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Tips and Tricks

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I Can't Putt

How many times have you heard someone say this in the locker room or during drinks after a round? Most golfers sell themselves short and have a negative image as to how they putt. The touring professionals will only make 70 percent of their putts from six feet. They are the best in the world and practice all the time, so you must realize that you are really not that bad as a putter. On TV, we tend to see the players who are leading and having days when they make a lot of the putts that they attempt. If you have sound fundamentals and practice with a plan, you should feel confident that you can putt well. A positive and confident feeling about putting will go a long way to allowing you to make more putts on the green. Try to build yourself up rather that knock yourself down about putting.

Beat the First Tee Jitters

Sometimes hitting your first drive of the day can cause some anxiety. There may be other golfers watching you, and you may feel pressure to get off to a good start. A good way to help beat the first tee jitters is to rehearse what you will do on the tee. People who fear public speaking usually perform better when they rehearse their speech before presenting it. In the same way on the range, you should visualize your shot on the first tee, pick out a target that you will aim toward on the first hole and rehearse the shot until you feel comfortable and confident. On the first tee, do not rush your pre-shot routine. Set up so that you see your target. Swing away and trust that the rehearsal on the range will produce a great drive. This should help you get off to a great start for your round.

Be Careful Playing in the Heat

If you must play on a very hot day, you need to take precautions to help you play well and avoid problems that the heat may cause. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the round, even if you do not feel thirsty. Wet a towel and place it on your neck to cool your body as you walk to your ball. Change gloves often and wipe your grips so that they are dry. If the sun is beating down, use your umbrella to provide shade for yourself. Always wear a hat to protect your head and slow your pace so that you do not overheat. If you notice that you have stopped sweating, you should get off the course and seek medical help.

Hold your horses when playing downwind

When you step on to a tee and have a strong wind blowing from behind you, there is always a great temptation to launch your driver high and far to take advantage of having the wind carry your ball. If the fairway is open wide and there is no trouble, then let it fly. However, look at the area where your normal drives would never reach. If there are fairway bunkers or water, or if the fairway runs out, you might be better off hitting a fairway wood or hybrid club to get the ball into the fairway and away from trouble. This may not be as much fun as launching a long bomb, but your score for the day might reflect on the kind of decisions you made for strategy.

If you don't have a backswing, don't play it

If your ball comes to rest near a tree or bush that your backswing would strike, then you need to make an alternate plan. If you hit something on your backswing, chances are you will miss or whiff the ball when you try to hit. You could make a high score on the hole if you try a shot with a limited or no backswing. You are better off taking an unplayable lie and either drop the ball two club lengths from where it lies or go back as far as you want, keeping the point where that ball was and where the hole is in a straight line. You also may go back to where you originally had hit on this shot. It is better to take a small penalty rather than wasting many shots trying to extricate yourself from a terrible spot.

It's higher than you think

One of the major putting differences between professionals and amateurs is that amateurs usually do not play enough break on their putts. A key principle for you to remember is that you always want your ball moving toward the hole and not away from it. If you miss on the low side of a breaking putt, the ball will roll down the hill away from the hole. Always allow a little more break than you think there is in your putt and think in terms that the ball will either go into the hole or just miss it on the high side. A putt that is on the low side has zero chance of going in, while a putt on the high side puts the odds in your favor. Once you select the amount of break, concentrate on the pace that you will need to keep the ball on its correct path to the hole.

Putt a Marble

One of the keys for great putting is to make a stroke so that the putter head travels low to the ground on both back and forward. If you pick the putter head up on the backswing, you will hit down on the ball so that it will start out bouncing quite a bit before it settles down into a roll. You want your putts to get rolling on the grass as soon as possible after impact to keep the putt on line. A great drill is to use marbles on the putting green and stroke putts that are about three feet long but not to a hole. This type of practice will help you get the feel of drawing the club back low to the ground and then accelerating through so that the putter is low and pointing down the target line as you finish the stroke. If you pick the putter up on the backswing, it will be difficult to roll the marble along the green.

Why Do the Pros Make it Look Easy?

