BY TIM GRAVES, PGA (Co-owner Graves Golf Academy)
These are things I see most “amateurs” have problems with during their round and things that can be “fixed” during practice.
1. Work On Controlling Trajectory –
This is a big one… One BIG difference
between low handicap/professional golfers and average golfers is the ability to control trajectory. Whether hitting shots into the wind, or down wind, hitting shots to pins in the front of the green or back of green, all good golfers have the ability to control traje
ctory of their golf shots.
Example 1 – You are hitting a drive into the wind (a good wind) – if you can’t keep the driver flight (trajectory) down, it will cost you significant distance AND control. You will be hitting more club than you should into the green and probably from places you don’t want to be.
Example 2 – You are hitting to a pin in the front of the green (maybe behind a bunker) or just in the front of the green where you need
to fly onto green to hit it close. You MUST be able to hit the ball a little higher than normal to hold the green – if you hit normal trajectory (or lower) – it will skip to back or over green…
There are many examples, think of the last round you played (maybe there was some wind in that round) – would it have helped to be able to control your trajectory a little better… Most average golfers would definitely see better scores if they could.
Next time you are practicing on the range – rather than just working at hitting toward a target, etc.. work on different ball flights. Work on high shots, low shots and shots in between. Work on changing ball position in your stance (back to hit lower, forward to hit higher) and making sure your hands are leading “consistently” to change ball flight/height. Work on hitting lower “solid” shots that would work in
to the wind, work on higher shots that would work downwind, etc..
2. Take Enough Club
Think about the last round you played. Think about your approach shots into the greens. In other words, the shots into the greens that you had a chance to get to the hole (tee shots on par 3s, hopefully 2nd shots on par 4s, etc…).
How many times did you hit an approach shot to the green/pin and you got the ball to the hole (at least hole high)? How many times did you hit the ball short… and many times up to a club or two short?
When I play in pro-ams, if I had to estimate, over 75% of the time, the amateurs I am playing with do not get the ball to the hole. And many times, they are significantly short of getting there. They are either not hitting it “solid” or they are “dreaming” of how far they can hit particular clubs. You’d be very surprised how far good players hit their irons…. Most don’t hit it near as far as you are led to believe. In fact, for most professionals, their 150 yard club is an 8 or even 7 iron…
Next time you play – take one more club (or more) when you are hitting your shot into the pin (unless the pin is in the back of the green and over the green is “bad”…). If you hit it long, then you have “permission” to “club down” next time… If you don’t, keep taking one or two more clubs until you are consistently long… Example, you are 150 yards out and normally hit a 7 iron – hit a 6 iron or even 5 iron/hybrid.
You’ll be surprised how taking an extra club or two on each shot will DRAMATICALLY help your scoring – it will “allow” you to swing easier, which will in turn help you with consistency, solidness of hit, etc… Keep taking a “little more club” until you are hitting long consistently.
3. Hybrids ARE NOT Good Clubs For Low/Under Tree, etc.. Shots
Big mistake I see during pro-ams is when an amateur gets under a tree (or needs a very low/punch type shot) and he/she pulls out a hybrid (baffler, etc..) and tries to hit the shot.
Hybrids are designed as long iron replacements and are designed to get the ball up faster and easier than the comparable long iron. As stated – to get the ball up faster…. and if you are trying to keep the ball low (maybe under tree limbs, etc..), hitting a hybrid / baffler goes against the “make up” of the club.
Couple of options (other than using hybrids/bafflers for the low, under tree, punch shot):
1. Hit a 3, 4 or 5 fairway wood (good unless you are hitting out of mid to high grass).
2. Carry a long iron if you think you might have a few of these shots during a round… Example – you are playing a course with many trees and is tight off the tee (tree lined). Maybe carry a 3 hybrid, 4 iron and 5 hybrid, etc.. If you need a 4 hybrid during the round (and carrying a 4 iron instead), choke down on the 3 hybrid a little and hit it (or choke down on a 5 fairway wood). Then you have a 4 iron to punch out of the trees..
3. If there isn’t much grass under your trees, or much rough to go through, you can punch or even “top” a driver. I have seen many good players use this shot – they need to hit under a tree(s) and there is very little grass, they “top” a driver and it rolls and rolls and rolls… great shot that rolls a long way…
4. If all else fails, take the longest iron you have in the bag (maybe a 5 iron or 6 iron), choke down on it, put back in stance and hit a hard punch/long chip type shot. Putting in back of stance and not releasing the club will help keep low.
4. Get Back to the Fairway / Check Your Line To The Pin
This is a big mistake I see made often by amateurs… They hit the ball into the rough (mid to deep rough) and take the “wrong” route toward the pin.
Next time you hit the ball into the rough (off the tee, etc.), look a little more at the line you are about to take toward the pin. Now, assume the shot will come out 50% of the distance you think… or maybe 75% of the distance you want. If it does, where will it go. In the rough again…. It is MUCH better to have the ball a few yards (maybe 50 to 100) short of the green in the fairway rather than in the rough with a difficult shot again.
It is helpful to use the middle of the green or even the “wide side” of the green as your target next time you are in the rough. Professionals/good players call it “taking their punishment” for hitting it in the rough.
First – it is very hard to stop a ball when hitting from the rough – the grass between the ball and club face will minimize spin dramatically.
Second – it is very hard to control distance from the rough for the same reason – you will probably not hit the ball first… grass between club face and ball.
Third – many times you will need enough loft on the club to get the ball out of the grass that probably won’t be enough to get to the pin (green).
So – next time you hit your shot into the rough, consider “taking your punishment” and hitting toward the middle/wide part of the green. Hitting your next shot from the “short grass” /fairway short of the green or having to 2 putt from a distance (wide side of green) is MUCH better than having to hit a shot from the rough again…
5. Chip With The Correct Club
If you know me, you’d know I’d have to throw at LEAST one short game tip in here…
First – use the short game RULE OF THUMB:
Putt When You Can
Chip When You Can’t Putt
Pitch When You Have Too…
Always use that rule above… I don’t care if you are 30 feet off the green, if the grass is short enough to putt it (and you are comfortable) – putt it. An average putt is typically better than a good chip, etc..
Now when you chip – use the correct club.
That means, you want minimal fly (enough fly to get you just on the green) and then roll the rest of the way to the hole. The more you fly the ball, the more room for error in the shot.
I see way TOO MANY amateurs using the wrong club for the chip shot. For example, they have a chip that is 50 feet from the hole, 10 feet of rough of rough to fly and 40 feet of green. It would call for an eight iron, they take a wedge (sand or lob) and chip the ball. It hits the green and stops too fast… (too much spin, wrong club, etc..). It is MUCH EASIER to take a club that will fly the ball less and roll the ball more…. and MUCH more controllable.
Hopefully these 5 tips will help you on the course and you can start practicing these to help lower your scores/improve your game.