Golf Confidence wins over narrow fairways and small greens for Brian Gay


Did you see the amazing performance and golf confidence exuded by Brian Gay in the Verizon Heritage this weekend? How can anyone thread their drives and approach shots down those narrow avenues of trees at Harbour Town Golf Links at Hilton Head Island let alone consistently hit those tiny well guarded greens? We shouldn’t forget the weekend performances of Briny Baird with 133 for 9 under and my fellow member at Beaconsfield, Luke Donald, with 131 for 11 under.

At the end, I was transported back in my mind to some of my own less elevated experiences of playing on tight courses and small greens. It brought to mind how much better I play in those conditions. One of the tightest courses I can remember playing on regularly was Blackmoor Golf Club in Hampshire. In my 20’s and early 30’s I used to just scrape into their open amateur tournament, the Selborne Salver. We used to play 36 holes there on the Saturday and a further 36 on the Sunday in the Hampshire Hog at North Hants Golf Club, home of Justin Rose, with a combined 72-hole competition, the Hampshire Salver. I notice that you now need a handicap of plus 2 just to enter – scratch players need not apply!

Anyway, Blackmoor is very tight with the fairways threaded through dense woodland to fairly small greens. I noticed that my golf improved when I played there and how I always took the increased accuracy and golfing confidence with me to the next few tournaments.

The small greens at Harbour Town also reminded me of playing to temporary winter greens at Brookmans Park Golf Club. That was where I started to play golf and like many beginners, I was a fanatic. I played in all weathers and conditions. Brookmans Park was a fairly damp course in the winters back then and we were often on temporary greens. I’m pleased to report that they’ve improved the drainage there over the last 40 years since I started there and it’s now a good venue all year round.

I remember two big improvements in my game playing to those temporary greens. Firstly with an 8-yard diameter green, my approach shot accuracy improved greatly and my chipping got better and better. When we got back on the main greens, my golf was much more confident and assured.

Now, I don’t suggest that you find a course where they use temporary greens a lot of the time. However, there’s no reason why you can’t imagine a narrower fairway within the confines of the real fairway and a smaller green, perhaps an 8-yard diameter circle around the flag, and imagine you are playing on a course like Harbour Town. The good news is that if you narrowly miss your imagined fairway or green, you may still be on the real one.

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