Pro Talk

This month our interview is with Brian Trout, Golf Pro at Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club in Dagsboro.

Q. Brian, there is a saying in golf: “Drive for show, putt for dough.” Please comment on that saying in the context of how younger versus veteran players approach the game, and how you assist a player to achieve balance between the various elements of playing this tough game — driving, fairway play, short game and on the tee.

A. “Most players want more distance on the drive. Some are able to hit the 275-yard boomers, but few players have that ability. Younger players seem to concentrate on their driving skill, perhaps out of boredom with the short game. Also, younger players tend to take more risks in their game.

“But, let’s face it, everyone loves a long drive. In actual play, you must remember that driving represents only about 20 percent of the game. So, do you concentrate on that 20 percent or balance it with the other 80 percent? The other situation to consider is that your game capabilities and skills change as you mature. Veterans naturally transition from power hitting to dynamite short-game players.”

Trout witnesses excellent “around the green” play every day, especially among the senior members — with corresponding low stroke counts only wished for by some of the younger, power hitters. He suggests that technology can help one to maintain, or improve distance. There are great choices in clubs, especially the new hybrids that combine the best characteristics of fairway woods and irons.

He continued, “I always emphasize to all players, regardless of age or skill level, ‘Make solid hits.’ Live with what you have — those solid, consistent shots will make up for the lack of distance.”

Trout’s approach to teaching the game is to establish goals. Focus on what you do well, then work on the holes in your skills. Learn course management. Play to your strengths. Have positive thoughts. Put “blown” shots on the back shelf; move on in a positive frame of mind. If you are playing a water hazard and think you are going to splash the ball, good chance that is what will happen. “Don’t go for the ‘miracle’ shots, but do know where to be aggressive.”

Finally, select the club best suited to the hole you are playing that you are comfortable with. If you are in the rough go for the club with greatest loft even though it may not give the longest distance; remember, you are trying to get out and onto the fairway while still advancing the ball.

“Around the green, the game is all about feel. Tension is the shot killer. Learn to relax your grip and let the club do the work,” Trout advised. He suggests that you hit comfortable shots that you can do repeatedly. Further, don’t go for “close”; do go for “accurate” shot placement.

His rule of thumb is, “Remember, time of play is half on and around the green — chipping, and putting versus driving and fairway play; therefore, practice around the green has the biggest payoff.”

Here are some of the interesting facts you should be aware of, according to Trout: When on the green, statistics rule. Putting from 10 feet out carries about a 25 percent, or less, success percentage. He encourages players to think about the cup being surrounded by “rings.” The first ring is 3 feet around the cup; the next ring is 5 feet around the cup, then 10 feet. Within that 3- to 5-foot ring, your chance of a successful putt increases dramatically. Getting within that 3- to 5-foot range allows you to eliminate the dreaded “three-putt,” and get down to within a two-putt, and ideally a one-putt.

The pro’s word of caution is appropriate at this point: “The most common mistake made on the green is reading too much ‘break.’ And, you really can’t ‘guide’ the ball into the cup after the stroke is made.”

How do you stack up on the green?

“When you are putting, the less moving parts in action the better,” Trout suggested. “Use your ‘big’ muscles — the shoulders and arms, which must swing like a pendulum.”

Trout emphasizes that wrists have no place in the putting stroke. His recommendations for championship putting skills are, “If you are having problems breaking your wrists, try practicing ‘cross-hand’ putting. Line the ball up carefully with the cup, avoid over-reading the break, and then concentrate on hitting the ball squarely. Now you try to get close, but, not at the expense of losing the most advantageous lie. Finish inside that 3- to 5-foot target with one stroke.”

Our pro finished the interview with this piece of advice: “Most importantly, enjoy the game and always exhibit good sportsmanship on the course!”

Contact Brian Trout at the club, (302) 539-1446, Ext. 1, or e-mail,