Case Study: STRESS-FREE GOLF at Gary Player CC Home of the Nedbank Golf Challenge

Stress-Free Golf is KEY

With a new focus on playing the most stress-free golf going into 2019, I hit Gary Player Country Club at Sun City with Didi and his family. My intention was to pick shots I knew how to hit and was comfortable hitting, never having a moment of doubt and fear.

This course is no joke at 7,200+ yards off the green tees, has a stroke rating of 75.2 and course rating 151. It's unrelenting in optical illusions to make yourself question your existence. It's got tight, scary approaches to often-small greens. The bunkers have been deepened and come into sight on every approach. It's a high-stress environment.

Why take that high-stress and compound it by hitting high-stress shots. I can't control the golf course, but I can control what I bring to it. Stress-free golf shots the WADDAPLAYA way is the only method to beat down the tension Gary Player intended me to feel playing this magnificent course. The same course they play the European Tour Nedbank Challenge on. 

What is Stress-Free Golf?

A couple of important factors govern the WADDAPLAYA Stress-Free Golf System:

1. Only hit shots that you are 100% comfortable hitting.

By that I mean, avoid hitting fades if you can't hit them with 90% reliability. Hit a draw all day if you are comfortable with it. Avoid flop shots if you don't know how to hit them well. Just chip normally and get it anywhere on the green rather.

2. Ask yourself before every shot, 'What's the simplest shot I could hit now? 

It's just that easy but also incredibly important. If that means the simplest shot from 220 yards is two pitching wedges because you hit them to within 5 yards of your selected target every time, then do that! If standing over the 220 yard 5-wood with water left and OB right makes you crap yourself, DON'T DO IT! Simple, stress-free.

3. Forget the words 'birdie' 'par' 'bogey 'double bogey'.

These terms only hurt you. There are no such score either 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8. Write it into the card and forget it. If you walk around thinking "Oh, I just bogeyed the easiest hole on the course" you're going to screw up the next one too. Just write in a 5 and try get the ball into the next hole in the least number of strokes.

4. Leave those clubs that screw you, in the car!

I messed up three drivers during this round (luckily I recovered well and shot -1 on those three holes LOL) but I stopped hitting it after the 10th hole. Use the clubs that you feel great looking down at. It's 80% of the battle just looking at a club and knowing kinda where it's going.

5. Aim to the entrance of the green and avoid the trouble! 

Gary Player Country Club has some intense bunkering and if you're in them, you're going to have trouble. I successfully avoided the greenside bunkers on 17 of the 18 holes by aiming at the entrance to the green where I couldn't get in a bunker. Take enough club to clear them if they're in front of the green. 

6. If the pin is left, aim right. if the pin is right, aim left. If the pin is in the middle, aim to the middle!

7. Leave yourself easier chip and pitch shots.

I really messed this up during this round, short-siding myself and leaving myself 40-50 yard pitches which are never easy. If you suck at 40 yard pitches, or 70 yard pitches, whatever it is, just stop leaving those shots for yourself! If you're happier hitting a 100 yard shot, rather lay the ball up to 100 than try get it close to the green where you shoot yourself in the foot!

8. Plan your hole beforehand from green to tee not tee to green. 

Think of what you'd like into the green and then select the shot to get you to that position. As long as the shot is comfortable and the simplest in that situation, you're going to score WAAAAAY better than if you just hit and hope.

Let's say on hole 8 I just hit my driver. I could've just looked at the card and thought 460 yards, OMG, I better pump a driver and get it down there as far as possible.  I would probably have sliced or hooked it into the trees because I was so uncomfortable and cramped. Then I have to drop and hit 3 off the know the rest.

Instead, I hit my 3 iron, anticipating another 3 iron into the green. I worked out that I would be happy hitting 3 iron or hybrid into the green. I would probably be short of the green and chip and putt for a par or at worst a bogey on the hardest hole on the course. It was in fact, a perfect piece of stress-free golf as I played the entire hole AS COOL A SA CUCUMBER and got my par!

9. Focus on the stuff that makes up 90% of the game to really improve. 

Forget the other rubbish you read and see on TV. 

So many guys are worried about flop shots, hitting huge drives, learning to hit stingers, low skidding one hop and drop pitch shots. Forget all that noise unless you're a 2 handicapper.

Focus on COURSE MANAGEMENT, STRATEGY, and the art of playing golf. You have an arsenal of shots, but you must maximize what you have by developing a strategy to hit your strongest shots more often. Get yourself into your most comfortable positions on the golf course for super low scoring!

Hit a reliable tee club, have your favorite iron for approaches, your favorite pitching distance and try hit the ball to be able to use those clubs more. Then work on that chipping and putting. That's all there is to golf. Do the basics. 

10. Leave the ego in the locker room.

It's so important that you have the discipline and will power to stop yourself in a foolish moment.

A few people find conservative golf not fun and claim it won't improve your game. These people are fools. They claim it's more fun to go for shots that could fail because there's a 1 in 50 chance they'll make a birdie. The other 49 times, they're making triples and increasing their risk of heart failure. 

What's less fun than losing 2 balls on a hole going for a shot you crap yourself standing over? What's more fun than counting up your score at the end of a safe, conservative round, where you were in full control, and seeing a 79 on the bottom of the card? 


Give me 49 pars and one bogey over one birdie and 49 triples any day of the week. 

Last Updated on March 26, 2022 by Matt

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