If you watch the touring professionals, it will look like they are swinging easily but the ball travels a great distance. They are in fact swinging easily. This is a good learning point for most golfers. You should swing at the same, smooth tempo with all of your clubs, from wedge to driver. The distances will only change because as the shafts get longer, your swing should get wider and longer as well. The added length of the swing and shaft will naturally produce more club head speed and longer distance. You should not move your body intentionally faster to hit the ball longer. Keep the same tempo and let the length of the club and shaft dictate how fast the club travels. Set aside some practice time and simply go through your clubs and try to keep the same amount of effort in all of your swings.

Aim Away from Trouble?

Many golfers simply walk onto a tee and tee up their ball in the middle of the tee box. If there is trouble (woods, high rough, bunkers, or water) along the right side of the hole, for example, you should make your ball go away from that side. In this case, tee your ball up on the right side of the tee and aim for the left side of the fairway. If you have a natural hook or slice, aim for a spot that will get you safely onto the left side of the hole so you do not flirt with danger. Never try to carry a ball over trouble when it would take a great shot to pull it off. Always have an aiming point for every tee shot and make doubly certain about your aim when trouble lurks.

Do You Want More Distance?

Every golfer would like to add more distance to their drives. Not only is it a fun part of the game, but hitting the ball longer will make your approach shots shorter and easier to get close to the hole. A great way to gain distance is to have this swing thought when you hit your driver: back to the target and chest to the target. On the backswing, make a full turn so that your back faces the target. On your finish, you should be full balanced on your front foot with your chest facing the target. If you use this swing thought as you practice with your driver, you will notice that you will be making a bigger shoulder turn both back and through, which in turn will give you more club head speed and longer drives. Try it to see if it will help you get longer off the tee.

Why Are You So Tense?

Tension in your golf swing will cause you to swing more slowly and make poor contact with the ball. There may be a few causes of added tension during the swing that you should take into consideration. If you grip the club very lightly as you set up, you might be re-gripping and tensing up your hands and arms as you make your backswing. Hold the club a little more firmly if this is your problem. Another reason for adding tension is that you have poor balance and you will tense your muscles to correct the imbalance. Work carefully on setting up with good balance and swing at a slower pace so that you have better control of your movements during the golf swing.

Is a Fried Egg on Your Menu

If you hit a high shot on your approach to a green and it lands in a bunker, chances are you will have a fried egg lie. This lie will have the ball in the middle of a depression of sand with a crater ring around it. Your normal sand shot will not work, as you would have to displace a lot of sand from beneath the ball, and most likely you will leave the ball in the bunker. A good way to handle this shot is to take an open stance, open the club face a bit, and then make an upright backswing and slam the club into the sand about an inch behind the ball. Let the club stick into the sand and do not make a follow-through. The ball should pop out and then roll onto the green.

Don't Shortchange Yourself

The most common fault in hitting a long (thirty to forty yards) bunker shot is using your sand wedge and coming up short of your target. When you have a long bunker shot, do not automatically reach for your sand wedge. A sand wedge works well for shots that are near the green, but it has too much loft to carry longer distances from a bunker. Try using a pitching wedge, or all the way down to your eight iron, to get the proper distance that you need. Set up as you would in a greenside bunker and hit just behind the ball. The less lofted club will allow you to hit the ball farther and get it on the green so you can be putting, instead of pitching or chipping on your next shot.

Learn This Shot and You Will Love It

One of the most common lies that golfers fear is when the ball rests up against the rough on the fringe of a green. A putter or a lofted club will not work if you try a conventional way to play the shot. The rough behind the ball will grab your putter or wedge and make it stop before getting to the ball. A great shot to learn is the belly bump. Take a sand wedge and use your normal putting stance and grip. Line up the lead edge of your wedge to the middle, or belly, of the ball and keep your head still. Make a stroke that skims on top of the grass and strikes the ball at its equator. The ball will roll just like a putt. Practice this and make it yours. You will save strokes with it.

It's Hard Ground, Not a Hard Shot

If your ball comes to rest in a lie that has little or no grass and the ground is hard and packed down, do not make it any harder than it is. If you try to hit your normal shot from this lie, your club might bounce off the ground and you will hit the ball very thin or in the belly. A better way to play this shot is to lift the club up sharply on your backswing and then come down in a sharp angle to strike the ball first and then hit the ground after impact is made. Play the ball a little back of center in order to make sure that you make solid contact. This will get the ball up and out of this lie with a lot of spin.

