Like any aspect of the game, improving your bunker play takes practice. But practicing the wrong technique will do little but further ingrain whatever mistakes you’re already making. As a result, instead of getting better, you’ll probably just get worse. The good news is, the fundamentals of solid sand play are actually pretty simple, and can be learned quickly provided you take the time to make certain your setup and execution are correct.
According to golf stat man L.J. Riccio, Ph.D., the most important factor for low scores is greens in regulation. Statistically, every extra green you hit in regulation is equal to two strokes off your average score. The problem is that, over the long haul, you’re not going to be in position to hit a green in regulation unless you’ve driven it long enough for a short-iron approach. That’s why this Going Low is dedicated to showing you how to “stand back and let the big dog eat”— in other words, to crush it off the tee.
Throughout my 15 years of teaching, I’ve learned no two golfers swing the club alike. I’ve also learned that, despite the individual thumbprint every player puts on his or her swing, good swings share several common traits at key points of the motion. Unfortunately, these traits differ from the commonalities found in the swings of lesser-skilled golfers. In fact, high-handicapped golfers tend to do the exact opposite of what a fundamentally solid swing requires. Of course, you don’t need to swing exactly like a Tour player to improve your ballstriking. However, building a few of the common traits found in higher-level swings into your own will pay huge dividends, especially those that pertain to pitching and chipping.
A good golf teacher can spot a great swing a mile away. Such recognition is based on years of experience.
As an instructor with over 50 years of teaching experience, I’ve seen my fair share of golf swings—both good and bad. Most of the “bad” swings I see are marred by basically the same series of mistakes. Similarly, good motions are defined by several, rock-solid commonalities that, if you know what to look for, stand out like a sore thumb on a tiny hand.
Throughout my 15 years of teaching, I’ve learned no two swings are alike. I’ve also learned that, despite the individual thumbprint every player puts on his or her swing, good swings share several common traits at key points. Unfortunately, these traits differ from the commonalities found in the swings of lesser-skilled golfers. In fact, high-handicapped golfers tend to do the exact opposite of what a fundamentally solid swing requires.
Say hello to Iron Byron. It has the only perfect swing on the planet. That?s why everyone should be copying it
Want a 300-yard drive? No problem for Iron Byron. It can hit it right down the middle all day long. How about a 60-yard wedge shot? Just set it up to the ball, and that’s exactly what you’ll get, time after time. It has the only perfect swing on the planet. That’s why almost every major golf equipment manufacturer has used it to test the performance of their products and why everyone should be learning how to copy this machine.
Fine-tune four key swing elements to eliminate slices and hooks
Every golfer has suffered through it—getting worse while attempting to get better, ultimately tinkering unnecessarily and sending an “A” game directly to “F.” While it’s important to discover ways to fine-tune your swing, it’s critical that you do so with an eye toward keeping the key elements of your motion intact. Uninformed tinkering invariably unbalances your swing’s “matchups,” and it’s a big reason why most recreational players can never truly rid their games of slices and hooks.
A tried-and-true method for becoming a lights-out putter
For most golfers, finding time to practice putting is difficult. In fact, it’s no easy task to find time to improve in any area of the game. Therefore, it’s essential that players not only create practice opportunities whenever they can, but also budget practice time to maximize effectiveness and create better habits.
Reigning PGA champ Rich Beem is a long-hitting, aggressive player with a swing more reminiscent of the players of the ’70s and ’80s, than the current, video-taught golfers of the modern era. The first thing you’ll notice about Beem is his extremely long, upright backswing, which is a bit like Tom Watson’s in his heyday. You’ll also notice that he drives his legs excessively toward the target like Jack Nicklaus. While the overall look of the swing is powerful yet a bit sloppy, Beem knows how to make it work. And his go-for-broke style not only makes him tough to beat when he’s playing well, but also makes him a lot of fun to watch.
For many golfers, topping the ball is a serious problem. Not only are worm burners the ugliest shots to watch in golf, but they invariably put your ball into horrendous situations from which to escape.
Though diagnosed a hundred different ways, the yips begin with loss of conscious, directional control of the ball off the putterface. Next comes the resultant loss of confidence. And suddenly, the possibility of actually hitting a controllable putt into the hole becomes nil. Yikes!
From tee to green, all the plays every golfer needs
The one constant in the game of golf is that each round is different. Weather conditions, course conditions, course layout and even a golfer’s physical and mental state on a given day create a unique set of challenges. That means that to play well you have to learn to adapt. Golfers who maximize their scoring potential know how to do things like shape the ball around the corner of a dogleg, handle uneven lies on a hilly course, and hit the ball back in play from under low-hanging branches.
