One of the things that golf teachers get asked often is what one thing a golfer can do to lower scores. This is actually one of my favorite questions because I'm not a believer in instant gratification or quick fixes, but developing a game that can withstand the different pressures from the golf course. With that said, here are seven ways you golf addicts out there can lower scores and build a strong foundation to your game.
#1. Get That Golf Swing On Video - Yes! Why? Most people seem to be visual learners, they see something on TV or on the computer and grow an awareness of what's going on with their golf swing. For instance, there's a golfer I've worked with who had one of the steepest swings a golfer could have. He took his backswing very flat and rolled his right shoulder towards the ball which pushed the angle of his golf club up. Unfortunately, the end result was a huge slice with his driver. Once we showed him the golf video clip software...BOOM! He tells me he didn't even know he actually swung a golf club like he did. Of course, unless it's on film, we can't watch what we're doing.
#2. Develop A "Bread & Butter" Tee Shot - Everyone has a favorite club whether it's their driver, putter, 7-iron or whatever it may be. When you step up on that tee box, find a club you just know it going to be a winner most of the time. This definitely helps when you are struggling with the big stick. Give you an example, I love my driver, but I can make my 3-wood do just about whatever I want. Fade, draw, high, or low it just always feels right in my hands. The only rule I would have with this is try to find something you can hit at least 200 yards. Reason for this is that you want to try and put a short club in your hands going into the green where the accuracy is at a premium. A great club that my students love to hit is their hybrids which are easy to hit and can get you some nice distance off the tee.
#3. Get It Down Around The Greens - For beginners, getting up and down refers to a situation where your shot into the green misses and you need your chipping and putting to save par. This tip is in the same vein as #2. Develop a shot that feels great for you whether it's a bump and run shot, flop shot, one-hop-and-stop shot or anything else that's super reliable. For instance, my favorite shot is to chip with a pitching wedge with a slightly open face. You can still get the roll you need with a little extra spin for controlling the distance. Much like your tee shot, find something that totally suits your game around the greens. If you tend to hit the ball too far past the cup, find a club that's easy to spin and control the distance rather than going with conventional wisdom.
#4. More Mileage From The Driver- Here's probably the most sexy and popular topic with golfers. Tour Pros, scratch golfers, mid handicaps and beginners all want to destroy the golf ball with the big dog. You have every good reason to want more distance off the tee. More distance off the tee equals less distance into the green which means smaller clubs to hit. The shorter the club, the more backspin the ball gets and the less chance you have of hitting an errant shot. There's two ways of getting more distance from the driver: get a longer club in terms of size or swing the club faster. There's a way you can do the second if you pick your shots carefully. Let's say you have a huge fairway with no water or out of bounds, great then get up there with the driver, point both sets of toes out for a bigger turn and swing that club as hard as you can without falling over. Seriously I mean it. If you miss who cares?
#5. Be The Putting Ninja - We want you to be a ninja star throwing, deadly golfer on the greens and this tip will help you do just that. Dave Pelz wrote an article for Golf Magazine that talked about the differences in putting between Tour Pros and high handicappers. From 10-15 feet Tour Pros make roughly 30% of their putts, while 30 handicappers make about 25%. Doesn't sound like much right? Let's say you have about nine putts from 10 feet or in and you make two of them, well you saved two shots. What if you could bump that percentage up to even the tour pros where you make three or four, well you just saved more strokes. More importantly, you feel like there's a reward for hitting a great shot into the green. A great way to learn how to practice putting is to use aids like The Putting Fork which forces a golfer to keep the blade square through impact. I like to set four balls around the hole on each side and practice rolling balls from all types of situations.
#6. Play For All Conditions - Wind, rain, weather it's golf's version of a bully on the course. It shoves your ball whatever direction it wants simply because it can. How do you deal with this bully? Learn to play different trajectories by working with different swing lengths and follow through techniques. For instance, at my home course it's not unusual for the wind to reach 30 mph and to swirl around, this is what my friends in the England would call normal golf. One shot I love to hit from about 125 yards is a faded punch 7-iron or what we call "punch me sexy." What happens is I place the ball back in my stance, use a club I can hit about 160 and take a half backswing. My stance is open and before I let my hands come through the shot, I shift my weight forward and cut across the ball. My flight stays low but the side spin on the ball allows it to stop a bit faster. Whatever your shot is, learn how to flight it a bit lower than normal.
#7 Plan Your Game - Every week we send out a picture from a course titled "What's Your Shot?" It's a picture of a green from a tee box and ask people on Facebook and Twitter how they would approach the hole. Seriously, it's a lot of fun asking people what type of shots they would play in certain scenarios. The answers may vary but the important aspect of this question is get you thinking about playing shots rather than hitting the ball. When you look at a score card or stand on the tee box, figure out type of shot is going to work best and just hit it. Only rule to think about here, don't aim at trouble, if you have to aim at a bunker just make sure you can carry it or land short of it. Now we just have one more piece of advice!
#8 Penny For Your Thoughts - Seriously! We absolutely enjoy hearing what players have to say about the topics that influence their games. You can leave your comments below or check us out at Columbia Golf on Twitter and Columbia Golf Schools on Facebook.