By Renée Trudeau O’Higgins
I’m going to assume you don’t need my advice to hit a putt solidly. That’s pretty easy to do. But what about the rest of your game? If you’re honestly assessing it, are you making great contact most of the time on your drives, irons, pitches, chips and bunker shots? Yep, you can hit bunker shots solidly—you’re just hitting the sand, not the ball. And the same logic applies: Better contact means better results. So instead of worrying about whether your left arm is straight during the backswing or some other swing thought, let’s get your focus back to where it should be during a swing—hitting the ball with the center of the clubface. Here I’ll give you advice on how to do that, and how to play better from the sand.
IMPROVE YOUR SEQUENCING
Golf is a lot more fun when you’re hitting your driver solidly. Players who struggle with this club typically have sequencing issues—the upper body is too involved at the start of the downswing. That forces the club into a steep, out-to-in path, and the ball is struck with a glancing blow.
I advise you to routinely check your driver’s face to see where your impact was. If it’s “toey” a lot, try to make sure your chest stays in the top-of-backswing position a beat or two longer. To get a feel for that, make swings with your driver on an upslope; no ball needed. The goal is to brush the ground then clip the tee. If your club crashes into the ground behind the tee, or the tee flies to the left, you’re upper body is still leading the downswing. Instead, hold it off for a count, and feel your lower body shift up the slope first.
An arms-only swing leads to fat and thin chips. You’ve got to get your body moving to chip effectively.
To train the body pivot, place a tee in your armpit closest to the target. Swing back and through trying to keep it there. You will if your arms and body move as one.
“Skilled iron play is about hitting it flush from all sorts of lies.”
How often do you hit the same iron from the same lie in the same round? There’s always some variance once you’re off the tee. That’s why hitting it flush from the fairway or rough is all about adaptability.
Try this drill to assess how well you adjust. Drop three balls that come to rest in your hitting area. Now try to strike each one as solidly as you can without changing anything but the club’s position at address. You’ll soon find you have better awareness of how to swing to get the club to bottom out in front of each ball. This drill prepares you for how to adapt to get solid contact every time you swing.
CONTROL THE FACE
Many greenside sand shots get thinned into the bunker’s face. The problem often stems from trying to maintain a wide-open clubface throughout the swing. I know, I know; you were told to do that. But the thing is, if you leave the face wide open, you’ve got to make a pretty aggressive swing to get the ball out. And for many golfers, a big swing leads to inconsistency.
Instead, try hitting bunker shots with a closed clubface at address. If you keep your grip pressure medium to light, the club will open as it moves through the sand, and you’ll hit a solid shot with far less effort.
Originally published on GolfDigest golfdigest.com/story/solid-through-the-bag
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by Austin Cook
On the way to my most successful season in professional golf, including a win at the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic, I avoided bogey 62 percent of the time when I missed a green in regulation. Without those saves, the 2017-’18 season might have been my first and last on tour. So if I can give you one piece of advice about your game, it’s to start looking at your wedges as the tools for survival—and success. First, learn everything you can about the ones you use (loft, bounce, grind, etc.) and if they’re right for your game (go see a clubfitter). Once you’re happy with your clubs, use them—and use them a lot. If you don’t practice, you’ll never understand how each wedge and swing technique affects ball flight and spin. And if you don’t have an understanding of those two things, you’re not going to get up and down very often. Here I’ll explain how I decide what club and shot to play and teach you my favorite drill for chipping it to tap-in range. Hopefully you’ll follow my lead and become more confident with your wedges. —with Keely Levins
HIT THE TOWEL FOR MORE CONTROL
We did this drill in college, and I still use it. Grab a towel, get it wet to keep it from blowing away, and lay it on a green between you and the hole. Now chip balls from off the green on that line trying to land them on the towel. Experiment with different wedges, and hit from different spots paying attention to how the ball reacts to each shot.
You’ll soon discover how to produce the trajectory and rollout you want. When you play, imagine the towel is still on the green, and hit the shot best for that situation. “Whenever you can, go with a lower chip than runs out.”
GO WITH THE PERCENTAGES
This is a really tricky lie—downhill in light rough with a bunker between me and the hole. I can hit a variety of shots from here, but there’s always one that stands out a little more than the others. The smart play is the shot that will leave you with a decent chance to save par (or carding no worse than a bogey) even when you don’t quite execute it.
Here I can either land it in the fringe and let it roll out to the hole or fly it most of the way and let it land soft by the hole. Generally speaking, the easier of the two shots is usually taking a lower-lofted wedge and hitting the runner. But sometimes the lie, or the location of the pin, dictates that flying it with a higher-lofted club is smarter. For example, if I were hitting into the grain of the grass between me and the hole, getting the ball to release when it lands might be tough. In that case, I’d want to fly it high and let it trickle out.
