Junior Golf: Lessons From The Valero Texas Open

In this Monday Mulligan we’re looking at some lessons to be learned from the just completed Valero Texas Open, won by Charley Hoffman. Watching professional athletes in competition provides opportunities for all of us including your junior golfer to gain some valuable information. (photo jennleforge.com)img_0135

Last Friday Linda and I watched about 50-60 entrants play the driveable par 4, #17 at the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio. There was a following north wind and the far left back pin was maybe 360 yards from the tee box, driveable for the longer hitters in those conditions. After watching several groups come through, 2 strategies became clear. 1st, most of the players were laying up, some hitting irons off the tee to a desired wedge distance. 2nd, about 10% were bombing their driver trying to get on the green in 1.

It became apparent that there were 3 choices for how to hit a wedge, from the layup, into the green. 1st land the ball on the back side of the ridge running left to right across the green and let it kick downhill toward the pin. This was the most popular effort and was executed beautifully by a number of players. 2nd choice was to land the approach on the left side of a ridge running middle to back and let it kick left to the hole. Freddie Jacobson’s shot of the day lipped out doing this and he had a tap-in birdie. The 3rd and toughest plan was to land on the flatter surface near the pin. The north helping wind made this difficult to judge and almost every ball landing within 10 feet of the pin from a head-on direction rolled to or off the back of the green. What we saw was that these guys, at least most of them, were aware of these options and went with the 1 they were most comfortable with. (Linda and me at our superb seats on the back right of #17 green😄😎)

imageThe bombers had a different day of it. Only 5 balls got anywhere close to the green with their driver in the groups we saw play hole #17. Brandon Grace drove the green and 2-putted for a birdie. Another player, whose name escapes me had a good lie in the 1st cut left of the middle of the green and made a nice up-and-down for a birdie. Johnny Vegas short-sided himself in the rough left of the pin and bogeyed the hole. Of the bombers, there were 2 birdies, 2 bogies and a par. True risk/reward scenario!

The lesson? Your junior golfer should have a plan for each hole. She’s not too young to start thinking about the strategic planning that is essential to playing winning golf. Start with an easy hole, perhaps a short par 3 or a par 4 with a really wide fairway. Don’t be concerned if she is not controlling where her ball goes, it’s the thought process that you’re ingraining here. Ask her where she thinks a good place would be for her ball to stop on this shot. The goal is to have the ball in a position to hit a good next shot. On a par 3 this would mean being on or near the green with her tee shot. On a par 4 it would be having her drive in the fairway. As her skills improve, you can discuss if 1side of the fairway is better than the other as it relates to being able to hit the desired next shot. Strategic planning is fun, let’s start now!

See you on #1 tee with a plan… Sam

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