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Golf Tips

DJI Computer Solutions - Golf Software for Microsoft Excel

Here are a few tips that we think will help your golf game. We publish a new golf tip about once a month so stop back and visit often. If you have a golf tip that's helped your game, pass it along and we'll publish it and give you full credit. You don't have to be a professional or even a good golfer. If you found something that helped your game, it might help someone else shave a few shots off their score.

Submit Your Golf Tip for Publication

If you're serious about improving your game we suggest that you download our Golf Tracker for Excel software. It can track all you golf statistics, comparing them to other golfers so you can zero in the areas that  need improvement. If your passion extends beyond just learning the game, a golf associate degree can provide you with the tools you need for a golf career.

For more golf tips, visit Tom's Golf Tips for concise, well-organized tips from top sources on every phase of the game. Also visit Golf Tip Reviews for golf swing lessons, tip and review for the occasional golfer who wants to play golf well.

Golf Tips By Category

Golf Tip of the Month

Stretch to Avoid Injury and Maintain Flexibility

When we're teenagers we think nothing of stepping onto the first tee, taking a few practice swings and then letting it rip. While this approach may have worked well for us back then there are a lot of reasons not to do this, especially as we get older. As with any athletic activity it's import to do some warm up stretching before we play or practice.

There are a number of approaches to stretching and I'm no exercise guru or physical therapist so I won't describe any stretching methods. However, I do want to stress the importance of stretching, especially for senior golfers. Winter is the perfect time to embark upon a stretching and exercise program to make sure you remain flexible and are physically fit when golf season rolls around.

While golf is not the most physically challenging form of exercise, the golf swing uses a lot of muscles throughout the body so it's easy to develop a nagging injury if you're not properly warmed up before taking a full swing. Back, shoulders, wrists, knees, elbows and rib cage are all common locations for golf injuries, so whatever stretching routine you develop should incorporate movement throughout your body. You can find a lot of golf stretching exercises with a simple internet search. Here are a few reasons why you should be stretching every day, not just before you golf.

As with any form of exercise you need to know your limitations and may want to consult with your physician or physical therapist before embarking on a stretching routine.

Practice Habits and Equipment

Golf Swing Drill: Learn the Release by Throwing a Stick Underhand

Warming up for the New Golf Season

Practicing Your Short Game

Take Home Videos of Your Swing

Tips for Practicing over the Winter

Make Sure You Have Enough Loft on Your Driver

Pre-game Warm Up

Golf Club Shaft Selection

Driver Technology

Weight Transfer Exercise

Selecting the Right Golf Clubs

Getting the Most from Golf Lessons

Shot Making

Curing Your Slice

Finish Your Swing by Exaggerating Your Follow Through

Shot Making Tempo

Using a Practice Swing to Determine Ball Position

Stand Behind the Ball to Align Your Shots

Don't Swing Easy, Choke Down on the Club

Increase Swing Arc for Distance

Addressing the Ball Properly

Develop Your Scoring Distance

Short Game

The Short Game Overview

The Pitch and Run Shot

Blasting From a Green Side Bunker

The "Fried Egg" Sand Shot

Short Shot Fundamentals

Lofted Shots - Part 1

Lofted Shots - Part 2

Lofted Shots - Part 3

The Lofted Shot - Summary

Putting from Off the Green

Practicing Your Short Game

Practice Your Putting on the Tee

Take a Short Backstroke and Accelerate Through Your Putts

Put With Your Arms not Your Wrists

Read Putts from Both Sides of the Ball

Hitting the ¾ Wedge Shot

Get Rid of the Putting Yips - Part I

Get Rid of the Putting Yips - Part II

Slow Down Your Putting Stroke

Putting Alignment

Psychological Game

Don't Take the Game Too Seriously

Trust Your Subconscious to Make a Good Swing, Don't Interfere

Swing with Your Body not Your Mind

Putt with Your Body not Your Mind

Golf is a Microcosm of Life

Play at the Pace of Play

Walk - Don't Take a Cart

Accept the Big Score

It Takes Two Bad Shots to Make a Bogie

Don't Worry About Your Score

Golf Swing Drill: Learn the Release by Throwing a Stick Underhand

The tip below is brought to you courtesy of Golf Tip Reviews. Visit Golf Tip Reviews for golf swing lessons, tip and review for the occasional golfer who wants to play golf well.

Symptom: Poor release on full shots, leading to weak shots that slice or tail off.

Overview: Learn the proper swing release by throwing a stick. Find a stick about a yard long, and throw it underhand at a specific target about 30-40 yards away.

Why it works: It is remarkably simple to get the feel of a proper release using this drill. But the particulars or the drill are quite important:

All it takes is a few throws of your stick to get the idea. After throwing a few sticks, take some practice swings. You will be amazed at how much more powerful and smooth your swing has become after throwing a few sticks!

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Warming Up for the New Golf Season

For those of us living in the north, that means it's time to get out the golf clubs and polish them up. If you haven't played any golf in the last few months, I'm sure you're itching to hit the links. Here's some advice for getting back into the swing of things.

Before teeing it up on the first hole or getting out your driver at the driving range take out your wedge first. After loosening up a bit, hit a few short chips - 20 to 40 yards - while concentrating on taking a short slow backswing and a firm downswing with a good follow through. Also, be sure to take the club back low to the ground without breaking your wrists. Once you've hit 10 or 15 shots like this, you can work your way up to a full swing and longer clubs.

This will get your swing moving in the right direction and help everything fall right back into place. It's always a good idea to warm up like this, but it's especially important after a long layoff.

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Take Home Videos of Your Swing

The golf season is wrapping up here in the north so here's an idea for something to do to improve your game over the winter. Use you video camera to take home movies of your swing. This can be very helpful in eliminating a swing flaw that you might not be aware of. Pay particular attention to head movement. As I'm sure you already know, your head sure stay relatively still during your swing. You shouldn't see a lot of back and forth or up and down movement.

Also, make sure your address and take away are fundamentally sound. Depending on which club you are swinging, the ball should be positioned near the center or front center of your stance with your hands even with or slightly ahead of the ball. Your take away should be low and straight without breaking your wrists.

Work on fixing any obvious flaws, but don't be too critical. Not many golfers, even good ones, have perfect swings.

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Tips for Practicing over the Winter

It's been awhile since I've published my last golf tip, but the weather has turned cold here in Western Pennsylvania and I haven't had a chance to play. Hence, my interests have turned from golf back to computers for the winter. This discussion will be for those of us for whom golf is only a seasonal pursuit. In other words, to those of you who live in the warmer climates where you can play golf all year long, we hope an alligator steals your golf ball.

Here are some tips that might be helpful as you sit around the house waiting for the snow to melt.

Don't make the golf season shorter than it has to be. 50° is great golf weather so take advantage of it. Just dress warm and you'll be amazed how much fun you have playing in the cooler weather when the courses aren't crowded.

Practice your putting on the carpet at home. This is always good advice, but it might be more tempting when you don't have any other opportunities to play.

Take a golf vacation. There are countless resorts that cater to golfers at very reasonable prices. Check out some of our links to other golf web sites to help you find the right vacation spot.

Better than a vacation, go to golf school. These combine golf instruction with lots of playing time. What a great way to shave a few shots off your score.

Play virtual golf. This is something that is becoming more popular, so there's probably a site near you. They even have leagues just like in real golf. I haven't tried this yet myself, but I've heard good things about it.

Go snow skiing. What does this have to do with golf you ask? Well actually, snow skiing exercises a lot of the same lower body muscles that you use in golf. The leg movement and balance required for skiing translate very well to the golf swing. Not only that, it's a lot of fun.

Enjoy a few months away from the game. There's more to life than golf, so get out and enjoy it. Your time away from the game will help you enjoy it that much more when spring arrives.

This will be my last golf tip until spring - I'll be spending the cold weather working on my computer. Don't worry though, I've got a few years worth of golf tips ready to go so I'll be back with more in the spring. I'm also hoping to get some tips from those of you who visit this site. Just use the link at the top of this page to send us your golf tips.

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Make Sure You Have Enough Loft on Your Driver

One of the biggest mistakes I see in the selection of golf equipment is choosing a driver with too little loft. While changes in golf equipment have made lower lofted drivers easier to hit, don't be misled. I know a lot of golfers using drivers with as little as 7° loft, but I'm willing to bet that 9 out of 10 of them would get the best results using a driver with 10° loft or more.

The common myth is that a driver with less loft will travel farther. In reality, if your driver does not have enough loft, you will lose distance because if your ball does not travel at the optimum trajectory it will not carry as far. Also, the lower the loft on the club, the less room for error you have striking the ball, decreasing your accuracy off the tee.

