Ben Hogan

What We Can Learn From Great Golfers

Long Island’s Montauk Downs is often overshadowed by the sterner, more esteemed Black Course at Bethpage, but the locals all know – this Robert Trent Jones masterpiece has teeth. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend spending a long weekend at this far-flung seaside town; if not for the golf alone, at least for the fresh clams and lobster rolls.

If you want to see how your game stacks up under adverse conditions, play Montauk Downs from the tips when the wind is up. Even on a calm day, the course has a distinct set of challenges on every hole and part of the fun is figuring out the right club to pull and the best place to land your ball.

Even a seemingly benign hole like the 370-yard par-4 sixth, sandwiched between a pair of risky, but drivable par fives, can be played in a variety of ways. Big hitters can choose to lay up short of a steep hillside flanking the right side of the fairway setting up a longer approach, or they can try to draw the ball over a set of mature trees that overhang the left side. On the other hand, if you don’t have better-than-average length, your option is to hit anything from fairway wood to driver from the tips, or if you’re teeing it forward, to attack the hole with a long iron or hybrid.

The bottom line is this: there’s no right way or wrong way to play this hole, but the golfer who thinks before he or she swings tends to do better than the player who flails away at the ball without any strategy at all.

I think we’ve also been led to believe that great golf shots are a necessity for shooting low scores. That, however, is an absolute fallacy.

When it comes to playing well, course management is a cornerstone. Yet when it comes to analyzing the traits all good golfers possess, there’s a disproportionate emphasis placed on how much club head speed they’re able to generate. While it can’t be disputed that hitting the ball long and accurately helps, there’s a lot more that goes into playing well and enjoying the game.

So what do all great players do, that the average club golfer doesn’t? Quite a bit, actually. Here’s a few things I’ve noticed over the years that every single golfer can learn from.

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