If you’re anything like the golfers who attend my golf instruction sessions, you have some courses you like and some you don’t. Have you ever wondered why? We’ll probably never know for certain why some golfers like one course and others don’t. But there’s a theory that may explain the mystery and how it impacts your golf handicap.
This theory is based on the idea of brain dominance. Briefly, some people are right-brained. Others are left-brained. Right-brained people are creative and artistic, as well as are unconventional and spontaneous. Left-brained people are analytical and precise. They are also traditional and routine-oriented. While we are all a little of each, one side often dominates. The dominant side strongly influences what we think and do, including what jobs we like, who we associate with, and how we perform a task.
Right-brained vs. Left-brained Courses
The golf course theory holds that subconsciously right-brained people like right-brained courses, that is, courses designed by right-brained people. Left-brained people like left-brained courses, that is, courses created by left-brain people. While every course has elements of both, usually one side dominates over the other, making the course either right-brained or left brained.
Left-brained courses have things like signature holes, gently flowing features, great irrigation and drainage, and a lot of flat greens. They are designed for popularity. They also test how well you’ve learned your golf lessons and play shots. Each hole is an examination of how well you can execute the correct shot. In addition, right-brained courses have ideal routes.
Right-brained courses, on the other hand, favor novel concepts, unusual features, scruffy edges, and heavy undulating greens. Often, they are an acquired taste. These courses put less stress on how well you’ve learned your golf lessons and more stress on your creativity. Wide-open, right-brained courses can be played all sorts of ways and don’t always have a signature hole. They penalize you more if you stray from the fairway.
Pine Valley vs. Augusta National
Pine Valley is classic right-brained course. It features lay-of-the-land routing, fairways interrupted by nasty sand, different use of alternate greens, and some unusual par 3s. Pebble Beach, which maximizes ocean frontage, is another good example of a right-brained course, as is its neighbor, Cypress Point, designed by Alister Mackenzie, an unconventional course designer.
Augusta National, on the other hand, is a classic left-brained course. Originally, it was a right-brained course, but thanks to modifications made by a succession of left-brained architects it now falls into the left-brained category – Amen Corner not withstanding. (Maybe that’s why Tiger does so well there.). Oakmont Country Club and Pinehurst No.2 are both classified as left-brained courses.
Interesting and unique, the right-brained/left-brained theory has some merit. It may not only explain why you like some courses and not others, but also why you shoot well on one course and poorly on another. If you’re not comfortable playing a course, you’ll lack the confidence required to play the course well. If you lack confidence, you’ll probably play poorly and that will have an impact on your scores and golf handicap.
However, other factors can also affect how you feel about a course. These criteria include things like design variety, whether, aesthetics, condition, ambiance, and difficulty, to name a few. These factors also have an impact on your course impression.
The challenge is not to let bad course impressions affect your game or your score. Study the course thoroughly before playing it. Develop a strategy specifically for that course. Then, execute it.
Golf lessons and golf tips can’t teach you about course strategy. You can only learn it by reviewing the course and developing a strategy that fits your game. Learn to develop and execute your course strategy well and you’ll minimize your golf handicap no matter what courses you play.