Chip Shots: Who’s YOUR Caddie?
Recently, I played nine holes at Hidden Meadows in Old Town with a good friend of mine, Dee Dauphinee. In addition to being a healthcare professional, Dee is an accomplished fly fisherman, published author, and a near-scratch golfer. He's also a natural teacher, and I've learned some great golf tips from him over the past few years.
He was in full teacher-mode as we were playing, and about halfway through the round, as I was making more pars than bogeys, I had an epiphany: professional golfers benefit from the best equipment, coaches and trainers, sure. But one of their greatest advantages over the recreational golfer is the fact that they also have a caddie.
Caddies are like having a coach and therapist right on the course with you. They also act living a living database on the links, providing distances and conditions, and suggesting clubs and shot types on a regular basis.
This can make a HUGE difference to a player, at any level. Being able to discuss options, and having someone provide guidance on alignment and club selection is invaluable, as is having a person provide you with assurance and insight when things get tough.
For example, Dee has taught me not to underclub, which is a common mistake for amateurs. Since he knows I generally fade my drives, he showed me how to position myself on the tee box to maximize my shot shape; and a few times I asked him to check my alignment, and found that I was actually off by quite a few degrees.
On my approaches, he reminded me to check the flag position on each green and try to not hit to the short side. He also reassured me when I felt nervous over a tough shot, and reminded me to keep my head down through impact. The final result was a five-over 40, with nothing more than a bogey on any hole. This equaled the best score I've ever shot for nine at Hidden Meadows.
So, what are we to do when we find ourselves, inevitably, without the services of a caddie?
I think the best lesson Dee taught me, not directly but through his advice, is that every shot needs intention. What do I mean by that? I mean that before you take a swing, you should make explicit observations and tell yourself what you are going to do with your shot. So, at 150 yards out, don't just pull a club and swing in the general direction of the green, take a moment to check wind conditions and flag location, then determine your target and take aim.
How many times do we hit a shot, only to realize afterwards that we just weren't paying attention to details that could have made a real difference in the outcome? So, next time you play, imagine you have a caddie with you, but instead of another person, have key conversations with yourself. Who knows, it might take a few strokes off your game and you won't end up having to tip a real caddie.