Make Sure Your Game Travels
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Grant Rogers for the Plugged In Golf podcast. For those that don’t know, Grant is the Director of Instruction at Bandon Dunes. He’s been at Bandon for 18 years and has earned the nickname “The Wizard” for his mesmerizing short game skills.
One of the topics we discussed was how to prepare your game for a trip to Bandon Dunes. Here are the five tips that Grant provided, plus a bonus shot to add to your game
#1 – Lock Down Your Short Putts
When Grant says “short putts,” he means short – 1-3 feet. He told me there are two reasons for this. First, there’s a lot of wind at Bandon Dunes, and that can make those “gimme” putts a lot more challenging. The other reason is that it will take the pressure off your long putting. If you know you can make everything inside 3 feet, your long putts will be less stressful.
#2 – Learn to Lag Putt
There are a ton of opportunities to hit putter at Bandon Dunes, including from the tee on the 13th hole at The Preserve. Take advantage of those opportunities by spending some time on your lag putting before you arrive.
You’ll be amazed at how much your distance control improves after just a couple sessions focused on long putts. And as Grant alluded to in the first tip, focus on getting your long putts into a 3 foot circle. No one expects to make many putts from 50 feet, but 2-putting from that distance is a major stroke saver.
#3 – Work On Your Wedges
Having read many conventional tips on links play, I assumed Grant would tell me to throw my 60 into the ocean and play low, running shots. His advice was quite the opposite: if you don’t have a 60, get one. If you have one, practice with it.
Grant’s primary reason for favoring a more lofted wedge was bunker play. Bandon Dunes is known for having some tricky bunkers, and Grant believes it’s much easier to get out when you have more loft on your side.
One additional note he made about wedges was to get something with low bounce. The turf at Bandon Dunes is firm, and the lies are tight. He recommended a wedge with as little as four degrees of bounce to pick the ball from the turf.
#4 – Lower Your Trajectory the Easy Way
Grant’s advice for playing in the wind is remarkably simple: take more club. This will put the ball on a lower trajectory that will work well in the wind. Furthermore, taking more club will allow you to make an smoother swing.
Grant shook his head at the idea of playing the ball back in your stance or trying to de-loft the club. He pointed out that these techniques can lead to more spin – a terrible thing in the wind – and shots that fly offline to the right.
Practice hitting your 5I to your 6I distance before you head to Bandon, and you’ll have much more reliable trajectory control.
#5 – Get Confidence Off the Tee
There’s nothing worse than walking to the tee box full of doubt. While the courses at Bandon Dunes generally have wide fairways, Grant recommends spending some time building confidence in your driver before your trip. In full swing instruction, his focus is on rhythm and tempo – two keys that will keep you from getting too technical with your swing.
Bonus Shot: The Bunt Driver
If you’ve read “Dream Golf”, the book about the building of Bandon Dunes, you know about Grant’s bunt driver. This shot, which is exactly what it sounds like, is a weapon that Grant likes to use on long par 3s. He says that while your opponents are trying to hit a club hard, he makes a practice swing with the driver and lets the ball get in the way. The resulting shot is lower and straighter than a 3I and can be very easy if you convince yourself to swing softly. Grant laughed that this shot can have a “profound effect on your opponent.”