The solution is easy. When looking for a new driver be sure to get fitted using a modern launch monitor. Try several different lofts and see which one travels the farthest in the air and provides the optimum launch angle with minimal spin. Also, take your three wood along and see how it travels compared to it. Many golfers would benefit from using a driver with more loft. We've all seen golfers who can hit their 3 or 5 woods without any difficulty, but struggle constantly to hit the driver. While there are other factors to consider, this is often a good indication that they may need a driver with more loft.

As always, consult a good PGA professional or professional fitter when purchasing golf equipment. You may pay a little more money but if you end up with a golf club that fits your swing, it will be well worth it.

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Pre-game Warm Up

This golf tip was submitted by Joey Chindamo. Joey provides some excellent advice on warming up before your round of golf.

Get to the course approximately one hour before you tee off. Go to the driving area first. Hit some short wedge shots. Don't go for distance. Just loosen up. Hit some 6-irons next. Again, just swing easy. Next some 4-irons, then at the end hit a few with your driver. 10 at the most. Wander over to the practice green and hit some short chips and pitches. Then hit some long putts to the opposite fringe to get a feel of the speed of the greens. Go to the first tee, and swing maybe 5 practice swings. You will be ready to go!

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Golf Club Shaft Selection

Purchasing golf clubs used to be easy. Pick the clubs you like, decide on regular or stiff shafts and pay for your purchase. As golf club shafts have become more sophisticated, deciding on the best shaft for your clubs is more difficult than ever. There are a number of different materials available and a host of variations available in each material type. Since your investment will be greater than ever, you want to be sure you make the correct selection. Below are a few tips that should help you make the best decision.

Many people incorrectly assume that your shaft flex should be determined by your clubhead speed or how far you hit the ball. While longer hitters generally need a stiffer shaft, there are other factors to consider. A shaft with more flex will generally make you hit the ball farther and higher but a shaft with too much flex will be difficult to control and result in a loss of accuracy. You basically want to choose the shaft with the most flex that your swing can handle without a loss of accuracy.

Perhaps more important than your clubhead speed or how far you hit the ball is your swing tempo. Golfers with a fast swing tempo, especially those with a fast transition at the top of their swings, generally need a stiffer shaft while those with a slower more controlled swing have no trouble handling a shaft with more flex. How fast you make the transition at the top of your swing is an important factor.

There are also other factors to consider besides your swing. Heavier clubs generally require a stiffer shaft and conversely lighter ones require a shaft with more flex. You should also consider the flex point of the shaft and the weight distribution of the shaft. The lower the shaft flex and weight, the softer the shaft will feel.

To summarize, if you have a slow tempo controlled swing and don't hit the ball too high, you should be able to handle a shaft with a little more flex and get some extra distance as a result. However, if you have a fast swing tempo and really go after the ball you will probably need a stiffer shaft to avoid sacrificing control. Considering all these factors and deciding on the correct shaft can be a difficult task. Now more than ever, it is a good idea to consult a PGA professional or clubfitter who can analyze your swing and help you decide on the correct shaft and club configuration.

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Driver Technology

I'm usually the last person to suggest that equipment plays much of a role in reducing a player's handicap. I've been around the game for a long time and improvements in equipment technology usually turn out to be more hype than reality. As a rule, good players can strike the ball and score well even with average equipment. However, there are always exceptions to any rule. The advancements made in driver technology, in particular metal heads, over the last several years warrants taking a close look to make sure you are utilizing these improvements to your advantage.

As you probably already know, the advances in metal head technology have forced the USGA to limit the 'spring like' effect or coefficient of restitution (COR) that is allowed in new equipment. I won't get into the discussion about how this has impacted the game and made many golf courses nearly obsolete. Now that the USGA has established COR limits and has proposed additional limits on club head size and dimensions, it's probably relatively safe to choose from the latest generation of metal drivers without worrying that the technology will be obsolete in a year or two.

I've always believed that short and straight was better than long and crooked, but if you are a short hitter, you have the most to gain in utilizing the latest head and shaft technology. With the right driver, you will get more distance without really sacrificing accuracy. If you already hit the ball far enough, be careful! If you like the driver you're currently using and can keep it in play, stick with it. The extra distance will do you no good. If you are looking to upgrade, select a club that you can control and hit consistently. If you're a big hitter, use the opportunity to find a driver that you feel comfortable swinging and work on developing a smooth swing with good tempo. This will allow you to maintain your current distance and become straighter and more consistent off the tee.

As always, talk to a PGA professional or person knowledgeable in golf equipment when deciding which driver is right for you. Equipment is expensive so make sure you invest wisely. You're going to want to try it out before you buy it. You can sometimes find better prices on custom equipment but make sure the person making the equipment knows how to fit you properly. Don't rush into the decision. Shop around and try out a few different clubs before making your selection.

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Weight Transfer Exercise

It's time to shake off the rust from the long winter and get your golf swing back into shape. One of the aspects of the golf swing that many people struggle with is proper weight transfer. Although the degree of weight transfer required for a good golf swing is often debated, it is important that you at least make the correct weight transfer and don't "fall off" the shot.

Many beginners and struggling golfers have a tendency to reverse transfer and end up moving their weight onto their back foot as they swing through the ball. As you probably already know, your weight should transfer to your back foot during your back swing and then transfer back to your front foot during your downswing. However, this is easier said than done, especially for the beginner, so here is an exercise that will help you learn to transfer your weight properly and develop a feel for how to do it.

Take any golf club, a mid-iron will probably work best, and take your normal address but without a golf ball. Move your feet closer together than normal, about half shoulder width. Then start swinging the club back and forth, starting with ½ to ¾ swings, developing a pendulum like tempo. Continue swinging the club back and forth, maintaining a nice even tempo. As you continue swinging back and forth, start to consciously take most of your weight off your front foot as you reach the end of your back swing and, on your downswing, transfer the weight to your front foot until there is very little weight on your back foot at the completion of your follow through.

Continue this exercise, swinging the club back and forth until you are able to completely lift your front foot off the ground at the end of your back swing and completely lift your back foot off the ground at the end of your follow through. You can also lengthen your swing during the exercise until you are taking a full swing. After doing some initial stretching, I find this to be a great early warm-up exercise before hitting balls or playing. It not only helps you get the proper feel for your weight transfer, but it's also great for developing good balance and a nice even tempo.

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Selecting The Right Golf Clubs

As the new golf season comes into full swing many golfers satisfy their renewed interest by buying a new set of clubs or a new driver. There are few purchases that the avid golfer cherishes more than a new set of golf clubs. While golf clubs often unfairly take the blame for bad shots, it is important that you find a set of clubs that you feel comfortable with and fit your game. There are really two major options available to you. Purchase a set of brand name golf clubs, or have a set of clones made. You can be successful with either option as long as you follow some simple guidelines.

Regardless of the whether you are purchasing a brand name or clones you should get fitted for you golf clubs. With modern launch monitors that can measure everything from launch angle to spin rate, it's easier than ever to make the right choice when selecting golf clubs. If you are going to purchase a set of brand name clubs, you will be better off if you can consult an experienced PGA professional or experienced golf club fitter when purchasing your clubs. There are many golf club fitting centers available and most major manufacturer's have equipment that they travel with for fitting days and clinics at local golf clubs and golf centers.

Make sure you try several different brands before you decide on the ones you want even if you have a particular set of clubs in mind. Also, compare different shaft types and flexes. If you are purchasing a driver, compare several different lofts also. While you may be tempted to choose a low lofted driver, many golfers will hit the ball further with a little more driver loft. Compare the distance you hit each brand and how comfortable they feel and get advice on the launch monitor data for each club. Once you have decided on the ones you want, be kind enough to purchase them from the shop where you've been trying them. You may save a few dollars at the discount store, but you'll get better service at the pro shop if a problem develops after the sale.

If you are going to purchase a custom made set, try to find someone with some real experience that knows something about the game and golf club fitting. It's not difficult to glue clubheads and grips on shafts so there are a lot of people making clubs these days. Not all of them know what they're doing. They should be knowledgeable about the equipment that is currently on the market and what advantages certain types of shafts and clubheads bring to your game. The entire set should be matched after they are built to insure proper loft, lie and swing weight. A good club maker, like a good professional, will look at your swing, assess your game, measure your clubhead speed and other launch monitor data and make some recommendations. He or she should have clubs available for you to try so that you can be sure the clubs they make are what you want.

If you are a beginner or don't play all that often, you don't need to spend a lot of money on golf equipment. Having top of the line equipment is not going to help your game. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't get fitted for your clubs. You can find some great discounts and still get the proper clubs that will suit your swing and give you the maximum performance. Once you start to improve and have developed enough interest in the game to play more often, then you can spend a little more money once you've learned more about the game.

