If you have the opportunity to travel south for some golf this winter, I would like to give you a few golfing tips for the south. I am particularly familiar with southern Florida where I have spent the past 30 years wintering. You will find using some different techniques on Florida courses to be very useful. The reason being, you will be playing off of different grasses from tee to green because of climate conditions.
PUTTING GREEN: Greens in the south may be faster than you are use to and many courses have severely undulated greens to make the putting even trickier and the approach shots more strategic for placement. I prefer to use a lighter weight putter when putting fast and undulated greens. A heavier putter is harder to feel on faster greens so I f you have a choice, take the lighter putter. Now the hard part, Florida greens are very grainy. Go to the practice green and putt in several directions. The grass grows in different directions pulling the ball in the same direction as it grows. If you have an obviously flat putt that does not mean the ball will roll straight. You need to learn how to read the grain in order to be a decent putter. Grain has a dark side and a light side, like an oriental rug, and by walking around the green you will see the change. If you are putting into the light side it is down grain and faster and the reverse if you are putting into the dark side. Now consider the grain going right to left or left to right, the grain will be pulling your ball in the direction the grass is growing. That is why you see the tour players walking around the greens; it is not just for speed but also the grain. Grain will almost always grow downhill or towards water or when in doubt east to west like the sun. Also, you will see the players looking at the cup and it’s just no to see if the cup is sitting straight but what the grass is doing at the cup. For example: If there is a shaggy side of the cup, let us say on the right as we look at it, and a smoother side on the left, that means the grass is growing from right to left and will pull your ball at the cup to the left. There can be many situations occurring in one putt and the best putter’s usually have the lowest score.
APPROACH SHOTS: When approaching a green in the chipping or short pitch range, seldom does one use their sand wedge which we use a lot in the northeast out of long grass and to elevated greens. Instead one should use a club that has less loft for a lower shot with more roll like a 9, 8 or 7 iron. It’s more of a bump and run type shot. Generally there is not a lot of deep grass around the greens in Florida, so we do not have to dig the ball out. Also, because of the type of grass you find the lies to be much tighter making it more difficult to get a sand wedge under the ball. Try putting with a 7, 6 or 5 iron, another effective shot around the greens. You can find out how to execute this shot by going to http://staffordgolf.com/video.html.
FAIRWAY SHOTS: Don’t get greedy with your fairway woods. You get the most distance when the ball is hit solid. For instance, if you know you have a 3-wood distance but a very tight lie (short grass) you may be better off hitting a 5-wood. A solid shot with a 5-wood will give you more distance than a thin shot with a 3-wood. The hybrids are also great for tight lies as they are easier to swing than a wood because they are shorter but may have the same degree of loft as your woods. Some people think the hybrid club was made to get out of the rough only and it is good to get out of rough but it is also great off the fairway under any condition.
WIND: Respect the wind. Not every club goes the same distance every time; it all depends on the wind. Into the wind you may have a 1 to 3 club difference and conversely down wind. When hitting into the wind you want to slow the club head speed down and maybe tee the ball lower as you want to keep the ball under the wind. When hitting downwind tee it up and try to hit it high to ride the wind.
By making a few technical changes your golfing experience in Florida can be much more enjoyable. Different shots for different situations will help to lower your score and it is fun to challenge yourself to pick the right shot.