10 things golfers can learn watching the 2021 Masters
I love The Masters and watching the pros play Augusta National. My students keep me busy on the lesson tee, but I always make sure to block-off some time on Sunday to watch all the amazing shots and moments that come on the back-nine at Augusta.
No matter your skill level, there are so many lessons to learn watching the Masters…
1. Long drives start with the setup
Driving the golf ball a long way consistently is a huge advantage on every course, but especially at Augusta. When I watch these players, I always find it interesting how perfect each player’s posture looks. Their posture, ball position and shoulder tilt away from the target help them get into position to make a perfect smash.
2. Being able to curve the ball helps
The tree-lined, undulating fairways make the ability to curve the ball on demand a huge advantage. A great example of this is on Augusta’s 10th hole, when players can shape the ball from right-to-left so they can catch the downslope.
Curving the ball on command can be easier than you might think. Something as simple as closing your stance by dropping your trail foot back can help you draw the ball by restricting your body’s ability to turn, therefore letting the clubface release.
Opening your stance by dropping your lead foot back can allow your lower body to turn though more easily and sooner, which will produce a more open face.
3. Distance control in putting is a necessary skill
I’m still impressed and amazed that Tiger won the 1997 Masters without having any three-putts. On greens as fast and undulating as Augusta’s, that is a true feat.
Controlling your distance on the green is a product of your ability to control your backstroke length and rhythm. When you watch the Masters this week, notice how smooth their stroke rhythm is.
4. Good course management is a must
Rae’s Creek isn’t that wide, but it plays a big role in the Masters. The risk-reward decision it presents means players have both won and lost the tournament right there.
Navigating Rae’s Creek requires good course management, and you can’t have good course management without knowing how far you hit each club. You need to know how far you need to hit the ball to carry certain clubs, without second guessing.
You can dial-in your distances with a launch monitor, and I’d also recommend keeping track of them with a GPS app as you play. I’m an ambassador for GolfLogix (GolfLogix and GOLF.com are owned by the same parent company, 8am Golf) so that’s my recommendation, but finding one that works for you will help you make better decisions.
5. Use the bounce on pitch shots
When the greens are playing firm like they will this week at Augusta, the slick surfaces mean players have have to hit high, beautiful pitch shots over bunkers and hazards in order to end up close.
Shots like these require a larger swing that hits the ground. An essential part of this is using the rounded bottom of the club so it glides across the grass and slips under the ball. Doing that allows you to use the club’s technology to your advantage — and knock it close as a result.
6. Use par 3s to your advantage
Some of the most memorable shots at Augusta have come on the par 3s, where pros can use the slope of the greens to their advantage and set up short birdie putts.
Whether you’re playing at Augusta or not, par 3s can be a great opportunity because you don’t need to rely on a long, booming drive to take advantage of them. To best take advantage of them, look for the angle into the green which gives you the most direct shot at the green, and tee up on that side of the tee box. If there’s a bunker on the left, for instance, tee up on the far right side of the tee box, and try to use the slopes as you have a straighter shot into the green.
7. Hold the green by hitting the ball high
The super-fast greens become extra difficult when tournament officials tuck pins over water or bunkers. But these hole locations can be an advantage for players who hit the ball high.
For those of us who are more human than the pros, we may not be able to generate the sheer speed to hit the ball as high as a tour player, but having more lofted woods and hybrids in the bag can make this easier.
So, instead of a 5-iron, consider a 5-hyrbrid. Rather than a 4-hyrbrid, consider a 9 or seven wood. Use the new technology innovations to your advantage, and you can hit high shots that hold greens, too.
8. Sometimes you have to take a risk
The most iconic shots that we all remember happen under pressure at Augusta. This amazing course tempts players into going for it, and patrons get to watch great shots because of it.
Sometimes, the reward is great enough to take the risk. You have to judge correctly, but it’s important to keep moving beyond your comfort zone on the course, and learn when to take calculated risks when you know you can hit the shot.
9. Stay still when putting
The greens at Augusta can make or break your Masters chances. I love watching the best putters because they set up and aim so well, but most importantly, their head doesn’t move an inch. Their body lines stay in place, and their patience not to turn and look is amazing.
It’s a good habit to get into in your own game: Only turn to look after you complete your stroke. There should always be a slight delay between the moment you hit the ball, and the moment you look up.
10. Long is better than short
When players have to carry a hazard or approach to an elevated green, short is obviously not a good option. But even without the possibility of heartbreak that happens when balls land short and roll back into the hazard, long is usually a better option than short.
Tour players know this, and they also hit more solid shots than you or I. But you can learn from them nevertheless by taking an extra club, which will help you relax and make a smoother swing. When you do miss, you’ll be more likely to miss long, which will likely put you in a better spot than usual.