Ball Position is Very Important on the Tee

Since a driver has a shallow loft and a long shaft, you need to be careful where the ball is in your stance. Ball position is important because a small change one way or the other in your stance will be magnified by the driver. Try to play the ball up in your stance with the driver. The ball should be opposite your left heel or left instep. If you get the ball too far back in your stance, you will not be able to square up the club face in time, and the ball will shoot off to the right. Be careful that you do not allow the ball position to creep back in your stance unknowingly. Place your feet together opposite the ball and then move your back foot back to your normal stance width. This should ensure that you are keeping the ball in the proper position every time.

In Practice, Mark Your Ball and Leave It

A great way to make sure that you keep your head still is to practice with a ball marker on the green. Place a ball marker right behind your ball on the putting green. Get your head over the marker so that you are over your intended line. Stroke your putt and keep your eyes on the marker while the ball tracks toward the hole. Chances are, you will notice your self making solid contact on your putts and your ball rolling smoothly over the green. With this kind of practice, you will be able to keep the same technique on the course, and you will discover that more of your putts drop into the hole than ever before.

Look for the Tilt on the Greens

Most greens are tilted from back to front so that they can receive shots and also drain water. Keep this in mind when you are trying to determine the break of a putt where there is not any pronounced slope. The tilt from back to front is not in every green but it is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind. A good way to get a feel for how the green slopes is to imagine a huge rainstorm on the green and trying to picture which direction that the water would drain toward. This is a visualization tool that will help you read the greens better. You can get this picture as you walk up to the green from a distance.

All of a Sudden You Can't Put It in the Ocean

Many times golfers will experience a round where their putting is simply awful. The putts are well off line and your distances are wrong as well. Stop for a minute to make sure that your putting stroke is indeed in order. Usually a bad day of putting is caused by becoming too "wristy" or letting your wrists break down so that you flip the putter at contact instead of stroking it. Keep your left wrist firm and keep your hands moving through impact. Make some practice strokes off to the side until you feel that your hands move back and through as if they were one piece. This will help you keep the putter square to your line and be able to get better distance control.

Don't Reach for That Wedge Too Quickly

If you are near the green but your ball is sitting up in the rough, a wedge might not be the best club for this shot. When the ball is sitting on top of the grass, it is easy to have your wedge go under the ball so that impact is made high on the club face. The result is a shot that has the ball come up well short of where you had intended. A better way is to use a putting grip with a hybrid club and play the ball from the center of your stance. Place the club directly behind the ball and make your putting stroke. The hybrid will glide on the grass, lift the ball up and over the rough, and then roll a good distance.This is a great shot to learn when you are faced with a worrisome lie near the green.

Have Someone Check Your Putting Posture From Behind

Many times golfers will take their putting stance and have their back or right arm straight so that their arms and shoulders point to the left of the hole. For golfers who putt left-hand low, the opposite can be true, where the front arm hangs straight and the golfer is pointed to the right. Have a friend stand behind you as you set up to putt on the practice green. Have your friend move up and place a club across the line created by your elbows. Step away while your friend holds the club in place. Step back and see where the shaft is pointing. If you are pointed left or right, you need to soften your arms and get them closer to your body so that your are aligned properly to your target.

Be Careful in Buying a Driver Off the Rack

You should always have clubs that fit your size and swing. Drivers these days do not fit all sizes. Many companies make drivers that have shafts that are forty-five or forty-five and a half inches long. This is a very long shaft and a big jump from the standard length driver, which was forty-three inches long. Have your pro fit you to your driver with a shaft that is comfortable for you to swing and is not so long that you cannot control it. Simply cutting down the shaft is not always a good idea with drivers, as this will tend to stiffen the shaft and make it harder to get the ball into the air. Find the proper length by getting a good fit and experimenting with shafts of different lengths until you find your perfect match.

