With the last major of the year beginning this week, hopefully the bug has bitten and the group texts are firing up to figure out where your regular foursome will be meeting up. As someone in the industry, I love majors season because people can only watch golf for so long before they get the itch and want to get out there and make some of their own excitement happen. If you are heading out, here’s some tips to knock a few strokes off your card that don’t require range time and don’t require less alcohol.
Put the driver down.
For so many people, the driver is their favorite club but also their worst club in the bag. I know, there’s few greater satisfactions than watching a baby draw bounce and roll to twenty yards past everyone on the tee. But what’s better, that one instant of gratification, or walking off 18 with your buddy’s money in your pocket because you were able to keep your tee shots in the fairway and not stack up penalty shots? Unless you’re a single digit handicap, and if you are then you ought to be long enough that the tees you’re playing aren’t a factor anyway, nobody should be playing a set of tees so long that they have to hit driver on every par 4. In fact, most of us could get away with hitting 5 iron 8 iron into every green, especially now with tight, dry, summertime fairways giving us extra yardage on every shot. Take a look at the yardage of the hole, find a tee/club that keeps you in the fairway, and makes your next club one you can confidently wield into the green. Yeah, you might have to put up with a little shit talking from your group, but get ready to dish it right back out when you’re in the fairway and they’re twenty yards right.
Take your medicine.
I really shouldn’t have to say this, but I can’t tell you how many playing lessons I’ve given where the clients insist on being a hero, despite taking an 11 on the previous hole. Does it really make sense on attempting a shot with a 3-yard target when you just missed a 20-yard fairway? Hank Haney (Tiger’s swing coach when he was at his most winning) once said, “Golf is a game of misses.” This means that you’re not trying to play perfect – you’re trying to give yourself the best possible chance, you’re trying to avoid the big blow up, the falling off the rails moment. If you’re in the middle of the trees, instead of trying to hit a hooking 4-iron stinger, take the 7-iron lateral punch that earns you no distance, but gives you a wide open look into an opportunity to get up and down. Swallow that pride, and think about the bigger picture, getting that sweet $2 Nassau.
Stop playing for the flag.
This seems counter-intuitive (even downright idiotic) because the flag is the final destination for the ball. But unless you put enough spin on the ball to back up every shot you hit, the flag should not be your target. Why force yourself into hitting at such a skinny, tiny target when you’ve got an entire green surrounding that same target that fits your eye much better, especially if your BAC is at a questionable level to be operating the golf cart, let alone trying to swing a club. Refocus your aim to the green in front of the flag so that your ball lands and rolls up to the hole rather than sails past and into one of the guarding bunkers.
Slow down. Club up.
By now, you’ve probably watched enough YouTube at work to know that any time somebody goes balls to the wall with their swing, it’s likely going to end in one of the following:
A) Someone in the group taking a club/ball to the groin.
B) Their drunken state/terrible sense of balance/Thor style golf swing combining to fling them into a nearby pond.
C) All of the above.
Unless that person is you, and then it’s 110% on every shot from tee to green. “Finesse” isn’t in your vocabulary and neither is “birdie.” What is in your vocabulary is swing hard, swing fast, and swing often. Here’s a different approach. Instead of thinking that it’s a full swing flushed 9-iron, try a smooth 8, or a hooded 7. Rather than step up on the tee and trying to Roger Clemens the golf ball 450 yards, recognize that a lot of people a lot smarter than yourself have spent a lot of time making golf clubs and golf balls combine for distance. Trust their efforts, it’s what they get paid to do. All you have to do is put that perfectly manufactured Titleist (because there is no other ball in golf) right in the sweet spot of the club, at no specific mph. Square beats speed 99% of the time. Before you hit #1, tell yourself you’re not swinging over 75% and stick to it. You’ll be surprised how easier the game is.
Shorten the backswing and exaggerate the follow through.
Again, this is going to sound foreign because too many amateur golfers feel they have to make the head of their golf club smack their front ankle or else they can’t hit a shot, but you don’t hit the ball backward so why do you need such a long backswing in the first place? I know, the longer the backswing, the more time you have to think about it and the longer you’re prolonging the inevitable shank. But you’ve gotta hit the ball at some point so keep your swing just shy of parallel and really emphasize turning through the ball. I can’t tell you how many beginners I’ve taught who try to stop the club at impact, not realizing how much this is throwing them off long before they ever make contact. You don’t stop your arm at your chest when you throw a football, you don’t finish with your weight behind you when you shoot a basketball, hell you can’t even cast a fishing rod without following the rod to the water so why is a golf club any different? When you feel your hands hit your chest, fire your swing and make sure you finish with your chest pointed to the target, weight on your front foot.
There it is, five easy ways to take strokes off your game that cost nothing and require no extra practice to be implemented. See you on the tee. .
For more golf talk and tips, listen to Episode 12 of Touching Base where we interviewed teaching professional Jonathan Buchanan.