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A lunch hour 9 hitting driver EVERYWHERE....Or not?
Course: Chesapeake Golf Club
Date: May 12, 2022
Time: 1:45 PM
Conditions: 50*, windy & overcast
Ping G425 LST 9* (turned to 7.5*) with Aldila Rogue White 130 70TX
Taylormade 300 Mini 13.5* (turned to 11.5*) with Ventus Black 7X
Callaway Apex UW 19* with HZRDUS Smoke RDX Black 80 6.5
Srixon ZX U 20* (Bent to 18*) with Recoil 110 F5 Proto
Srixon ZX5/ZX7 Combo irons 4-PW; +3/4” 2* Up; KBS Ctaper Lite X-Stiff
Cleveland CBX2 50*/56* wedges with DG 115 Wedge Flex Shafts
Odyssey O-Works Tank #7
All data and screenshots below are done using the V1 Game app. Grab the app and start shooting lower scores today!
Had a frustrating morning at work, so decided to take my lunch hour and pop out for as many holes as I could fit in. It had rained a good bit and I expected it to be cart-path-only, but as it turned out the course had been so dry that it drank up the rain and was soft, but not soaked. It was however, chilly and windy.
Following the red tee challenge, where I decided not to hit driver AT ALL, I was challenged by Will Terry from ROI Golf to consider hitting driver more often, or basically hit driver unless I have a good reason not to. I’m not entirely sure this will be a feasible plan moving forward, but I liked the challenge, and I love hitting driver, so I decided to hit driver on EVERY hole during this session.
I’m gonna break down the round, and then at the bottom I want to dissect some of my thoughts/strategies from the tee and how that often dictates the club selection.
The course was pretty much empty, so I was able to be on the first tee box about 4 minutes after I left my house. I really need to spend some more time warming up and getting loose, but a couple toe touches, couple practice swings, and I was off and running.
Firs thing I want to talk about with each hole during this breakdown is my target line. On one, the only way to really get in trouble is to either pull it 45* left or blow it way right. For my shot shape (fade) I like to aim right where the 56* is on the tag above. That line gives me plenty of room if I fade it hard or if the wind is blowing, if the ball doesn’t come back, it’s still a decent angle into the green, and if I tug it a touch, I end up by the tee boxes on 2, which is not idea, but I hit it high enough to clear the trees and can still get on in 2.
Today with wind dead into me, I hit a blistering cut that started just right of my target line, but the wind and spin cut it pretty hard, so I ended up just in the first cut of rough. It’s not a terrible place to be, but you either have to go high or low to clear the twin tall trees to access the green. I opted to go over, and I flushed it, carrying just a touch too far and hopping off the back of the green.
I chipped it to about 20 feet, which was mediocre and left the putt a little short.
Good drive, below average from there. It’s interesting to me I lost .05 strokes on this shot, because I’d take this drive on #1 all day every day.
Score: +1 (+1)
I never hit driver on this hole. It’s a pretty narrow corridor, and with my shot shape, I have to start the ball over trouble, which I never like doing. I have a pretty repeatable shot shape, but my miss is a pull that just never comes back. So aiming over the trees or water is not a welcome mindset on the tee box here. Additionally, the trees on the left here are pretty tall, so even if I do hit a cut, I don’t have a lot of margin for error without getting hung up in the tops of trees and anything that touches those trees is dead.
So here I ended up aiming too far right (Start line about where the end of the 9i tag is) and blocking the ball further right into the top of the trees, which is often where I end up if I hit mini driver or UW. I got a lucky kick out to the right, but if it were to drop straight down, it’s dead. 100% punch out and no way to access the green.
I think there’s just a mental block on this hole to aim far enough left, but honestly I don’t think aiming left is the answer here. Everything about this tee box points out to the right and 90% of the time that’s where I end up. In fact, the best option from this tee box may be a 2i shot to try and find the fairway here. Driver, if it’s blown way too far right can really end up in trouble. I don’t think there’s enough reward for the risks involved here.
I had a little bit of tree trouble and limb overhang here, so had to play a touch to the right of the green. I don’t have a draw in the bag, so I didn’t have many options. Hit a decent shot, but hit the side of the hill and kicked down to the right. Hit a tidy little pitch to 12 feet and just didn’t make the first putt. Tee shot wasn’t terrible, but wind and spin hurt my distance and left me in the trees, which is just not great. Didn’t give myself a look at par here, which is always the goal.
