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Follow Jim Furyk's Proactive Approach to Manage the Golf Course and Lower Your Scores

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Ever wonder why players on the men’s and women’s professional tours all love playing Par 5’s and most amateur golfers do not? The difference is definitely distance, and it’s not what you think.
PGA Coaches are always looking for opportunities to help their students excel. One of the areas they stand out in improving play is course management. Experienced coaches love to take their students out on the course and walk through real game scenarios. If you haven’t ever taken a playing lesson or a course management lesson you should. So many shots can be saved by being proactive rather than reactive on the course.

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The best example of this can be witnessed in how touring professionals play Par 5’s. Most golf fans just see the men and women bomb their way down the fairway twice and then chip on and make a birdie. They assume without great length they can’t make pars and birdies on such long holes. Not true. Yesterday, Jim Furyk won the US Senior Open at the Omaha Country Club in Omaha, Nebraska.
One of the late challenges Furyk faced is the Par 5 16th hole. A 550-yard hole guarded by rough, bunkers and uneven terrain. Jim birdied the hole in the final round and took control of the tournament by increasing his lead to three shots with two holes to play. He made birdie by playing the hole and focusing on his strengths. Jim is a world-class wedge player. He’s the only player in PGA Tour history who has broken 60 in a PGA Tour event TWICE.
True to Jim’s career success, he played the 16 hole with purpose on Sunday. It started with a well-struck drive in the fairway. From there, you could see Jim and his caddie design a strategy for his next shot. They calculated how far he should hit the second in preparation for the third. This is the essence of why golfers on television eat up Par 5’s, they do so by playing with a plan.
Furyk’s third shot was from 100 yards. No doubt a distance he is very comfortable with. So comfortable that his third shot came to rest about two feet from the hole. When was the last time you calculated a layup shot?
  1. Obtain the total distance left on the hole
  2. Subtract your favorite wedge distance
  3. Then hit your shot to that point
By using this successful approach your game will improve in more than just score. This technique requires us to know how far our clubs go. Second, it takes away the reactive, unknown fear we all face when we don’t know what the next shot will bring. By being proactive, you will consistently start to get more comfortable yardages for scoring shots. Soon you will realize this tactic can be used for layups from trouble on Par 4’s and at other times on the course.
Full swing shots from comfortable distances are much easier than half and three-quarter shots. Remember when Zach Johnson won The Masters in 2007? He used this strategy on every Par 5 that week in route to victory. Bryson, Brooks, Bubba, and the rest of the bombers don’t represent the entire tour. Learn from Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson’s example. After all, their game is much closer to ours. Play proactive golf and soon you and your PGA Coach will be celebrating a lower scoring average.