Pro Tips

Golf Academy Pro Tips

Ask the Pro: The Top 3 Questions I get asked

#1 "My shots seem to veer off to the right"

For the right handed golfer, that is a slice. I tell golfers to relax as this is very common; it's not like cracking the Da Vinci code (although it might seem just as hard). What's involved is learning how to co-ordinate your body movement and club head so you can swing the club on more of an inside path. I sometimes use the analogy 'open the door - close the door.' Now this might sound like too general of an answer to this big problem in golf, but without making it sound too complicated (yes, there could easily be a dozen reasons for a ball slicing) don't fear the right side. In other words, don't swing more left to adjust, this usually just adds more slice spin. Ultimately, it takes a leap of faith as well as lots of practice and lessons to make a positive correction and swing through the ball.

#2 "What's the right way to hold the club?"

  • The grip. Another tough one - not an easy answer - but it involves learning the following rules:
  • To grip the golf club so the palms are parallel to each other
  • The top hand securely held with the top of the palm and fingers
  • The bottom hand held more in the fingers (not in the palm)
  • Overlap, interlock or 10 finger grip is not all that important. What is important is that both hands work together in the swing to transmit the power to the wrist/arm swing.

#3 "I played a great front nine (heading for the game of my life) only to fall apart on the back nine."

Several golfers seemed to pass on this similar theme. Now this is common and this is why the game of golf has sports psychologists. The top players in the world learn to play one shot at a time and focus on their process not their final outcome. Easier said than done? What I say...

First of all, take some confidence in your fine play on the front nine. You now know what your potential is, but during your next practice session recreate some of those bad moments; what could you have done differently? Was it a risk-reward issue (too conservative or too bold)? Change in swing pace or tempo? Was there a recurring shot pattern that is going to need lessons and practice? These are all important points to be aware of and reflect on in order to improve.

Chipping Made Easy

You can lower your scores and your handicap by learning a few basic shots around the green. The possibilities of all the different types of chip and pitch shots are endless, but my advice is to keep it very simple, and concentrate on and practice only two basic shots. Only after you have gained confidence should you attempt a bigger repertoire.

  1. The Pitch Shot, using a lofted club such as a pitching wedge, sand wedge or a lob wedge. Plan to hit a pitch shot with a high trajectory so the ball will land softly with little bounce and roll. Forget about achieving backspin, it's not necessary.
    • Grip the club with the face slightly open and your feet close together and open to your target.
    • Your swing should be more upright, with active but firm wrist action. Maintain a steady head with a relaxed body, keeping your centre of gravity low. Learn to gauge the distance you hit the ball by regulating the length of your backswing and follow-through.
    • Practice half-swings and never use more than 75% of your power.
  2. The Chip & Run Shot, using a less lofted club such as a 5, 6, or 7-iron.
    • Your plan is to land the ball approximately 1/3 of the way and let it roll the rest.
    • Once again, stance should be slightly open, feet close together, low centre of gravity, clubface square to the target and slightly more weight on your front foot.

Try to develop a short, stroking action to hit down and through the ball, keeping your head and body steady.

Hit these shots crisp. Avoid over swinging; just use arms and wrists and relax your body.

Chip and run wherever you can. Your chances of getting the ball closer to the hole are greater than pitching with a more lofted club. However, there are lots of situations that dictate a pitch shot. So, learn both; practice both and gain confidence and proficiency so you can be versatile and creative round the greens.

Five Magic Rules of Course Etiquette

Nothing annoys experienced golfers more than when a novice talks during their backswing or fails to maintain the pace of play. Though you may be a beginner, there’s no reason why you can’t comport yourself like a seasoned pro.

  1. Avoid slow play. Always be ready to hit the ball when it’s your turn. Limit yourself to one or two practice swings. Keep up with the group in front of you. And allow faster golfers to play through.
  2. Silence is golden. Never talk when a partner is preparing to swing. Never curse out loud after a bad shot. And please turn off your cell phone!
  3. Help maintain the course. Always fix ball marks on greens, rake bunkers, and replace fairway divots. It’s the responsibility of every golfer to leave the course in the same — or even better — shape than he/she found it.
  4. Dress properly. Avoid short-shorts, T-shirts or muscle tops, blue jeans and halter-tops.
  5. Pick your ball up. When you’ve dribbled one off the tee, or failed to get out of a bunker after two or three attempts, pick up your ball and move on. You’re still too inexperienced to worry about posting a score. Anyway, there’s always the next hole.

