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Lesson Learned: Think Ahead for Alternate Shot Success

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on
Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak at the 2021 QBE Shootout.

Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak at the 2021 QBE Shootout.

One of the most difficult formats in golf is playing alternate shot. This weekend we all witnessed the best players in the world compete in a modified alternate shot format on Saturday of the QBE Shootout.
Unlike the Ryder Cup where the players alternate each tee shot, in this format each player hit a tee shot and then selected the best one and alternated in from there. With a choice on every hole, strategy plays a huge role in how the results turn out.
Observing the best players in the world decide how to navigate the course when consistently presented with choices provides many learning situations for the amateur golfer.
There’s no doubt locally, we all play non-traditional games more often than the men and women we watch on television. To best benefit from the competition, let’s break down how these teams expertly tackled the Gold Course at Tiburon. Each partnership has certain strengths and weaknesses. By recognizing your team’s abilities, you can easily give yourself an advantage over the competition.
Order of Play
Each hole presents a unique challenge. Align the order of team play with your strengths. For example, if you are playing a par three with Harris English, you should tee off first. Harris is a wonderful iron player and is near the top of the PGA Tour in Par 3 scoring. Hit the green with your tee shot and he gets a green light.
Giving your best player the freedom to swing freely will be a big benefit. Maybe you’re playing a long Par 5 where length off the tee is an advantage. Partner up with a bomber like Jason Kokrak and just hit the fairway first. The confidence you will give your partner by automatically putting them in play is crucial to scoring successfully.
Decision Time
After both tee shots are struck there’s a decision to be made. Consider your strengths again. Who’s the best approach player? Choosing the closest ball to the hole might not always be the smartest play. Consider the angle in and who is hitting it. Quickly decide what move provides the best chance for a good result.
Par 5’s provide another layer of consideration as most amateur teams aren’t playing for the green in two. Consider who is the better wedge player for that scoring shot. Don’t just automatically go to the ball farther down the fairway. By consistently taking a moment and giving each shot the best opportunity for success your total score for the entire round will reflect your thoughtful tactics.
Slow Your Roll
Most teams make mistakes when it comes to putting. You must recognize the next putt will be performed by your partner. Control your speed on the greens and get the ball close every time. Non-traditional formats take us out of your usual rhythm on the course. There’s no more pressure filled place than the putting green for partnerships.
Saving strokes on the green will immediately lead to lower scores. This sounds obvious, but with decades of watching amateurs compete under these conditions, it’s the most common mistake.
When selecting the best course of action on the green always choose the most conservative route. Stick to this strategy and you’ll be competing for the trophy each time. Non-traditional formats test our patience. When it comes to competing outside regular golf, think of it as chess, not checkers. Be one move ahead and your score will reflect it!