Sometimes golf just isn’t fair. Professional baseball has Spring Training. The NFL and NBA have training camps and a handful of preseason scrimmages. But golf? Well, it’s up to each and every professional to get their game on track on their own and show up ready to compete at the highest level. There’s no organized stretching sessions (Can you see Tim Herron or Phil Mickelson showing up?), no group mental conditioning, no preseason practice tournaments. Professionals are left to prepare by themselves.
Golf isn’t a game of who hits it the best, it’s a game of who misses it the least. Even the best players in the world routinely mis-hit shots. In fact, the average Tour player hits only about 12 greens per round! How do they miss one out of every three greens and still manage to routinely shoot under par? Two reasons: steely determination and a red-hot short game.
It's a how-to world these days. Everywhere you look, you'll find someone, somewhere or something dedicated to what I like to call, HTH (How-To Hysteria). How to bake a cake, how to wire a motorcycle, how to build an arboretum, how to fix a car—we as a culture have become so fascinated by the how-to genre that dozens of magazines, Websites and even television channels have been developed to help you help yourself. Luckily, Golf Tips is no exception, as the authors in every instructional story provide you with the scoop on how to become a better player.
As a golf instructor and PGA Tour caddy, I’ve seen my fair share of
golf swings, ranging from the sweet rhythms of the best players in the
world to the herky-jerky moves of the frustrated first-timer. Yet
despite the huge gap in natural ability between the novice and the
professional, I’ve learned it’s not uncommon for the world’s elite
players to struggle with a few of the same mechanics and
course-management issues that a casual 18-handicapper might face during
a round. The swings of touring professionals may be more advanced, but
nobody is ever really immune to the occasional swing flaw or mental
mistake. We’re all human after all.
Beating the slice once and for all is a goal that can be accomplished by almost any golfer, provided the right approach is taken. In my four-step system, there are no quick fixes—just sound instruction that focuses on key slice-causing elements and methods for eliminating them from the golf swing. In step one, you'll learn to analyze your divots and figure out if your slice is the result of a bad path or a faulty clubface angle, or both. Step two will tell you how to determine what type of downswing you have and what powers it. In step three, the question of proper grip and how to match it to your downswing type is addressed, and in step four, you'll learn to match your position at the top with the right transitional move toward the ball and impact.
The first fundamental I teach every new student is how to properly hold the club because good golf swings start with good grips. Your hands are your only connection to the club, thus making them the primary mover of the shaft and controller of the clubface. If you hold the club incorrectly, youre immediately at a disadvantage and more likely to make compensations in your swing.
Match your swing to your body type for maximum performance
Not all athletes or golfers have an extreme body type. Instead, a great
number of players fall into the in-between category, meaning they
have a relatively average build with a solid combination of
flexibility and strength. If you have this type of body, you need to
develop a swing that takes advantage of both attributes, not just one
or the other. This body type is best suited to a Leverage swing.
It goes without saying that the players who compete on the PGA Tour are
the best in the world. Not only do they have impressive natural talent,
but every guy out there spends a tremendous amount of time and effort
working on his technique, strategy and fitness. For those of us not
fortunate enough to be able to spend all day, every day improving our
all-around game, this opportunity seems like a dream come true. For the
players on Tour, however, it's a job that they take seriously, and one
that's both extremely competitive and tough.
Never make the same mistake twice and start shooting lower scores by fixing your swing faults
The game of golf is full of excuses. Whether it's an excuse for a bad shot, a bad pair of slacks or the dreaded excuse for a late or missed tee time, golf is littered with blame. Rarely, however, does a golfer blame himself or herself for a poorly hit shot. It could have been a distraction, a bad lie, a miscalculated yardage or my favorite—an unexpected 40 mph gust of wind. In any case, and despite the plethora of excuses for what seems like everything in golf, if you want to get better at actually playing golf, you must check your ego at the door.
An excerpt from Marshall Smith's latest instruction book focuses on the 50-year teaching veteran's favorite tips.
The most important thing you can do to improve your chipping game is to
know your distances precisely. Heres a drill that can help. Find an
area where you can pace off 30, 60 and 90 yards. Then place a small
builders brick at each distance. Hit pitch shots at the 30-yard brick
until you land one on it. Youll get a great thrill from seeing the
ball bounce way up in the air, and you should start to develop
confidence and an aggressive attitude when you begin to hit such a
small target with regularity. After you hit the brick from 30 yards, go
for 60 then 90 yards.
For more clubhead MPH and more yards, turn to your hips
If theres an absolute truth in golf, its that the faster you can move
the clubhead, the greater the potential for extra distance. Granted,
you still need to make solid contact in the center of the face and with
the club moving on the proper plane, but all other things being equal,
more speed definitely means more yards. The big question is: Where does
speed come from? Your hands can move fairly quickly, and theres no
faster part of your body than your fingers. But where the golf swing is
concerned, a fast clubhead almost always results from fast hips moving
correctly and in the proper direction.
