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John Renslow: Learning from the Masters

When discussing the 11th hole, par 4, at Augusta National, Ben Hogan said, “If you ever see me on the 11th green in two, you’ll know I missed my second shot.”

Today’s players look at the 11th hole a lot differently, but the point remains. Your scores will be lower if you consider your game against the challenges of a given golf course.

More than any other week, the best players in the world must consider the possibilities of virtually every swing, every shot they make.



This is known as “golf course management.”

At Augusta, the speed and undulations of putting greens, as well as the slopes of surrounding areas and fairways, can create some nearly impossible situations. If a miscue sends the ball to certain locations, the odds of success are in the lottery zone.



In Thursday’s opening round, Shane Lowery went for the 15th hole in two shots. Measured simply in length, 530 yards, everybody on tour can negotiate this distance under normal conditions.

Yet, with this Bobby Jones design, a manageable length needs to be micro-managed.

A small pond is positioned in front of the green, while the rear of the green shares a larger pond with the 16th hole. A bunker is alongside the right portion of the green and the green is extremely fast from back to front.

Lowery, his ball behind the green after two shots, has a presumably routine chip if you were to view this shot from the air. But, this is Augusta.

Lowery’s third shot lands softly on the green and begins to lose pace as it approaches the hole. The ball appears to settle, rotating so slowly we can read the manufacturers name printed on the cover.

A look of concern becomes a grimace, the ball reaches the end of a plateau and, rolling end over end, the letters have become very blurry. Gaining momentum, the ball continues beyond the hole, off the green and down the slope into the water.

Reaching a green in two shots is usually an advantage. However, if the ball comes to rest in an adverse position, we might leave with bogey rather than birdie.

Your home course will have some of these scenarios. They won’t be like Augusta, but we’re not playing a major championship.

Let’s take a look at a couple of holes in our area. The 13th hole at Alta Sierra is a relatively short par 4. At just 351 yards in length, some amazing math skills show that a 250-yard drive will leave a 101-yard second shot.

Here’s the catch. About 200 yards away from the green, this dogleg right fairway narrows significantly. If we hit that 250-yard drive, it must be on a tight line down the right side. A ball struck center or left will cross the dogleg and enter a grouping of trees. A player favoring the right and missing their target will be searching for a ball in the other tree line.

For those who hit their driver more than 240 yards, it might be best to just leave it in the bag. Take that fairway wood or hybrid and hit it around 200 to 210 yards. You are now hitting to the wide part of the fairway and your second shot will be a comfortable 140 to 150 yards.

A similar situation occurs at the second hole at Darkhorse Golf Course. This relatively short par 4 (310 yards from the blue tees) has a large bunker positioned in the middle of the fairway. There’s not much room to the left or right of this bunker and playing from the sand to this elevated green require more skill than most of us have.

Choose the club off the tee that will not reach the bunker. Then aim right at it and be aggressive. You will be in the center of the fairway with a second shot you can handle.

Hogan, perhaps the best ball striker ever, also said, “This is a game of misses. The guy who misses the best is going to win.”

Knowing this, we also use this advice. “A (person) has to know their limitations.”

We don’t hit every shot perfect. No one does.

So, take a page out of the best players’ book and manage your golf course. It may not result in a lot more birdies, but it will certainly take a lot of the “others” off your scorecard.

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses.

John Renslow

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