Numbers game

Chris Simmons, caddy for European Tour player Matt Jordan, on choosing clubs like the pros

A big difference between amateurs and professionals is the way they select clubs for their approach shots to greens, and how accurate they are when doing this.

Many good amateurs work out their yardages with each club on the practice ground with a bag of balls at the start of the season or by using a launch monitor. This is the ideal place to start. The pros know exactly how far a standard shot in normal conditions goes for each club. While you may not be as accurate, work out your yardages as accurately as possible, then you can use them and start making better decisions on the golf course.

On tour, we work this out almost every week. We’ll work on the range the day we arrive, hitting balls to understand how far the ball is flying in the conditions. Altitude and temperature make such a big difference when you travel to places like South Africa or Switzerland, but we’ll also look at ground conditions and work out how far a stock shot is releasing, so we can also factor this into selecting clubs on the course. We also take some time to assess wind conditions and it’s important to put a number on this. We’ll hit some stock shots and see how the wind effects the distance, is it 10 or 15 yards, being precise about how much impact it has.

When we’re on the course, we’ve got all this to-hand. Once we’re at the ball, we analyse a lot of factors – a lot more than just getting the yardage to the flag!

Where an amateur will zap the carry distance to the flag, we’ll have our yardage book colour-coded and the greens mapped for each pin position. Using this, we can work out where we want to land the ball, if we plan for it to stop or release, and where we don’t want to hit it. For example, if the flag is at the back and the green slopes from back to front, we don’t want to go long. We’ll also factor in the slope and how that influences the club we want to hit; the wind direction and strength; the trajectory of shot we’re hitting; and the lie it’s coming from.

Knowing your yardages with every club in your bag is essential to playing good golf. From there, adding in things like how far they release and improving your analysis of the shot in front of you, rather than just lasering the pin and pulling out the corresponding club, is sure to improve your scores.