Three Putt Avoidance

There isn't anything more frustrating to a golfer than wasting precious strokes by three- putting. Your putter is the one club in your bag that should be saving strokes. The majority of golfers are three-putting due to poor weight control. In other words, they are not rolling the ball to dead weight on their longer putts.

Obviously, this takes years of practice and experience, but it also takes lots of practice in developing some correct fundamentals in a putting stroke. Be committed to a pendulum style of putting stroke, avoiding excess wrist break, sometimes called a "jab".

A good putting stroke is one in which wrists, arms, shoulders and the putter blade work in harmony and smoothness. The body must stay relaxed, calm and still. You know you are putting well when you tap through the ball, delivering an over spin to the ball. This can checked. On the putting green, line up the ball so the lettering is aimed, now watch the roll of the ball following the strike - are you achieving the “end over end” true roll?

The best way to practice is to hit 30-footers over and over, gauging and self-correcting until you get the over spin and the dead weight. Trouble with the weight usually means too much wrist action and that usually leads to excessive head and body movement.

A lot of golfers will try anything to improve their putting. Here is my top ten list of worthwhile experiments:

  • Adjust your aim and alignment
  • Eyes over the ball
  • Posture: comfortable but steady and still
  • Try cross handed. Sometimes reversing your hands can take the wrist-jabbing action out of the stroke.
  • Lighter grip pressure with neutral hands: thumbs straight down, palms facing each other.
  • Adjust the ball position with relationship to your front foot .Try both slightly further ahead, and back. What gives you a better strike? Are you better with an ascending or descending stroke?
  • Relax. Have confidence and stroke smoothly through the ball. Don't get so locked into the line that you can't release the putter.
  • Practice the putting stroke everyday!!!
  • Buy a new putter. Sometimes a new look, especially the new larger mallet style can give that energized feeling in the stroke.
  • Book a putting lesson with your CPGA professional.

The One Piece Takeaway

Every golfer has been told to take the club away from the ball in a one piece motion. Sound simple?

The rotation of the upper body, along with a stable but shifting lower body, has to be coordinated with the swing of the arms, the cocking of the wrists, and the correct clubhead path; and also with a square (to the arc) clubface angle. Now, it’s complicated!

My definition of a one piece takeaway requires:

  • A moving triangle formed by the shoulders and arms, away from the ball until the hands are waist high. This is a simultaneous movement of the shoulders, arms and hands.
  • Gradually allow wrist-cock right from the start. This can vary from golfer to golfer depending on speed, flexibility, and length of swing.
  • At waist high, the right arm (right handed golfer) will have folded so the elbow points down. At this point the shaft of the golf club should be horizontal to the ground and the toe of the club will be pointing up.

Some of the common errors I see in golfers:

  • Jerking the club away from the ball with a fast, lifting motion. This destroys the synchronized move that you need to make a smooth powerful swing.
  • Starting the hips or legs out of sequence before the upper body can begin the correct loading action. Starting the club too much inside or outside your intended swing arc. This usually leads to the dreaded “over the top” move during the downswing.
  • Tensing up. You are better able to maintain the shifting balance, posture and steady head position necessary, if you relax and keep your body calm.

Developing the correct backswing motion in the correct sequence takes a lot of practice and lessons. You need drills to ensure you move your shoulders, cock your wrists and drag the club smoothly and low to the ground. You might have to practice 10 different swing keys before you can condense it to a swing thought of “One piece backswing”.

This one piece takeaway will allow you to have the club swing on the correct path and plane, avoiding a lot of other unnecessary compensating moves later in your swing. You will likely overdo some of these movements before you connect the backswing motion in harmony.

Isolate and groove your takeaway. Check yourself in the mirror. Get it right!

Work with your CPGA professional to develop the one piece takeaway that improves your own swing.

Enjoy the game! Good golfing!

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