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Is seeing distance a golf skill?


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Seeing Yardage  

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  1. 1. Do you currently use some kind of distance device?

    • Every round
      220
    • Often
      30
    • Occasionally
      24
    • Never
      24
  2. 2. Should properly estimating distance be considered a golf skill?

    • Yes: I don't use distance devices and think they are counter to the spirit of the game.
      18
    • Yes: I use distance devices, but think that golf without them is a purer version of the sport.
      58
    • Sometimes: eliminate yardage books and continue to ban devices on Tour, but keep them for amateurs.
      41
    • No: hitting the shot is the challenge of golf, not getting the yardage.
      181


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Over in the Precision Pro NX9 HD review thread, I've noted that the MGS Lab had need of my snazzy new range finder. During its absence, I initially pulled out my old generic range finder—until it fell out of its case somewhere on the course, so that I haven't seen it since. For a couple of rounds, I've done something I dislike: used the Game Golf app in conjunction with my Game Golf Live so that I can get the GPS yardage. (I dislike it it because it tempts me to start fiddling with the shot plotting, penalties, etc. during the round, which is bad for my focus.)

This past week, I did something unusual: I played courses other than the one course I play over and over again. I was traveling and played two courses I hadn't before. And I've learned that, absent any kind of gadget, I'm terrible at estimating distances.

Which got me thinking: isn't seeing distance part of the skill of this game? As I've dabbled in seeking a better grasp of course architecture, there are holes whose design purposefully seeks to subvert the golfer's perception of yardage. Range finders, GPS devices, and yardage books all eliminate that skill from the game.

So what's your take? If you could get away with it, would you pull up all the yardage stakes on the course and see who is really good at judging their shots? Or is knowing the yardage just a piece of data that should be readily accessible to everyone, to see if they have the skill to hit the shots?

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Absolutely! And you can learn it. Here’s what you do.

Guess your yardage first, then use your rangefinder to check your guess. You’ll get better and better. I started doing that 2-3 years ago, and at first I was pretty bad. Now I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Usually within a few yards. Sometimes a little off, and sometimes spot on. Hills and valleys in between make it more difficult, but not impossible.

First step to learning it is getting real comfortable with what 10 yards looks like so you can add it up from a distance.


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I only use a free GPS app on my phone. I never bother with it on my home course. If the course I'm playing is marked well enough as to know 200 - 100 yds. from the fairway, I usually don't bother. I figure if I can't get at least close by now, It doesn't matter if I know the yardage from my ball to the Crow on the left side of the green.😎

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Currently I use the 18 Birdies app for GPS distance, but I verify with what my eyeball estimate says. My eyeball estimate method is pretty solid, as long as the markers on course are accurate (150/100 post, sprinkler head, etc). I look for my nearest marker, gauge my distance from there. Add 7 for a back pin, subtract 7 for a front (most greens are about 30 yards deep - take 1/2 of 1/2 to play to the front or back center). Then add or subtract your wind and slope estimates.

Here's a related story. Playing in a scramble on a course I'd never seen. One playing partner had a laser, and while he was lining up the laser, I'd figure out my estimate. Usually before he got his yardage, I'd say "I've got xxx, what did you get". The worst difference I got on any shot was about 5 yards (and that one was uphill).

Lately, when making my strategy card for a new course I'll add in some landmarked distance notes to help gauge on the course.

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If you know your course, play it all the time, you can estimate the yardage well enough to play decent golf.  I've forgotten my GPS a few times, and my wife has the laser, but I can still score about the same without anything... well except for the red, white and blue markers in the middle of the fairway.  lol

However, I've played courses where I guess the yardage, then check my GPS and I am waaaay off.  Certain terrains and shades of lighting on the course greatly influences my ability to get an accurate number.  Playing without devices will greatly slow down play more than it already is.

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Absolutely yes. Any of you guys here grow up using these?

IMG_9385.JPG

It’s absolutely a skill and personally, I preferred using these to any yardage tools in college. Call it stubborn but there is something fun about estimating your distances not just from the fairway but also how deep pins are set.

