your bucket list course so much that you’ll FEEL like the pro you were trying to emulate.
- Do you go pin-hunting?
We love to see the pro’s doing it. But they can work the ball both ways, and they can control the spin and trajectory hitting to pins tucked behind bunkers.
It’s easy to think that is how you play golf but it’s not how you personally should be playing golf.
This will be covered more in the course and game management sections (link to course and game management) but the summary is to aim for your shot shape so you hit the middle of the green.
Pin hunting is the bad play for 9 out of 10 golfers. This is not to be rude, but this is the reality because pin hunting, if you are not as PRECISE as a pro, will result in your ball being in places where you just cannot handle the next shot.
The pros have an arsenal of shots that allow them to hit the ball is ways we can never dream of. Don’t be fooled into believing that the 1-in-20 shot is worth it for the fun. The other 19 are catastrophes that derail your round into oblivion.
Playing smart shots that you know how to hit comfortably will bring more enjoyment than you will ever imagine.
If there is trouble short, you play to the back edge. If there is trouble long, you play to the middle or front edge. If there is trouble on every side, you pray. Hard.
- Which clubs and shots are making you drop shots?
I bet I can answer this one.
Your lob wedge.
And you won’t like my answer to the problem.
Leave them at home! Many people persist with drivers and lob wedges which are the two most difficult clubs to hit and the two everyone wants to hit to feel like a pro.
I may be wrong in my guess, but YOU know the answer to this question for YOU. You need to be honest with yourself.
Any club you have in the bag - it can be something else besides driver or lob wedge - that is causing you to consistently lose balls or drop shots, remove it from your bag.
An even better way to assess your bag is to start with the club you LOVE and keep it in the bag. Then the next one you LOVE. You only need 4 or 5 clubs that you love to begin playing better golf but this is the hardest part. You can read more about this in the Backbone of the Bag section.
Let go of the ego telling you that you NEED to have the bad clubs in your bag or you’re not a real golfer. Golf is about getting the ball in the hole in as few shots as possible - not about bragging about one out of 20 drives you piped down the middle.
The entire Way of the Playa is about getting the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible and actually playing the game of golf.
Golden rule: IF YOU DO NOT ACTIVELY LOVE ANY CLUB IN YOUR BAG, REMOVE IT and either stop using it or REPLACE IT WITH ONE YOU LOVE.