Jack Nicklaus Golf Tip: Know Your Yardages

golftip105

Illustration by Jim McQueen

As a youngster, Deane Beman, now the former PGA Tour and Senior Tour commissioner, was one of the best amateur golfers in the world, not least because of his competitive smarts. I learned a lot from Deane over the years, but his best lesson came at the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach in 1961.

Although striking the ball beautifully, I was having trouble in practice judging distances of approach shots, particularly when the wind got up. Eventually, Deane said to me, “Why don’t you do what I do—pace off the yardages and write them down?” I believe Gene Andrews, the fine California amateur, was the first to figure and record exact distances, but savvy little Deane was close behind him.

I paced off Pebble Beach and won that Amateur with some of the most accurate golf I’ve ever played. From that day on, I’ve rarely hit a shot in competition without knowing its exact distance. Once I began to have some success on the Tour, other pros began stepping off and charting yardages. Today, it is standard operating procedure in top golf worldwide.

Do you know exactly how far you need to hit your approach shots, even on your own course? If the answer is no, you might be surprised by how much finding out improves both your club selection and your confidence over the ball.

Simply step off and note down yardages to the front and rear of each green from a permanent landmark like a tree or rock in the area where your drives usually finish. With that information, plus an estimate of how deeply the cup is cut into the green, it’s easy to work out how far you need to hit the ball.

Buy Golf My Way

Next week’s topic: Prepare for Longer Courses.