A Dirty Problem

If your ball comes to rest near the green on dirt, or what is called hardpan in golf, you should not try to hit a normal pitch or chip shot. The problem with this lie is that your club will tend to bounce into the ball or stick into the ground behind it. A petter way to play this shot is to put the ball back in your stance and take a short backswng and bump the ball so it goes along the ground and onto the green. Use a five or six iron or even a hybrid club to hit the bump shot. Keep your wrists firm and hold your finish so the club face looks down your intended line. You will find that you will have much better results than trying to hit a wedge from this lie.

Stop the Tops

A topped shot occurs when you strike the ball with the lead edge of your club and send the ball dribbling along the ground. This is a very frustrating shot, and almost always someone will say, "You lifted your head." Lifting your head is not the usual cause of a topped shot. The most common cause of a topped shot is that your club has already bottomed out and is on the way up when it reaches the ball. To help you to hit down and through on the ball and avoid tops, look at the front of the ball. By focusing on the front of the ball, you will find that you naturally make a downward swing that hits the ball and pinches it so that the ball flies into the air.

Let Golf be a Respite For You

One reason golfers have bad rounds is that they let personal issues stay on their mind while playing golf. Everyone has some worries during their life, whether it is finances, health, or relationships. Try to make playing golf a time when you can relax and enjoy yourself. You will have plenty of time to attend to the issues in your personal life, so they should not rob you of playing the game of golf for enjoyment and relaxation. Once you step onto the practice area or the first tee, take a deep breath, relax, and set your mind on golf and interacting with your friends. Enjoy the weather, nature, and being outdoors and you will find that you will play better and also make the day much more enjoyable for yourself.

Drive With Less Spin

If your drives fly high and then land and stop, you are probably hitting the ball with too much spin. All golf shots will cause the ball to spin backwards to get the ball into the air. However, if you are generating too much spin, your power will cause the ball to go high and short and have little or no roll. To hit the ball with less spin, tee the ball up and play it forward so that it is opposite the front in step of your foot. Hover the club a little off of the ground and make sure that you do not try to stop the club near impact. Let your hands and arms fire through at impact and you should see your ball fly lower and longer and then roll out a good ways.

Make Hitting Fairway Woods Easier

For many players, hitting a good fairway wood is a difficult task. The longer shaft along with the shallow loft can cause anxiety and lead to wild or poor shots when you need to advance the ball straight and at a good distance. A great way to make fairway woods easier to hit is to simply pretend that you are hitting your seven iron. Make the same swing that you would use to hit your seven iron shot and you will find that the compact and controlled swing will help you hit fairway woods easily. The longer shaft and shallow loft will help you hit the ball a good distance without trying to make a big, powerful swing.

Drop Your Hands

One of the reasons why many golfers hit behind the ball and leave it in a green side bunker is that they have a poor setup for hitting this shot. You should set up so that your knees are flexed to lower your center of gravity. Lower your hands so that you will make a shallow swing that skims across the sand behind the ball and does not dig down and stick the club into the sand. Lowering your hands prevents you from becoming too steep and making an up-and-down swing. Open the face a little and hit a few inches behind the ball by concentrating on where the club should enter the sand. Using this setup will make it easy to always get the ball up and onto the green.

A Better Way to Play Fairway Bunkers

If you land your drive in a fairway bunker that does not have a high lip and you have a good distance to go, use a hybrid club instead of a fairway wood or long iron. The hybrid club will offer you the control that you need for this shot and will give you lift and distance. The hybrid club is great for fairway bunkers. The sole of the club will glide through the top of the sand without digging in or bouncing off of it. Play the shot as you would hit a long iron and you should be able to hit great shots. You can choke down to help you hit the ball the correct distance.

What is "Ground Under Repair"?

One of the things that you should know about is "ground under repair." This is usually an area on the course that has been disturbed or has something on it that is not supposed to be in play. Ground under repair is usually marked with a white line around the designated area. You are allowed to pick up your ball and drop it outside of the line at one club length no nearer the hole. Sometimes ground under repair is not lined out, but if you land in a pile of grass clippings or dead tree branches that are stacked for removal, you are entitled to take a free drop. This is a good rule to know as it may help you out of a tough lie.