Every round requires at least one money-shot situation to win a few skins or to stay competitive when the chips are down
It doesnt matter how great or poor youre playing, any given round
requires at least one spectacular shot to win a skin, save a
much-needed stroke or, in some cases, avert a disaster. We like to call
these money shots, as opposed to miracle shots, because we believe
that with practice, these types of shots will be your go-to plays when
the game is on the line. Better yet, learning a few money shots will
not only help you lower scores, but your overall game is likely to
improve, thanks to a newfound confidence in knowing you can face
anything that comes your way.
Improve your scoring by refreshing yourself with the must-know components of the iron swing
We admit, blasting a huge drive is a ton of fun. Nothing beats
splitting the fairway with every ounce of swing speed you have,
watching the ball soar for what seems like miles in the air and basking
in the success of the result. But whats a 300-yard drive if you cant
hit the green on your second shot? Worthless!
Old-school golf instruction is full of imagery that was originally
created to help players make what were perceived as the the proper
moves in the swing. In those days, many of the technical aspects of the
golf swing werent completely understood, largely due to the lack of
video technology that exists today. Instead, players mostly relied on
feel, natural talent and repetition to hone their technique and overall
game. Not surprisingly, the average scores of recreational golfers
barely ever improved significantly, other than what was delivered by
technological advances in equipment and golf course conditioning.
Look at the end of your swing to find and fix hidden flaws
Basically, there are only two positions in the golf swing: the address
and the finish. Everything else is a motion and, as such, difficult to
analyze. But the finish is static and allows for serious self-analysis.
If you know what to look for, then how you end your swing can give you
some good ideas of whats going on in your motion.
Don't fear flaws, use them to correct any type of ballflight
No matter how fundamentally superior the swings of the world’s best players are to those belonging to the rest of us, there has never been, nor is it likely will there ever be, a golf swing without at least one flaw.
Most recreational golfers think the pros are playing a completely different game and that they struggle with totally different mistakes. Of course, touring pros are more advanced than weekend golfers in terms of technique and ability level, but believe it or not, there are some problems that almost all golfers struggle with from time to time.
Fueled by the legend?and memory?of Moe Norman, the single-axis swing continues to intrigue with its simplicity
Moe Norman was considered by many to be the best ballstriker of all
time. Even Ben Hogan was once quoted as saying that Moe was the only
guy that I would walk across the street to watch hit balls. But anyone
whos familiar with Moe Norman knows that his golf swing was a bit
unconventional. Compared to todays popular techniques, Normans golf
swing adhered to a single axis, not the two planes normally associated
with the modern dynamic. Taking away and returning the club on a single
plane fueled Normans consistency and correctness at impact by
de-complexing the swing. Is a single-axis motion the best way to
swing a golf club? The debate has raged for decades. At the very least,
it effectively simplifies and helps improve the most important part of
the swing—impact. A comparison of the single-axis technique and the
modern swing shows how.
4 different shots with four different clubs from greenside sand
Bunkers are the only place on the golf course where youre not always
required to hit it perfectly. Its okay—even encouraged—that you
sometimes hit it fat, hold the face open through impact and minimize
your weight shift and rotation. So why, then, are golfers terrified of
what seemingly should be one of golfs easier shots? Astonishingly, the
top player on the PGA Tour through 20 rounds of golf this year—Luke
Donald—has nearly a 90 percent success rate from the sand. Theres no
reason you cant be at least half that good.
The three components for proper hip movement—a critical component of a fundamentally solid downswing—are weight shift, a slight lateral slide and hip whip (the explosive rotation just before impact that generates power). Good players know how to mix these components in the proper proportion to achieve both maximum power and outstanding accuracy.
Each of my students completes a pre-instruction questionnaire,
indicating wants, needs and goals. Ive used this questionnaire for 20
years, and easily the most oft-noted goal is more distance with more
control. Many of these golfers own sound fundamentals, solid iron
swings and good short games, but nonetheless lack the skill to
consistently produce pure and powerful drives. In your own attempts to
improve, does it seem like the harder you try to gain distance, the
worse it gets? Trust me, youre not alone. Im confident that learning
from four typical driving faults and comparing those to the moves of
golfers who hit it forever with a seemingly effortless flow of motion
will help you do the same.
There’s little doubt that proper swing fundamentals and short-game techniques are important parts of a consistent golf game. Good golf, however, isn’t purely about perfect mechanics; it’s also largely about strategy. Fortunately, there are several key strategies anyone can easily utilize to produce lower scores. Better yet, using your smarts is a lot easier than trying to create a fundamentally perfect backswing or impact position. In this regard, the title of this story holds true—you can score better without changing your swing.
Use the alphabet to groove a solid, power-rich, accurate swing
Good days and not-so-good days on the course are part of golf, creating the personal challenge avid players crave. For most golfers, good rounds are those defined by solid ballstriking with ideal direction, distance and trajectory. It’s these special red-letter days—the days when golf seems effortless—that every golfer wants more often.
If you’re planning a golf vacation this winter, be prepared to face a course element common to most tracks in Hawaii, Arizona and Florida: Bermuda grass. If you’re not accustomed to playing on this type of turf, you may be surprised at how it can affect your game, both on the fairway and the putting surface.