Golf is supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable warm-weather activity, something to look forward to during those long winters and weekdays spent cooped up in cubicles. And it can be, if you can execute the basics. If you can’t, golf can be endlessly frustrating. Balls get lost, profanities get uttered and clubs get tossed. If that sounds familiar, professional help is needed.

Scott Mayer, the teaching pro at Nonesuch River Golf Club in Scarborough, gave Current Publishing sports reporter and golfing dilettante Tom Minervino a series of lessons this summer on how to improve as a beginning golfer. Mayer’s tips on various aspects of golf, along with Minervino’s take on the lessons, will run over the next several weeks. This week, Mayer gives tips on tee shots

Scott Mayer’s Tips on Course Management:

Golf course management really means getting yourself around the golf course in a lower score than your ability dictates. If you manage your game well, you learn how to play within your own means and avoid making errors that cost you strokes.

1. Before picking a club and hitting a particular shot, ask yourself, “Are my chances of gaining a shot as good as they are of losing a shot?”

2. It is important to be able to equate your yardage to distance. If you’re standing on the 150-yard marker (meaning you are 150 yards from the center of the green), it’s a flat lie, and there’s no wind, you want to play a 150-yard shot. For very 10 miles per hour of wind in your face, add ten yards (subtract if it’s at your back).

On the flag stick there is often another flag or marker. It is a pin locator, telling you where on the green the pin is located – if it’s on the bottom of the pin, the pin is on the front of the green; on the middle and the pin is in the middle; on the top and the pin is on the back. For a pin on the back, add 10 yards. For a pin on the front, subtract 10 yards.

For every 30 feet of elevation, add or subtract 10 yards. For every 30 feet going uphill, add 10 yards. For every 30 feet going downhill, subtract 10 yards.

So if you’ve got 30 feet of elevation, a pin on the back of the green and a 10-mile-per-hour wind at your face, you have a 180-yard shot even if you’re standing at the 150-yard marker. I’ll often see people in that situation say, give me my 150-yard club, give me my 8-iron. Trust me when I tell you, you’re not going to reach the pin with that.

3. Your clubs are supposed to have 10 yards of separation between them. But you ability to manage your game is only as good as your ability to hit the shot. You have to know which club you hit 150 yards and which club you hit 130 yards. Go out to your local course early in the morning or late in the evening and hit some shots from various yardages to pinpoint how far you hit your clubs.

4. If there is an obstacle in front of the green, but it is clear past it, hit a longer shot and play to the back of the green to take the obstacle out of the equation.

5. Figure every green to be 40 yards from front to back if you don’t know the course.

6. On the golf course, they typically identify a 100-yard marker on the fairway, which is a red plate or a red post. You get a 150-yard marker, which is white. You get a 200-yard marker, which is blue. And sometimes, you even get a 250-yard marker, which is yellow.

7. It is always easier to putt the ball straight uphill. So if I’m chipping, I always try to chip it into a position where my ball ends up below the hole.

8. Always look at the shot you have and 1. Evaluate the situation, 2. Formulate a plan, 3. Choose the appropriate club, 4. Set up accordingly, 5. Execute the shot. If I have a difficult situation, I’ll ask myself what the majority of other golfers of my ability would do. I’ll then formulate a plan to avoid falling into the routine mistakes others make.

9. Not all par-4s or par-5s require a driver. A dogleg, or bend, on a hole can cause a long, straight drive to end up in the rough or the woods. Choose a club on a dogleg that, if you hit it well, will not send you through the dogleg.

10. If you have a tendency to slice the ball (hit it left to right), you should tee the ball up on the right side of the tee box and aim it down the left side of the fairway at a spot so that if you hit it straight, it will still end up on the edge of the fairway.

11. You’ve got to dance with the lady that brought you. If you can hook the ball one day and slice it another, but you find yourself slicing it one day, don’t expect to start hooking it that day. Factor in the slice or you’ll be playing out of the right woods all day long.

12. Don’t try to make low scores. Try not to make high scores. You’re not going to play your best round of golf by trying to make miracle shots. You’re going to play your best round by playing smart and within your means.

These are just a few of the many thoughts on how golf course management can save you strokes during your round. You must use your head to identify and create the best shot within your ability. Think before you execute and you’ll play better golf.

Scott Mayer is the teaching pro at Nonesuch River Golf Club in Scarborough. He was named Maine PGA Golf Teacher of the Year in 2004. He runs Mayer’s School of Golf, which offers individual and group lessons to all ages and abilities. For more information, visit www.handsoffgolf.com or email [email protected]

Tom’s Take:

So this concludes my lessons. While I’d like to say I’m hitting slice-free drives 300 yards and routinely sinking 30-foot putts for birdies, that’s not quite the case. What I can say is that I now have a much better understanding of the game of golf, and I can recognize and address my myriad deficiencies.

I still slice the ball, but I now know it’s because I’m turning my wrists too late. I still will occasionally (OK, frequently) make poor contact on my swing, sending the ball bouncing along the ground in a variety of directions, but this is generally because I’m taking my eye off the ball before I connect with it.

I now have an idea of what I should be doing, it’s just a matter of training my body and brain to act accordingly and execute.

Mayer has thankfully been a patient instructor despite my being a less than stellar student. Yes, I’d show up for my lesson, usually on time. But I wasn’t always too good about getting my homework done. The lessons, I have a feeling, are far more productive if the student goes out and works on what he has learned. Unfortunately, this student struggled to find the hours needed to do that.

A lesson we did not cover was how to convince one’s spouse that time on the golf course can be quality time. As soon as I persuade my new bride to believe that we should devote our free time to learning and playing golf, I’m sure my scores will start withering at a rapid rate. How ’bout it, honey?

Golf tips: Chipping your way to success


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