By: Arlen Bento, WGCA contributing writer
This past April I was fortunate to experience the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, for the first time. It was a special trip with five of my varsity players from my boys Pine School state tournament team and our lone varsity girl player, who won the Florida state championship.
As you take in the Masters and Augusta National, you can’t help but be impressed with the conditioning of the golf course. When people who have been to the tournament say they grass is perfect, they mean perfect. There is not one weed, blemish, or discolored spot of grass on the entire property. The greens look unreal and the fairways look like the best greens you putt on at your local course.
The course is big, long, and very, very undulating. Playing golf in Florida, we have relatively flat courses. Augusta National has the most up and down challenging holes you will ever see in golf. The first time we walked up #10, I thought it was Mt. Everest. It felt like we were walking straight uphill. I thought, “How do the members play this course? You would need two days to recover just from the walk.”
The course is very tree-lined, with trees that tower over each fairway. The pines of Augusta National are so tall that it makes every hole seem like it is its own course. When these holes are lined with fans, it makes each hole take on a personality of its own. As a group, we walked the course from back to front. We walked the back nine for the most part the first day and the front nine the second day. We spent a lot of time on the par-3 holes, where it seemed like we got better views of the players as they made their way through the course.
As we watched each player, we could all see how simple their swings were: compact, clean, no awkward moving parts. Most players had narrow stances with their irons, and they made simple shoulder turns with great lower body rotation through impact. Their swings are what we all teach, want, and hope gets instilled into our students and players.
As we made our way around the course, the tee shots became very impressive. What I noticed is that players would take a line at trees that were unreachable. I noticed these high tee shots, moon shots that were smashed at a pine tree with no intention of hitting the tree, were allowing the shot to hit its apex before landing in the fairway. This vision made me think about my own game and how sometimes I just look down the fairway and swing. The next time I went out to play, I tried to swing at a distant target and I tried to hit the ball up high in the air, really high, and guess what – I drove the ball great that day.
The greens at the Masters, as we all know, are incredibly fast – fast and with many ridges and spots that, if you miss a putt, it will end up 30 to 40 feet in a different part of the green. Putting was a major problem for players, as was the short game. I thought that how the players took their time for their chips and pitches was very interesting. Because the greens were so tough, players had to take extra time to plan where they were going to land their golf balls on their chips and pitches. This made the short game seem like another game within the game, as one mistake could lead to an almost certain bogey or worse.
The final thing that was very noticeable was the approach game. Because the greens of the Masters are so tough, and the pin placements so demanding, having the right yardage into a hole is critical. All players and caddies were very conscious of placing their approach shots in exact yardages. It is so important to hit shots the correct distance, because most shots have to be hit to placements that have nothing to do with the hole location. Players have to hit to spots, spots that feed the ball to the hole and give the players a chance to score. This was a lesson that we talked about as a team, how players have to calculate and play for yardage, not just blast drives and fire at pins.
The next time you get out to play, or are working with your students on the range, I hope you think about some of the things that I have mentioned in this article. Great golfing!
Master Teaching Professional Arlen Bento Jr. is a golf coach, golf sales business owner, golf product developer and golf writer living in Jensen Beach, Florida. He is a former professional tournament player and is a national award-winning head golf professional at the PGA Country Club at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, FL. He can be reached via Facebook at www.facebook.com/arlenbentojr, on his blog http://arlenbentojr.blogspot.com, or on his business website www.abjgolfsales.com.