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I use a GPS app on my phone but for years I used the yardage markers on the course or just guestimated the distance.  I still like to try to eyeball the yardage and see how close I can get to being right, even though I always use the GPS app on my phone.

I do think it is a skill and its kind of fun when Im playing with strangers to guess the distance and be right more often than not.

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21 minutes ago, bens197 said:

Absolutely yes. Any of you guys here grow up using these?

IMG_9385.JPG

It’s absolutely a skill and personally, I preferred using these to any yardage tools in college. Call it stubborn but there is something fun about estimating your distances not just from the fairway but also how deep pins are set.
 

A course I played in Albuquerque has small bushes just off the fairway as the 150 indicator.  Those stakes you can pull out... those bushes are, well...  obstacles.

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I definitely believe seeing the distance is a skill associated with the game. What I’ve found is that playing a course I know well is pretty easy without a DMD. Playing courses that I’ve never played without one is almost impossible. My depth perception is linked to my memory of other shots and distances I had on course. If you just give me barren land with a pin, with no recognizable landmarks, it’s hopeless. That said, the challenge of golf is just hitting the shot, not getting the yardage. The yardage is a measurement that should be available at all times, to see who can actually execute shots.    

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Use the GPS app on my garmin running watch, not so much for estimating but I feel like it helps to speed up play to get a relative distance to the center so I can easily pick the club vs trying to estimate distance to markers

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And just to add one more thing. Any decent golfer has a relative idea of how far they are from their target.

As an example, if I’m 150 out, depending on the wind it’s either a 9 or a wedge. The distances are nice to specify but there is a certain paralysis by analysis when it comes to dialing a yardage when most folks can’t consistently hit their yardages.


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14 hours ago, bens197 said:

Absolutely yes. Any of you guys here grow up using these?

IMG_9385.JPG

It’s absolutely a skill and personally, I preferred using these to any yardage tools in college. Call it stubborn but there is something fun about estimating your distances not just from the fairway but also how deep pins are set.
 

Edited above to make my point. With the GPS's you get static front/middle/back which don't really take into account pin locations for most of the companies, and that's fine. Again, after playing for some time you kinda just get a feel for it. I do play with a lot of guys who have distance devices and like others I can usually guesstimate the yardage within 2-5 yards most times.

The other issue I have is that trusting one of those takes away your instincts for your own game and how you are playing. Taking a static number isn't helpful in that regard. You aren't counting for wind, lie, slope any of that.

For example, here's the spiel I normally give myself when coming up on a shot "Ok, looks like around 145ish to the green, lie could catch a flyer, we're going slightly uphill, and wind is slightly into. Long isn't bad so play for 155. Stock 8." Take about 20-30 seconds to make a decision and go. Don't overthink, just do.

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I'm terrible at estimating yardages so having a DMD has been great.  Now, if I could only HIT those distances consistently, I'd really be having more fun!  The downside is, sometimes I focus on the number too much and forget to swing!

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From my experience, being able to accurately determine distance by sight is a gift that simply is not granted to everyone. My dad can often guess approach yardages within 5 yards while I might be off by as much as 10 or 20.

Hypothetically speaking, if you were to remove rangerfinders and similar devices from golfers, we'd all likely be walking off yardages, or begin racking up substantially more strokes.

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Edited above to make my point. With the GPS's you get static front/middle/back which don't really take into account pin locations for most of the companies, and that's fine. Again, after playing for some time you kinda just get a feel for it. I do play with a lot of guys who have distance devices and like others I can usually guesstimate the yardage within 2-5 yards most times.
The other issue I have is that trusting one of those takes away your instincts for your own game and how you are playing. Taking a static number isn't helpful in that regard. You aren't counting for wind, lie, slope any of that.
For example, here's the spiel I normally give myself when coming up on a shot "Ok, looks like around 145ish to the green, lie could catch a flyer, we're going slightly uphill, and wind is slightly into. Long isn't bad so play for 155. Stock 8." Take about 20-30 seconds to make a decision and go. Don't overthink, just do.


