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Using Google Earth to Develop Golf Course Playing Strategy

Written by: Tony Korologos | Monday, January 13th, 2014
Categories: InstructionMiscellaneous

This is a very geeky and cool way to develop a strategy for playing a golf course, especially one you may not have played before. You need two tools, a computer and Google Earth. To get Google Earth, go here.

I’m assuming you have your computer since you’re reading this. So now load up Google Earth. If you don’t have Google Earth, download and install it. I’ll wait.

Ok now that you have Google Earth installed, load ‘er up! It may take a minute.

While Google Earth is loading let’s talk clubs, yardages and strategy. We all know how far we hit clubs, what our strengths are, and what our weaknesses are on the course. Keep in mind what your best approach club is. Say you are most accurate with your 9-iron from 140 yards. One strategy is to try and get to 140 in the fairway on approach shots if possible. Another part of the strategy is to avoid hazards and play conservative on approach shots.


  1. Find course name/location/address on Google
  2. Find course scorecard on their website or other golf sites
  3. Find course map, showing the routing of the course so we know what holes we are looking at
  4. Locate course in Google Earth
  5. Use Google Earth measuring tool (the ruler icon) to measure, and analyze golf holes

Assuming Google Earth is ready, let’s find a golf course we have not played. I’m going to find a random course in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I’ve heard of The Witch Links, so I picked that one. I know nothing about the course.

I surfed to the course website and checked out the scorecard as well as the course layout. The layout image is pretty bad, but I can still get the routing of the course. See, when viewing a course on Google Earth you can see aerial shots of the golf holes, but they’re not numbered. You have to use a few brain cells to determine the course layout. The good thing this course had a layout map, because the first hole/tee is not next to the clubhouse. To confirm I had the right hole, I used Google Earth’s measuring tool to measure the hole length in yards. It measured at about 425 and that’s what it is from the tips on the scorecard. We are good to go.

Hole #1 Strategy

From looking at the aerial imagery on Google Earth, this looks to be a tight, tree-lined hole. The hole is only 390 from the middle tees. We don’t need to hit driver here unless we are not long hitters. A tee shot of 240-250 yards will put us in a safe and fat part of the fairway. The strategy for the tee shot is a 3-wood, or a driver if your driver goes about 250 yards. I measured from the tee to the left fairway bunker and that clocks in at 266.6 yards. Once again, that 3-wood is looking good from the tee. Even if we hit it on the line of the bunker, we won’t reach the bunker, unless our 3-wood goes 266 yards.
The approach on hole #1 is fairly simple. There’s a bunker on the right, so we want to aim left, away from the bunker.

Hole #2 Strategy

Hole #2 has a few more issues to deal with than the first hole as we can see on the map. Measuring from the teeing area to the fat and safe part of the fairway tells us that a good tee shot should be 236 yards. Take your 236 club, whatever that may be, and let it rip. The right bunker is 260 from the tee, so just make sure that whatever club you hit from the tee does not go 260!
Assuming we hit the fairway, we will be faced with a 175 yard approach. We can see that there are bunkers guarding right and left of the green. Obviously an accurate shot to the middle is best. We can take a little extra club, say a 180-185 club to be even more safe. Better to be long over the bunkers than in them if we miss left or right.

Hole #3 Strategy

Hole #3 is only 129 yards. If we measure from the tee we can see that there’s an arroyo or some kind of hazard at 79 yards. It is 20 yards deep, so the carry over the hazard is 99 yards. The left greenside bunker is 122 to the middle. Obviously we need a club which easily carries the 100 yards over the hazard. A 125 club should do it easily. The arroyo may be more for show and visual intimidation than anything. Only a very poorly struck shot is going to go 79-98 yards when we have a 125 yard club in our hands. With that bunker on the left, we will be aiming to the right half of the green, no matter where the pin is.

Hole #5 Strategy

Since we’ve already done two par-4’s, we will skip the par-4 4th and go to the par-5 5th. This hole according to the scorecard is fairly long at 574 from the tips and 535 from the white tee.  From the looks of it, this appears to be a very cool golf hole.

Measuring out the right fairway bunker tells us that a carry over that bunker is 286. So unless you can fly your driver over 290 yards, playing short left of it with your driver at about 250-275 yards or less is great. Keep that bunker out of play.