Once you have purchased your new clubs, enjoy them for a long time. There will always be some new gimmick coming along, so don't fall for it. A good set of clubs will last a long time. My rule of thumb is that you should use the same set of irons for at least 5-10 years. It takes at least that long for changes in technology to mature. If someone starts telling you that you bought the wrong clubs and that they don't fit your game, the odds are pretty good that they don't know what they're talking about.

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Getting the Most from Golf Lessons

The tip below is brought to you courtesy of Mike Yates.

It’s never easy asking for help, but in golf, it is almost a necessity. Unfortunately, we often ask our buddies and partners, when in reality we should take a lesson or two.

We think that a Pro would critique harshly, but they are honest, positive and very helpful.

Lessons at the local course aren’t as expensive as you might think and they are worth it because your game will improve rapidly and cause you less frustration, making the game much more enjoyable for you.

Of utmost importance, is being honest about your game. The Pro will ask you what you want to start with; driving, chipping, putting or whatever you feel you need help with.

Listen carefully and follow the instructions. You may have doubts if the Pro changes your stance, your grip or your swing; the Pro knows best.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Don’t worry about if the question or concern in stupid-they’ve heard it all before and will not make you feel like an idiot for asking. If you don’t "get it", tell him/her that you’re not getting it. You should never walk away from a lesson with unanswered questions.

You can concentrate on one thing during a lesson, or several. You might start with a lesson in driving; get the right grip, the right stance, the right swing, the right follow-through in one lesson, and then practice it. Next time, you might work on your short game, or putting.

You’ve invested in the equipment, doesn’t it make sense to learn how to use them to their advantage and improve your abilities?

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Curing Your Slice

The tip below is brought to you courtesy of Robert Green

When it comes down to a golfer slicing a golf ball, basically everybody who has ever picked up a club and took a shot has seen a slice. Unless you're some sort of golfing prodigy that is. There could be many reasons why you or anybody else tends to slice the golf ball. To cure your golf slice you need to first of all pin point were the problem is originating from. A few of the main reasons why so many people slice the ball are a person’s stance, their swing, and their grip. A closer look at these three elements would provoke an improvement in your tendency to slice your shots.

Now....Let's begin with the correct grip. This is an important issue in golf and many think that the harder they hold the golf club the more power they will get. Well, I've got new for you, it doesn't work, and most of all, your grip pressure can cause the ball to slice or hook. The stronger the grip, the more chance you have of hooking the ball, because when the club is held to tightly, the club face tends to be closed on impact. Too weak of a grip will lead to a slice, because the club tends to be too open on impact with a weak grip. The right grip pressure to use is about 5 to 6 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the strongest and 1 being the lightest.

If, after that you are still seeing a slice in your shots, it may mean that you have the slightest problem with your stance. The basics of a golf stance are:

Now, head on down to the practice range and hit some balls until you get used to your new setup.

One more thing you can alter to cure your golf slice is your swing. The backswing is most likely the main culprit in your swing that causes your shot to slice. On the backswing the lower shaft of the golf club and the club head should go past and over your shoulder. The actual position of your clubs face can tend to cause a slice. While you want your clubs face to be perfect on impact (slightly open) you don't need to alter the position of it in your backswing or downswing, as your hips and your torso will work to get it into position themselves.

Although the backswing is the main problem that can cause a slice, the downswing shouldn't be neglected in this case. The downswing also has to be correct. A good downswing should always start with the hips and not with the arms as many people tend to believe.

Now...It may take a lot of practice before you begin to get used to your alterations in your swing, grip, and stance, but remember, if you revert back to your old ways you will never eliminate that slice.

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Finish Your Swing by Exaggerating Your Follow Through

One of the most common mistakes made by the average golfer is quitting on their swing. This leads to a wide variety of missed shots and a lot of frustration. It's human nature to want to swing "at" the ball instead of "through" the ball so many golfers tend to stop swinging once they've hit the ball.

One way to combat this tendency is to exaggerate your follow through. The next time you watch the PGA tour on TV, focus on their follow throughs. You'll notice that although they may not do it intentionally, they almost invariably have a strong pronounced follow through. Fred Couples is one of the strongest examples.

This is an exercise you can take directly to the course so the next time you are playing or practicing, focus your attention on staying down over the ball through impact and finishing your swing completely, even to the point of exaggerating your follow through. You should finish with your hands above your leading shoulder and behind your head.

Keep working on this until it becomes completely automatic. You'll find yourself really swinging through the ball and hitting it both straighter and more consistently.

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Shotmaking Tempo

If you've played golf more than a few times, you already know what a mental game it is. Most golfers go through a ritual of practice swings and mental preparation before each shot. There's nothing wrong with going through the same ritual before each shot, in fact, it's probably a good idea. However, many golfers take it to extremes and try to think about every detail on each swing. Not only does this result in slow play, it rarely produces the desired results. More often than not all that thinking just confuses the issues and makes for some bad shots.

Most golfers would agree that they get their best results playing at a nice even tempo. Here are a few tips for maintaining a good tempo to your shot making.

Remember, keep it simple. Golf is a complicated game but you can't consider every aspect of your swing in the two seconds it takes to make it. We'll discuss some simple techniques for keeping your mental focus in a future article.

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Using a Practice Swing to Determine Ball Position

As I discussed in my last article, I don't generally consider practice swings to be very useful. However, there is one circumstance where I think a practice swing can be very helpful. You can often determine where to position the ball in your stance by taking a couple practice swings. I've played almost all of my golf in the rolling hills of the eastern United States. A level lie is more the exception than the norm, so the position of the ball in your stance is always changing depending upon your lie. Most golfers know that on uphill lies, you move the position of the ball forward in your stance toward you left foot while on downhill lies you move it back toward your right foot. With the varying degrees of slope, it is often difficult to determine the best placement. Many golfers do not compensate enough and hit a poor shot as a result.

An easy way to determine where the ball should be located is to address the ball and take a practice swing (without trying to hit a spot on the ground) and note where the club head sweeps the grass. This is where your swing naturally bottoms out. You should then position the ball at or slightly behind this location so you are hitting the ball just as your swing approaches the bottom of its arc.

You don't need to take a full practice swing, just enough to get a feel for your swing arc. If you don't hit the ground at all during your practice swing, try moving the club head back in your stance and try again. You may be surprised how far back you need to play the ball when you have a downhill lie and you're hitting a shorter club. When hitting a short wedge shot from a sharp downhill lie, you often have to play the ball behind your right foot. This technique is especially useful when you're pitching around the green or when you get stuck with an unusually steep lie.

I'll discuss more about how to play from sloped lies in the future, but most of it has to do with positioning the ball properly at address so this quick tip might be all you'll need to handle those shots.

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Stand Behind the Ball to Align Your Shots

How many times have you hit a ball off line only to have someone you're playing with comment that "it looked like you were lined up that way". Proper alignment is critical to hitting any shot. Not just for the purpose of aiming, but also to make sure you set up correctly to make a good swing. However, most golfers just approach the ball, look toward the hole as their addressing it and align themselves as best they can. This is a terrible position in which to try and get a good perspective. You wouldn't drive your car while sitting sideways on the front seat and turning your head to the left to see out the windshield would you? Of course not. So don't try to aim a golf shot that way either.

The best way to get a good line on your shot is to stand several yards behind the ball and observe the line between your ball and the pin or the point where you want the ball to land. By observing the line in this fashion, your brain will subconsciously store a mental image of it and give you a better perspective as you align yourself when you address the ball. You don't need to take a lot of time to do this and, in fact, you can do it while the other golfers in your group are hitting their shots.

This technique is especially helpful when the tee box or fairway points in the wrong direction. If you just step up to hit the ball without looking at the line from behind the ball, your body will tend to set up parallel to the natural lines made by the tee box or the fairway. While this is OK most of the time, it can sometimes get you pointed in the wrong direction. Almost all golfers have difficulty with their tee shot on holes where the tee is set up different from the direction you want to aim. This simple technique will get you pointed in the right direction every time. Good golf shots are too valuable to waste, so make sure you take a second to observe the proper line and aim correctly.

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Don't Swing Easy, Choke Down on the Club

Our last tip talked about hitting the ¾ wedge shot effectively. In this tip, we will discuss how to take something off a full shot when you're between clubs. As many times as not, you are faced with a distance where one club might not be enough but the next club will be too much. For these shots, you need to be confident in trying to take something off the full shot with the longer club.

Many times when we try to swing easy, we fail to gauge our swing correctly and end up swinging too easy or, worse yet, miss hit the shot. The solution to this problem is to take your normal full swing and good follow through, but choke down on the club about an inch. This effectively shortens the club and will take about ½ club off the shot. So the next time you can't decide between a 5 and 6 iron, take the five iron, choke down an inch and swing away. Don't confuse the issue by trying to swing easy.