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While I feel that it is a skill in the game, I don't see the reason to eliminate devices that give us distances.

Courses generally always have some indicators of distance to the center of the green, and at times have even more yardages marked out on sprinkler heads, or other signage. 

I agree with other posters that the benefit of DMD's is in speeding up play. Eliminating them from play will cause everyone to walk off distances even if they are good at estimating distance with their eyes. 

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It's definitely a skill and one I don't posses as I'm routinely off by a club or so.

I've no doubt that I'd improve my guesstimations if the game abandoned technology but I have zero desire to try.

It's allowed, so I'm all for using it. [emoji6]

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Being able to estimate a distances on the golf course is most definitely a golf skill and an important one to have to play well. I think range finders and gps are a crutch and are just another example of golf being too much about technology.

What happens when a new range finder is released that has the ability to be pointed at a green, it reads the break for the player and then displays the optimal line of the putt on the screen? Is that when it’s going to be too much?


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3 hours ago, Berg Ryman said:

Edited above to make my point. With the GPS's you get static front/middle/back which don't really take into account pin locations for most of the companies, and that's fine. Again, after playing for some time you kinda just get a feel for it. I do play with a lot of guys who have distance devices and like others I can usually guesstimate the yardage within 2-5 yards most times.

The other issue I have is that trusting one of those takes away your instincts for your own game and how you are playing. Taking a static number isn't helpful in that regard. You aren't counting for wind, lie, slope any of that.

For example, here's the spiel I normally give myself when coming up on a shot "Ok, looks like around 145ish to the green, lie could catch a flyer, we're going slightly uphill, and wind is slightly into. Long isn't bad so play for 155. Stock 8." Take about 20-30 seconds to make a decision and go. Don't overthink, just do.

While my wife likes the laser to get the exact yardage to the pin, I don't.  The GPS is much better for my game, as I'm not consistent enough to hit exact yardages.  However, the front/middle/back numbers tell me a lot.  The front and back numbers tell me what club to hit to get on the green, and what club will be too much.  If the pin is in the middle, I use that number.  If it's a front pin, I split the difference between the front and middle numbers.  If it's a back pin, I split the difference between the middle and back numbers.  

The pros have caddies that have walked the course and know the greens in advance of play.  They tell their player what the number is.  Without that help I want whatever distance information I can get within the rules.

With that said... if I'm close to the green and don't need a full shot, I will check the distance, but I don't use it as a static number.   If I were good enough to hit wedges specific distances by varying my clubs and swing, I would consider mapping my wedges.  I judge partial wedge distances by feel considering how I want to fly the ball, similar to throwing horseshoes and shooting hoops.  It's also the way I putt the ball, looking at the hole.  Of course, I'm better at my home course, but I'm acceptable at other courses.

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22 minutes ago, Kenny B said:

While my wife likes the laser to get the exact yardage to the pin, I don't.  The GPS is much better for my game, as I'm not consistent enough to hit exact yardages.  However, the front/middle/back numbers tell me a lot.  The front and back numbers tell me what club to hit to get on the green, and what club will be too much.  If the pin is in the middle, I use that number.  If it's a front pin, I split the difference between the front and middle numbers.  If it's a back pin, I split the difference between the middle and back numbers.  

The pros have caddies that have walked the course and know the greens in advance of play.  They tell their player what the number is.  Without that help I want whatever distance information I can get within the rules.

With that said... if I'm close to the green and don't need a full shot, I will check the distance, but I don't use it as a static number.   If I were good enough to hit wedges specific distances by varying my clubs and swing, I would consider mapping my wedges.  I judge partial wedge distances by feel considering how I want to fly the ball, similar to throwing horseshoes and shooting hoops.  It's also the way I putt the ball, looking at the hole.  Of course, I'm better at my home course, but I'm acceptable at other courses.

I'm glad it works for you Kenny, and for everyone else who uses these devices. I'm not advocating for getting rid of them for everyone as that would be stupid at best, what I don't like is the hemming and hawing that I've seen some people do with the devices. Sometimes you just need to trust and believe in yourself or your device.

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