Junior Golfers and Shot Selection

My first Caddie gig with Matthew Anderson – 2019 RBC Canadian Open

I really enjoy the days I get to go out and play 18 holes with a group of junior golfers. I often will play 9 holes with one group and 9 with the other. It’s a great opportunity to see how they handle themselves on the course and what kind of strategy they have for each hole. It’s also interesting to see how the players decide what club to use.

Last week I played with a group of 3 juniors. On the very first hole, a Par 5, one of the players had 185 yards in to a front pin. We were downwind (approximately 20 km/h) and the gound was firm. He hits it great and ends up over the back of the green underneath a tree, about 25 yards past the pin. He ended up making bogey.

1st Hole Copperhead at Rattlesnake Point – Pin Front Left, his ball about 25-30 yards past the pin under a tree.

I asked him what club he hit and he said 7-iron. He carries his 7-iron about 180 yards so he was thinking it was the perfect club. I was right beside him and we hit about the same distance and I hit 9-iron to about 20 feet below the hole and made an easy birdie. If he had hit 9-iron on the same line he would have had a great opportunity to start his day with a birdie too. One decision cost him probably 1.5 shots if we plugged it into Shotbyshot.com. If you look at the picture to the left, you can also see how much room there was right of the pin. 10 yards short of the pin would give him a relatively easy pitch for a good look at birdie.

Two days later I played a match with one of my college players. On the 17th hole he had 155 into a 15km/h headwind which adds around 18 yards to the shot so it was playing near 173 yards. He hit 9-iron (normal carry 155) and flushed it about 10 yards short of the green and ended up making bogey. That decision cost him before he even hit the ball. No way that ball was getting to the green. A ¾ 7-iron probably would have been the club if he had a good caddie with him.

How do I decide?

The yardage to the pin is rarely the yardage that is actually needed to hit the shot. There are many factors that go into this including:

  • the lie of the ball (fairway, rough, into the grain, down grain, etc.)
  • the wind
  • the temperature
  • elevation
  • rain
  • humidity

For Junior golfers, or beginners, I recommend you make a few notes on your scorecard before you play as a reminder to take into account certain factors that affect the flight of your ball.

            Lie

            Elevation (uphill/downhill)

            Wind

Keep it as those three things for now and once you get comfortable thinking of these factors and learning from it you’ll no longer need to write it down. If you’re not sure how far your shots go into the wind or downwind you can always write down the club you hit on your card and measure how far the shot actually traveled. You can then use that information later in the round when you have similar wind directions.

Remember, shots rarely play the actual number to the hole so put on your thinking cap and learn to do some good problem solving before you swing the club.  You’ll save shots and lower your scores.

Play well and make smart decisions,

AC

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