What you can learn from watching the best in action at Carnoustie
How the world’s best will tackle Carnoustie
I know many of you will be watching the action from Carnoustie, either on TV or in person. Watching the world’s best players is great, but is there also anything you can learn from the experience that will help your game too?
Obviously, all the players who tee up at Carnoustie have phenomenal physical skills. However, they’ve reached the pinnacle of the game because of their excellent mental skills too.
Club golfers may not be able to emulate the shots of Dustin Johnson or Rory McIlroy, but they can learn from watching how great players manage their games.
5 lessons to learn from the best to help your course management:
1. Have a Game Plan
All the players at Carnoustie will have a plan for how they’re going to tackle the course when they walk onto the 1st tee on Thursday. That plan will be their own; based on their strengths, weaknesses and shot preferences.
The power hitters will plan to take advantage of their length where they can, while more modest hitters will look to exploit their strengths – for instance, accuracy and short game. Players will base their strategy on assessing risk and reward.
Their plan will have identified spots in the fairways and greens to play to – but they’ll be ready for a change in conditions necessitating different clubs to find those spots.
2. Executing their plan
On every hole and on every shot they’ll have a clear plan of what they’re going to do. Of course, they won’t execute every shot perfectly – in fact, they’ll hit very few perfect shots – but the best players will always focus on their intention, on every shot. And their intention with every shot will be very clear and precise, with a definite starting line, curve and trajectory, landing spot and ultimately a precise spot where they want their shot to finish.
3. Getting back on track when the plan goes awry
When they hit a poor shot and stray off course, they will look to limit the damage by playing a smart recovery shot. Often, the smart recovery shot will be to leave a comfortable wedge from the fairway, from around 100 yards or so, from where they know they can leave themselves a good chance for par, but at worse a bogey.
4. Negotiating ever-changing conditions
Playing a seaside links requires a player to always be taking account of changing conditions and adjusting their plan accordingly. Obviously, the wind is a big factor, but the best players will also be adjusting to changing temperature, atmospheric conditions and ground conditions throughout the week. Also, very importantly, on every shot, they’ll be assessing how the ball is lying and gauging how the lie will affect how the ball will fly.
5. Avoiding a bad miss
A course of Carnoustie’s quality places very high demand on players course management skills. For instance, the severity of missing a green on the wrong side, will often be such that you’ll see the players aim away from certain hole locations, and play to safe spots – even with some short iron approaches. They’ll be wary of “sucker” pins.
At Carnoustie, the bunkers - especially some of the fairway bunkers - are true hazards to even the best players (not always the case on modern tour venues). The players will have identified the bunkers that they must avoid and will have planned their strategy on each hole to achieve that.
All too often I’ve seen amateur golfers doing the opposite of these 5 keys: no game plan, poor focus on each shot, compounding errors with crazy recovery shots, failing to adjust to conditions and lies, and missing shots in the very worst spots.
Course management often gets ignored
The course management skills often get ignored by regular golfers. However, they are a big part of improving your game, at whatever level your game is currently at. Good course management skills will allow you to maximise your performance on the course, relative to your physical skill level.
I hope you enjoy the golf from Carnoustie and watch out for not only the brilliant shots the best players hit, but also the skilled way in which they manage their games and plot their way around the course – that’s a great lesson for us all.