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Increase Swing Arc for Distance

While being a big hitter is not really an advantage in most cases, it is important that you hit the ball far enough to handle the longer holes on a golf course. Having physical strength can help you hit the ball longer, but most healthy individuals can hit the ball an adequate distance by developing the right swing mechanics.

Driving distance is strictly related to club head speed. Assuming you hit the ball squarely, the faster the club head is moving at impact, the farther the ball will travel. Swing arc is the most important mechanism that contributes to club head speed. The longer the arc of your swing, the greater your club head speed.

This is probably most apparent when you watch Tiger Woods swing. He has great extension at the top of his swing that enables him to achieve tremendous club head speed at impact.

Increasing your swing arc takes a little practice and might not immediately translate into hitting the ball farther. However, once you have adapted to the larger arc and become comfortable with it, you should be able to gain some distance.

To increase your swing arc, address the ball in a more upright position, making sure you still flex your knees slightly. It is also important that your swing isn't too flat, so stand a comfortable distance from the ball without reaching for it. Take the club back straight behind the ball, keeping your wrists firm and extend your left arm and hand high above your head at the top of your swing. Then accelerate your swing down through the ball and follow through completely.

Work on this extension at the driving range with all your clubs before taking it on the course. As always, a good teaching professional can help you improve your swing mechanics and hit the ball farther.

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Addressing the Ball Properly

Addressing the ball is one of the most important aspects of the golf swing. Too many golfers focus their thoughts on swing mechanics when they are not hitting the ball well but more often than not something has changed in their setup. A good swing will come more naturally if you are addressing the ball properly. If you watch the players on the PGA tour, you will see a variety of different golf swings but almost every player sets up in very similar fashion.

Here are a few keys to addressing the ball properly:

Give your setup the attention to detail that it deserves and you'll find your game is more consistent and less prone to bad spells.

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Develop Your Scoring Distance

If you've watched any professional golf on television I'm sure you've seen that any time a touring pro has a decent lie 80 to 100 yards from the hole it's a pretty sure bet that they'll have a short birdie putt after they hit the shot. This is one of the biggest differences between touring pros and amateurs, even low handicap amateurs. They have a distance range from which they can consistently hit it close to the hole.

Touring pros make a lot of birdies on par fives by hitting the green in 2 or by laying up to their scoring distance and hitting their 3rd shot close. While you may not be able to reach many par fives in 2 as they do, there's no reason you can't score from 80 to 100 yards just like they do. You should practice this shot until your hands bleed because you'll never be able to score efficiently until you can hit it consistently.

Find a range or other place to practice that has a 100 yard marker. Practice hitting shots with your wedge or wedges of choice for this distance, hitting them different distances from 70 to 120 yards. Don't get discouraged or give up. Many golfers struggle with this distance and it may take some time to become consistently good at it. Just keep practicing it as often as possible and eventually you'll become comfortable with it. Over time you'll begin to look forward to hitting this shot on the course. Once that happens you'll find yourself making more birdies and having more fun.

The reason this is such an important shot is that you'll have so many opportunities to play from this distance. It's a common distance for your second shot on short par fours and on many par fives. In addition, it can give you another option on short par fours and par fives. Often times you'll find that trying to get on or close to the green on short par fours and par fives is a risky shot. You find yourself hitting a driver, fairway metal, hybrid or long iron into a green that is well protected as the hole tightens up near the green. This usually brings bunkers, water hazards, trees and out of bounds into play. Instead of trying to hit that 230-260 yard shot into a tight situation with a lot of trouble, think about hitting a 140-160 yard shot to a good location where you can confidently hit your wedge close to the hole. This allows you to take the trouble out of play without sacrificing your chance for birdie. It gives you two good options for making birdie instead of one.

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The Short Game Overview

As we begin a new golfing year, each of us starts with high expectations for improving our game. However, it never ceases to amaze me how many golfers go to the driving range and hit endless buckets of balls in an effort to improve their swing, yet they're lucky to get down in three when they're chipping from around the green. Their games will always be limited by their mediocre short game.

The fastest most efficient way to improve your scoring is by improving your short game. You may never be able to hit the ball as long as Tiger Woods (that's something we can all be sure of), but there's no reason you can't have his short game (or at least come close.) If you're not getting down in two from inside 30 yards at least 50% of the time, your short game needs work. Getting up and down from just off the green should be an almost sure thing. If you average more than 30 putts for 18 holes, you're not a very good putter.

Golfers with good swings who strike the ball well are a dime a dozen. All great golfers have an excellent short game - without exception. Set aside a portion of your practice time for chipping and putting. If you have as little as 20 yards to work with in your back yard, you can practice your short pitch shots. Don't be afraid to get your wedge out at the driving range and hit 40 - 50 yard shots. Arrive a few minutes early for your next round and hit a few chip shots. Find a sand trap to practice from on occasion.

Putting is probably the least glamorous but most important part of the game. I'm a very mediocre putter, but I'm always amazed how bad some people putt. But the fact is, I would be just as bad if I didn't practice my putting on occasion. Spend some time on the putting green before or after your round. Practice your putting on the carpet at home. Make a game of it with your kids. Take the kids to miniature golf. (Yes, miniature golf! I'm a scratch golfer but I still love playing miniature golf with my family.) It doesn't have to be deadly serious practice. The more times you get a putter in your hands and use it, the better you will be.

I hope I've made my point about improving your short game. The tips in this section provide advice for improving your play on and around the green. If you devote this golfing season to improving your short game, you'll be amazed how much you've lowered your handicap by the end of the year.

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The Pitch and Run Shot

Last week, we discussed the importance of the short game in improving your scores. This week, we'll get down to business and give you a useful tip for improving your play around the green.

One of the shots golfers are often confronted with is the short pitch from the fringe or just a few yards off the green. Under most circumstances, it's best to keep the wedge in the bag for this shot and use a less lofted club. I like to use an 8 iron, but you may prefer a 6 or 7 iron. There is much more margin for error choosing a less lofted club rather than a wedge. First, you can take a much shorter swing and second, if you happen to hit it a little thin, you won't blade it all the way across the green like you would with a wedge.

To hit this shot properly, play the ball back in your stance and make sure your hands are ahead of the ball at address. Take a very short backswing without breaking your wrists and accelerate your hands through the ball on your downswing. This will produce a relatively low shot with very little spin that will release across the green to the hole.

The key to this shot, or any chip shot, is to shorten your swing and accelerate through the ball. Too many golfers will take too big of a backswing on a short shot, then try to slow their swing down as they approach the ball. This disrupts their tempo and the results are unpredictable, either they hit it real fat or real thin. Remember, to hit a shorter shot, shorten your backswing - don't slow your swing down.

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Blasting from a Green Side Bunker

One of the most feared shots in golf is the sand shot. In most cases, this fear is not warranted, as most sand shots are actually pretty easy. There are a variety of sand shots that you may be faced with during a round of golf. This week we'll deal with the most common sand shot - the blast from the green side bunker.

This is actually one of the easier shots in golf, but because it is so different from any other shot, a lot of people never learn the proper technique. If you are in a green side bunker with any kind of a lip and within 25-30 yards of the hole, you will most likely want to blast from the bunker.

The first and most important thing with this shot is to open your stance and open the club face. And when I say open, I mean open, especially your club face. Your sand wedge should be opened almost to the point of lying flat - even if you're using a 60° wedge. This allows the club to slide smoothly underneath the ball without the blade digging into the sand. You should also firmly plant your feet by digging them into the sand as you address the ball.

Take about a one-half to three-quarters swing (depending on how far you want to hit it) aiming an inch or two behind the ball, and then take a firm downswing, accelerating through the ball and following through completely, as you would on a full shot. Make sure you accelerate through the ball. (You're going to get sick of me telling you that, but it's the most important thing to remember on any short shot.)

A lot of instructors and teaching articles will stress the importance of taking the club back outside the normal swing plane at a steeper than normal angle to produce an outside-in swing that cuts underneath the ball. This is definitely correct, but it will come naturally by opening your stance and club face once you've practiced the shot. So don't worry too much about it at this point.

The important things to remember are: open your stance, plant your feet, lay the club face wide open, aim an inch or two behind the ball and accelerate through the ball with a good follow through. If you practice these points, you'll be amazed what a good sand player you'll become.

One other point for planning your sand shots that may seem obvious but I'll mention it anyway. If you need more spin on your sand shot, take less sand by aiming closer to the ball, or to get more roll, take more sand by aiming farther behind the ball. It's really not a good idea to try and get a lot of spin on a sand shot unless you really need it. There's nothing worse than hitting the ball first and sailing the shot into the woods behind the green.

