Welcome to Play Smart, a regular GOLF.com game-improvement column that will help you play smarter, better golf.
At last month’s GOLF Top 100 Teacher Retreat, we finished the day’s activities with an hour of daylight to spare. Being the golf freaks that we are, a few coworkers and I decided we’d try to squeeze in as much golf as we could before dark.
An hour is hardly enough time for 18 holes with a foursome (or nine holes, for that matter), so we knew we needed to be efficient with our time. So, we decided to play alternate shot.
This was my first experience playing the format, and it was the first time my coworkers had played it as well. And while there was a definite learning curve, all of us came away from the experience with a newfound appreciation for alternate shot.
Here are three reasons you should give it a try this golf season.
1. It saves time
Alternate shot is played with four people, but only two balls are in play at a time. So, effectively you are playing at the pace of a twosome. When you’re short on time but still want to play with four people, this is a great way to speed up the pace. Next time you’re racing daylight with your typical foursome, try playing alternate shot to quicken the pace.
2. It forces you to use new strategies
Playing alternate shot requires you to tweak your game plan. You can’t approach each shot like you would if you were playing your own ball. You have to consider your teammate’s strengths and weaknesses as well. Is you partner a weak wedge player? You probably don’t want to leave them a half wedge into the green on a par-5. Does your partner struggle to keep the ball on the planet off the tee? You might not want them teeing off on the hole with the tightest fairway. In alternate shot, you’ve always got to be thinking a couple shots ahead.
3. It teaches teamwork
Golf is inherently an individual sport, but alternate shot is not. Unlike other team formats, you don’t have total control over every shot in alternate shot. Every other shot, all you can do is watch your teammate and hope for the best. It’s a bit unnerving to give up control like that in golf, but it teaches you how to work with a teammate. If your partner messes up, you have no way of mitigating the damage until the next shot. And when you put them in a tough spot, you feel even worse. Golf might not be a team sport, but in alternate shot, you have to adjust that mindset.