Play to the Center of the Green
Don’t let the hole location fool you into aiming directly at the flag all the time. Sometimes the hole location is in a very difficult spot, close to the edge of the green protected by sand bunkers, deep rough, or water. The best strategy may be to aim your golf shot to the center of the green regardless of the hole location. It is usually mush easier to putt to the edge from the center of the green than it is to play out of the bunker or rough if you decide to go flag hunting and miss. I see this all the time with beginners that just aim at the flag every time and wind up in trouble. All I can do is give a little sneeze and put my paw over my nose in disbelief. Try aiming to the center of every green for your next round of golf and keep track of your putts and score. If you 2-putt most of the greens you should lower your scores by 3 or 4 strokes per round. That’s a big difference for a little aiming adjustment. Enjoy your practice!
Fuel for Your Golf Game
Power-up your body to play golf with a good breakfast in the morning. An example of a good golfer’s breakfast is a bowl of oatmeal and 2 eggs (or egg whites), or a fresh breakfast burrito. The carbohydrates and proteins will help your body maintain a steady source of energy for many hours. Avoid simple sugars before golfing as your energy will diminish quickly during your round. It’s okay to have a doughnut or candy bar as a treat after you finish your golfing. I prefer bacon treats myself! Anyway, make it your goal to finish the last hole of your round with the same amount of energy as you started the first hole. It begins with a golfer’s breakfast. Enjoy!
Strike Down to Get the Ball Up
Solid ball striking with an iron is an important part of the golf game. It leads to good control of distance and improved accuracy of iron shots. The only way to get the ball up into the air with an iron is to strike down on the ball. However, many players try to lift the ball in the air or scoop the ball in the air with disappointing results. Think of it this way, your golf iron is made of steel and the grass is well, just grass. Your iron will glide easily through the grass when you strike down on the ball and swing through the ball to a nice balanced finish. The angle of the face of the iron will determine the trajectory of the ball as it compresses against the face of the club. No lifting up or scooping the ball is necessary to get it into the air. Improving your ball striking will help you lower your scores. Enjoy your practice!
The Mental Game of Golf
Ahhh, the mental game of golf! It is very important to have confidence in your abilities on the golf course. One way to improve your confidence is to use a simple mental trick. If you hit a poor shot, do not give it much emotional response. Instead use a tactic prescribed by Dr. Joseph Parent in his book Zen Golf, by saying something similar to “hmmm how unlike me”. Then stay calm and move on to the next shot. Conversely, when you hit a good shot, get happy about it, give your partner a high-five or pump your fist once with a “yes”. This will produce a strong emotional tag in your brain which will stay with you for future golf shots. The more you remember the positive “yes” situations, the more confidence you will have for the next similar golf shot. Ahhh, confidence!
Consistency in Putting
Consistency in putting is a goal for every golfer. To develop a more consistent putting stroke practice with a dime. Place the dime on the putting green about 3 to 4 feet from the hole. Place the ball on top of the dime. Line up your putt using your pre-shot routine and set up to putt. Make a good tempo putting stroke through the ball. Watch to see the dime under your ball and stare at the dime for 2 seconds after you putt. Listen, but don’t look, for the putt dropping into the hole. This drill will improve the consistency of your putting by helping you keep your head still throughout the stroke. Enjoy your practice!
Chipping may be one of the most important aspect to lowering one’s handicap. Very rarely will a professional golf hit all 18 greens in regulation in one round, so it is a near guarantee that you never will either. Because of this, you will most likely never play a round in your life where you don’t have to chip the ball close to the hole to save you par. Thankfully, the variety of clubs in your bag can be to your advantage around the greens.
Long sand shot
Many golfers will tell you that a long sand shot is the most difficult shot in the game to be consistent with. Catch it a little heavy, the ball comes up too short. Catch it thin, there’s no telling when the ball is going to stop. There is one simple change to consider that can really decrease the need for perfection on a long bunker shot: club selection.
Next time you can hit some practice bunker shots find a lengthy one, maybe 30 yards in total. Instead of grabbing your sand wedge, grab a 9-iron or pitching wedge. Open the 9-iron just like you normally would a sand wedge and hit a couple shots. Feel as though you are intentionally chunking the ball and it comes out low without a lot of spin. However, with a little practice this chunk-and-run becomes very easy and remarkably consistent.
If you have been watching the PGA Tour season beginning in Hawaii, you probably noticed how the players had to battle the wind throughout the tournaments. Wind is expected on a Hawaii course, just as the wind can be expected during the winter and early spring months in Colorado. Playing into the wind or in crosswinds can be easy by changing a few simple things in your setup alone.
First, select the proper club for the shot at hand. In high wind, you probably should play two clubs more than you normally would when playing into the wind or in crosswind (a 5-iron instead of a 7-iron, for example). Second, grip down on the shaft of the club (toward the steel or graphite) so that your hands are in the center of the rubber grip. Third, position the ball so that the back of the ball is in line with the center of your stance. Last, since you are playing more club than usual, you are forced to swing smoother so that you don’t hit the ball too far. Think of hitting the ball “smoothly aggressive.”
Making these setup changes will make the ball come off lower, with less spin, and more on line. Less spin is the key to controlling the ball in the wind. Remember, when playing this shot you are not trying to fly the ball to the hole. You must plan to have the ball bounce and release forward because it has less spin. Now you can enjoy those windy days on the links.
Some of the most important development as a golfer can happen during the winter months because there are televised events where the best of the best are competing in some of the most attractive venues in the world. Try this activity to improve your all-around game this winter:
On a Saturday evening of a PGA Tour event, take a look at the top five contenders in the tournament and pick one or two you would like to emulate in your own game. These top five players will have nearly every shot televised on Sunday. Then, grab a pad of paper and set aside a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon to watch your selected player under the utmost pressure. Your goal is to note where each shot goes in relation to where the player intended the ball to go, and the player’s reactions.
How many fairways does your player hit? How many greens? How does (s)he react to missed shots? Does his/her overall demeanor change from hole to hole, relative to score? Can you tell if (s)he is playing well or not by his/her appearance? How many times does the player make par after missing the green in regulation? How many putts does (s)he have?
Do this exercise and you will be amazed how imperfect the best players in the world are! Next time you play, pretend you are the player you studied for a whole round. When you step into another’s shoes, it makes changing your mental game seem easier.