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Garry Rippy Golf offers golf lessons, golf coaching, golf instruction, golf classes and golf schools in Austin, TX. This blog contains golf instruction articles, golf tips and golf instruction videos by Garry Rippy, PGA.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

My Short Experience in Golf Course Architecture

When I was in high school I was always drawing golf course layouts.  I enjoyed envisioning what my layouts might look like in real life.  So much so that I was going to choose that as my career.  I took architectural drafting in high school and did show some potential in that area as well.  I was an average student in high school and never really applied myself to studying.  I was on the golf team and spent my time practicing and playing.  When it came time to sit down with the high school counselor and learn what it took to get in the school of architecture I could see it would take seven years of college and lots of math!   

So I changed career paths and decided on General Business…boring!  I wasn’t a great college student so ended up leaving school and worked for my dad for a handful of years before then getting in the golf business.  I made the correct choice as I really enjoyed my career.  I worked at some of most famous clubs and resorts and some of the most respected professionals in the nation!  

My longest stint as a head golf professional was at the TPC at The Woodlands.  I was there from 1988-2001 and was host professional to 14 PGA TOUR events.  In 1998, we were going to do a greens restoration and hired Houston architect Carlton Gipson to complete the job.  Carlton had several original designs and restoration projects in the Houston area.  It was a great learning experience to see how greens are constructed and shaped.  I would go on the course with Carlton on a regular basis and he thoroughly explained the process.  For the most part the greens were just being returned to their original design and size.  But one day Carlton indicated to me he would like to do something different to the par 3, 14th hole.  It was a very wide green in a horizontal hourglass shape surrounded by 4 bunkers.  The green itself was fairly flat.  If the hole location was left or right it made for a difficult shot with a long iron.  The water wasn’t really more than a visual issue.

He asked my opinion on changing the shape of the green.  This is where my short stint in golf course architecture began.  I told him it would be interesting if the water was more in play.  I thought it would be cool to have a sort of bowl shape in the middle so a hole location could be near the water at the front of the green.  If you hit a shot long to avoid the water, you would have a fast putt coming down the hill.  In addition if the green was closer to the water you could lose the right bunker and have another great hole location over the water.  As he was listening to my idea I could tell it intrigued him.  So long story short, he used my idea!  

I don’t have an actual picture of the finished green but this is from the yardage book.  So here it is 25 years later and the same green exists.  Although the course is no longer a TPC it does host the Insperity Invitational on the PGA TOUR Champions.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Commit to your Target

I came across this picture from Golf Digest and it reminded me of a statement I heard years ago…”give life to your target”.

In this photo Annika Sorenstam is hitting pitch shots to her caddy.  She was focused on hitting to a specific target and distance.  By hitting to her caddy, she was in essence giving the target life.  I think doing this really increases your focus as you don’t want your caddy to be running all over the place.  It also helps one improve their visualization skills as you can imagine you are hitting to your friend or coach.

From 1981-1984 I was an assistant golf professional at Shady Oaks Country Club in Fort Worth.  Ben Hogan was a member there and we crossed paths on a daily basis.  After working at his office at the Ben Hogan Company all morning he would then go to lunch at Shady Oaks.  After lunch he would come through the golf shop and these were his exact words to me…”Sonny, you got a shag boy for me today?”

Mr. Hogan would take his shag bag full of balls and my cart attendant then head to the Little 9.  The Little 9 was a short course at Shady Oaks with eight par 3’s and one par 4.  The par 4 hole fairway was a perfect place to practice and Mr. Hogan would only hit balls into a right to left wind.  He would position my attendant appropriately and begin with short irons progressing to driver.  By hitting to my attendant he was giving the target life.  But, Mr. Hogan frowned upon the attendant catching the ball, he wanted to see it land.  Mr. Hogan might be out there for 2 hours or more practicing.  

One of the stories I like to tell is one day after a long practice session my attendant came in the shop and pulled his shirt up to his chest.  There were two huge welts on his chest and I asked what happened?  He said he had lost the ball in the sun and Mr. Hogan pegged him with a 7 iron shot, then, before he could get up, he hit him againπŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚!  On days I didn’t have a “shag boy” Mr. Hogan would take one club and hit shots as he walked the course.  

On occasion he would practice on the range and he always signed a ticket for the range balls he hit!

That’s me in 1982!  Anyway, the point is, hitting practice balls to a live target is good for your focus.  This is pretty much impossible to do now days but I recommend to use your imagination as you practice.  I promise you will see increased concentration and visualization of your target.

I also used to practice on the Little 9 and I would hit from the par 4 fairway to an area short of one of the par 3 greens.  It was a secluded green surrounded by trees and I had to really focus on my aim.  I had my own shag balls but didn’t have use of a shag boy.  I would hit 75-80 balls then go pick them up.  It’s amazing when you know you have to pick them up your concentration goes way up.  Since Shady Oaks was not a busy club I could hit 200-300 balls per day.  There is no doubt these focused practice sessions helped me win the 1982 Metro Chapter Assistants Championship and win the Player of the Year award!

From this experience I recommend when you practice try to focus on a narrow part of the range.  In other words try to find an imaginary grid between target flags/poles that is no more than 20 yards wide and focus on hitting every club in this grid.