Butler Cabin, Augusta National (c) Burgh Golfer

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book Review; The Art of Scoring by Stan Utley

Over the past few days I read the book “The Art of Scoring”- The Ultimate On-Course Guide to Short Game Strategy and Technique” by Stan Utley. I have read dozens of golf books by famous players like Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Ray Floyd. I would have to put this book in the upper echelon of books I have ever read on the short game.

Most authors cover a lot of ground in their books and only spend a small amount of time on the short game. What is great about this book is that it is solely focused on the short game. This part of the game is where amateur golfers struggle the most and waste a lot of shots. Stan does a great job of breaking down the game into simplistic, easy-to-understand concepts. He draws mental pictures with words in describing how to get into the proper position to perform the stroke. He stresses the importance of feel and visualization over talent or technique throughout the book, which I really like. He begins with this theme on the very first page of chapter one when he states “I’d put more weight on their ability to see what shot to hit than I would on their ability to understand the mechanics of how to hit it.” I agree with this advice and wrote a piece this summer about the why in golf instruction, not just the how.

I am a big believer in knowing why an instructor is asking you to approach a shot a certain way or to make a certain change. Stan does a great job of explaining why and how. The book doesn’t just tell you how to get into position, grip the club, or make a stroke. He outlines why you should make a change or approach the stroke in a certain position.

Another great point he makes in the book is setting proper expectations about the results of a short game shot. Very few players are scratch golfers or professionals. So, the average to high handicapper can get a lot out of this book in course management and expectations. He explains that sometimes just getting the ball on the green is good enough. He also relates how to turn double and triple bogies into bogies and pars. That is a lesson we all need to follow a little more closely.

In speaking about bunker play, Stan challenges the conventional notion of how to setup to and position the golf ball. He teaches playing a square stance when conventional instruction always teaches approaching a bunker shot with an open stance. I found this very interesting and am curious to try it on the practice ground myself. He also spends time going through how to diagnose sand conditions when you enter the bunker. It gives information on how to play the shot, how hard to hit the ball, and where to land it.

In my opinion, one of the most important points in the book is regarding lag putting. Stan makes it very clear that the key to good lag putting is sound contact between the putter face and ball. He stresses the importance or hitting the ball in the middle of the putter face every time. For someone like me who struggles from time to time in gauging speed on lag putts, this is music to my ears. I experimented with this very concept last season as I was tired of three putting and I have to say it works like a charm. Consistent, clean contact on the ball is crucial to rolling the ball the correct speed on a consistent basis.

To conclude, I think this is a great book and instruction manual for mid to high handicappers, which defines most of the golfing world. If the average player takes his advice and follows the tips he outlines, I believe they could make a dramatic impact in lowering their scores and handicap. If they do that they will have a lot more fun playing this great sport.

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