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Although I don’t believe golf should be completely formulaic, we all have our own set of mental calculations to negotiate the particulars of any given shot.  Flyer lie – take 1 less club.  Low runner – move ball back.  Everyone who has played the game long enough has build up a database of mental equations to be called upon throughout the round.  But nobody I’ve ever seen has chronicled as many detailed setup adjustments as Jerry Heard in “The Golf Secrets of the Big Money Pros”.

In his “Situation Checklist of the Big-Money Pros”, Jerry tabulates the subtle variations that he recommends for modifying the standard shot for a special purpose.  Personally, I like the “visualization” column as it provides some insight into to Heard’s inner dialogue and mental shotmaking keys.

The preface to the article reads:

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Gary Player has always likened golf tournaments to examinations.  Certainly the major competitions like the British Open and the U. S. Open test us in every facet of the game.  Now I’m not the academic type, and I don’t care too much for tests or examinations.  No sense making life any more difficult than it has to be. 

What follows is my “Situation Checklist of the Big-Money Pros”.  It presents most of the routine as well as many of the unusual circumstances in which golfers find themselves.  For each situation or condition it recommends a solution in the form of a checklist of various ways to approach the shot.  This type of presentation cannot be totally comprehensive because every shot you play is just a little different from every other one.  The strength of the wind will vary, and the degree to which you want to fade or draw ta shot will depend on all the factors affecting a shot.  You must make these decisions on the course for yourself.

This reference is a place to start and a place to learn.  Practice the alignment adjustments on the range and become comfortable with them before attempting them on the course.  Learn for yourself how much you need to open or close a clubface to change the flight of the ball, etc.

It is necessary to assume that your normal shot is a straight ball.  As I mentioned earlier, Johnny Miller is the only tour player I can remember who consistently hit the ball straight.  Use the straight ball assumption as a point of reference.  For example, if your normal ball flight is a fade (left to right) and the Situation Checklist recommends opening the clubface, opening your stance, etc. in order to fade the ball, don’t.  You already do this naturally.  Just play your normal shot.  On the other hand, if you normally fade the ball and the shot calls for a draw, you will need to personalize the chart.  And I would recommend you make notes on it as you learn to use it more effectively.

As you already know, on of the key elements to playing good golf is to play the percentage shot.  I believe in that. Whenever possible play your natural, no adjustment shot.  Don’t be trying to work the ball all over the golf course for every shot you face.  Keep the game simple.  Listen to Jerry.

Early in his career Jack Nicklaus overpowered golf courses and his competition.  His strength was his length.  Later on he became an even better player because he learned how to think his way around the golf course.  He made better risk/reward decisions than anyone else.  When you decide to play a shot other than your normal shot on the golf course, weigh the risk/reward consequences first.  You may decide that playing a familiar shot a little closer to the hazard is better than trying an unfamiliar shot that could lead to disaster.

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Aside from the checklist, the techincal instruction in “Secrets” was pretty underwhelming.  There were however some great stories and anecdotes, including a disturbing recollection of the 1975 Western Open at Butler National in Chicago where Heard and Lee Trevino, sitting side by side waiting out a passing storm, were electrocuted by stray current from a lightning strike on a nearby tree.  Neither man fully recovered but elective surgery prolonged Trevino’s career while Heard was forced to retire after 15 years as a top touring pro.  It’s too bad – the guy could really swing it!

 

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