I would like to share with you, my thoughts about the golf swing and how to play better golf. Playing better golf is not always about the swing as there are many areas of the game that need to be addressed to play better golf. In this article I will provide answers to questions I often get asked by my students, and I will also try to give you a better understanding of elements of the game based on my 30 plus years of experience as a player and teacher of this great game.
Let’s first talk about consistency. Weather I’m working with one of my students or fine tuning my own swing, I will never make a swing change as result of one or two shots. I’ve seen people hit a bad shot on the range and immediately change something in their swing for the next shot. This can send you down a long road of tinkering with your swing until you are so far off the right path you forget what your proper fundamentals were as you struggle to get your swing back. Now if I hit 5 or 10 bad shots in a row there would be reason for concern.
About making changes in your swing. Changes should always come in baby steps. For instance, if you are hitting weak fades and consistently losing your shots to the right (for right handed players), and you feel you need to strengthen your grip. Start with rotating both hands clockwise on the club a fraction instead of jumping to a very strong grip.
First things first. If you are fairly new to the game or if you live in a colder climate like I do. You need to work on certain things first to get your swing in order so that you can build from there and get into mid season form. At the beginning of every season I make it a goal to just make solid contact on the ball consistently before I go deeper into my swing. This may mean correcting some minor flaws in my fundamentals due to a long winter off but nothing too heavy or any major changes in my swing. Secondly, alignment and ball position. Before your swing gets too grooved with compensating moves because of bad alignment and ball position. Lay a couple of golf clubs on the ground to help you line up to your target and keep your ball position correct. For the first 3 weeks of the season, I always practice with clubs on the ground to help me with alignment and ball position until I can trust my eyes to get me in the right positions. These two fundamentals are very important. Here’s an example of what can happen when you practice in the wrong order. I’m hitting shots on the range and I am missing my target 10 yards to the right every time. I finally start hitting my target somewhat consistently. I go to practice the next day and decide to start my session by checking my alignment and discover I am aiming 10 yards to the right. I have just realized that I spent all of yesterday grooving a swing that pulls my shots 10 yards to the left!
About playing the game. There is a way of getting yourself around the golf course without getting yourself into too much trouble. It’s called playing the percentages. To start with, most people have a natural shape to their shots. Weather it’s a draw or a fade go with it, don’t try to fight it or do too much if you’re not capable of shaping your shots both ways. Also, get a good handle on what your misses are. If for instance, your natural shot is a fade but you tend to pull it straight to the left once in a while you may want to aim accordingly to give yourself room for error on certain shots. Let’s say you have a mid iron into a large green that has the flag on the left side. You can aim slightly right of the flag so the if you hit your usual fade you are still on the green and if you pull your shot it will go right at the flag.
You can also play the percentages when it comes to distance. Let’s say you are on a par 3 that has a long green, the flag is at the back and there is all kinds of trouble behind the green. The distance to the back of the green is 180 yards. Choose the club that you hit 170 yards. If you hit your usual shot you will have a medium length putt. If you don’t get all of it you will have a long putt or maybe a chip but still have a chance at par. Even if you strike it perfectly and it goes a little further than usual, you will be at the back end of the green with a good chance at a birdie. This is a better choice than choosing the club that goes 180 yards and trickles off the back of the green or flies into deep trouble if you strike it perfectly.
I hope this helps you play better golf.
Enjoy your game!
Do you find yourself longing to smell the freshly cut grass on a golf course? Do you forget what it feels like to make contact on a golf ball with a club? My Front 9 List™ will help you get through the dog days of winter and ease the effects of Golfer’s Withdrawal.
- Hole # 1 Watch Golf On TV: Blue skies, green grass, soothing commentary. I can see the snow melting already!
- Hole # 2 Practice Your Putting: You get to feel contact with a golf ball. A glass, a ball, a putter and carpet are all you need!
- Hole # 3 Play Wii Golf: Don’t get wrapped up in swing mechanics. Look at it as exercise and have fun! Oh ya! Keep your head down and your left arm straight!
- Hole # 4 Plumb Bob Your House: You can find out if your house is level. If you can do the spider man pose, go for it!
- Hole # 5 Indoor Golf Simulator: Play any course in the world. Every hole is the 19th. hole!
- Hole # 6 Wear Your Golf Shoes: If you walk as carefully on your hardwood as you do on the greens, you’ll be ok. This will also fluff up your carpet!
