Your pre-shot routine: Check lie, wind and target

Ian Poulter
USA Today Images
Ian Poulter tosses a few blades of grass in the air Friday to check the direction of the wind.
By Mark Aumann

Published: Friday, April 11, 2014 | 10:03 p.m.

Trying to land a ball precisely and safely on Augusta National's undulating greens while avoiding a watery trip into Rae's Creek is hard enough.

But participants in the second round of the Masters on Friday afternoon had to deal with a swirling, changing breeze that made the course even more of a challenge. Choosing a club without factoring in wind direction and speed might have been the difference between missing and making the cut.

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When you see professionals reaching down to grab a handful of grass before tossing it in the air, that's not just an odd habit from being out in the sun too long. Their livelihoods depend on knowing exactly how hard the wind may be blowing and from what direction.
Augusta National is even more tricky than most courses, because the tall trees sometimes mask the true strength of the breeze.

But there's a simple, three-step pre-shot routine -- according to PGA professional Chris Czaja, 2010 South Florida Section PGA Teacher of the Year and club pro at Boca West Club in Boca Raton, Fla. -- that will help amateurs feel more confident in their club selection when faced with a windy day.

"You should check the lie first, wind second, target third and then select the club," Czaja said.

Are you hitting from a tee? Are you in the fairway, or in deep rough? Do you have an uphill, downhill or sidehill lie?

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"The lie will affect the contact you will make with the golf ball," Czaja said. "And that will have a direct effect on the spin of the ball."

It seems obvious, but Czaja said many amateurs fail to pay attention to the wind speed and direction while they're warming up for a round. And it's particularly important to pay close attention as you go from hole to hole.

"If you detect the wind in from the south moving north, keep that in mind when you get out there," Czaja said. "Toss some grass in the air and see which direction it goes."

If your natural ball movement is left to right, and the wind is blowing the same direction, you'll have to aim much farther left than normal to account for the additional ballspin. If the wind's coming from the opposite direction, it may straighten your shot out, or even move it right to left. So that's a critical factor when you're trying to avoid water, trees or out of bounds on a windy day. Play a little more conservatively than you might in normal conditions, because you won't have as much control over your ball flight.

Perhaps the best tip Czaja has for windy days has to do with club selection. In order to keep the ball flight as low as possible, choose a club you'd normally hit a little farther on a calm day.

"Most amateurs come up short on approach shots anyway, so there's even more reason to go up a club or two," Czaja said. "When the winds really are blowing and you are into the wind or have a crosswind, take at least one extra club to help keep the ball flight down.

"There are many times where pros will go up 2-3 clubs when shooting directly into a strong wind."

On the other hand, Czaja said, when downwind, you might choose to go down a club in order to keep from overshooting the green. But a downwind shot is usually much easier, because the wind doesn't affect the ball spin as greatly.

Christian Czaja is a PGA Instructor at Boca West Club in Boca Raton, Florida. Czaja was the 2010 PGA Teacher of the Year in the South Florida section. Christian can be reached at 844-367-5309 for lessons or through his website



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