You have just come off the course after playing your Sunday morning round and you decide to tune into the golf to catch up with your favourite player. He is nowhere to be seen. The coverage is solely focused on one man, Bryson DeChambeau. He has bombed yet another drive over 400-yards through a dogleg and is sitting pretty! He walks down the fairway, watches his playing partner hit his second, and then he walks another 100-yards to get to his ball. He takes out a wedge, knocks it to the centre of the green, and gets his birdie. It is a great system he has got going. However, in Ireland, a great tee shot does not have to be long, it has to be consistent and well-positioned.
If your itinerary is jam-packed with some of Ireland’s finest links courses, you will soon discover that the long ball is often the one to find you the most trouble! As an island country, links golf is at the mercy of coastal winds, and depending on the direction of that wind, each course can be played in so many different ways. Therefore, a strategy will always yield better results than strength and it is essential to put your ball in a playable position off the tee as it is much more important than finding length.
Here are 5 main errors we regularly see off the tee:
- Run through the fairway – You have hit your drive superbly. However, that happiness off the tee is momentary. Your ball has landed at speed and has run through the fairway into the high grass or even a dreaded deep bunker. Either way, your second shot is not a pretty one!
- Thinking that driving the green will benefit you – There are many par-4’s in the south west where you would fancy driving the green. Trust me, it is always a trap! Much like running your ball through the fairway, most golfers find much more trouble when they take the driver off the tee on a short par-4. First up is the golfer who has to hit the ball harder to get it to the green. By trying to get that bit more out of your drive you are at risk of the doomed hook or slice. Then you have the golfer that creams it off the tee. Though they caught it perfectly off the clubface the ball is now buried in the dune at the back of the green or worse still they have found a greenside bunker. My advice, take a mid-iron, put it in the centre of the fairway and that will leave you with a nice wedge to the green. Your scorecard will thank you for it!
- Elevated tees – Some links courses have tee boxes placed on top of very high dunes. The elevation triggers something in you whereby you think you have to hit the driver. You don’t! Unless you have the wind at your back, the driver will not go far. Playing into Atlantic winds, from a high elevation, rarely rewards the golfer as the longer the ball is in the air the more time it has to find trouble. Take a long iron or a hybrid, down grip on the shaft, and play it as low as possible.
- Killing it with the wind at your back – To follow up on point number 3, if you are fortunate enough to find yourself on a longer hole with a strong wind at you back, do not swing hard. Keep your normal swing and let the wind do the work for you. Trying to kill it off the tee for an extra few yards is not worth it if you do not make clean contact. The wind will bring that ball further if it is struck well.
- Know your miss – Finally, if you come from a parkland setting and you struggle to consistently hit it straight down the middle, I would advise to know your miss! If your ball tends to draw or fade and feel like you need to hit the driver, be sure to identify trouble on the far side of the fairway you anticipate your ball will end up on. For instance, fairways often slip through the dunes on many of Ireland’s most profound links courses so anything that is not straight, will find trouble! A quick look down the fairway will allow you to adjust your position on the tee and you will find much more success as a result.
So, you must be thinking, what club do I use off the tee? The best advice one can give is to study the guidebook for each course and plot out each hole before you tee off the first. You will know which holes require a driver and which ones you can play more conservatively. There are 3 main advantages of doing this:
- Knowing what club to hit- If you have an idea of the clubs you will use on each hole, you will be quicker to adapt to the playing conditions compared to your playing partners. If, for instance, a hole plays 330-yards and you love standing over a ball from 150-out, take the iron that will get you there off the tee. Your best golf will be the golf played inside your comfort zone.
- Being prepared rewards the player with good scores – You know your local course inside and out. You know where to play your shots off the tee, if there are any slopes on the green, or if there is any trouble throughout. You then adjust your game to counter that. The same goes for links courses in Ireland. Know where the trouble is on each hole before you play the 1st. This will lead to better decision making throughout. If you play a course hole by hole with no preparation you will often default to a driver on every par-4 and you will regret not taking a different club if you find trouble off the tee.
- You will enjoy it more – Studying the course guide before playing is as good a warm-up as hitting balls on the range. It is great to know that hitting a driver will put you in a great position – but it is also great to know that if you were not hitting the club well you have other options that can offer you the same results and in some cases better scores. Your ability to adapt on the day will certainly increase your overall enjoyment.
If all else fails, you can cultivate 30 pounds of mass like Bryson and use brute force to play your way out of trouble!