If the style of play at some of the “less imaginative” courses on the PGA TOUR is often described as “bomb and gouge,” the style of play at this week’s Open Championship at Royal St. George’s might be described as “bounce and roll.”
Though Royal St. George’s lacks the star appeal of many of the legendary courses in the Open rota, it shouldn’t lack for entertainment. Many of the fairways feature massive mounds and undulations, almost as if they’ve been built on top of a fleet of Volkswagons. These mounds are bound to produce unlucky kicks and brutal lies which should test the best in the world.
However, the undulations won’t just favor the luckiest golfer, but also the most strategic golfer. Here are two skills and strategies that Royal St. George’s should test this week.
1. Managing Carry Distance Off The Tee
Listen to Andy Johnson and Brendon Porath of the Shotgun Start podcast recounting a Tom Lehman quote in a 2011 Bob Harig story from ESPN (full pod here. Highly recommend):
Lehman recalls golfers complaining about the unpredictable bounces, but also highlights how the fairways underscore the importance of course strategy. The bumps aren’t a flaw, but a feature. The best course managers can try to target flat areas in the fairway instead of pushing into bumpier areas.
On the 17th hole, players that choose to push their drives closer to the green may invite an unlucky bounce. However, players who take less club may have a better chance of landing in a flat area and rolling into the mounds.
Generally, we tend to focus on total distance off the tee and carry distance into the green, but these features of Royal St. George’s are an example of the value of understanding carry with a driver.
The MLM captures both carry and total distance. To toggle between the two, go to Profile -> App Settings -> Driver and Wood Distance -> Select Total or Carry.
2. Managing Shot Apex and Launch Angle
At most of the historic courses on the Open rota, wind is the primary defense against low scores. You don’t hear much about courses being lengthened or primary rough being grown up. The breeze is always a factor when playing links golf and should be this week with the forecast calling for windy conditions on the weekend.
One of the appeals of links golf is that it requires a multitude of golf shots. Hitting high bombs off the tee or from the fairway isn’t the right play when playing into the wind.
Take this anecdote from our partners at No Laying Up:
From the fairway, the longest golfer in the field chose to mash a 3 wood into the wind. It hung up in the air and fell 40 yards short. Jordan Spieth, ranked 73rd on TOUR in driving distance, chose to flight a lower shot that ended up finishing closer to the hole despite starting further back than Bryson.
Look at Jordan’s quote after his first round:
“I shorten swings up over here. I hit more punch shots.”
Higher shots generally have more spin and have a better chance to balloon in the wind or be pushed into trouble. Managing trajectory and apex will be key this week.
Launch angle is a datapoint that is available with the free MLM subscription and shot apex is available through our premium subscription. The premium subscription is normally $99 per year, but is being offered for FREE with the purchase of an MLM through July 18th.
Surely, you’ll see players favoring a low-piercing flight this week and this is something you can also work on executing with your MLM. Here are some tips for controlling launch angle and apex from our advisor Mike Malaska.