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The "Fried Egg" Sand Shot

Last week we talked about the blast shot from the green side bunker. This week we'll talk about a variation on that shot - the "fried egg". As you probably already know, a fried egg is a ball that has landed in the sand trap without bouncing, splashing the sand out from around the ball to produce that familiar fried egg appearance with the ball as a yolk. As a result, the ball is usually buried well down in the sand. Sometimes, if the ball lands on the upslope, the sand will slide back down over the ball, leaving just a small portion showing above the sand.

The sight of your ball buried in the sand trap is enough to drive you screaming from course. Don't worry, although it's tough to control this shot, it's really pretty easy to get the ball out of the bunker and if you have some green to work with, you can often get the ball pretty close to the hole. Once again, it's all in the technique.

First, leave your sand wedge in the bag and get out your pitching wedge. Plant your feet firmly as you would if you were blasting the shot. Keep the club face square or slightly closed. Take a relatively full swing and aim an inch or two behind the ball. Drive the club head into the sand behind the ball and follow through as well as you can. The ball will come out low with no spin and release across the green. The harder you swing, the farther it will go.

You can hit a few variations of this shot to give you different trajectories and distances. Try opening the face on your pitching wedge if you need to get it up quickly. You can even use a sand wedge and hit a normal blast shot if the ball is not badly buried. However, your best odds for success are with a pitching wedge. Don't try to get too fancy. The balls is going to release and run no matter how you play it. If there is a lot of green between you and the pin, all you have to do is get it out and it should run right back to the hole. If the pin is cut close to the trap, you're out of luck. Just bite the bullet, get it out of the trap and go from there.

The key points to remember: Use a pitching wedge, plant your feet, close the club face slightly and drive the club head into the sand behind the ball. You'll be amazed how much success you'll have playing this shot.

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Short Shot Fundamentals

We've spent the last several weeks talking about how to play some specific short shots from around the green. We'll continue to concentrate on the short game, but this week we'll talk about some techniques that are common to all short shots.

Speaking in the most general terms, play from tee to green can be broken down into two types of shots. There are those where you take a full swing, such as the typical tee shot, and those where you limit your swing, such as a 40 yard wedge shot. Most golfers go to the driving range and practice only their full shots, even though a large percentage of the shots they hit during a round of golf require only a partial swing. Some limit themselves even more and hit only drivers at the range. This does not make for good practice habits.

I'll discuss good practice habits in the future. For now I'd like to discuss a few important things to remember when hitting shots that require less than a full swing. The fundamentals used to hit these shots not only improve your shorter shots, they're the same fundamentals that will give you a good start on your full shots.

The most important thing to remember when hitting a short shot is to never swing easy, you should shorten your swing instead. This doesn't mean you should jump out of your shoes and swing as hard as you can on every shot, but you should have a firm downswing and good follow through on every shot you hit. Too many golfers tend to let up or "quit on" their shorter shots. You've heard me say it before and you'll hear me say it again, swing firm and accelerate through the ball. Shorten your swing, don't swing easy. A golfer who can hit his pitching wedge 100 yards or more should not be taking much of a swing on a 40-50 yard shot.

Here are the fundamentals of a good short shot.

The next time you go to the range, take out your pitching wedge and practice these fundamentals using a ¼, ½ and ¾ swing. This will not only improve your short shots, but your full shots as well.

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Lofted Shots - Part 1

I was away with the family for the Memorial Day holiday, so it's been a couple weeks since my last tip. I hope you've had the opportunity to practice some of the techniques discussed in the last column.

Every golfer has been faced with this situation. Your ball is about 20 yards from the green, but there is a bunker between you and the green and the hole is only about 15 feet from the edge. You need to hit some sort of lofted shot that will stop quickly after it lands. I'll devote the next couple weeks to discussing the lofted short shot. There are an almost infinite number of variations on this shot, but they all share some things in common. This week I'll discuss the generalities.

Most golfers carry fourteen clubs of varying loft in their bags. Theoretically, golf balls can be propelled forward with a club that has anywhere from 0° to 90° loft. Putters usually have little or no loft and are obviously not good for much more than rolling the ball across the ground. In reality, to effectively propel the ball forward, you need a club with at least some loft, usually 9 or 10°, but not so much that it would just slide under the ball. However, golfers generally only carry clubs with a loft range of 10° to 56°. This leaves and area between 56° and 80° or 90° for which no club is available. Recently, with the popularity of 60° and even 64° wedges, we've seen a move towards filling this void, but we still have a 25° gap for which no club is made.

To hit the ball shorter, one generally chooses a more lofted club. Until you get to your wedge, then to hit the ball shorter, you take a shorter swing. Why not just use a more lofted club?

The reasons are obvious. First, since you can only carry 14 clubs and you need your less lofted clubs for distance, it wouldn't make sense to carry a club with 70° or 80° loft. Second, and more importantly, would it really make sense to take a full swing with an 80° lofted club to hit the ball 50 yards up and only 30 yards forward when you can take a short controlled swing with a 56° lofted club and hit the ball the same distance? It wouldn't make any sense at all - except when that 30 yard shot involves carrying the ball over a bunker and stopping it quickly on a firm, fast green that runs away from you. Then the 80° lofted club would be a God send.

Don't despair. There is an easy way to get the loft you need from your sand wedge or lob wedge in order to hit those nice lob shots you see on TV. It's called opening the club face. Sounds simple? It is! I'll discuss the do's and don'ts in the next couple weeks, but you won't believe how easy it is with a little practice.

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Lofted Shots - Part 2

Last week we discussed the general principals behind using your sand wedge or lob wedge to hit a lofted shot. With today's modern mowing machinery and the prevalence of bent grasses, greens are faster and firmer than ever. The need for even the average golfer to hit a lofted, soft chip shot is more important than at any time in the history of the game. This explains the popularity of 60° and 64° wedges.

Whether you use a standard 56° sand wedge or a more lofted lob wedge, it is important that you feel comfortable using the club from the grass. Many sand wedges with large soles and heavy heads designed for sand use do not play well from the grass. There are almost an infinite variety of wedges on the market, so you should be able to find one that you feel comfortable playing from the grass. Ben Hogan perfected the sand wedge a long time ago with the Hogan Special. It's design makes them an excellent club from both the sand and grass. Many players use three wedges, myself included. This allows you to carry both a standard sand wedge and a lob wedge, or carry two sand wedges - one for sand and one for grass.

Regardless of whether you use a standard sand wedge or a more lofted lob wedge, you need to have a club in your bag with more loft than a pitching wedge that you can use from the grass.

A sand wedge and especially a lob wedge will give you pretty good height on the ball even without opening the face. If you really need to stop the ball quickly, lay the face open a little and open your stance slightly. Practice hitting shots with the face open at various angles until you feel comfortable. Below are some guidelines to follow when hitting your "open faced sand wedge."

When you first start using this shot on the course, you will invariably hit some atrocious and embarrassing shots. Stick with it. The ability to hit an effective lob shot will add a whole new dimension to your short game and definitely shave strokes from your score. You may think you can get by without it, and under some conditions you can. However, every good golfer can hit this shot. Don't limit your capacity for improvement by not learning to hit it yourself.

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Lofted Shots - Part 3

I hope you got to see at least part of the U.S. Open over the weekend. What a great display of golf on a tremendous golf course. There were some great opportunities to learn from the best golfers in the world and I'll discuss just a couple things that occurred that relate to the short game. Since Tiger Woods is such a hot topic these days, I'll jump on the band wagon and we'll discuss him for a minute. If you saw the tournament on Saturday, you'll remember he got a lot of criticism from the commentators for using a lofted-lob shot in a couple situations where it might not have been warranted. In all three cases, he ended up going long and lost strokes to par. I don't necessarily agree with the commentators because Tiger is a master of this shot and might just as easily been more successful, but they did raise a valid point that every golfer needs to consider.

The point they made was that the lofted shot is a low percentage shot. Whenever you're taking such a big swing with the intent of only advancing the ball a relatively short distance, the results can be disastrous if you do not execute it properly. There is little or no margin for error, so you don't want to use it if there is a lower risk alternative. In case this isn't already obvious, I'll give you an example.

Let's say you're chipping from 5 yards off the green to a two tier green with the pin located on the second tier about 40 feet away. You have two options: Use a 7 or 8 iron and pitch the ball onto the lower tier and let it run up the hill to the pin or use a lob shot and carry the ball to the second tier where it would land softly and with enough spin to stop near the hole. Both shots will do the job, but let's look at the consequences if things don't go according to plan.

