If cutting strokes from your game joined cutting inches from your waist on your New Year’s resolutions list for 2012, we’re here to help. Well, at least with the first part. You’re on your own for the second, although dieting and exercising are rumored to be helpful in that area. The following 12 tips have been compiled by some of the best instructors on West Coast. That’s one for each month. Arrange them any way you like, but sticking to them will allow you to alter your resolution for 2013 to maybe taking that long-awaited golf trip to some exotic locale. After all, you’ll have a new and improved swing to show off, right?
IMPROVE YOUR PUTTING IN SHORT ORDER
Grinding over 6- to 15-foot putts on the practice green isn’t practical and doesn’t build confidence. Tour players make only half their putts from 8 feet, so even if you do well in that range while practicing, you’ll be unsuccessful close to half the time. Kind of discouraging, right? Work on starting putts on line by hitting balls from 3 feet. Your percentage of makes will skyrocket, as will your confidence. You can work on distance by hitting putts from various spots outside of 25 feet. Not many putts will go in, but your distance control will get a lot sharper.
Director of Instruction, National University Golf Academy
THINK AHEAD ON WEDGE SHOTS
The secret to hitting a good wedge shot is to hit down on the ball. The best way to ensure this is to keep your swing center (think buttons on your shirt) ahead of the ball through impact. Most amateurs have a tendency to shift backward in their swing, which results in a bladed or chunked shot. A good practice drill is to take your normal setup and pull your trail leg behind your lead leg. You’ll be balanced on the toes of the trail leg, so all of your weight will be on the lead side. Now, practice hitting shots from that position. If you stay balanced, your swing center has stayed ahead of the ball.
PGA Director of Golf Instruction, Golf Academy of America
CERTAIN SWINGS ARE BALANCING ACTS
One of the most difficult aspects of hitting a ball on a side-hill lie is keeping your balance through impact. To keep a stable base, align your body, stance and club as if you’re hitting a straight shot. Then you put your forward foot down the slope and your back foot up the slope. This makes the stance closed for a ball below your feet and open for a ball above your feet. Alter your knee flex to get your hips square to your original alignment. When you swing with this setup, you should be able to maintain your balance through impact and hit the ball solidly on a more consistent basis.
PGA Professional, ASU Karsten Golf Course
LIGHTEN UP TO PLAY BETTER
Imagine a tube of toothpaste with the cap off. Grip it like your golf club and swing it. Did you make a mess on the floor? Probably not, because there is no apprehension or stress, but for most of us in an aggressive or stressful situation on the golf course, the toothpaste would be all over the ground because we’re squeezing so tight. Visualize that your grip is that tube of toothpaste and maintain what feels like a consistent pressure, whether light or firm, throughout the swing. Achieving this feel will allow the club to freely pass through the hitting area without tension or disruption.
PGA Director of Instruction, Journey Golf Academy
GRAB THE WHEEL FOR MORE CONTROL
Taking your swing from the range to the course is difficult for most amateurs. The same goes for the putting green. A good practice tip for putting is the wheel drill. Take 12 tees and place them on four sides of the hole at 2-, 3- and 4-foot distances. Begin by making the 2-foot putt, then the 3-footer and 4-footer. Give yourself a point if you make all three. Repeat this on the other three sides of the hole, which will give you practice from different angles. Complete five wheels, or 60 putts. Add up your points and strive for a perfect score of 20. Making these putts will give you more confidence and consistency.
LPGA Master Professional, Tijeras Creek Golf Club
PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
A good drill for hitting the ball flush is to set up with the ball off your left foot and your right foot behind your left with only the tip of your shoe touching the ground. Don’t cheat. All your weight must be on the left side. Swing the club back and through without stopping. This will make the club bottom out in the same spot every time. Next, hit balls with this stance. Once you’re striking the ball flush, place your right foot side by side with your left and continue swinging. As your confidence grows, continue to hit balls while widening your stance until you’re back to your normal setup.
Head Golf Professional, Lost Canyons Golf Club
GET YOUR SHORT GAME ON THE MONEY
Put the ball back in your stance, lean the shaft forward and hit down on chips and pitches. Sound familiar? Then why is it so hard? It’s likely because that method doesn’t leave much room for error. Try my “money shot” instead. Put 90 percent of your weight on your left foot and play the ball off the left toe. Put a tee in the end of your wedge’s grip and feel as though the tee is always pointing at the “money” in your front left pocket. The arc of the stroke is small and shallow and provides a dependable path to strike the ball. Don’t be afraid of the face opening and closing rapidly, and never cup your left wrist.
PGA Professional, Tour Striker Golf Academy at Raven Golf Club
IT’S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS
Most of us want to hit the ball on the course as well as we do on the range, but too much mental clutter often keeps that from happening. My suggestion is to develop a pre-shot routine on the range that you can trust on the golf course. Here’s a good one to try. Get behind the ball and visualize the shot you want to hit. Next, feel the swing that will create that shot. Then step up to the ball, get comfortable and swing. Before I hit I say to myself things such as “back and release” or “turn and go.” A similar inner command might help you ease up on the thinking and allow you to swing more athletically.
Former PGA Tour Player, Kris Moe Golf Schools
GET ON A ROLL FOR BETTER PUTTING
Great putters roll the ball well by creating a solid strike that makes the ball hug the turf to the cup. To help accomplish this, practice some strokes by swinging with your right hand only. The key is to be as casual and non-rigid as possible. As the putter swings away from the ball, allow your wrist and elbow to flex and fold, loading the head with energy. Swing through and allow the head to release energy into the hit. You’ll find in many cases, the more loose and casual you feel, the better the ball will come off the face. Once you find your roll again, tighten up your effort to add a bit of control.
Golf Digest Best Young Teachers in America, Raven Golf Club
YOU SHOULD SEE WHAT YOU’RE MISSING
Maximizing on-course performance and producing lower scores requires visualization. A simple mantra for everyone should be to see it, feel it and do it. When preparing to hit your shot, create a picture in your mind of how you want the ball to travel in the air and on the ground. Make a practice swing that creates the shot you pictured. Then step up to the ball and let it happen. Do this before each swing, and enjoy the process of becoming more creative on the golf course while making a commitment to “playing” the game. You’ll have more fun and see your shots improve.
PGA Director of Golf, Escena Golf Club
NARROW YOUR FOCUS FOR SOLID HITS
Like catching a grounder with two hands or using a chest pass in basketball, practicing a swing with your two feet together is great for players of all skill levels. Tee up a ball like you would when hitting an iron to a par-3 hole and grab a 6-iron or 7-iron. Make half swings at first to build up your torque, power and consistency before taking full swings. When you’ve mastered that, try hitting the ball off the ground or tee up a 3-wood or driver and see how many you can hit flush with the same stance. If done right, your posture and balance should improve and you’ll hit the ball with more consistency.
PGA Director of Golf, Oak Creek Golf Club
MORE POWER TO YOU
I tell my students who are seeking more driving distance to focus on a proper grip, posture and tense-free swing. Let the club’s grip rest primarily in the ring and middle finger of your lead hand. This allows for a better release of the clubhead during impact. To achieve correct posture, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend at the hip flexors, not your back, and soften your knees. If your posture is correct, you should be able to see the tops of your shoelaces, and your lower back should be flat. Try to maintain this posture throughout the swing. To create clubhead speed, keep your wrists loose and your arms and upper back relaxed. This will result in effortless power.
PGA Golf Professional, Sycuan Golf Resort