Score (+1) +2
I don’t know why the app is showing the blue breadcrumbs here, but it does give you an idea o the cool tech and how its pinging the GPS so often, which is how it magically knows where you hit shots from. Wind was hard across here and I hit a little floaty 9i. I didn’t aim far enough left, but I thought the wind was gonna hold the line more than it did. Instead it killed the shot and I came up slightly short and right. I had a tight lie and a short sided shot over a bunker, so just clipped it and it stopped about 15 feet from the cup. Two putts to get down from there meant a third bogey in a row to start the round.
Score: +1 (+3)
This is always a layup for me, but its a perfect case study for this Driver Decision Tree discussion (Say that fast 5x).
This GPS view looks pretty wide open, but today from the left there are some more mature trees overhanging and so everything looks even tighter, but the bigger issue is there is always wind here, and a spinny cut drive, which is my miss, can easily end up finding the water if it flies short, or into the trees/OB over the water if it flies longer.
My start line here was basically at the blue cartpath line on the left side of the hole across the water. I hit this ball pretty good, but it started about 10 yards right of my aiming line, and the wind carried it further right, as did the cut spin. It wasn’t crushed, but it wasn’t poorly struck. Still, it wasn’t too far from finding trouble on the right. I got away with one.
I will say, it was nice to have a short wedge into this green rather than a mid or long iron, and it led to the only birdie of the round. Hit a solid wedge to 15 feet, and hit a great putt that curled in the side. All in all, I got away with driver here, but I still don’t love driver off this tee. I’d love some thoughts or feedback, but the question I’m always asking on the tee box is where can I miss if I don’t hit this well? Similar to #2, I have to aim into and over trouble on this hole, and if it doesn’t come back, I end up OB/in the trees left, and there’s trouble short, and right. It just feels like a definite no go in my mind, unless the wind is really helping, and even then, I am not sure I gain enough reward by going for it.
Nice to make a birdie though!
Score: -1 (+2)
Back pin here and down wind, so I tried to hit a little chippy 9i and just flew it left of the green about hole high. I hit a second shot just for fun, and mid-swing there was a massive gust of wind from behind and even though I flushed it, the ball carried the whole green complex and ended up down behind a hill. I hit a great little pitch here and rolled in the 5 footer for par. I’m trying to be more firm with these short putts and take some of the break out. So far, so good, but heaven help me if I miss, because they’re gonna roll past a good way!
Score: E (+2)
Ignore the Jackson Pollack painting above. The dotted line bisecting the screen grab and ending with the dot on the houses left was me taking this screen shot from my couch and living so close to the course it thought I was still playing…
I don’t hit driver here EVER either. Similar to 2 and 4, I have to aim into and over trouble to allow for my shot shape. A straight shot is OB or can fly all the way down into the water, a pull is VERY OB, and a cut is usually in play, but can also run through the fairway and find OB. This is a tough par 5, so biting off as much distance as possible is awesome, but with all the OB possibilities, I don’t love driver here. Nevertheless, I was committed to the process and I hit a heely cut off the trees on the left that the wind blew further right. I think on 2, 4, and here on 6, I mentally chickened out, a bit and almost tried to overcut it. The contact wasn’t great on any of them, but they were still hit hard. That said, a heely cut is never going to go very far, especially in a hard cross wind.
I ended up in the far right edge of the fairway, which was great. I will say that. I have been in this location with mini driver too, though. It really just depends on course conditions, but I don’t love driver for all the reasons stated above. I think mini is a more reliable option, and I’ve even hit 2i down the left tree line to try and bite off some distance.
Regardless, I had a look at the green, so I pulled UW and hit a decent shot that I pushed just a touch, and I got absolutely boned on the result. Right where you see the penalty marker across the water up by the green there is a bunker with big slopes on either side. The ball hit the slope on the right and kicked hard down and to the right, and I watched it trickle past the OB marker.
So I dropped and hit the UW again and absolutely flushed it, into the wind, carrying it onto the front of the green. Unfortunately, like the red tee round, the flag was in the very back, and I had 40 feet down a massive slope. I hit the first putt a bit too hard and it rolled 10 feet past, and I missed the comebacker. Dobule bogey. But the tee ball wasn’t the problem. I should have started the 2nd short further left than I did. But I’m still a 7-8 hdcp and I do stupid stuff like that sometimes.
