Notepad Golf

Notepad golf is thinking your way to better golf. If you have ever been at a golf tournament or watched closely when golf tournaments are on television you will probably notice or have noticed something just about all of the pros do as they play their round of golf. They keep a small notepad which they read at the start of the hole prior to teeing off and as they are getting ready for their shots to the green.

For those golfers who are serious about their games or for those golfers who are interested in getting better and lowering their handicap we have some suggestions that will help their games without even hitting the ball in anger. When golfers retire to the 19th hole to recount their battle with the course they almost always remember the very good and very bad shots, the lucky and unlucky shots and mistakes they made during the round. However, a week or two later those memories are faded and useless so far as improving their golf game.

To improve your golf game we strongly suggest you do the following during this upcoming golfing season:

Take a small notebook with you when you play a round of golf and keep it in your back pocket or attached to your golf cart. Put down the date of the round and the name of the golf course. Note the clubs you are using because many golfers have multiple sets of irons, drivers and putters and tend to switch periodically even during the course of a year. This note pad will eventually be a historical account of that day’s round of golf and will yield significant and valuable information to you about how you play the game.

This point goes for most of the shots you play and it is the fact that your golf shots are largely determined by your grip, grip pressure, stance, swing speed, tempo, weather and course conditions, and mental attitude. Although we do not address it in every point below, in your notes you should note these different factors if you are not hitting your shots, be they drives or iron shots the way you visualize them or thought you would execute them.

On each hole where a wood of some kind is required, note if you used a driver, fairway wood, long iron, or utility wood. Notepad golf is critical here. There may be some holes that are par fours or par fives but because of woods on either side of the fairway, traps on the edges of the fairway in the driving area, out of bounds hazards, or water hazards you may have used a utility wood rather than a driver. Besides showing the end result of whatever wood or long iron is used, your notes will show how you were thinking that day, whether aggressively or conservatively, and how that thinking paid off with the result.

When using a driver off the tee, note where the drive went, and how far it went. Was the placement of the drive approximately where you planned it to go in your mind. As the driver is the most aggressive weapon in a golfer’s arsenal how the day goes with the driver plays an important part on the psyche of the golfer that day and can influence his play over the balance of that hole and future holes. For example, if on a given round you observe looking back from your notes, that you were constantly pulling or pull hooking your driver shots, in practice or future rounds you should consider examining your grip, stance, swing tempo and attitude towards the particular hole or holes where you had these pulls or pull hooks. If this pattern shows up consistently over much of the summer or a number of months, it should help you to evaluate making some kind of change in every aspect of how you use your driver and when you use it. You may have to consider changing to a lighter driver or a driver which has a longer shaft or you may have to switch for a while to a three wood.

Record at the end of each hole where each of your iron shots went directionally and distance wise. This is potentially very important to improving your game as we all have swing tendencies that tend to produce repetitive results, depending on whether we have warmed up properly, or are under stress or perhaps fatigue. Noting the direction of our iron shots, whether fades, slices, or draws and hooks should be noted against the type of iron shot we were attempting as well as the weather condition at the time, and which iron it was we were hitting. A seven iron can for example be hit many ways from 150 to 160 yards off level and hard ground to 180 yards on a downhill lie or 125 to 150 yards if the wind is blowing against you and a lower trajectory shot is in order. All these things should be noted for the golfer to see how he is hitting his irons and where reevaluation or practice is in order. Also, note if your iron shots are always to the left of the green or hole or right, whether you are usually short of the green by 5 to 15 yards as most amateurs are rarely long. Note if you are choking up on your iron shots to get better control or gripping the club as close to the end as you can. Note that most pros tend to choke up a bit on most full iron shots. Note your grip in relation to the end result of your shot. Maybe you are using a hook grip all the time or a slice grip and you do not even know it. Note your stance as this can significantly effect the direction of your iron shots.

On chip shots around the green or close to the green, write down whether you were short or long, left or right. Chip shots are usually not too hard but they tend to produce increased grip pressure for instance, and bad thinking as well. Too many times golfers stay with the same club (i.e. it may be a pitching wedge or it could be a seven iron as examples) regardless of the type and distance of the chip. Trying to hit consistently low running shots on wet greens early in a morning round, or high flop shots all the time even though are no impediments or undulations in the way can show if your thinking is good as well as whether your shot execution is good as well. Chipping is one area where practice can be used to correct both bad thinking on different chip shots as well as weak execution or improper club selection.

