by Chris Vanasdalan
I like to golf alone. I enjoy the time outside, the quiet broken only by the rustle of the wind, the chirp of a bird or the occasional curse word I mutter after hitting a bad shot. I like getting out on the course early in the morning, alone with my bag wedged securely in the pull cart. I like to walk the course alone. It helps me think about my shot as I approach the ball.
One of the things I enjoy most about playing solo is the speed. I like not having to wait for the rest of my group to putt, or to spend a lot of time scouring the tree line looking for another player’s ball. Call me selfish, but playing alone lets me stay focused on my game (at least partially).
Don’t get me wrong, there are drawbacks to playing alone. You’re the only set of eyeballs out there. There’s no one else watching to track your drives, or to tell you they saw your ball scoot through the bushes. You’re on your own for every aspect of your game. I’ve been burned more than once, looking for a new ball that just can’t be found, or a lost club. In fact, that’s the worst part of my game. I just can’t seem to remember to pick up my pitching wedge. I’m always leaving it around the green. In fact I don’t have one in my bag right now. I lost two of them last season.
But you know, it hasn’t been all bad. Now I know what my problem is and I’ve started to work on it. And you know what? It’s helped my game a lot. More than I would have ever thought.
Now I have a routine for my approach shots. I think about where I want to put the ball. Then I think about where it will actually end up. (All the better if those spots happen to be close together.)
I’ve started to slow down my routine around the greens, being deliberate about where I lay my wedges. I slowly walk around the putting surface, placing the wedge in a spot where I’ll literally trip over it on the way to the next hole. This technique forces me to take my time reading the green, looking at it from several angles.
Secondly, playing without a pitching wedge forces me to work with other clubs. I’m learning how to take something off of my 9 iron. I’m seeing more spin and control on shots with the sand wedge.
Overall it’s forced me to slow down, think about my shots, survey the greens and experiment with different clubs. I’d say it’s shaved at least five shots off my average and it only cost me two pitching wedges. I think that’s a pretty small price to pay for a lesson learned the hard way.
So leave your pitching wedge in the trunk next time you show up for a round (or your driver, or your 7 iron). Ditching a club will force you to think about shot selection and it’s an easy way to add a new wrinkle to a course you’ve played several times before.