LET IT GLIDE TO STOP IT QUICKLY
As I said, you need to get to know your wedges, including the bounce for each club. Without getting too technical, it’s how much bulge is on the back side of the club, the spot I’m pointing to here. This design feature helps you slide the club under the ball and pop it up, which is why I want to use a high-loft, high-bounce club for chips that need to be in the air longer than they roll.
I get in a narrow stance with my feet open. Then I open the face a little before taking my grip. This exposes more of the bounce, making it easier to slide the club along the ground. If you swing with a shallow, sweeping motion along the turf, the ball should pop right up.
FIND YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Some things about chipping technique are fairly standard. For example, the farther forward you play the ball in your stance, the higher it will tend to fly. So keep that in mind if you like to play the ball back in your stance and hit down on it. It’s probably not going to get too far off the ground. But there are other things about chipping you can personalize.
Two of my preferences are to leave my glove on and to make a swing on a path that’s a little in to out in relation to the target. My path helps shallow the club and keeps me from chunking it. The glove? Not sure why I leave it on, it just feels comfortable. The point is, I own it. If you do what makes you comfortable, you’ll be more confident on the course.
Originally published on GolfDigest golfdigest.com/story/wedge-wise
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By Keely Levins
Amongst your group, you’ve probably determined an acceptable distance at which putts are gimmes at least most of the time—you don’t even wait for someone to say, That’s good. Even when you’re playing alone, you probably give yourself any putts within four feet of the cup. That’s great—many of us do. It’s helpful for pace of play, and nobody wants to lose a little match over an even smaller putt.
Where it becomes an issue is when you’re suddenly in a position where you have to putt everything out.
Maybe it’s a club championship or a qualifier, but all of a sudden those unmissable short putts you haven’t attempted all season start to become missable. The scariest part: once you see one miss, there’s a tendency to start missing more of them. To help you avoid this disastrous fate, we talked to one of our Best Young Teachers, Tasha Browner of El Caballero Country Club in Tarzania, Calif.
“When finishing out those crucial putts, we want to address a common problem that begins as a mental mistake and leads to a physical one,” says Browner. “When we have those short putts, the desire to make the putt outweighs the process of making a good stroke. Golfers tend to stop rocking their shoulders, and they steer the ball in the hole with just hands. This directly leads to problems with clubface direction and speed.”
To remedy these issues, Browner has three drills and tips that will help.
1. The Push Drill
This drill is exactly what it sounds like. Set up to the ball with your putter, and your thought should be to just push the ball toward the hole. Don’t take any backswing. “This drill forces the golfer to move their body as a unit to finish the stroke and not just with your hands,” says Browner.
2. Tip: Use Visual Aids
Set up in front of a mirror (you can do this in your house). Or set up on the putting green in a spot where you can see your shadow, and start making strokes. Browner says to focus on making sure they’re complete strokes. “Watch how your shoulders and arms move together into the finish,” says Browner. “Sense what body parts are engaged, and tap into that when you play. This rehearsal can help eradicate that handsy stroke.”
3. Tip: Practice Pressure
Aimlessly putting around the practice green isn’t going to help you when you’re in a match, grinding over a four-footer for bogey to halve the hole. Instead, Browner says to simulate pressure-filled scenarios when you practice. “For example, don’t let yourself leave the green until you’ve made five consecutive four-footers in a row,” says Browner. “Any form of pressure that you can add will help you feel more at ease in those situations on the course.”
Originally Published on GolfDigest golfdigest.com/story/how-to-make-the-putts-youve-been-giving-yourself-all-season
By Ron Kaspriske
For some, golf is stress relief—a pastoral stroll interspersed by 70 or 80 golf swings and maybe a stop for a hot dog at the turn. For others, it’s a fist-clenching, nerve-racking, nearly out-of-body experience where success is often defined by getting through 18 holes without feeling like you need to see a therapist afterward. We’ve been there, too. For the latter, the adventure is only exacerbated when playing for money, or in a tournament, or with strangers, or in front of a crowd—or all of the above.
If you’re faced with needing to execute in one of these competitive moments, but your central nervous system is failing like the Manhattan power grid on a 95-degree day, you need a go-to shot you can rely on. What’s a go-to shot? It’s one that might not make the highlight reel on a newscast or go viral on YouTube, but it’s so reliable and easy to execute that you can use it even when flop sweat is blurring your vision. Here are seven shots that will become second-nature once you’ve worked on them:
OFF THE TEE
Let’s start with a little honesty. Most golfers lean on their driver when they need a great tee shot. You know it, we know it. We’ve got a clutch drive when getting it in play is paramount. This shot will come out low, probably move a little left to right (for right-handers), and chase down the fairway when it lands.