Tips to Avoid Slow Play

The number one rule to avoid slow play is to 'keep up with the group in front of you'. Should you find yourself falling behind, below are a few simple tips to help your group catch up. 
  • Quicken your pace between shots. A slow stroll can add as much as 1/2 an hour or more to the round.
  • Limit practice swings to one or none.
  • Be ready to hit when it is your turn.
  • Watch all balls until they stop rolling to avoid lengthy searches. Use a fixed object as a reference point.
  • Park your buggy or bag on the exit side of the green, nearest to the next tee.
  • Mark your card on the next tee whilst other players are hitting.
  • Pick up immediately when you can no longer score for that hole in the competition.
  • Ask your guests in social golf to pick up if they are delaying the following group.
  • Politely ask the group in front to call you through if it is obvious they are delaying the field.

Is "Drive-for-Show, Putt-for-Dough" really true?

The conventional wisdom of drive-for-show, putt-for-dough, seems to be threatened, according to 4-handicapper Mark Broadie, a professor at Columbia Business School in New York City. 

Pop quiz! Place your books under your desk, and keep your eyes on your own paper.

G = fs - fe - 1 is:

A) Coca-Cola's secret formula
B) An unpleasant reminder of college calculus
C) A golf equation that could change the way you practice and play—and save you several strokes per round

If you circled "C," you're correct—and you may soon be circling more birdies on your card, too.

No More Three-Putt Greens

Most golfers add strokes to their score unnecessarily by taking three putts on a green. Three-putt greens are almost always caused by hitting the first putt too hard or soft. This results in having to make a fairly lengthy second putt. The poor distance control on the first putt is often caused by having a backstroke that is very long. Golfers with a long backstroke will come into the ball with a big swing of the putter and send the ball well past the hole. On the other hand, many times golfers will make a long backstroke and subconsciously slow down or decelerate the forward stroke, resulting in a putt coming up well short. Practice long putts by limiting your backstroke and then lengthening your forward stroke so that you gain a feel for how far you will hit the putt. This type of stroke will help you get the ball close to the hole more often.

Don't Allow it to Happen

Many golfers who slice the ball will aim well to the left and then try to curve the ball back to the target. By allowing for the slice, you are actually causing the slice to happen in the first place. By aiming left, most golfers will open their stance and then swing from outside to in and cut across the ball to create a severe sidespin. To correct this, simply set up so that your knees, hips, and shoulders point parallel to your target line or point a little to the right of where you want the ball to go. This way, you will hit the ball squarely and most of your shots should go straight or have a little draw on them. Work on this in practice and you will do away with the slice.

Does One Hole Have Your Number?

How many times have you heard someone step up to a tee and say, "I hate this hole"? Many golfers have one hole on their regular course that always seems to lead to a high score. If you have one of these holes, you need to rethink how you play it. Maybe you should try a different club from the tee or aim at a different part of the fairway or green. If you do the same thing over and over, you will probably get the same results. A good way to conquer this hole is to ask your pro for a playing lesson and simply ask him or her to show you how to play it correctly. Your pro will be able to pick out what you are doing wrong with your swing type or strategy on the hole, and you will finally be able to play it well.

Don't Give Up

When you are playing a match, never give up, whether you are well behind or ahead. In the course of golf, there have been many times when one player is far ahead on holes or well down in the match, only to have a complete reversal to win or lose the match at the end. The lesson here is that when you are down, stay in the present and play your best to hit each shot without thinking that you have no chance of coming back in the match. If you are well up on your opponent, do not get careless or overconfident, as one lost hole may start the ball rolling for your opponent. Good and bad breaks are part of the game, so accept them and keep going. Play the course and not your opponent, unless your opponent hits a ball out of bounds or into the woods.

Try a New Putting Grip

One of the fundamentals of a good putting stroke is to have your hands opposite each other on the handle and working together as one unit. The most common putting grip is the reverse overlap that has the forefinger of your left or top hand run across the finders on your right or bottom hand. Many touring professionals have started to modify this grip to help promote having their hands be one piece on the grip. The modification is to take the normal reverse overlap grip but then lift the little finger of your right hand off of the grip and place it in the notch created buy the two middle fingers of your left hand. Try this little change and see if it works for you.