To have success on any hilly golf course, you have to be able to accurately estimate yardages over sloped terrain. Judging how much shorter to play a downhill shot or how much longer to play an uphill one, including how an uneven lie will affect the ball flight, is critical at a place like Augusta National, where hardly any approach shot is unaffected by slope.
The good news for tour players is that every week they’re armed with a yardage book that tells them how many yards to add or subtract for elevation change. If a shot is 150 yards to the pin and the yardage book tells them it’s playing six yards uphill, the player knows to play it as a 156-yard shot. It’s simple math.
Well, that’s most players. Tiger Woods does not use adjusted yardages at all—for slope or for wind. He simply wants his caddie, Joe LaCava, to tell him the raw yardage to the pin. Everything else is at the discretion of the artist.
“For me, personally, I don’t do adjusted numbers,” Woods says in Episode 9 of “My Game: Tiger Woods—Shotmaking Secrets, Presented by Geico.” Woods explains: “I see it’s uphill, and I know the pin is back, so it’s going to play long. Or if it’s into the wind—yeah, Joey just gives me, hey, it’s 175. Okay, cool.
“We hear all the more modern players, and that’s all they go by: adjusted numbers. I really don’t have any formula for playing scenarios like that because I play so much on feel. I’ve always just looked at it and taken a little bit off or added a little bit more. That’s how I’ve done well, and that’s how I play.”
So next week, when Woods faces an uphill, 150-yard shot into an Augusta green, and it’s playing into a 15-mile-an-hour wind, you’ll know exactly how he arrived at his yardage. By feel.