Leaning Pine Publishing presents...

The Systems Approach to Golfing is specifically written for the amateur golfers who love golf and have a burning desire to improves their game, but have limited practice time.

It identifies proven methods for practicing and playing, as well as for developing a shot plan and selecting the proper club. It will help you understand why a golf ball behaves as it does, and how to use this knowledge for better scoring.

The Systems Approach to Golfing

Prelude by Chip Heyl

Standing next to my caddie, Ian, the thoughts were racing through my head. The lay-up shot was really well played, to the spot I'd determined was directly into the wind across the river to the flagstick. In the last week I'd hit hundreds of shots just like this one, working hard on gauging the distance control and the effect of the breeze.

It was the long 18th at Leven Links, 457 yards with a river crossing the fairway immediately in front of the green. With the wind in our face, it was really playing long. My tee shot was hit well, but even then, with 210 yards to carry the creek from a tight lie in this wind, I'd have needed the equivalent of a 240 yard carry just to get across the hazard. Too much was at stake, actually qualifying for the British Open Championship, one of the four majors. It wasn't like it was life or death, it was much more important than that!!!

One of Ian's friends ran up to tell us that in the three groups behind us no one was even close to making the cut. Thirty-three players would get into the Open at St. Andrews, for me the goal of a lifetime. With a par, by getting up-and-down from this pitch shot, I would tie with three others for thirty-first. There would be a play-off, with two getting in the tournament and the others being alternates.

On the same line, 50 yards closer, taken after shot.
Ian is in the red sweater.
This pitch shot, across the river to a front flagstick position, with a slight downhill to the hole from the front of the green, could be the single greatest moment of my life. I could both feel and (I thought) hear my heartbeat over the wind. There was no doubt in my mind that I'd remember and think about this pitch shot for the rest of my life.

These thoughts were all wrong!

I had to plan the shot and execute it like countless other shots over the years. I wanted only positive thoughts. I'd made shots longer than this to win tournaments before. I could make this one. To deal with my nervousness, I needed to concentrate on the details. What did the lie, wind, terrain, and conditions dictate would be my best shot, and what position should my set-up routine put me in, and what was the best swing thought?

Ian mumbled something about the breeze and that helped me begin to focus on the details of the shot. He was right again, the wind was a steady-state breeze with a velocity of about 10 to 12 feet-per-second straight in our face. This would allow me to set the ball down softly on the rock hard green. Looking again at the lie of my ball I realized it was perfect for the pitch I had in mind, a pitching wedge with the ball played well back in a square stance. I wanted good backspin without sidespin, to keep the ball straight but stopping quickly on the downslope to the flagstick. My hands would be forward, so the ball would be hit with a descending blow, imparting a lower trajectory with more spin.

To increase the "high angle of attack" on the ball I would "cock" my wrists early in the backswing. My divot would be about two times the length of the diameter of the ball. The lie was almost level, with the ball less than one-half inch above my feet. The ball would be in the air for two-and-a-half to three seconds, given it would be a little higher than without the wind.

The ball would carry from 25-to-36 feet less than with no wind, so I wanted to think of how far to hit it with a distinct target. The flagstick was 20 feet on the green, so I decided that I wanted to hit a shot that with no wind would just clear the top of the flagstick, a few inches to the right to allow for the break in the green from right-to-left.

Chip and Ian.
Looking around I found a spot where the grass and terrain was just like the lie of my ball. I took several practice swings, producing divots approximately three inches long. My tendency was to swing too fast, my heartbeat must have been 180 beats per minute! So I wanted to concentrate on tempo and hitting the ball cleanly.

As I approached my ball I concentrated on every movement of my set-up routine--aligning the clubface, checking my grip, placing the left foot, then the right foot. I made sure my hands were even with my left thigh as I placed the clubface behind the ball and looked at the top of the flagstick with the flag pointing straight toward me. I waggled once, and looked again at the flag. Finally, I took one more big breath and let it out as I once again set the clubhead carefully and deliberately behind the ball while thinking, "Slow tempo, Chip," and, "Hit it square, dummy!"

The ball arched toward the right side of the flagstick, landing only a foot onto the green, two feet from the boards shoring up the far side of the river. It was heading just right of the hole while breaking left toward the cup and rolling slowly. . . WOW!!!

The techniques I used in preparing for that shot and for that tournament are captured here in my book, the Systems Approach to Golfing.

I hope they serve you as well as they have me!