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Read the Directions
Ernie Els

Understanding course design can help your game.

I'm still new to the golf-course design business. I've consulted on three courses that are open for play, I'm collaborating on another course with Jack Nicklaus in South Africa, and I'm involved in a multibillion-dollar sports complex in development in Dubai.

It's fascinating to see a different side of the golf industry, but I've been most surprised by the way the design work has changed how I look at the game.

It really struck me for the first time last year at Whistling Straits (below), when I was getting ready for the USPGA Championship. It's such a dramatic piece of land, and you can see how Pete Dye planned every last detail, from how the water moves on the greens to the kind of tee shot each hole demands.

Getting in tune with the designer can only make it easier to score, no matter what level of player you are.

Here's an example from my own game. Now, when I'm walking up to a green, I look for the lowest point around it. That's where the water will drain, and putts tend to break in that direction. That can be the difference between playing a putt straight and missing and playing it on the right edge and making it for birdie.

Try to play architect next time you're out there.

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