Why is it that some of our best golf is played in the spring when the golf season has just begun?
I’m always baffled when a fellow golfer tells me that they shot one of their lowest scores ever during one of their first few rounds of the season. It has happened to me when I least expected it – when my clubs were still cold and my body rusty from a long winter.
I could never understand this phenomenon, but I now have come up with a theory to possibly explain it. When we first pick up our clubs in the spring, our minds are clear and not bogged down with mechanical swing thoughts. Just like getting back on a bicycle – we hop on and ride without any thought of how we’re doing it.
Tiger Woods’ poor showing at this year’s Masters exemplified a golfer crippled by mechanical swing thoughts and forgetting to just “play the game.”
So as the season progresses and the inevitable happens – the desire to meddle with our technique and clutter our minds – use some of these helpful tips from our local golf professionals.
My advice is to save your practice for the practice range, and know that sometimes you have to get worse before you get better. While playing, I have always found this simple tip from veteran golfer Bill Boettcher helpful: “Before you hit, clear your mind and only allow yourself this one thought – keep your eye on the ball and make good contact.”
The driver is the most difficult club in the bag to control, due to length and lift. Every golfer wants to hit a long ball when teeing off, so many golfers make the mistake of over swinging. An accurate drive is critical to parring a hole – if you don’t put the ball in play, it is difficult to hit the green and make par. When teeing off keep in mind these few simple tips:
- When setting up, the ball position should be off the left heel.
- Make sure you are far enough away from the ball.
- Tempo is key – focus on your swing control by staying in balance through the swing.
- Good contact on the face will generate more distance than swinging hard.
- Tension kills – keep a soft grip.
The “chip shot” technique is used when your ball is close to the green. You chip when you want to control shot distance and create a low-lofted shot that lands on the green and rolls near the hole. Use a 9-iron, pitching or sand wedge, or a club with plenty of loft.
- Place the ball back in your stance, even with your right toe.
- Keep your hands forward, in the center of your body.
- Pre-set about 75% of your weight on your left foot.
- Keep your wrists firm with no hinging and use a very small amount of weight transfer.
- Swing with your hips and shoulders and never allow the club head to pass your hands – this will produce a sweeping swing.
- The distance of your chip shot can be controlled by adjusting the length of your back swing and forward swing.
- Contacting the ball with a descending blow will create solid, consistent ball contact.
Begin practicing this technique with three different swings – 6-inch, 12-inch and 18-inch back swings. Adjust the swing lengths by feel. As you practice the different swing lengths, observe the results and you will begin to learn distance control. Always follow through to help promote a swing with a slight acceleration.
Putt Like A Pro
The single best way to lower your score is to improve your putting. You can shave 5 to 10 strokes per round just by becoming a better putter. There really is no right or wrong way to putt so long as you are fundamentally sound and remain confident when putting.
Keep these three important fundamentals in mind when practicing your putting:
- Keep your eyes over the ball when you putt. This allows you to properly see your line. To make sure you are doing this, drop a ball from your eyes while looking down at your putt. If the ball you drop hits your ball on the putting surface, your eyes are in good position.
- Use a pendulum stroke when putting. Just like the pendulum on a grandfather’s clock, your take back should be the same distance as your follow through.
- Before putting, visualize the path of your putt and see it falling into the cup.
Try not to think about putting mechanics before you make your stroke. The only thought you should have as you prepare to putt is the line and speed that your ball will travel. The best advice on reading greens is that you should trust your first impression. Don’t over think it! Pick your line and commit to it.