Score: +2 (+4)
Rinse, repeated here. I bang driver at this green all day every day. It’s actually a really hidden green from the box. I need to take a picture one day so you can fully understand the layout here and the view from the box. That said, if I aim up the left, it usually cuts back and I end up on the green or around here. Today after the double bogey, I wanted to no part of the trouble left, so I aimed at the right edge of the green and cut it just a touch into the bunker. I flew it hole high, and this driver was pummeled. All these cross winds did not help my distance any. I hit a great bunker shot to 8 feet, but just missed on the lip. Thought I had another birdie, but it was not meant to be. Tap in par.
Score: E (+4)
Finally hit this green! Been too long. Tough club choice with wind straight into me, but a little knockdown PW into the wind was the key. I came up just short of the slope where the pin was on the top level, and rolled back to the front. I had 36 feet up the slope, and lagged it tight, to about 2 feet. Solid par here. This hole is so much harder than it looks. I rarely see anybody make birdie and even pars are tough to come by. Just a narrow green with lots of contour and usually an in-between distance with some type of wind in play.
Score: E (+4)
As I sit here a day later, I’m STILL mad at myself about this swing I made on 9. I have traditionally hit something other than driver on this hole. The trees on the right are ball magnets and everything slopes off to the right. It’s a hard hole because it’s a pretty long par 4, but there’s OB on both side and the trees hug the fairways more than it looks on this GPS image. Aiming left often means clipping trees, aiming right often means OB.
My target line on this hole was where the 10 is on the tag near the green. Left side of the green. I wasn’t confident on this tee box though. I was trying to talk myself into the shot and had way too many things running through my head when I pulled the trigger and took the club back.
I blocked this shot so far right I almost hit it in the FRONT YARD of the house on the right. With Mini or 2i, if I catch the trees on the right the ball drops down and while it’s not great, I have a punch out option to advance the ball near the green. If I flail one out to the right with driver, I’m over the trees and putting dent’s in John & Joan’s nice new roof.
I should have re-teed and tried to recalibrate, but honestly I was so angry I could have chewed my driver shaft in two, so I took the new OB rule and took 2 strokes, dropped in the fairway and hit my next shot up onto the front edge of the green. Two putts from there and another awful double.
That swing is the boogeyman that lives in my head and keeps me from hitting driver on a lot of holes. If that swing shows up, nothing else matters. A glitch in my mental game develops and all bets are off.
Score: +2 (+6)
“You gotta learn to drive with the fear…”
Well there ya have it. Not great, not awful. Fought some tough conditions, but all in all not that atypical a driver day for me. Even on bad days I hit it plenty long enough to scrape it around. The drive on 9 was a disaster, everything else was playable, but I did flirt with trouble more than I’d typically like.
I’ve spent some time over the last couple years listening to and looking at Scott Fawcett’s Driver Decision Tree, and the basic rule of thumb is if there’s a 60 Yard Wide landing area for your driver, it’s go time. There is definitely NOT 60 yard wide areas on a lot of the holes I often choose not to hit driver on, or there might be, but there’s also trouble all around. #4 has 60 yards across, BUT as I pointed out above, there’s all sorts of things that can go wrong on that hole. Adding a water hazard short and wind across only makes it more challenging.
I guess if I had to boil it all down to driver decisions it’s this: If I’m standing on the box and I’m not 100% confident in ripping driver, I don’t think I should hit that club. Now I could still make errors with the longer clubs, but I do think there’s a lot of value in asking the question “Where can I miss with this tee shot?” I’ve heard lots of good players, and even tour players, asking that question. Where can I aim where my best shot will be safe and my poor shots won’t penalize me. That’s ultimately my driver decision tree. Do I have room to miss with this club on this hole, and unfortunately at my course, the answer is often no.
What I would also say in response to the question of why not hit driver everywhere is this: Yea, driver can REALLY be a weapon when I’m hitting it well and it’s going at my intended target. It can also be a significant liability and bring some bigger numbers into play needlessly. I don’t think I would say driver is a *STRENGTH* of my game. It’s weapon, but a strength. The STRENGTH of my game is my speed. I can hit a 3i 220-240, I can hit a UW 240-250, I can hit the mini 250-275. If those clubs and shot patterns give me greater confidence and a better ability to get the ball on the ground with a look at the green, I think that’s the play for me. Like Tiger once said, he plays aggressively to conservative targets. That’s how I’d like to build my tee game.
Would love your thoughts on this! Comment below, or fire away on twitter @GolfGrindBlog!