If you hit the pitch and run shot a little thin with your 7 iron, it probably won't affect the shot that much since you'll be taking such a short abbreviated swing. However, if you hit you lob wedge a little thin while taking a ½ to ¾ swing, you'll most likely launch the ball well over the green. In addition, the bigger the swing you have to take, the greater your chances are for miss hitting the ball. So don't get too fancy if you don't have to.

With this in mind, let's review some of the things to consider when hitting a lofted shot.

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The Lofted Shot - Summary

We've all watched Phil Michelson lay open his lob wedge, take a full swing and hit the ball straight up in the air, only to have it come down just a few yards away on the green, landing so softly it almost defies gravity. While Phil has taken this shot to another level, there's no reason the average golfer can't utilize this type of shot effectively. This week we'll summarize what we've been discussing for the last three weeks.

There is no magic involved, just the laws of physics. First, use a sand wedge or 60° (lob) wedge to hit the shot. You address the ball just as you would if you were blasting from a sand trap. Your stance and the club face should be wide open, hands slightly ahead of the ball. Take an outside-in swing as though you were trying to slice the ball. (Don't worry too much about your swing, the open stance will tend to produce the arc you need.)

Take a nice smooth swing, accelerating down through the ball, following through completely. Try to imagine the clubface sliding underneath the ball. The ball will come out high and short with a lot of spin. Be sure to aim left of the target as the open clubface with send the ball slightly to the right.

You can vary the height and amount of spin by how far you open the clubface. The more you open the clubface, the less control you are going to have and the more catastrophic your mistakes will be, so don't get carried away.

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Putting From Off the Green

One of the most useful shots to play from the fringe or just off the green is the putt. With just a little practice, you can become proficient at putting from a variety of locations around the green. Below are some instances where you might want to putt the ball and some tips on how to go about it.

As with any shot, the key is to use it under the right circumstances. If you have a good lie and are more than a few feet off the green, you're usually better off pitching the ball. However, if you have a bad lie that will significantly increase the chances of you blading or chunking your pitch, it's often a good idea to intentionally blade it by putting it with your sand wedge, wood, putter, or even a 2 or 3 iron. Play the percentages and go with the shot that gives you the best chance for success.

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Practicing Your Short Game

We've devoted the last three months to the short game and hopefully you've picked up a few pointers to improve that part of your game. Unfortunately, reading about it will not do much to improve your play around the green. You'll have to get out and practice. For most of us, it's tough enough just to find time to play yet alone practice, but the great thing about the short game is that you can practice almost anywhere. Below are some tips for getting in some chipping practice without spending much time doing it.

If your short game doesn't improve right away after you practice it, don't be disappointed and don't give up. One thing I have learned over the years is that you can usually expect a lag between when you practice and when you see the results on the course. Just stick with it and you'll be amazed how many shots you can knock off your scores.

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Practice Your Putting on the Tee

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a round of golf and realize you couldn't make a putt over two feet if your life depended on it? Don't despair. Here's a tip you may not have thought of that might save you. Practice your putting on the tee. During most rounds of golf, you'll find yourself on at least a few holes waiting on the group in front of you to play before you can tee off. Don't just stand around thinking about the 4 footer you missed on the last hole, drop a couple balls on the tee and practice your putting.

The tee box is usually cut fairly close on most golf courses and provides a reasonably smooth surface for you to practice. You can aim at a tee marker, a divot, or anything else for that matter. Also, since it's slower than the greens, it will tend to make you stroke the ball firmer and follow through better. Then, when you get to the green, you'll most likely putt more aggressively which will quite often improve your results.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend this if you're already putting well, but if you're off to a bad start, what have you got to lose?

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Take a Short Backstroke and Accelerate Through Your Putts

It's been a while since I posted my last golf tip so let me first apologize. I've been vacationing with my family and practicing what I preach by playing a little golf. My putting game has been quite bad lately so I'll give you a tip that usually helps me when I'm putting poorly.

We spent the first part of the year concentrating on the short game and I was always nagging you about accelerating through the ball on your shots. Just as importantly, this applies to putting also, and every golf shot for that matter. I see too many golfers take a long backstroke on their putts and then slow down or try to steer the putter head through the ball. This is a sure formula for failure, especially on your short putts. Always take a short straight backstroke and accelerate through the ball along the line. Remember, at least 75% of your putting stroke should be after you hit the ball. If you're accelerating through the ball properly, you'll need to keep your backstroke short, especially on fast greens. If you watch the tour players, you'll notice they do not take much of a backstroke when putting.

Try the following technique when you practice putting to get in the habit of stroking through the ball. Place your putter about one inch or less behind the ball and practice putting without taking a back stroke. You'll really just be pushing the ball toward the hole, but it will help you give you a feel for stroking through the ball along the line you want the ball to roll.

Remember, putting is probably the most important part of the game so make sure you give it it's share of practice time.

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Putt With Your Arms Not Your Wrists

This week's golf tip is a simple one and perhaps something you already know, but we'll cover it for those who might not be aware of it and for those who might need a reminder. Many golfers have a tendency to be very "wristy" when they putt, making their stroke by flexing their wrists back and forth. A good putting stroke should be made from the shoulders by swinging your arms without breaking your wrists.

Your arms should swing like the pendulum on a clock to give you a smooth stroke back and forth. In fact, it is a good practice technique to take your putter and practice swinging your arms back and forth as though your arms and putter actually were a pendulum. Grip the putter very loosely to keep the muscle tension in your hands and forearms from affecting the natural rhythm of the pendulum. Let your arms swing freely without putting much effort into moving the putter.

Developing this type of rhythm on your putts, will result in a smoother more reliable putting stroke. Remember not to break your wrists. Even a small amount of wrist action can be very detrimental to your putting stroke.

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Read Putts from Both Sides of the Ball

Anyone who witnessed Payne Stewart's recent U.S. Open victory saw first hand the importance of putting. He literally made every makable putt and a few more. Making all those putts goes way beyond having a good putting stroke and nerves of steel. You have to be able to read greens.

Experience has a lot to do with being able to read greens, but here's a simple technique that might be helpful. Almost everyone looks at putts from behind the ball, but it's also a good idea to read putts from the opposite side, looking from the hole back toward the ball. This gives you a different perspective and you'll be surprised how many times it reads differently form there. Also, as you walk around the green to line up your putts, observe the line from the side. This gives you one more perspective and can also be helpful for judging the speed of your putts.

So what should you do when the putt reads differently from both sides? This usually means that it's somewhere in between. As you gain experience, you'll be able to better judge how to handle these situations. The important thing is that you get as much information about the putt as you can.

Just a reminder, you shouldn't take any longer to get the additional read. You can do this while other people are getting ready to putt, or when you walk across the green as you approach your ball. No one enjoys slow play.

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Hitting the ¾ Wedge Shot

One of the shots many people have difficulty with is the ¾ wedge shot. When faced with this shot, some people have a tendency to punch at the ball while others try to swing easy and end up quitting on the shot. Both of these approaches, more often than not, fail to produce the desired result.

The key with this shot to shorten up your swing and follow through aggressively. Even though you may not be taking a full swing, it is still important that you follow through completely on the shot. The next time you practice, focus on exaggerating the follow through on all your shots making sure you swing completely around until your hands are behind your head. Practice this on your shorter shots as well.

Once you get in the habit of accelerating through the ball and following through completely on all your shots, including your ¾ wedge shots, you'll hit the ball straighter and more consistently.

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Get Rid of the Putting Yips – Part I

One of the most difficult challenges a golfer can face is overcoming the Yips, that terrible spasm-like condition that makes even a two-foot putt a nerve wracking hit or miss experience. If you suffer from this affliction, you're not alone. Just look at the gimmicks that the best golfers in the world use to overcome the affliction, from cross-handed grips to long putters.

I'm not sure anyone has come up with the cause or the solution but I've found that the problem is aggravated by too much muscle tension while putting. This often results in gripping the putter too tightly and losing the fine muscle control necessary to properly stroke a short putt. One method I've found to alleviate this problem is to practice putting while gripping the putter very loosely. So loosely that the putter is hanging form your hands and the only way to stroke a putt is to move your arms and move the putter in a pendulum fashion.

Not only does this practice technique help you relax while putting, it also takes the wrists out of the action and forces you to develop a putting stroke using your arms. As you practice this technique, it will also help you to develop a truer pendulum-like stroke. With your hands holding the putter so loosely, you will find it difficult to do anything more than take the club straight back and swing it straight through, which is exactly what you want. It also forces you to get over the ball when you putt, which is also essential to a good putting stroke.

Once you have practiced this technique for a while, you will find it easier to make a good putting stroke without getting tense and gripping the club too tightly. I've even use the method on short putts while playing if I'm struggling with my stroke. I find it very easy to make 3 and 4 footer using this method.

