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Vail and Snedeker work as a team to consider every option on every shot.

tricks from a bagman

Six solutions from Dean Herden, co-founder of the Tour Caddies Association Check pin locations Familiarise yourself with the pin locations if the green is visible before you tee off, and on greens you walk past that you’ll play later in the round.

Brandt Snedeker’s caddie Scott Vail makes his living giving expert on-course advice. Here’s his 10 top tips

1 Don’t just reach for driver

A lot of amateurs will automatically reach for their driver on every par 4 and par 5. Brandt and I don’t work like that. We ask ourselves if the risk of hitting driver is worth the reward of being a little further down the hole. Sometimes the answer is yes, but more often than not it isn’t. Red flags for us include bunkers, tight fairways, out of bounds and water hazards. If you can take these out of play by laying up short of these, and still get to the green, do it.

2 Get in the practice bunker

When a professional misses a green, they would rather be in a bunker than the rough, because they can spin the ball out of the sand. Amateur golfers are different. The vast majority of mid and high handicappers are terrible bunker players. Going in the sand is literally a one-shot penalty when it doesn’t need to be. If you spend a couple of hours a month working out where your club needs to enter the sand in order for you to get the ball out consistently, you’ll save lots of shots around the green.


little or no green to work with decreases your chances of making par and increases your chances of making double-bogey.

away from the lob wedge 5 Step

Amateurs tend to chip with lob wedges, because they see pros doing it and presume it’s the right thing for them to do, too. It’s not. Pros use loft because their hands are brilliant, their feel is brilliant, their technique is brilliant and they practise an awful lot more than you do. Consequently, if amateurs want to save shots around the green,

I’ve found different amateurs make different mistakes when it comes to yardages. High handicappers tend to have no idea how far they hit the ball with each club, and low handicappers tend to think they hit the ball further than they actually can. Both are huge errors, because if you don’t know your yardages, then you are basically guessing which club to take.


Aim away from the flag

Sometimes you have to look at a flag and say ‘I don’t want to go anywhere near that, because the penalty for not hitting the perfect shot is too high’. Brandt would far rather have a lengthy putt than miss on the short side, because leaving yourself with is sue 31 8 Todaysgolfer

they need to forget about their lob wedge and focus on getting the ball on the ground as soon as possible. This means using a putter from the fringe and an 8-iron or 9-iron for most chips.


Work on your weaknesses

I always laugh when I see amateur golfers on a range. Not only do they tend to hit balls aimlessly, they also tend to try and impress other golfers by hitting the clubs that they already hit well! This might feel good, but it’s not helping. Not only does practice need to be structured, it also needs to focus on your weaknesses. So if you drive it well, but don’t hit good wedges, then work on your wedges. Practise with a purpose instead of aimlessly hitting balls and you’ll see the benefit.

the rhythm 7 Feel

Know your yardages

Knowing how far from the pin you are is only of any use if you know how far you hit each club, says Scott.


I’m always amazed by the number of amateurs who step up and whack a putt without taking a practice stroke. I am lucky enough to work for the golfer who I believe is the best putter in the world. If you watch Brandt on a green, you will see that he takes several practice strokes in a bid to develop a feel for what he needs to do in order to get the ball in the hole or close to it. If you add a couple of practice strokes into your routine it will help you get the pace of the putt right, and if you can get the pace of the putt right, then your second putts should be tap-ins rather than tricky four-to-six-footers.

8 Have a pre-shot routine

It helps pros cope with pressure shots and situations. Obviously, amateur golfers are unlikely to need to get up-anddown to win $1 million, but everyone faces some kind of pressure situation every round. It could be hitting your first tee shot when there are a few people watching, taking on a shot over water or attempting to make a putt with £5 on the line. Whatever it is, you will feel more comfortable and be more capable of hitting the right shot if you can fall back on a routine. I’d advise golfers of all levels to work on a consistent process that they go through before each shot.

9 Take your medicine

Brandt and I have a rule. It says ‘do not compound one mistake with another’. If we hit a bad shot or make a bad call, we need to take our medicine. Amateurs often think they can pull off a miracle shot when they get out of position, and one time every 20 they might do that. Sadly, on the other 19 times they will fail, end up in a worse spot, make a double or triple bogey and kill any momentum their round had.

bad shots behind you 10 Put

A tour golfer has a selective memory. He remembers his good shots and erases his bad ones, as this mental process allows them to have positive thoughts over the next difficult or pressure shot they face. The minds of most amateur golfers work differently. They forget their good shots and focus on their bad ones. This leads to them thinking negatively over difficult shots, which leads to them making a poor swing and messing them up. It’s time to change this. Resolve to think positively and you’ll be amazed how many shots you save.

Adjust carry distanceS The ball will carry different distances in different locations and conditions – further at altitude than sea level and further when it is warmer because of air density. KNOW THE Run-out After you hit a good tee shot down the fairway in the first few holes, try to establish how far it finished from the tee – not forgetting if it was downwind or into the breeze. This will help you know how far the course is running along the ground. Judge the wind One of the smartest plays to improve course management is to know the wind. Some winds are different to others. A lot of players are not aware of this and just feel a shot into this breeze will be one club more, when actually because of location it could be two or more. vary practice putting Hit a variety of putts – long and short, uphill and downhill and breaking both ways – on the putting green to familiarise yourself with speed and break on that day. Even if you play the course regularly, the greens probably play differently from day to day. NOTE THE Release When hitting chips or bunker shots, watch the first bounce and roll of the ball before it stops. It helps you judge the firmness and speed of the greens for the rest of the round.

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Today's Golfer UK  
Today's Golfer UK  

Tour Caddies Association Co-Founder Dean Herden is featured in this article showing readers how Tour Caddies can help you shave strokes off...