The next shot is a layup. The obvious best approach to the green is from a fat area of the fairway about 118 yards out. To get to that point from where our tee shot finished, we need to hit a long iron or whatever club will take us about 210 yards. 210 is also safe on the line we are traveling. It will not go through the fairway.

Once we’ve navigated the layup properly we are faced with a relatively easy approach of less than 120 yards. There is a greenside bunker short right, so we will make sure we have plenty of club to carry the shot over that bunker in case we go a little right.

These are some fairly straight forward examples. By using Google Earth (or aerial imagey on web based maps), we can get a good idea where the hazards and placeds to avoid are. Often times course designers throw in features you can’t see from the tee. We can see them from satellites though!

Next time you’re playing a new course, at least take the time to look at each hole from an aerial view so you know what hazards and challenges are there before you play. If you have the time and computer skills, you can use Google Earth’s tools to measure shot distances for great course management.

While this is a great strategy and helps us learn the course before even seeing it, other factors like wind conditions and elevation change are not covered. We will have to adjust for those variables on the fly, so to speak.

How NOT To Drop In On Your Pro Shop

Written by: Tony Korologos | Monday, January 13th, 2014
Categories: Golf VideosHow Not ToMiscellaneous

Support your local golf pro shop. Drop in, but not this way…

Golfers Treated For Sleep Apnea Improve Handicaps By 31.5%

Written by: Tony Korologos | Monday, December 23rd, 2013
Categories: GolfGolf FitnessGolf Life

dufneringThis is a very interesting finding which makes me wonder what other health related issues can have an affect on one’s golf scores.

This study published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine) and also mentioned in the New York Times, found that golfers who have sleep apnea and undergo treatment can improve their golf handicaps by as much as 31.5%! That is crazy. It is even more crazy that there was a study done in the first place.

Groups of golfers whose handicaps were above 12 found an improvement in their handicaps following sleep apnea treatment by an average of 11.3% while golfers whose handicaps were under 12 had handicap improvements of 31.5%.

Golfers will do anything (except practice of course) or buy any worthless piece of golf-training junk to shoot lower scores. As crazy as golfers are, some may read this study and try to somehow contract sleep apnea, just so they can go through the treatment and improve their golf scores.

My wife says I snore a lot. Perhaps I have sleep apnea? Yesssss. Yesssssss.

What study is next? Golfers who lose 200 pounds or more improve their handicaps by 32.3%? Fetch me a pizza so I can put on enough pounds to be able to afford to lose 200!

Video: How to hit out of a plugged lie under the lip of a bunker to within five feet of the pin

Written by: Tony Korologos | Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
Categories: GolfGolf InstructionGolf VideosInstruction

Usually I post videos of my buddy, the director of golf at my home course Guy Lester, in trouble to give him grief.  In this particular case he tried something I would have never thought of to get himself out of the horrid “plugged golf ball under the lip of the bunker” situation. Instead of opening the blade to his sand wedge, he turned the toe down.  It was a brilliant shot which not only got on the green (the main goal), but settled to about five feet!

And to cap it off, he was playing with a broken foot.  That’s dedication to golf!

Well played Guy.

Golf Book Review: 365 Golf Tips & Tricks From the Pros

Written by: Tony Korologos | Monday, April 22nd, 2013
Categories: Golf AccessoriesGolf BooksGolf FitnessGolf InstructionInstructionPro TipsReviews

There are many studies which prove that short study sessions allow the pupil to retain more than long study sessions. It is better to, for instance, study in 20 minute segments and break three times than to study a straight hour. The starts and stops are where most of the information is retained. That’s what makes a format like 365 Golf Tips & Tricks From the Pros so great. It is 592 pages, but there’s no way on earth I’d read it from start to finish. I’ll take a tip and read it with the thoughts of really trying to absorb it and work the concept into my game or my practice.

I recommend keeping books like this in places you'll visit every day...  Click to buy

I recommend keeping books like this in places you’ll visit every day… Click to buy

1 Tip Per Day

365 Golf Tips & Tricks From the Pros is obviously meant to be read a day at a time, a tip at a time.  Read that one tip on one day and really try to absorb it.  The tips are well but concisely written and all supported by color photos demonstrating the concept.

All areas of golf are covered from the rules to etiquette to long and short games.  365 lessons are in there and at only $12.95, a fraction of the cost of one private lesson!

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