RENSLOW: Some courses push players to mix it up |

RENSLOW: Some courses push players to mix it up

Are there times when you wish you could do anything you want? We could eat everything and not gain weight. We could speed (safely) and not get a ticket. We could be completely honest with someone who deserves it.

Alas, we do not live in such a world. That piece of cake will show up on the scale. Traffic school is a long day. And, ‘you know who’ will continue to think everything is okay.

But wait. When you make decisions on how to play your best on the golf course, you can do anything you want. You can choose to use any golf club anywhere on the course.

Use your driver on the putting green? Fine. Give the putter a swing off the tee? No problem. You can do anything you want.

Now, that having been said, is that choice really the best decision to lower your score?

Last week’s Open Championship in St. Andrews, Scotland, gave us a number of scenarios that break the mold in club selection. With grasses cut very short in areas surrounding the greens, a number of players (if not all at some point during the week) were using putters from several to dozens of yards off the green.

We might not see this on the PGA Tour all year long. Generally, golf course design in the United States has become very target oriented with golf balls airborne from point A to point B. In golf’s birthplace, however, point B may not be receptive to a ball falling from the sky. Often, a ball will hit a firm putting surface and roll well beyond the hole, rolling through swales and down knolls to a place where few men have gone before.

So, knowing that we can do anything, what do we do? Let’s look at a few different ways we can approach this.

Around the greens, if you have a good amount of short grass between your ball and putting surface, a simple first choice would be the putter. It doesn’t matter that your ball is not on the green. You can still putt it and odds are good this putt will be better than a chip.

There’s an old saying in our game, “your worst putt is always better than your worst chip.” I can almost hear the Scottish accent.

We’re not done though. We could even use a fairway wood or a hybrid. Several years ago, I was practicing for an event in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Pinehurst No. 2 (the courses are simply numbered) was designed by a Scot, Donald Ross, and has very similar features to the coastal course of the UK.

Very short grasses and knolls surrounding firm greens that are nigh to impossible to use a conventional wedge shot. A man was practicing shots about 20 feet off the greens with a 3-wood. Yes, a 3-wood. After failing with my wedges, I took out the 3-wood and started bumping the ball up the slope and onto the green. It took a while to get the feel of it, but it saved at least two shots from my score in the tournament.

Just like life, some choices may not work out the way you intended. Not to worry, that freedom of choice will lead to a better result if your goal is a lower score. You can do anything you want.

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at

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