IN writing this column on a weekly basis, I am constantly striving to break away from the norm, to tread paths less trodden, to make people think; to point out ills where they exist and, also to help golfers to play the game a little better and thereby enjoy it more.
Lifelong experiences of trying to improve my own golf has informed me that while lasting improvement gains can be slow in coming, improving at golf can also come in dramatic bursts.
It is the reason why golfers love 'quick-fix tips' because when they work, they work instantly. The problem is very few golfers take the trouble to work at imbedding whatever tip has worked on a particular day into their ‘normal routine’
To become a better golfer you must plan ahead and be more aware of where you want the ball to go. Think of what you want to achieve before every round you play and every shot you play. Nothing happens by accident.
Most golfers know why and when they play badly. It's as important to know why and when things go right. There is no better way than perfecting the basics of grip, stance, aim, rhythm, timing and, of course, playing as often as you can.
There is no substitute for hitting balls; preferably on the course in ‘real golf’ situations.
1) Stop trying to hit straight off the tee - Better players take one side of the golf course out of play by rarely hitting a straight shot. A player who moves the ball one way consistently doubles the size of the fairway.
Perfecting the art of moving the ball in the same left to right or right to left pattern is not as difficult as you think because most golfers do it already. It's just a matter of degree and being reliable.
Higher handicaps tend to slice (fade) the ball but stronger players draw (hook) it. If you are a consistent hooker or fader that's good! All you need to figure out is how to control it better.
Lee Trevino used to say: “You can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.” Many of the most consistent drivers of the ball play a controlled fade but, what is more important is to play your natural shape off the tee and stop trying to hit it straight.
2) Stop short-siding yourself - this means missing a green on the side where you will have the least amount of green to work with in relation to the flag. Short-siding is something good players seldom do.
It helps them with their recovery shots when they miss the target, because the ball is in what is rather bizarrely called ‘the right place’. I would have thought the right place is on the green but, of course, hitting all 18-greens in regulation is rarely achieved even by the best.
Some of his critics say one of the reasons why Rory McIlroy doesn't win more golf tournaments is because he is ‘very good’ at short-siding himself and leaving himself awkward chips and putts.
3) Fall in love with your sand wedge - the majority of golfers ‘bump the ball’ with a Texas Wedge (putter) or a 7-iron; they chip with a pitching wedge and pitch with a lob wedge.
You may keep the pitching wedge for shots of 60-100-yards but throw the ‘lobber’ in the dustbin! Instead, fall in love your sand wedge.
If you can make your sand wedge love you back, you are on a winner.
Chipping with the sand wedge can be very effective if you have mastered it and have become used to way the flange (back of the sole) of the club bounces off the turf.
A short cut to ‘feeling the bounce’ is to make three or four practice swings by ‘brushing the grass’ before every shot. The 56-degree, sand wedge is the most versatile club in a golfer's bag, and you should learn to hit every shot imaginable inside 50 yards with it.
4) Learn how to control the speed and distance of your putts - anyone who three putts a lot is likely to have poor distance control.
Most golfers who struggle with distance on the greens, “hit” their putts, they don’t “roll them”. “Hitting” putts is the result of a putting stroke that is too short. The longer the putt, the longer the putting stroke.
Instead of trying to jam the ball into the hole, treble the break and try to roll the ball so that it will just reach the cup. High side, correct speed is never a three putt.
5) Tee it forward and start closer to the hole - To hit more greens in regulation and score more two-putt pars, tee it forward! Being closer to a target always makes golf easier. Golf courses, these days, are too long for everybody unless they can hit the ball 300-yards+.
If they want to enjoy the game and feel good about their golfing selves, the average woman should play a course that measures 4500-yards and Mr. Average Man should play 6000-yards.
Hit pride out of bounds and tee it forward! Play would speed up, rounds would not take so long to complete and everyone would treble the number of pars they shoot. What's wrong with that?
Words of the Wise
(Like a golfer) when you are on stage alone, you can’t afford to let the energy lapse for a moment – Des Keogh