Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tips for Beginners and More...

With my game being pretty hot lately, I thought I’d jot down a few key things that I feel have contributed to my continued improvement. These are in no particular order.

Don’t Look Up

The number one thing that has helped me drive my handicap down is the all too often heard, “keep your eye on the ball”. I’ve said it before in this blog and I’ll say it again. Looking up too soon causes most of my poor shots. The important thing to remember about this rule is that you must do it on every shot, from driver to putter. Not only have I shanked drives from looking up, but more commonly, I chunk chips and pull/push putts.

Course Management

The last time I went out, I had a plan to hit as many approach shots as I could from about 90 yards. At the least that meant laying up on par 5s. On short Par 4s, it meant not hitting driver off the tee. How much easier would golf be if every approach were from your favorite wedge distance? If you think ahead, you can maximize the number of shots from that distance. This was the key to my breaking 80 last Saturday.

Options Around the Green

Playing a par 3 course is a great way to learn how to get it up and down. The best way to get it up and down is to have the most reliable shot for the circumstance. Know when you must fly the ball to the hole, when to flop it, and when to run it up. When I started playing I attempted to fly the ball to the hole every time (either with a SW56 or LW60). That is a difficult shot. I read that the bump and run is the easiest and highest percentage shot. I watched a guy bump and run with a PW from all sorts of situations over the course of several rounds and I was amazed at how consistently he got very close to the pin (turns out that guy had a nine-hole chipping course in his back yard) and the variety of shots he produced with that single club. I decided I needed to learn how to do that and I put the SW/LW away for a while. I experimented with everything I could think of while using only the PW for chipping: Open face, closed face, ball toward front of stance, center, back of stance. I experimented with flight-to-roll ratio. I observed the difference in roll if the ball landed on the green as opposed to hitting the fringe. I tried a putting stroke, a chopping swing, breaking the wrists, not breaking the wrists, everything I could think of. The PW became the centerpiece of my game and I was quickly making more up and downs. Then I extended that experience to my other clubs. Today, one of my most reliable shots is sweeping the ball with a 7i and I use it when I can roll the ball to the green. I use the shot when there is not a lot of change in elevation to the pin. If I have a mound to go over, I’ll consider flight-to-roll ratio and hit a club based on that. The key here is to experiment and learn from it. You don’t always have to practice your chipping near a green either. I practice flop shots all the time around the tee box while waiting for a group ahead of me. I flop those golf whiffle balls in the living room and my kids take turns catching them. Practice is practice no matter where you do it.

Practice out of the Rough

I take my kids to our neighborhood park where there are swings and slides adjacent to a soccer/baseball field. I usually throw my SW or GW and a couple balls in the truck on these trips in case the field is not in use. The grass on the field is St. Augustine and it’s tough stuff, certainly worse than typical rough. I enjoy the challenge of trying to heave it out of that stuff on line and to determined distances. I do it upwind and down wind. From that I get pretty good numbers on how far I can hit out of the rough. I also practice out of the rough on the range. I usually stay late and when there are only a couple people hitting, I hit a several shots out of the area in front of the hitting area where the grass is good and thick and tall. I have found that my shots out of the rough are often to the right and well short of my usual distances and it gets worse as I move to taller clubs. I won't even consider hitting a 3i or 4i out of the rough and the lie has to be pretty good before I'll hit a 5i or 6i. That is valuable information on the course.

Find Your Ball

I was once told that the most important thing about a tee shot is finding the ball after the shot. Funny, but true! Be sure you watch your ball especially on your errant shots. Mark the landing spot and pick a landmark that is in line with the where you saw it land. Now you should have a line of reference to walk on and with a bit of luck, you’ll walk up to your ball. I play with a lot of beginners at Green Caye and the game would progress so much faster if people paid attention to where their ball goes. Sure we play at night but still, taking a good mark on where your ball lands will save strokes.

Another Learning Experience

I played again last night and I had a huge learning experience. If you follow my game at all, you may recall my writing about hitting everything to the right. Either I faded the ball or I pushed it, or I failed to fully release. Then I had the experience that if I forced the release I would draw the shot too much. Well, I figured out that my problem was in my alignment.