We'll talk about some other ways to reduce muscle tension while putting in an upcoming article.

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Getting Rid of the Yips - Part II

In our last article, we discussed some exercises for overcoming the Yips while putting. We'll expand on those ideas with a few more tips for controlling your putting stroke. As you have seen on the PGA tour, many professional golfers have resorted to putting cross-handed. This method may work for you also. It has the advantage of naturally squaring up your shoulders as you drop your left hand. It also forces the left hand to dominate the stroke and keeps your right hand from taking over the stroke in a spasm of nervousness that often cause one to Yip short putts.

Another modified grip that can have a similar positive affect but is not quite as drastic as putting cross-handed is the exaggerated overlap. This is just a modification of the normal overlapping grip except you overlap both your pinky and ring finger of your right hand onto your left hand. This grip also reduces your right hand's influence on the stroke and can be helpful in smoothing out your stroke on short putts.

Putting gimmicks are as old as the game but when you're fighting the Yips, no solution is too drastic. As a last resort, you might even consider using a long putter.

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Slow Down Your Putting Stroke

Perhaps more than any other aspect of the game, the putting game has changed significantly over the last few decades. We've seen green speeds increase greatly and the variety of putters is impressive to say the least. While modern players would still love to swing the club like Ben Hogan, there aren't any pros using the wristy putting strokes from the Hogan era. Instead, the modern approach to putting is to swing the putter with your arms with little or no wrist break, keeping your head and body as quiet as possible.

Some players on both the PGA and LPGA tour are using very slow and deliberate putting strokes, slowing their strokes down instead of shortening them to accommodate the faster modern day greens. I've struggled occasionally with the yips over the years so the idea of having such a slow back stroke always seemed like it would be tough to maintain when battling nerves. However, after watching the U. S. Women's Open, which was played at Oakmont earlier last year, I noticed that many of the women had very slow putting strokes and they seem to putt well on Oakmont's fast greens. It got me thinking that it might be worth trying.

After practicing the stroke for some time on the practice green it seemed to work pretty well, especially on fast downhill putts. I decided to take it on the course for a few rounds to see how it would work. It was such a departure from my normal putting stroke that it took some time to get used to it, especially controlling the distance on long putts. However, I was starting more putts on line using this method so I decided to stick with it for a while. After 4 or 5 rounds I started putting better than I have in years and my distance control on fast greens was incredible. In addition, I found that on pressure putts it was much easier to control my nerves with the slow back stroke. In fact, taking my practice stroke with this slow method made me relax more and I found it much easier to replicate the slow smooth practice stroke on my putts.

I've been using this method for about months now and I can't imagine going back. I've made more pressure putts in the last several month than I had all last year with my old putting stroke. So if you struggle on fast greens or struggle with the yips, you may want to try slowing down your putting stroke, specifically your back stroke. I would suggest watching Kenny Perry or Christie Kerr and try to imitate their putting strokes. It takes some getting used to so don't give up on it until you've given it a good long trial.

Putting Alignment

One of the things I've always struggled with is aligning my putter face on the line I'm trying to hit the putt. This may seem like the simplest thing in the world but many golfers struggle with putter alignment. Obviously, if you have the putter pointed in the wrong you don't have much chance of making the putt. I'm sure you've seen someone who is aiming their putter face left or right of the intended line when they address their putts. In fact, if you find yourself hitting putts consistently left or right of the hole there's a likely possibility that your putter alignment could be improved. Even if you don't think you have an alignment problem it's always a good idea to check it on the practice green now and then. Here are a few tips that can help your alignment. Just pick the one or two that work for you.

Having the proper setup is critical for any golf shot but perhaps even more important for the putting game. Don't take your setup for granted. It's always the first thing you should check when you're struggling on the greens.

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Don't Take the Game Too Seriously

I hope you had a chance to watch some of the Ryder Cup matches that have become so popular over the last 20 years. Team USA finally came through in 2008 but they've struggled quite a bit as Europe has had a lot of success in recent decades even when Teams USA has been favored. As the competition has gained in popularity, the pressure has gotten very intense. Although it is always disappointing when the USA loses, it's not the end of the world as you may have been led to believe. It's great that the matches have become so competitive, but I'm beginning to wonder if things haven't gotten out of hand. Both sides seem to take the competition a little to seriously. After all, it's just some guys playing a game, no one's life is at stake. In fact, there may be nothing with fewer real consequences than a golf match.

A valuable lesson can be learned from the Ryder Cup experience. Don't take the game too seriously! Regardless of how important that 4 footer may seem as you stand over it, or how much you would love to win the club championship or some other competition, their importance shrinks to nothing in the face of the joys and tragedies that come from living. Without turning this into a social commentary, let's just say that to be able to go out and play a round of golf is a pleasure that many less fortunate people will never have the opportunity to enjoy.

So the next time you have what may seem like a life or death putt, remember that life will go on no matter what the result. Take a deep breath, relax, and concentrate on making a good stroke. If the putt goes in that's great, and if it doesn't, that's great too. Don't make the game more important than it really is.

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Trust Your Subconscious to Make a Good Swing, Don't Interfere

It's spring time and your golf game is born anew every year at this time. At least you wish. This is my first golf tip of the year so I must apologize for being so far behind. My family and I are in the process of moving, so I've had a few other things to do lately. Enough about me, on with the golf tip.

In a way, your golf game is born anew every spring (at least for those of us in the north who don't play golf all winter). You've forgotten all the swing mechanisms you were using last year to hit the ball and you just go out and swing your clubs without thinking about it too much. Swinging your clubs without thinking too much about it is something golfers should do more often. The golf swing happens too fast for the conscious mind to have much control over it. Our subconscious "remembers" our swing and our conscious attempts to modify it on the golf course are usually doomed to failure.

A good example of this is walking. You do not think about each step you take as you walk down the street, in fact if you did, you would probably be somewhat clumsy. Your mind is usually off somewhere else and your subconscious mind takes care your leg movements. The same rule applies to your golf swing. Have you ever been in the middle of a nice carefree round of golf and all of a sudden realize how well your were playing. Your mind starts running through all sorts of scenarios and often you'll end up screwing up the round because it.

I'll spend the next few weeks talking about the psychological game and some techniques for allowing your subconscious mind to control your swing. You'll be amazed how well you can play if you don't think about it This doesn't mean that you don't consciously practice some techniques for improving your swing. The point is to consciously teach yourself the techniques on the practice tee, then, once you've trained your body, let your subconscious produce the clean, tension-free, smooth swing you need to be successful on the golf course.

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Swing with Your Body not Your Mind

Last week we embarked on a mission to improve your psychological approach to the game. Too often we're trying to think about too many things as we swing the golf club and that type of approach can be self defeating. The practice tee is the place to work on changing your swing and practicing different techniques. Unless you are an absolute beginner, you already know how to swing the club. I'm going to give you a technique for letting your subconscious control your swing. This approach may fly in the face of traditional logic, but give it a try anyway, you'll be amazed how well it works.

The technique I'm going to describe was actually pioneered by W. Timothy Gallwey in a book called "The Inner Game of Golf". This book was actually a followup of his previous tennis book, "The Inner Game of Tennis". It was published by Random House and I strongly recommend you try to find a copy of it. I assume it is still available in book stores, and it's available on-line by clicking on the link above.

There is no way I can do the book justice in just a few short articles, but I'll describe a few of the techniques in the book. The first technique that you might find useful is the back-hit technique. Instead of thinking about your swing or controlling some aspect of it, try concentrating on being aware of the clubhead position and saying the word "back" at the top of your backswing and saying the word "hit" at the moment the clubhead strikes the "ball". Don't worry if you say the words at the right time and you don't have to say them out loud, just concentrate on the clubhead and say them.

Don't think of anything else as you do this, just relax, swing the club and say the words. Practice this technique at the driving range once then take it where it will work best - to the golf course. It will take a little while to convince yourself that this will work, but be sure to give it a chance. You can think about whatever you want between shots, but once you get over the ball and get set to hit, concentrate on nothing but saying back at the top of your swing and hit when you hit the ball. You'll be amazed how well you strike the ball when you keep your conscience mind from meddling in your swing.

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Putt with Your Body not with Your Mind

We'll continue to explore some of the principles of "The Inner Game of Golf" this week. This book was written by W. Timothy Gallwey and deals with the mental part of the game that is so important. I strongly recommend that you obtain of copy of the book. You can order it on line by clicking on the link above

Putting is probably the part of the game that your conscious mind interferes with most. There are a million things to consider. Too many for even the best human mind to think about. We'll spend countless minutes analyzing the putt, asking the advice of our partner or caddie and considering things like the grain and invoking common wisdom like "the ball always breaks toward the water." By the time you are ready to putt, the considerations become so complex that your chance of calculating them all correctly and then making a good stroke are quite remote. Forget it all.

