A Lesson Learned: Playing a soft course

By Mike Malaska, PGA
Published on

Take the best players in the world, wind and rain (and a couple of delays) and the pressure of a major championship and you are going to have one incredible golf tournament. And that's exactly what we had at the 94th PGA Championship here at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island.

Let's first congratulate Rory McIlroy, who showed great patience, course management and of course, incredible talent. He could have played anywhere this week and won going away. He's a rare and outstanding talent. He's a very deserving winner of the PGA Championsihp.

During my time here, perhaps the one question that was asked to me most this week was - "How much more difficult does this rain and the "soft" conditions make this already very long 7668 yard course?"

Well the first answer, "Yes, it definitely will play longer," - the ball obviously will not roll out as much. However, that doesn't necessarily mean it will play more difficult - and for the same reason.

At a championship like this, which demands so much precision, the soft conditions actually are a great help to the players. That's right, skilled players would often rather play a long, soft conditioned course rather than the shorter, firmer one. Even when the wind was gusting and the scores did balloon higher, the players understood that it could have been so much worse had the rains not come also.

Why? When fairways are narrow and greens are firm (as is the case in most major championships), the need to be extremely precise is magnified. Though a fairway may be 25 yards wide, your target may only actually be 5 to 10 yards wide in order to keep the ball in the short grass. And green complexes, such as the ones here at the Ocean Course, they can be very difficult to hold on a tough course - especially when there's wind that could be pushing the ball in a particular direction.

So this week's "A Lesson Learned" is simple. The next time you play after a good rain, recognize the advantage that the course is now providing you - not the added few yards you may have to hit on your approach shots. Let the damp fairways psyche out the other guys - you should be excited at the "wider fairways" and "bigger greens" that will help your game. If you have the right mindset, you can be more aggressive - see Rory McIlroy's eight shot win as proof.

Golf can be so mental - confidence is a huge component of success. Take it from me - and what you saw here at the PGA Championship. A soft course is often a great course for scoring.

Mike Malaska is the Director of Instruction at Malaska Golf. He is the current 2012 PGA National Teacher of the Year.  

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