Jack Nick­laus

Avoid stum­bling out of the blocks

Golf Digest Middle East - - Contents -

Strat­egy for tough open­ers.

“Bet­ter to make a mis­take with your sec­ond shot than your first.”

TOO TIGHT A SQUEEZE

Want to try to fit your tee shot into this nar­row area? I’ll as­sume you were ab­so­lutely strip­ing your driver on the range 10 min­utes ago. Be­cause righthanders will prob­a­bly be try­ing to hit a draw to fol­low the shape of the fair­way— and left-han­ders a fade—a lot of misses here go left (out- of-bounds on the right also plays a role). The thick grass on the left can be as bad as the bunker. Chop it out, and now you’ve got 200 yards for your third shot.

TAKE THE STRESS OUT OF IT

On an open­ing hole like this, a long par 4 with se­ri­ous trou­ble on both sides, it makes a lot of sense to play to the fat­test part of the fair­way. I usu­ally hit 3-wood here, which guar­an­teed my ball would stay short of the pot bunker on the in­side of the dog­leg. Be­cause the fair­way bunkers on links cour­ses in the United King­dom are such se­vere penal­ties, you ab­so­lutely have to play away from them. It’s a dif­fer­ent men­tal­ity than how we play in the States. When your de­ci­sion-mak­ing rests to­tally on where the bunkers are, this is golf in its purest form.

You won’t find many open­ing holes that are overly dif­fi­cult at the golf cour­ses I de­sign. I like to see golfers get off to a de­cent start. I sure never liked it when I ru­ined my day on the first hole. Plenty of time for that later in the round!

Of course, there are a lot of ex­cel­lent cour­ses that waste no time chal­leng­ing your game. This sum­mer, the Open Cham­pi­onship re­turns to Royal Birk­dale where the 448-yard first is one of the all-time tough open­ing holes. I’ve seen many pros make dou­ble bo­gey there, and worse.

On the first—and to some de­gree all the early holes—every­one has a slightly greater chance of mak­ing a poor swing. There are nerves, and you’re sim­ply not yet in the rhythm of the round. That’s why I al­ways be­gan con­ser­va­tively.

When you’re start­ing on a dif­fi­cult par 4—and No. 1 at Birk­dale is a clas­sic ex­am­ple—the bulk of the trou­ble is often in play on the drive. If you’re go­ing to make one swing that’s less than per­fect, it’s bet­ter to do it on the sec­ond shot. Do what­ever you can to put the tee ball in the fair­way, and then you’ll be off and run­ning. — WITH MAX ADLER ▶

A LESS COSTLY MIS­TAKE

If you’re conservative with the tee shot, this ap­proach is go­ing to be a lit­tle longer. The prob­a­bil­ity your sec­ond shot fin­ishes in one of these bunkers is con­sid­er­able. That’s OK. Be­ing green­side in two isn’t bad; you can still get up and down for par or make an easy bo­gey. That’s bet­ter than mak­ing your mis­take on the drive, where you could end up with a long-range third. Then it’s a real fight to avoid dou­ble.

on the road to re­cov­ery

A mem­o­rably ter­ri­ble start was at the 1970 Dow Jones In­vi­ta­tional, played at Up­per Mont­clair Coun­try Club in Clifton, N.J. I opened with three bo­geys, and on the fourth hole, I found my­self against a tree and hit­ting the shot left-handed ( above). Some­how, I blitzed the rest of the course and shot 65. It feels great to come back from early mis­takes, but I pre­fer a smart start with less stress.

Strat­egy by Jack Nick­laus

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