The Game #2 Manage Your Space
By stuwarren, Jan 27 2021 03:15PM
This is where most players go wrong. Think of it being the point of no return. What you do at this stage has a direct impact on your execution of the shot. Your space includes the area around the golf ball, the space where you will be having your practice swings and the window where your ball will fly. The most important part of managing your space is understanding the lie of the ball.
We’ve all walked up to our ball, anticipating the next aggressive shot towards the flag, only to find it lying poorly. The strong sense of going for it, even though the lie doesn’t give us access to a successful shot, is overwhelming and ultimately we walk straight into a poor shot.
This inability to correctly assess the lie of the ball is a major contributor to your overall score. I use a percentage scaling method against the desired shot. If I want to hit the ball at difficult target, I need to have at least a 75% lie to give myself any chance of success. If it’s less than 75%, then I need to aim at a bigger target. If its 50% then I need to be looking a different shot altogether. Most players I see on the course react more to the overall distance they want the ball to go, rather than a shot that the lie will permit. This is especially the case on longer second shots using hybrids or fairway woods.
Once you’ve assessed the lie, give yourself at least two options for the shot. This could be the same distance but having an easier and more challenging target, or two completely different shots. Choose the shot that gives you the most chance of success, not just distance!
Once you’ve selected the shot, you can then select the club and start your practice swings. Managing the space is vital here, so where you have your practice swings matters. Always try to take them behind the ball with the club on the ball to target line. This means that what you see when practice swinging is exactly what you’ll see when you step into the shot for real. A big mistake, made by everyone, is to practice to the side of the ball. You are now looking diagonally towards the target, so when you step into the ball, you will mostly be aiming the body too closed, leading to blocks and heavy shots.
At this point, you will be switching on to the angle of attack and depth of strike that you’d like at impact for a successful shot. Feeling through the hands and hearing the correct ground/ club interaction on your practice swings is the key. You will be tuning in to the ball flight trajectory and distance required. I visualise a football on fire streaking through the sky, before landing and setting my target on fire. This extreme mental image gives me my best focus to step in and execute.
To summarise, we walk in, assess the lie, choose our options, select the best one, create our practice swings whilst visualising and feeling the angles of strike and trajectory of flight from behind the ball and then step in to address. All of this happens within seconds and whilst described in sequence, many blend together at the same time. Players who do this are managing their space and ultimately their scorecard.
Now, think of your current play. It probably looks something like this. Another drive sliced out to the right rough on this short par 4. You normally reach with a 7 iron form a good lie 30 yards further in the fairway. However, your ball is half buried in the rough, well short. You arrive at the ball thinking of past plays and how you always reach this green. Acknowledging you are further back, you reach straight for the hybrid and take a swipe at the ball, scuffing it 30 yards in front of you!
Being so attached to previous plays of the hole and so blind to the lie of the ball, you selected a shot with a club that you had 0% chance of success. You have also added to the cumulative failure of the round from a ball striking perspective, increased poor feedback and poor body language. There’s only one way this round is going!
If you’d recognised the poor lie, you could have selected a wedge to a safe zone on the fairway. This could have been a warm up shot for another into the green. You would have left the hole with a maximum score of bogey, and had a chance of a par. You would have improved your ball striking outcomes, improved your feedback and your body language would have been better. It would have felt like you’d saved the holed, rather than lost it.
Managing your space is an eclectic mix of physical and mental skills happening quickly to maximise your outcomes and lower you scorecard. Get it right, more often, and the game becomes a pleasure. Get it wrong, it becomes a nightmare!