INSTRUCTION: 10 practice habits that can lead to more fun on the course

Drills are often associated with bad things, such as crazy sergeants and dentist offices. But they’re necessary in golf if getting better is on your agenda. Some of the region’s top instructors have drills they use when teaching or before they play a round. Many learned the drills years ago, which proves that an effective one can stick around for a lifetime. The only way to find out if one of these drills is right for you is to get to the range and give it a shot. It won’t hurt a bit. We promise.

PUTTING FOCUS: My favorite left-to-right breaking putt drill is one I learned from Dr. David Wright while we worked together at Pelican Hill in the mid-1990s. Place a tee at the 2 o’clock position of the cup’s back edge and place a ball about 5 feet from the cup. While looking at the tee (not the ball), make your putting stroke and roll the ball toward the tee. By doing so, you’ll become more aware of your target, grip pressure and feel of the strength and direction of the stroke. You’ll also gain confidence and make more putts. – Rick Adams, PGA, General Manager, Los Serranos Country Club

HOLD THE TRIANGLE: It’s important to maintain the triangle your arms and shoulders form at address during the initial part of your swing. A good drill for that is to make slow half swings from waistline to waistline. Most people trying this drill for the first time have a finish position with the club perpendicular to the ground and their arms slightly bent, which is not ideal. Your finish position should have your arms extended at the target and the club parallel to the ground with your head, chest and belt buckle facing the target. – D.J. Limardi, PGA, General Manager, Sandpiper Golf Club / Rancho San Marcos

FEET FIRST: Most amateurs need to learn how to move their upper body effectively. A great drill for this is to make a few short-iron swings with your feet together. That body position forces you to make a well-sequenced and smooth swing with a balanced finish. The drill is also good because it keeps your head and spine centered so you can’t sway off the ball, and it teaches you how to release your arms to get the club back to square. Hit 15 balls with your feet together and gradually increase your stance width as you hit more balls. – Chris Mayson, Director of Instruction, Maderas Golf Club

SHOULDER TURN: I was in Portugal in 1971, and one of the courses I visited was where Sir Henry Cotton was the resident professional. When I asked him about making a proper backswing, he said “stand up straight” and then walked behind me. “If I call your name and you turn to look for me over your right shoulder, that’s a full shoulder turn, right?” How simple is that! When golfers try to make a backswing by turning the left shoulder back it often results in dipping and a reverse pivot shift. When you turn your right shoulder back, weight and balance are there for delivery in the downswing. – Willie Maples, PGA, Director of Golf, Eagle Falls Golf Course

HIP CHECK: I dealt with a lot of wind while learning the game in Scotland. Since I had a weak fade, those conditions weren’t ideal, but this drill taught me to turn the clubface over and make a full release: Without holding a club, get in your address position and cross your left foot over your right. From there make a modified swing from 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock. This position encourages a good release and makes it difficult for your hips to rotate. Understanding this process will give you a feel for how the hands release in relation to the hips. – Mark Lamb, PGA Apprentice, Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon

GREENSIDE CHIPPING: When it comes to greenside chipping, where the ball is placed in your stance will determine the trajectory. Take a sand wedge and hit three shots from your normal position and observe trajectory and roll. Then place the ball back in your stance and observe how much roll you get, which should be more because of the lower ball flight. Then place the ball more forward than normal and observe the roll, which should be less because of the higher trajectory. Keep your hands in front of the ball and your wrists solid during all positions to ensure accuracy. – Mardell Wilkins, LPGA Teaching Professional, Tijeras Creek Golf Club

TAKE A SEAT: Turning your hips toward the target after impact is the key to power and well-struck shots. A good drill for this is to pretend to rest your rear end on a chair and, on the backswing, push lightly against the chair with your right glute as you turn away to the top of the swing. Too much pressure against the chair means you’re turning too much. On the downswing you should feel your left glute push the back of the chair, which indicates plenty of hip turn toward the target. Most good players get their hips about halfway toward the target by the time they hit the ball, which insures that their spine angle remains the same through impact. – Andy Tunney, PGA, GolfTEC

KEEP IT TOGETHER: Hitting with your feet together promotes balance, a correct turn, staying connected and not over-swinging. I recommend using that drill to warm up, and, if you’re going to hit a bucket of balls, hit at least half of them with your feet together. Greg Combs, the PGA head professional at Spring Valley Lake, taught me this drill when I started playing golf at 8 years old. It’s the best drill ever. Thanks, Coach! – Eric Lohman, PGA, General Manager, Monarch Beach Golf Links

TAKE THE UNDER: Most people are taught to hit 3 to 4 inches behind the ball in a bunker, but I think too much sand between the ball and clubface makes it difficult to control distance and spin. What I try to do is hit beneath the ball, not behind it. The deeper you hit beneath the ball the less spin you’ll have, but the shallower you hit beneath it the more spin you’ll generate. Use an open stance with your clubface pointed toward the target while practicing this method, and concentrate on hitting under the ball. This could help you develop more consistent shots from the sand. – Bob May, PGA Tour Pro, Bob May Golf Academy, Silverstone Golf Club

IT’S IN THE BAG: One of the best drills a player can do on the range is what I call the Bag Ladder. Start with your most lofted club and hit two balls, each to a different target. Then move to the next club and follow the same pattern. The idea is to hit each club in your bag in order from wedge to driver and then reverse the order. This drill helps keep your interest level and concentration high by constantly changing clubs, targets and distances. It also makes it easier to change from one club to the next as you would do on the course. – Mitch Lowe, PGA, Stanford Golf Course

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