Happy New Year to everyone. I'm not much on New Year's Resolutions; However, in 2018 I will be spending more time on my website, adding blog posts that students will hopefully find useful and informative.
Gambling...an activity many golfers seem to enjoy taking part in. I personally am a fan of blackjack. How I play blackjack is how I like to think about golf. While I enjoy playing blackjack, I do not enjoy losing money, and even though that may happen on occasion, I want to make sure I give myself the best chance to make the most money I can(or lose the least) on every single hand. In blackjack, for those who aren't too familiar, there are odds on every hand based off of the cards you have and the card the dealer is showing. Blackjack is also the only game that you can increase your bet when the odds are in your favor. For instance, if you have 11 and the dealer is showing a 6(a bust card) you are allowed to double your bet. Doubling bets can be scary, even though the odds are in your favor as you are risking more and there is still always a chance you can lose. I am assuming by this point you are wondering how this relates to golf.
Why I enjoy blackjack is because it is all about rules, discipline and then making the most of your opportunities. This to me is a perfect example of how to play golf to shoot your best score possible. I hear and see players take on shots that are far too risky and challenging, and then shy away when the odds are in their favor. To make a score in golf it is all about being able to manage YOUR game. Knowing what you can and cannot do and sticking to your plan and rules. In blackjack the rules are simple, every hand has odds and there is basic strategy you can study. If you have the rules memorized you don't even have to think. Golf has no rules on the decisions, you can aim wherever you want and try and hit any shot you want. So how do you create your own rules for playing?
The picture above is from a practice session of mine. I was attempting to hit 3 specific distances with my lob wedge(75,88, 101) and then 7 stock 6 irons to the flag. What you may notice is that while I was going for specific targets, each target had a grouping around it. At no point did I get all the shots to land on top of one another. While I may choose to aim at a specific target, it would be very rare to actually hit it spot on. Here is where we start to create our rules. By understanding dispersion patterns, we can create a target that gives the best chance for success. While you are allowed to hit on 17 in blackjack, and there is chance you could catch a 4 or less, it doesn't make a lot of sense and it probably won't end well. The same would be said if I aimed for a pin that didn't match my dispersion pattern. If you look at the green dots up top that is my pattern with a 6 iron, The shots averaged 200 yards carry(+/- 5 yards) and were +/- 10 yards right or left. So if a pin is 4 yards on the green and 5 yards from the edge at 200 yards and I aimed directly at it, 3 of the 7 shots would miss the green. Depending on what was around the green, that could spell disaster, even though the shot would have been a decent shot based on my patterns.
To manage your game and shoot the best scores possible, the first thing you have to understand are your patterns. Once you understand your patterns you can start to make decisions that give you the best chance for success. Knowing when and where you can be aggressive can lead to better commitment over the shot, and knowing when to play to a "safer" target can take some pressure off. When the correct decisions are made on a consistent basis one of the biggest rewards is that your "average" shot will tend to have a better outcome, resulting in more pars and birdies without having to be perfect in your execution. The goal in golf is to shoot the best score possible, that doesn't mean that you have to do everything perfectly. In blackjack you're not going to win every hand, even if you do everything right, but if you continue to play correctly and stick to your rules, you give yourself the best chance of walking away from the table happy.
I hope this post has given you something to think about the next time you are on the course. In your next practice session a great exercise would be to hit 10 balls to a target with 1 club and chart each shot in relation to the target left and right. While it may be a challenge to do distances, you can at least get a feel for your dispersion pattern horizontally and begin to understand your tendencies. This is the start to making better decisions on the golf course.
Happy New Year again to everyone and I hope 2018 is the year you see your best golf to date. I will be posting on a regular basis and always welcome feedback and discussion. Feel free to contact me with any comments or questions.