By Tom Abts
“Uncontrolled power is the very devil – in golf or anywhere else.” Words of wisdom from Percy Boomer – probably the wisest golf instructor of all time.
Of course, I’m referring to last month’s U.S. Open and Bryson DeChambeau’s amazing victory. As you know, he was the only player who finished under par, and it wasn’t even close – he won by 6 shots.
But the reason for all of the discussion, is that he focused on power, on hitting it as far as he could off the tee, on a course with serious rough.
Commentators keep saying that he defied logic. Just the opposite. His strategy of length allowed him to hit wedges out of the rough instead of using unmanageable longer clubs. That’s using logic.
So, let’s use logic for your game. Are you a plus 6 handicap TOUR player who needs to beat the best players in the world? Probably not. I’m not either. We need to navigate safely around the golf course.
Let me make an analogy to car racing. If you’re going to win a NASCAR race you basically have to keep the pedal to the floor the whole time. If you just drive safely, you’ll get passed continually and never win. It’s the same with a TOUR player. They need to constantly attack the golf course. But remember – these are the best players in the world.
When I play golf, I don’t want to crash and burn. My game is about control. It’s not exciting, but I don’t like making triple bogeys. I don’t want “car accidents.” TOUR players are in control. So much so, that they can keep ramping up the speed – just like a professional race car driver.
When I used to give lessons, very often I took the hard to hit clubs out of my student’s bags. When they complained that I was making it difficult for them to reach par 5s in two shots. I replied that when they were consistently shooting par golf, then we would start working on those clubs.
What separates most players is their short game. TOUR players have unbelievable short games. Bryson DeChambeau maximized his power with the strength of his short game. His ability to scramble gave him the luxury of playing super-aggressive golf. And, the second place finisher – Matthew Wolff – also played aggressive power golf. Wolff also has an unbelievable short game.
If you want to play better golf and shoot lower scores; focus on your short game. If your short game is really good, and the rest of your game is pretty consistent, but a lack of power is your weakness; experiment with a longer driver.
My own bag of clubs is an odd mix. I still use blade irons. I’m not looking for length from my irons – I want feel and control. However, I am using a goofy hot-faced driver with a long, flexible graphite shaft. My swing speed has significantly slowed down over the years. My longest iron is a 6 iron.
For me to try to play power golf is absurd. And it shouldn’t be the focus of most players – even younger players. Control is the name of the game.
Of course, I’d like to hit it far. We all want to hit far. I get it. And, if you don’t really care about your score and just want to whale-away… go for it.
Jack Nicklaus’ power game changed golf 60 years ago. Tiger Wood’s power game changed golf 25 years ago. But, they were also the best putters of their era. They weren’t just power players. Power is an incredible weapon in golf. Great putting is also an incredible weapon in golf. Combining the two is an unbeatable formula if the rest of the game is good.
However, most amateurs’ “rest of the game” is not good. And the reason is not that they’re not a power player… it’s that they are not in control. Especially around the green. Good chipping can save you a shot a hole. Think that adds-up?
If you can drive it fairly safely off the tee, and then hit it somewhere up around the green, and if you have a good short game, you can score pretty well.
Then, adding yards off the tee can be a big help. But only if you can keep it in play. Penalty shots are expensive. And wasting shots around the green is expensive. Wasting shots around the green is like a football team fumbling in the Red Zone. All that work getting close is wasted if you can’t capitalize in golf or football.
Back to Percy Boomer… out of control power is not a good thing. You can still be aggressive – golf is about strategy and skill. Be smart. Reckless is not smart. But that doesn’t mean to be a wimp.
Take control of your game. That’s what we all need to do.