Believe it or not, the long-held belief that the clubface must be square through the hitting zone to hit straight shots is a myth. Over the past 10 years, I’ve measured the activity of the clubface during Tour players’ swings through the impact zone, and what I’ve learned is that not a single player holds the clubface square during the hitting area. Not one! In fact, these top-level players rotate the face counterclockwise around the shaft (for right-handed players) at about 30 degrees per foot of linear motion forward.
Forget the evils you've learned and get your game on track
There are a number of reasons why the majority of recreational golfers never seem to get better. Lack of serious practice and playing time are major contributors, as are a lack of proper physical conditioning and improperly fitted clubs. But perhaps the most significant cause of most golfers’ inability to improve is poor instruction.
Fix common errors in three key areas and watch your scores plummet
Mistakes—we’re all going to make them, especially on the golf course. Luckily, this isn’t a game that demands perfection. Even on Tour, low scores can be had without being perfect on every swing. The key is to limit the mistakes that can cause the most damage and jump on scoring opportunities whenever they arise.
Summer is rapidly closing in, meaning you probably have a golf vacation or two lined up. While the unfamiliarity of a new course may be your primary concern, you should consider the ill effects of another resort golf experience: the mandatory use of carts.
Take a seat! Use a chair, a soccer ball and a trusting friend to create a smooth transition.
A common swing error from which many golfers suffer is throwing the club from the top of the swing. This fault can produce a variety of bad shots and typically an impact position in which the clubhead is too far out in front of the hands. Throwing the club from the top is a start-of-the-downswing error, but most golfers, sensing it’s their hands lagging behind the clubhead that’s producing weak slaps at the ball, will choose to focus on correcting their impact position.
Four stellar shots to save par from tough greenside situations
The ability to salvage par from a difficult situation around the green often is the difference between contending for a tournament title and missing the cut. Common scenarios require a high-lofted shot over an obstacle, such as a bunker, heavy rough or a greenside mound. There are four approaches for successfully executing a lofted wedge shot. I refer to them as the Butterfly Lob, the Explosion Pitch, the Bird’s Nest Lob and the Standard Pitch.
Maximize your distance by learning the methods of some of the Tour?s longest hitters
"How do those guys hit it so far?” has got to be the most common question asked by recreational golfers in regard to the pros. Strength training, stretching, finely tuned equipment and lots of practice are certainly part of the reason, not to mention outrageous amounts of talent. But while it’s relatively easy to understand why tall, strongly built guys like Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh can crush their tee shots, it’s not clear to most golf fans why a lot of the average-sized guys on Tour can do it, too.
To say that Ernie Els is one of the greatest golfers of our generation is about as gutsy as laying up from 150 yards. Already a three-time major winner (’94 and ’97 U.S. Opens, ’02 British Open), Els has notched 42 professional victories worldwide (12 on the PGA Tour) in just over a decade. More impressive, Els has 11 second-place finishes to his credit, including four runner-up calls in the majors. Often dubbed “The Big Easy,” Els is certainly big (6’3”, 220 pounds) and his swing is ridiculously effortless. It’s a study of contrasts, as he generates power not by his obvious size, but by employing the proper sequence of downswing moves. Here’s how he does it.
It sounds crazy, but one-armed putting can improve even the worst putting strokes. Putting with your rear arm (the right arm for a right-handed golfer) helps instill a feeling of acceleration through the putt, which is absolutely critical for creating a smooth, end-over-end roll. Rear-arm putting accomplishes this largely due to the weight of the putter—with two hands, it’s easy to manipulate the club and make jabbing or decelerating strokes. But with one hand on the club, you don’t have the coordination or strength to manipulate the putter. You’ll need to rock your shoulders and control the stroke with your body, not your arm, two hallmarks of a fundamentally solid stroke.
Most golfers have felt the agony of wasting a great drive by shanking a wedge shot into the trees or the water. That one shank probably has even made a few of you so paranoid that you shanked the next four shots around the green.
I’d like to let readers in on a little secret that professional long drivers share among themselves: Maximum distance results from somewhat less than maximum effort. Trust me, I’ve been competing in the long drive arena for 20 years, and during that time, I’ve watched competitive long drivers post their best distances when they throttle back from an all-out assault on the ball. So will you.
Get behind the ball for better, more powerful swings
Most golfers know that a full, 90-degree shoulder turn is a crucial element of a solid golf swing. Without it, a proper weight shift and a correct swing plane are almost impossible to achieve. A good shoulder turn not only ensures that your shoulders and chest are behind the ball at the top of the backswing, but helps maintain consistent balance throughout your motion. Before you can master a proper shoulder turn, however, it’s important to understand what it entails and exactly what it is.