1 . Tee the ball down about half as high as normal.
2 . Grip down an inch on your driver.
3 . Play the ball halfway between center in your stance and your lead heel.
4 . Make a slow, steady backswing.
5 . When you swing down into the ball, feel like your chest is on top of it.
6 . Swing through impact, finishing when your right shoulder is pointing at the target.
APPROACH FROM THE DEEP STUFF
Unless the ball is sitting up in the grass, flying it all the way to the hole might be too much to ask for in pressure situations. You need a shot that advances the ball, so it lands back in the fairway or possibly chases up near the green leaving you with an easy chip or putt. If there’s a window, you might roll it on.This is the play.
1 . Take a high-lofted club.
2 . Grip down an inch.
3 . Take a stance that gives you the best chance at minimizing contact with the rough, bush, fescue, etc.
4 . Make a steep backswing, feeling like you’re lifting the club nearly straight up.
5 . Swing down directly at the ball, but with less-than-full effort, so you maintain your address posture.
6 . Follow through as best you can, an expect the ball to come out hot and roll once it lands.
APPROACHES FROM THE FAIRWAY (OR FIRST CUT)
Hitting a green when you’re nervous is a lot simpler if your go-to shot is a shortened one that you’ve practiced. If you go with a full swing, you’ll have too much time for your brain to short-circuit and produce a wonky move. A cut-off iron shot will give you your best chance at solid contact. It also flies lower and is more accurate. The three-quarter iron shot might soon be your best friend.
1 . Use a club one longer than normal.
2 . Play the ball roughly center in your stance.
3 . Make an unhurried swing back and through, focusing on solid contact.
4 . Think: shoulder height to shoulder height. Your swing ends going back when your hands are shoulder high and ends going through when they reach the opposite shoulder.
IN THE ROUGH AROUND THE GREEN
There are a number of pressure situations when just getting the ball on the green is enough to make you breathe easier. You need a pitch that delivers every time. So forget about the low-percentage lob shot. And we’re certainly not talking about taking it in low and hoping there’s enough spin on the ball for it to check up. You need a technique that’s simple to repeat and is forgiving enough to still work even if you hit it a little fat.
1 . Grab your highest-lofted wedge.
2 . Take a slightly wider-than-normal stance, and open your body in relation to the target.
3 . Play the ball roughly in line with your front foot’s heel.
4 . Take the club back until the butt end of the shaft is pointing downward at the ball.
5 . While rotating your entire body toward the target, pull the butt end of the club toward the ball, keeping your left hand palm down and your trail hand palm up.
6 . Don’t stop the swing or your body rotation until your hands are at least shoulder height in the follow-through.
Sand shots should be easy because you can strike an area anywhere from right behind the ball to four inches behind it and still get the ball on the green. But when something is on the line, the fear of catching too much ball can creep into your mind and you end up making a short, choppy swing that leaves it in the sand. Don’t let that happen again by using this reliable bunker shot.
1 . Grab your highest-lofted wedge.
2 . Address the ball off your front foot.
3 . Take a wider stance, put all your weight on your front foot, and open your body in a little in relation to the target.
4 . Pick a spot two inches behind the ball and stare at that spot intently, erasing the ball from your mind.
5 . Hinge the club up quickly in the backswing.
6 . Splash the back of the club down on the spot you were staring at.
7 . Finish with the club over your lead shoulder. (Don’t stop short of that.)
JUST OFF THE GREEN
Chipping it close when a match or round is on the line is a skill that doesn’t have to be reserved for better players only. There’s a technique you can employ that makes it fairly easy to get the ball on the green quickly and rolling like a putt. Try this.
1 . Use a gap wedge or a 9-iron.
2 . Play the ball center in your stance.
3 . Pick a spot that’s a third of the way to the hole on the line you think it would roll along to the hole if it were a putt.
4 . Take your putting grip and set the clubshaft nearly vertical.
5 . Mimic a putting stroke at the same fluid pace (and length) as if you were putting from that distance.
6 . Keep the clubface low and moving toward your target after impact.
When it comes to putting, the bad news is that you can do everything right and still miss. Imperfections in the green, cleat marks, a gust of wind—it doesn’t take much for a putt to rim out. That being said, you can give your makable putts a real chance of going in if you focus on one thing—face control.
1 . Once you’re confident in your read, set up to the ball so you’re eye closest to the target is directly over the ball or just inside of it.
2 . Hold the putter in whatever way minimizes control of the handle with your dominant hand. You just want that hand to lightly hold on. (The claw-style grip can help.)
3 . When you make the stroke, keep your lower body as still as possible.
4 . Trace the putterhead down the line of putt after it strikes the ball.
5 . Hold your finish position, including posture, until the ball falls in the cup.
Originally published on GolfDigest
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