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Adjusting for Wind

In making adjustments, however, don't overcook it. Make either one big adjustment or a couple of minor ones, but not both. If you choke down on a three-iron and strengthen your grip and move the ball significantly back in your stance, you'll hit a smother shot that may not go twenty yards.

As always, you have to experiment. The next time it's blowing hard at the place you practice, get familiar with these shots and see which mix of clubs and adjustments you're most comfortable with. Focus on where the ball lands and how far it runs, because in links golf the game is playing the contours. Not all 160-yarders are created equal. On some you land it halfway to the green and rely on roll for the rest. On others you might try to fly it 130 yards.

A great way to develop these skills is to find a target whose distance you know­—say, eighty-five yards away—and practice flying low eight-irons to it, then low six-irons, then low four-irons. Or find some way to hit shots under tree limbs, perhaps on a slow day at your course. This is an acid test of how low your shots are actually flying, and it's terrific for visualizations. A lot of Americans get the hang of links golf initially by visualizing low shots out of the woods.

In a way, these low-spin, low-trajectory wind cheaters are just giant bump-and-run shots, but if you're closer to the green you do want to make a few subtle changes. First, in order to accommodate the shorter half-swings that are required, open your stance a bit—that is, swivel your whole setup position a few degrees to the left (for a right-handed golfer)—so as to preset, or "cheat," your impact position. Next, move the ball fractionally back in your stance. My first-choice club for bump-and-run shots inside eighty yards has always been the six-iron. With lower-lofted irons, the swing is so abbreviated it's hard to find a rhythm, and shots hit with higher-lofted clubs don't scoot along the ground as much as you want on links turf.

The biggest reason Tom Watson was able to come from America and win five British Opens was that he could carry his bump-and-run shots precise distances. Practicing these shots can be really fun if you play games with yourself. Chip a ball ten yards, then try to make the next one stop about two yards past it, and continue that out to fifty yards. Or fly a ball ten yards, watch it roll to fifteen and try to make the next one land where the first stopped; continue that out to a hundred yards or so. Because of the way this drill combines visualization, technique and touch, I find it's a great way to prepare for any round of golf, whether you're on a links course or not.


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