Instead of trying to calculate the effect all these variables will have on your putt, just spend the time before you putt making as many detailed observations as you can without making any judgments or calculations on how they might impact your putt. Observe the texture of the grass and slope of the green without relating it to your putt. Watch the other golfers in your group putt and observe the roll and speed of the ball without making any judgments. Line your putt up without specifically calculating how much it will break. Just observe the slope and imagine the roll of the ball.

When it's your turn to putt, just get over the ball, align yourself so you feel comfortable without getting too specific and stroke the putt. Trust your subconscious to calculate the line and speed of the putt. Develop a technique for removing your conscience mind from the putting stroke. My favorite is to imagine picking the ball out of the cup just as I hit the ball in my putting stroke. You can also use the "back-hit" technique described in the last column.

Relax, become a keen observer and try not to over analyze. You subconscious mind and body are capable of executing the most precise and complex movements. Don't let your conscious mind interfere and screw it up.

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Golf is a Microcosm of Life

The last few golf tips have dealt with the psychological part of the game. There have been whole books written on the subject and it certainly warrants a lot of consideration. This week I'm going to try and put the psychological game in perspective.

As anyone who has played the game knows, golf is a very challenging sport. It requires a blend of natural talent, coordination, athleticism and a great deal of patience. Regardless of you skill level, a round of golf is usually somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. You can go from the high of hitting a 5 iron to within a foot of the cup for a sure birdie to the low of hooking your tee shot out of bounds in just a few minutes. When you think about it, golf takes the range of emotions you feel over a month's time in your day to day life and compresses them into a four hour period.

You are probably asking what the point of all this is but there is a valuable lesson to be learned that supersedes the game itself. The way you handle the emotional highs and lows you experience on the golf course is good training for the real life disappointments you face. Obviously, real life is much more important and much tougher to deal with, but if you learn to be patient and maintain your cool on the golf course, you will be amazed how well that translates into being able to do the same thing in your day to day life.

Remember, the virtues that make you a good person can also make you a good golfer. The satisfaction you get from playing the game comes not just from shooting a good score, but also from successfully handling the emotional roller coaster that is golf. So don't just practice your swing on the golf course, practice your life.

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Play at the Pace of Play

The popularity of golf has been growing for as long as I can remember. Arnold Palmer probably did more than anyone to popularize the game. Thanks to it's growth, we now have a tremendous variety of top shelf golf courses and excellent equipment to choose from. The down side is that sometimes the courses are crowded and play is slow, especially on weekends.

This can be aggravating, especially if, like me, you were brought up to play the game at a good pace. Do what you can to avoid slow play, but try as you might, you're going to get stuck in a slow field at some point in your golfing life. Don't let it get you aggravated and ruin your game. There's nothing worse for your game than having to wait on every shot, so it's important that you slow your play down to match the rest of the field. Here are a few tips for making the best of a slow day on the golf course.

These are just a few ideas. I'm sure you can think of a lot more. The important thing is to relax and have fun, don't let the slow play ruin your day.

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Walk - Don't Take a Cart

One of the great travesties in modern golf is the golf cart. Walking has always been an integral part of the game but golf carts have now become almost automatic. Many courses require that all players use a golf cart, especially during busy times. Their reasoning is that it speeds up play when in reality it is really just a way to increase revenue.

While many courses require the use of golf carts, they also insist that you keep them on the cart paths to preserve the course. Keeping the course in good condition is an admiral goal, but it's amusing that you end up driving your cart on the path to a point across from your ball, try to guess what club you might need, walk 75 yards across the fairway, hit your shot, then walk 75 yards back to the cart. Wouldn't it have been just as easy to walk directly to your ball from the tee and have all your clubs to choose from as you assess your shot?

This may not seem like much of a golf tip, but you might be surprised. Golf is a game of tempo and rhythm. Walking helps you maintain a certain pace and rhythm that usually translates into your swing. It also keeps you loose and gives you time to envision your next shot as you approach the ball. Most golfers I know who grew up walking agree that they play better when they walk.

One last comment and then I'll finish my tirade. Golf carts have almost made the caddy extinct. Always limited to country clubs in most places, many country clubs have now abandoned the caddies to a fleet of golf carts. This is really quite a shame. Caddying used to provide a great way for youngsters to get exposed to the game and learn the rules, etiquette and how to play. This was especially true for youngsters whose families could not afford to belong to a country club. This aside, a good caddy can save you several shots during a round. Why do you think the touring pros rely so much on their caddies?

Even if you walk, golf is not a very vigorous exercise. The next time you play, leave the cart behind. And if you ever have the opportunity to take a caddy, give it a try. You may be presently surprised.

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Accepting the Big Score

This month's article is not so much a golf tip as a commentary. As I'm sure you know by now, Tiger Woods turned in what was probably the greatest golfing performance in history in winning the U.S. Open by 15 shots. In contrast to Tiger's performance, John Daly withdrew after making a 14 on the final hole in the tournament's first round. To put it all in perspective, had Tiger made a 14 on the final hole in the first round, he still would have won the tournament by 6 shots. Perhaps Daly should not have withdrawn.

To relate this to your own game, the next time you make a big number on a hole, don't view it as the end of the world or even the end of a good golfing day. Just go about your business and you may still end up with a good score and beating your opponent by six shots.

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It Takes Two Bad Shots to Make a Bogie

One of the toughest lessons to learn in golf is how to overcome the bad shot. Personally, it took me years to learn how to keep my bad shots from impacting my next shot. It's never easy and even the most experienced and patient golfers occasionally struggle with this mental aspect of the game. However, it helps to realize that one bad shot does not make a bad hole so it's important to stay focused on making the next shot a good one instead of fretting over the bad shot you just hit. For example, let's say you hit the perfect drive and have only a wedge into the green. Drooling over the potential for birdie, you hit the next shot fat and leave the ball short of the green.

While your chances for birdie are no longer so good, your chances for making par, which is always a good score, are still quite good. Don't let your frustration over the bad shot decrease your odds of making par. Refocus on hitting a good chip shot and making a good putt. Unless you make another bad shot, either a bad chip or a bad putt, you'll likely still make par.

I could provide another dozen good examples for you but don't take my word for it. Turn on your TV to any golf tournament and watch for the bad shots. More often than not they still make par. It's rarely the first bad shot that causes the bogie, it's usually the second and third bad shots that cause the bad hole.

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Don't Worry About Your Score

The whole purpose of playing golf is to shoot the lowest score possible so the idea of playing without worrying about your score probably seems a little strange. However, I can assure you that you'll shoot lower scores when you take your focus away from what you're shooting. Most golfers typically start a round of golf hoping to shoot a good score. They even have an idea in their head what that good score would look like. For some players it might be breaking 90, others breaking 80 or even breaking par. Regardless of what your expectation is for a good score, it's the last thing you should be thinking about.

The problem with this focus is that it creates an expectation that can have the unintended result of limiting your improvement. Say you consider a good score for yourself to be in the low 80's. If you're 6 over par after 14 holes, you're likely to shoot in the low 80's and have a decent chance of breaking 80. So you're probably putting pressure on yourself to not screw up the last 4 holes but know that even if you screw up a little you'll still have a decent score for yourself. This creates a self fulfilling prophecy that is likely to have you shooting around 80 or 81. Still a good score but perhaps not as well as you might have done with a different focus.

To give you a personal example I recently joined a new golf club that is more difficult than the courses I had been playing regularly. It has a lot of good players so I became totally focused on shooting some good scores so that I could establish my handicap about where I thought it should be. Although I wasn't too worried about impressing the other golfers, I didn't want to embarrass myself either. As the course was new to me I became focused on which holes were birdie holes and which ones were tougher where a bogey might not be unexpected. While I shot some decent scores I found myself shooting around the same score most of the time and bogeying the tougher holes as often as not. My scores weren't really improving as I thought they should as I became more familiar with the course.

Then it dawned on me one day that I had created an expectation in my mind of what a decent score was for me and was typically shooting around that score, not much better or worse. I was worrying way too much about my score during my rounds. To switch things up I started focusing on committing to every shot and trying to birdie every hole instead of worrying about my score and my game instantly improved. I quickly posted the four best scores I had shot on this course. This doesn't mean I was recklessly going for every pin and gambling on every shot. Instead, I was swinging aggressively and committing to each shot and not letting the fact that I was playing a tough hole lower my expectations.

So forget about your score and just try to hit each shot well. At the end of the day your score will be whatever it is, good or bad. If it's a good score then enjoy it. If it's a bad score just chalk it up to paying your dues to the golf gods and get after it another day. The world's not going to end either way.

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