A Lesson Learned: Play YOUR Game

David Hutsell
The PGA of America
PGA Instructor David Hutsell has also competed at the highest levels of golf including at this week's Greenbrier Classic.
David Hutsell, PGA

Problem Area: Fundamentals
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Sunday, July 08, 2012 | 10:03 p.m.

Last year, when I was fortunate enough to win the 2011 PGA Professional National Championship, I knew part of the winning package included exemptions into six PGA Tour events. My good friend Rob McClellan advised me that I should definitely put The Greenbrier Classic on my list of events to play. I'm grateful I did.

First and foremost, the folks at The Greenbrier, from the tournament staff, volunteers, resort staff, fans and even the other players, make it one of the most enjoyable and entertaining weeks for everyone who attends.

On Tuesday, Rob (who was also in the field) and I were playing a practice round with one of the really nice guys on Tour, Jerry Kelly when Steve Stricker came up and joined us for the back nine. Upon our introduction, Steve told me, "I think I just had breakfast with your family in the clubhouse." For him to be aware of that and to acknowledge them in that way says alot about him and the enjoyable atmosphere of the event.

But at the end of the day, it's still a Tour event for the best players in the world and everyone is there to play their best golf and hopefully win. That was my goal, just like it was for Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson and eventual winner Ted Potter, Jr.

And that brings us to this week's "A Lesson Learned."

I observe amateur players, students of mine included, who tend to get caught up in "other people's" golf games. Whether in a tournament or a casual round of golf; too often players let the performance of others affect how they play their own game.

Think about it. If you're the shortest hitter in the group, do you ever try to hit it a little harder to avoid the wisecracks? Do you ever try a flop shot or long carry or a shot shape that really isn't something you're comfortable with, but because others are with you, the guy in your group just pulled it off, perhaps you should try it to?

The old adage in golf is still very true: "There are no pictures on the scorecards." There are a ton of players on Tour who get the scores posted in a lot of different ways. You can be tactical, you can be creative, you can be a bomber; it doesn't matter, as long as you still post the best score you can.

You can definitely learn when playing with great players, but trying to adjust your game to copy them (immediately) will almost always lead to trouble. It's impressive to watch, perhaps you notice something you can ask about or try to repeat on the range at a later time, but getting away from your comfort zone is a recipe for higher scores.

In 2002, I was playing in a U.S. Open qualifier with Omar Uresti and Luke Donald. This was in the midst of Tiger-mania (he had recently completed his 'Tiger Slam' and was driving seemingly everything in golf) and naturally, his name came up.

Omar told us that he had played with Tiger when he had made his famous 'ace' at the (then) Phoenix Open, "Almost broke my arm off," he laughed when he talked about the high-five after the shot.

Knowing that he was the best player in the world - by a lot at the time - I asked him if he had any advice about playing with Tiger if I happened to ever get the chance.

"Yeah," he answered quickly, "don't watch him hit it."

I understood. And it's a lesson for us all. Your score will reflect how you perform against the golf course, not how you do compared to someone else. If one player hits a driver, wedge into a par 4 and you hit driver, 6 iron; and you both make par - who made the better par? Exactly.

Good luck! Hope you have a great year of golf!

David Hutsell is the PGA Director of Instruction at The Elkridge Club in Baltimore, MD. Hutsell won the 2011 PGA Professional National Championship and has competed in several Tour events as well as two PGA Championships. 

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