- Hole # 7 Clean Your Clubs: You can wash off all the bad shots from last season and you get to look at and play with your clubs!
- Hole # 8 Make A Putting Green In The Snow: Start off with snow angels and before you know it you have a putting green in your backyard. A little water should get your green running at about 44 on the stimp meter!
- Hole # 9 Use A Golf Calendar: Pictures of golf courses to look at every day. 3 more pictures and it will be spring!
Stay tuned for my Back 9 List™. More help is on the way!
If you have your own ways of dealing with Golfer’s Withdrawal, please share them with us by adding a comment.
I hope this helps you get through the winter!
Did you ever wonder what golf was like in it’s infancy? There were no swing coaches, short game gurus, sports psychologists, personal trainers or high tech equipment. It was simple, hit the ball and get it in the hole.
Many of us are guilty of paralysis by analysis. Too many thoughts, too mechanical. In an effort to get better, we get worse. We even try very hard to clear our mind and keep things simple. There is swing speed, ball speed, club head speed, spin rate, launch angle, spine angle, swing plane, flying elbows, ball position, supination, pronation and the x factor to name a few. I could go on and on!
The golf swing happens too fast for the mind to have any thoughts. A golfer should rely on feel when addressing the ball and keep his or her thoughts to a minimum. One or two thoughts before you swing is all you need. Aligning to your target and a key thought to start your swing is enough to keep you focused. Practicing a pre shot routine until it becomes second nature will go a long way to keeping your thoughts to a minimum. Leave most of your thinking to practicing on the range and trust your feel when on the golf course.
When practicing on the range, work on one swing component at a time until it is working consistently then move on to another part of your swing. This will help you to build your swing methodically, keep your focus and prevent you from jumping from one swing thought to another.
The quickest way to lower your score is to practice and improve your short game. The short game consists of four areas: pitching, chipping, putting, and sand play. The short game makes up about 43% of an average game of golf. The weaker your short game, the higher percentage. With the proper fundamentals, you will make solid contact on the ball more consistently. You will have better feedback from your shots to help you control the distance of each shot and your touch will start to improve with each practice session.
Distance control is very important in the short game. For example, with a chip or a putt of 30 to 50 feet, the direction of the shot may only waiver from the target a few feet to the left or right. Good distance control coupled with good direction will put you a few feet from the hole, giving you a better chance of making the putt. On the other hand, if your distance control is poor and your shot ends up well short or past the hole, your accuracy will not help.
A three foot putt counts as one stroke as does a 300 – yard drive. You can recover from a bad shot from a wood or iron by having a strong short game. However, you can’t recover from a missed short putt.
You should spend as much time around the green practicing your short game as you do on the range practicing your full swing. Observe how the ball reacts on and around the green, experiment, and use your imagination to achieve the desired results. Regular practice will go a long way toward mastering the many different shots in the short game.
Golf is one of those games in which you alone are responsible for your score. You can only blame yourself when you play a bad shot. On the other hand, you deserve all the credit when you play a good shot. The more you get from your practice time, the more you will be rewarded in your game.
Because you are not always able to take a lesson from your Professional before each round, your practice time is crucial for reinforcing what you have learned during your lessons.
Here are some ideas on how to get the most out of your practice time.
1. Develop a plan. For example: “Today I will work on my set-up.” Spending hours on the range hitting balls without a specific plan will do more harm than good for your swing. If you do not have a plan, you will only reinforce bad habits during your practice.
2. Set a timeframe to hit a specific amount of golf balls. Having a set amount of time and golf balls will make every shot valuable which in turn will help you to concentrate.
3. Make your practice fun and interesting. Try shaping your shots opposite to your natural ball flight. If your natural shot is a fade, try hitting a draw, and vice-versa. This will also give you a better understanding of your swing.
4. Set yourself up for success.
a. If you are struggling with your swing, practice with the shorter clubs; leave the longer clubs in the bag. The shorter clubs are easier to swing which will build your confidence and improve your tempo.
b. Give yourself a good lie. A good lie will provide proper feedback from your shots and will help you to develop a good swing. When you do have a bad lie during a game, it will be easier to make adjustments.
These practice ideas are great for building the confidence needed to get out of a slump and set you up for success on the course.
About the author: James M. Wicketts is a Canadian PGA Class ‘A’ Professional. James is a graduate of the Canadian PGA National Teaching Certification Program and was the low qualifier in the 1997 Canadian PGA Playing Ability Test.
Enjoy Your Game!