On sand or bunker shots around the green, note how the shot turned out in terms of distance from the hole, and accuracy. Your notes should indicate whether there was a lip and you exploded or whether there was no lip (i.e. a flat trap) and you tried to chip the ball off the sand and run it to the hole. Your notes should note if the bunker or sand shot was from a perfect lie or buried lie and if it was a buried lie whether you used a pitching wedge or nine iron to extricate the ball from the sand or you stayed with your sand wedge. You should note if you are consistently short of the hole on normal sand shots with some type of lip or whether you are always way long. You should note the sand conditions such as whether the sand was wet from a previous night’s rain or from the green-side sprinklers or if the sand is soft but dry or hard packed and dry. All this data will help you to become a better sand player around the greens if you are willing to take the time to make good notes. You should also note whether you are putting any back spin on your sand shots and whether you are opening the club head or keeping the club head square to the ball all the time.

On putts, notepad golf is critical because you need to reflect in your notes, if you were long or short, right or left of the hole. Here is another area where good notes are critical. As putting is not a physical strength issue, keys in note taking are what are your putting tendencies, under different weather, green type, and competitive conditions. Pressure is always an issue so you should note if you are always pulling or pushing your puts particularly if you are under pressure, and whether you are frequently short or long on most of your putts. You should note if you are choking up on some puts but not choking up on other puts, whether you putt differently on very long putts versus three to five footers. Most golfers have many putters be they mallets or blades and good note taking can help assess if a change in putter is needed.

Note what kind of golf ball you played during the round and if you changed balls, record what change in ball you made. Noting how you are playing with a particular golf ball is important because these days there are all kinds of golf balls including hard balls, soft balls, high spin, low spin balls, solid core and liquid core, number of dimples, shape of dimples and other variations. Should you change balls during the round for some reason you should note what impact it is having on your game from your drives, to iron shots to putts, especially on putts. Many of us play the wrong balls either because we do not have enough of the same balls if we should lose one in the woods or water, or because we do not care, or because we find a new ball in the woods and it is newer and whiter than the ball we were playing. We should try to use golf balls that fit our games including our club speed, not what the top pros use. Remember take notes.

Note at the start of the round what kind of prevailing weather conditions existed such as was it raining, misting, cold, hot, mild, windy etc. Note if it is raining during the entire round, or if you have to stop for a half hour for a thunderstorm. Note if there is a frost on the greens for the first five or six holes if you usually start early in the morning even in the fall/early winter period. Note if it is cold or damp when you are playing especially at the start of the round, and if the greens and fairways are always wet either due to the sprinkler system or from overnight rains. Note if it was a windy day and if you played poorly into the wind but a bit better with the wind. If you are always short on shots into the green when playing into the wind you should rethink your iron selection.

There are other issues that can and may effect how you play on a given day and these might include, the composition and playing styles of your playing partners, your mental outlook or mood as you come to the course, illness, some family issue that is on your mind, and other factors that can influence you such as having a real slow group in front of you for example. At least you should note these so you can try to avoid them if possible the next time.

You may think this is significant and perhaps difficult work to do and will detract from your enjoyment from the game. You are correct to a degree, it is work, but not that difficult once you get used to doing it. If you take good notes during your round you will find tendencies in each part of your game, some good and some bad. The point of all this is so that you will become a better planner and thinker around the golf course. For example, if you know from your notes as well as experience that you may pull your putts or push your irons and wood shots when under greater than normal pressure, you should be able to compensate in the future when under pressure and take those kind of shot tendencies into account. These notes should also help you if you are a golfer who has the time, desire, and facilities to practice so as to correct swing errors and build better swing and or putting patterns and habits.

A seasoned note pad of your game over the course of a golf season will also help you if you visit a new and different course as it can help you navigate the course perhaps without taking penalties for errant shots especially if you are not completely familiar with the lay of the land. Your notes can also be used to help you practice before your weekday or weekend round if you have the practice facilities. With respect to your use of golf balls, for example, you can see if you are using a golf ball that is too hard and not giving your the best playability and distance due to your swing tempo or swing speed, or if you are playing a ball which is too susceptible to scuffing and nicks and cuts due to the thickness and type of cover.

You may say after reading this that this is too much work and it may be, but it will work if you work hard at taking good notes, reading and thinking about the notes following the round, perhaps a few days later, and trying to correct poor or unsatisfactory swing, shot execution and thinking tendencies you may see from you notes. Remember that notepad golf is thinking your way to playing better golf!