Last night on the first tee I decided to place an additional ball on the tee box four feet in front of the ball I intended to hit in line with the pin (or where I was aiming). I then took my stance such that my swing path at impact would be along that line. It’s very similar to what I do when putting; pick an aim point a few feet away. When I looked at the pin (or where I was aiming) I was amazed to see what looked like an alignment too far to the left. My instinct was to waggle my alignment more right and I had to fight it, but once I got the shot off it was dead at the pin. So, for the remainder of the round I would place my ball on the tee box in line with a feature (Divit, sand-filled divot, tuft of grass, whatever) that lined up with my aim point. I have never hit so many shots right on line in my life. Too bad I couldn’t buy a putt!! I still shot 33 (+6) and 31 (+4) with three 3-putts and missed several birdie attempts.

I will now make it a habit to use a close aim point to establish the correct alignment on every shot. In the past, I had always picked an aim point in the distance, which apparently didn’t work too well for me.

This has been the all time greatest month for me at Green Caye. So much has come together. I feel so ready to go out and destroy all of my previous records on the various courses I play.

I’ll post the results,

-Greg

8 Comments:

At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Kristen said...

Great tips, Greg. I use a lot of the same methods but to less effect than you. Congrats on breaking 80! That's my next goal. I'm thinking I might have better luck if I could commit to a couple golf courses. There are just too many places to play!

-Kristen

 
At 10:49 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Thanks GC! I feel real good about the 77, especially the 35 on the back nine, but you know how I feel about San Jac. I'll be truly happy when I do it on a tougher course.

-Greg

 
At 12:27 AM, Blogger Rob said...

I couldn't agree more about the "Don't look up" rule. I've only shot a couple of 9's under 50. But the other day I was reading a post on the internet (forget where) and the advice was "pretend the top of your head is against a wall." Well, I started doing that at the range and was not topping any (my big flaw). The next round I played I shot 45. I went out today and shot 44. Wow! I feel like I learned a true "secret" on that one.

Great blog by the way!

 
At 12:42 AM, Blogger srinidhi said...

Have been following your blog with interest. Being an engineer, I like the way you maintain data. Very impressive to see the scores going towards the half way mark of your first in such a short time! I like the passion you have for the game. At my age, I suppose I tend to be more philosophical. Thanks for all the Tips!

 
At 6:49 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Rob,

Yeah, looking up... I still do it, but more often than not I look up on chips and putts. The result is generally the same though - DOH! You reminded me of one tip that I failed to mention - keeping your head still. That tip has been a key to straight drives for me. I should update the post to add that tip.

Srinidhi,

I have slacked off on the data when I'm playing regulation courses. This is due to two reasons. First, my W-10 voice recorder is broken so it's harder to keep notes. Second, I seem to play better if I don't worry about the details. I need to get a new digital voice recorder, but I just got some new clubs and I'll be broke for a while.

-Greg

 
At 2:24 PM, Blogger Guy Barry said...

Great tips thanks

cool

 
At 1:33 AM, Anonymous Walter Percy said...

Greg, I'm glad that you shared the techniques that you acquired in playing golf.

In any kind of sport, extensive practice should be done. Gold fin particular, demands so much time because it's a game of precision. A rule of thumb for some golf enthusiast is to train for short distances first through golf putting training aids. A steady stroke must be acquired first prior to proceeding with longer distances. The aim of the golf putting aid is to help the body acquire the proper posture and angle needed appropriate for putts.

I'll probably try some of the tips that you mentioned here. Thanks!

 
At 5:52 AM, Anonymous Golf Platzreife said...

Golf tips are designed to return the clubface to the ball directly. While each pivot move, and move in either promote or undermine that goal, the truth is that if the golf grip is not right that has not always impressed Shots Golf good. Your only outlet is a link to a golf club, so if it's too tight, loose or not properly aligned in the right places and put pressure on the shaft of the club, you may suffer from a myriad of problems with the flight of golf balls .

 

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