Bringing Order to the Anarchy - Knowledge

By: Bob Duncan

Do you really want to play better golf? C'mon, really? Everything you need to play better golf and succeed is already here, on Earth. All you need is to become aware of what you need and act!

So, is the perfect golf swing all you need? If that were the case we would all be talking about George Knudson (never heard of him? visit instead of Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Nicklaus once said George Knudson had a million-dollar golf swing! Hey, the swing helps, since George did win eight times on the PGA Tour.

So why aren't we using George Knudson as the model? And more importantly, is the model all there is? What are the other things you need? Clubfitting? Absolutely. Correctly fitted clubs support - and allow - a biomechanically correct swing (do you really think your swing can compensate for clubs that don't fit - and why would you want it to?). More practice? Maybe.

How about:

Knowledge! Remember, you heard it here: The more you know, the less mental toughness you need! Is Tiger Woods really that gifted? Does he practice harder than anyone else - like Vijay Singh (legendary for the hours he spends on the range and practice green)? Or does he know something others don't?

In the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach won by Tiger, an interesting event occurred on the 8th hole that has been completely overlooked. Number 8 is a par-4, not very long, and doesn't look that hard. It's along the ocean and is a lay-up off the tee, then a mid- to short iron to the green across a ravine. At one point on Saturday, the wind was blowing softly from the right off the ocean, and 48 of the best golfers in the world went through - but only two of them made birdie. Woods and Fred Couples. That hole is not that hard - was it luck or skill?

Or, was it knowledge? Every one of those golfers could have 'played' the hole the way Tiger and Freddie did, but they played it differently. Each of those other golfers tried to land the ball somewhere near the pin, which was back-left, but they all failed to leave their shots where they could make the next shot.

But Tiger and Freddie played it differently. They landed the ball on the front right part of the green and rolled it up to about 12 to 15 feet right of the pin, and then made the putt. Now seriously, you can't tell me that it was skill that helped them make birdie and no one else. Every one of those other golfers had the skill to land the ball on the front right part of the green, but they didn't. What's different?

It must be knowledge! So, what did Tiger and Freddie know that the other golfers didn't?

Looking at the situation, the second shot was from a downhill lie, and they knew that the green was hard, the wind would blow the ball from right to left and would be on a lower trajectory because of the downhill lie, and the ball would not stop where it landed. Therefore, if it's going right to left and won't stop, if you want to get it close to a back left pin then landing it front right makes sense!

Now, there's a level of knowledge that 46 of the best golfers in the world didn't have, but 2 of the best PLAYERS did have! What's up with those other 46?

Of course, you say, how does that help me since I'm not at that level of thinking (yet) let alone skill?

The payoff is that the ball rarely goes exactly the same distance or trajectory that you hit it on the range and you need to start recognizing that. If you add the influence that the lie of the ball has - grass, slope, etc, along with the wind, and the landing zone, you will now realize that when combined they can do almost anything to your ball.

Don't base your complete performance on what you did on the range. The reason we play golf is specifically because it is not the range! Your results on the range are from perfect, flat lies. Your results on the course are from completely inconsistent lies. Golf really isn't about what you do with good lies - it's about knowing that you're going to miss-hit every other lie to some degree and deciding what that miss-hit is going to be. Even if you get a nice, fluffy lie that you hit solid, if it goes farther than your range performance it is a miss-hit that goes too far.

In order to truly PLAY the game of golf, you need to expand your experience to know when the ball will not go the same distance as on the range. Much like a baseball player hits different pitches to different fields, players recognize when conditions are different and start playing for something other than solid and straight.

Bob Duncan is a 25-year PGA Golf Professional from Redmond, OR, with a strong player-coach philosophy. Bob is the author and developer of the new GolfeCoach, a personal coaching guide for high school -college players and teams based on 15 life success lessons and on-course coaching. Bob has given over 8,000 hours of golf instruction and coaching and has custom-fit over $1.6 million in golf clubs. Visit or email Bob at