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golf hmm... thoughts

The Sucker Pin

17th hole at TPC Sawgrass | Photo by nsaplayer via Flickr (Creative Commons)

One of the hardest skills to teach a competitive golfer is what I call The Sucker Pin Principle.

A sucker pin is a pin placement that is inviting you to take a dangerous or unnecessary risk. This takes advantage of an aggressive player.

The sucker pin principle rewards the patient golfer while punishing the aggressive. Application of this principle is what separates a talented high school golfer from an all-conference high school golfer.

For most golfers sucker pins are irrelevant because they just aren’t good enough to worry about pin placements. But for competitive golfers on every hole they are not just trying to hit the ball on the green from the fairway or the tee box on a par 3, they are trying to hit the ball to the area of the green where the pin is so that they can try to score. (e.g. birdie the hole)

Sucker pins come mostly into play on a par 3 hole. If the greenskeeper wants to make a hole more difficult, he may place the pin to a comfortable distance, say 150 yards, but place it far to the right of the green near a bunker. The safe and smart play in that situation is to play the ball to the center of the green. But the aggressive player will be tempted to play to the right and flirt with the being in a short-side bunker.

When I coached high school golf I would always say, “Play to the middle of the green, don’t fall for the sucker pin.” In practice this was fine. Players would amuse their coach. But in a match, particularly if they had bogeyed the hole before, they were tempted by the opportunity to get a stroke back. The lure of an easy birdie would be too much, they’d go for it, inevitably miss the green, and bogey another hole.

If you watch golf on TV you will see that professional golfers pick spots on the course where they can be aggressive. But they show respect to certain hole and their pin placement, go for the middle of the green, and pat their caddy on the back as they walk to the next tee box with a par.

Commentators talk about it all the time. “He picks his spots well.” or “He manages the golf course like Seve.” “Golfers are attacking this pin placement today.”

More often than not, the golfer who picks his spots to be aggressive is going to win while the golfer who is overly aggressive is going to take too many risks, pay too many penalties, is going to lose.

If you watched the final 9 holes of The Masters this year you saw a case study in this principle. Tiger Woods climbed up the leaderboard, chose a spot to be aggressive and came up short. Lee Westwood tried to be conservative all day and he was too patient. But Phil Mickelson chose to be aggressive on the 12th hole (I screamed at the TV) and he nailed it and hoisted the green jacket.

The same principle applies in life. Life is full of sucker pin opportunities. Any major transaction in life is doubly full of sucker pins. You may just have to pay a price for your aggressiveness. But if you are patient and pick your spot, you can come out ahead.

Specific areas of sucker pins:

  • Work life
  • Parenting
  • Investing money
  • New ventures
  • Love interests
  • Friendships
  • Choosing the color to paint the house

What are sucker pins you fall for all the time?

Categories
golf illustrations

Romans 7:14-20 Illustrated by Tiger Woods

This video illustrates this passage so well, doesn’t it? It’s shocked me to see people jump on the bandwagon against Tiger Woods. Shame on us for thinking for a second that he was less a man than you or I.

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
Romans 7:14-20

I know there are a great number of strong Christian men on the PGA Tour, I hope that those guys get to walk alongside Tiger– loser to loser– and talk about doing life better.

Categories
golf

Can Tiger Come Back?

It’s Saturday at the U.S. Open. Tiger, along with half of the field, have drawn the worst possible lot. Half of the field has played the first two rounds in near ideal weather while the other half has played with sloppy weather.

So, here we are. The leader is 12 shots ahead of the world’s #1 player. Is it possible for Tiger Woods to come back?

I don’t know if he can win. But this is likely Tiger’s gameplan for rounds 2-4.

Tiger’s goal for Round 2 will be to get to even par. He’ll attack the front 9 to try to get back to even as soon as possible. The back 9 will likely be tougher with thunderstorms rolling in. So there won’t be a chance to go low… but he’s a very talented golfer who can bear down and play par golf.If he can get it to even par, that will secure his position in the top 40 and he can start to let the conditions benefit him.

Tiger’s goal for Round 3 will be to get -2 and hope the weather turns on the leaders. The pressure and the golf course will start to weed out some who made it to the top after 2 rounds. Sad, but true. He knows if he can just hang out there he will land in the top 20 with one round to go. Of course, if anyone is capable of a 62 in Round 3, it’s Tiger Woods. That’d make for great TV but I don’t think it’s possible at Bethpage.

If he can get in the top 20 for Round 4, it’s game on. Time and time again the field comes back on the last day. You never know… he could shoot 68 and be right there late.

Can it happen? It can. Will it happen? That’s why the world is watching.