50 Ways To Lower Your Score

Use our top tips, equipment advice, Tour examples and a few new training aids to play your best golf

50 Tips From driving and iron play to putting, tough lies and strategy, it's all covered in the Big 50, including easy tips to groove a foolproof swing and gear advice from the brightest minds in golf.

Pro Files If you really want to play like a Tour pro, you need to study the guys who make their living on the toughest courses in the world, and that's just what the Pro Files are all about. Pay close attention to the techniques highlighted within, with an eye toward absorbing and mastering them. Before long, they're sure to pay dividends.

Try This! At times it seems there are an endless number of swing flaws, and an equally endless number of training aids to go with them. To improve, however, it's critical to determine exactly which faults you need to fix, and which training aid is best suited for the job. Check these out, because they're some of the best-designed aids you're likely to find.

Gear Effects Any accomplished player will readily confess that the right equipment can have an enormous effect on both shotmaking and scoring. With this in mind, members of Golf Tips' esteemed Equipment Panel provide their insights on a number of topics, including how to choose an anti-slice driver, how to assemble a wedge set, and more.

Ten Tips For Solid Drives 1. Create A Launching Pad Establishing an address position that maximizes power is key for long drives. This type of setup (left) features flared feet, flexed knees, a drivinglaunchpad.jpgright shoulder that's lower than the left and pushed slightly back, and a head placed well behind the ball. The flared feet allow the body to rotate more freely for increased speed, while the flexed knees lower your center of gravity and make you more athletic and dynamic, which is a must for explosive movement. Keeping the right shoulder low and the head back helps create a more inside attack. This approach not only promotes a right-to-left shot shape and an on-plane swing path, but keeps shots like the slice at bay.

Don Wood2. Gear Effects: The BIGGER The Better Don Wood, President, For Golfers only!

When driver heads first passed the 300cc threshold, it seemed that was as big as a driver could get, but now, club designers and manufacturers are limited only by the USGA ceiling of 460cc. This size seams outrageous only until you hit a few long, straight drives with one of these titanium behemoths. But what are the real benefits of such tremendous size, and is it the size of the head or the size of the clubface that really benefits the golfer? The answer is both. Driver head size and face size go hand in hand, as do their respective benefits. The large clubhead volume permits a low and deep CG placement, which helps provide the optimum combination of low spin and high launch characteristics mandatory for the production of distance. The large clubface provides an effective hitting area that's more forgiving and less demanding of precision. Also, by necessity, modern, large clubfaces have to be thinner-walled, which makes them inherently more flexible. Face flexibility at the point of contact, commonly known as spring-like or trampoline effect or COR (coefficient of restitution), plays a significant role in a driver's ability to provide maximum distance. The bottom line is if you want to hit the ball longer and straighter, consider getting yourself one of the new, large-headed drivers with a large, thin clubface.

3. Swivel Your Head During the backswing, allowing your head to swivel to the right with the rotation of the shoulders will facilitate a much greater shoulder turn and a much greater potential for power. This move also will place less strain on your neck and back, as your head won't be locked in place. Jack Nicklaus was known to start with his head in a pre-cocked position for just this reason. Swiveling your head on the backswing effectively adds power by allowing you to make a larger swing (check the sequence below).

Swing Tiger Driving4. Pro Files: Copy Tiger's extension past impact for more distance Few people in the world drive the ball with more authority than Tiger Woods. But while most golf fans probably think he generates his impressive power through physical strength and sheer athleticism, one of his biggest keys is the way in which he freely releases the club through impact. Notice how Tiger's arms are fully extended past his body, with the clubhead pointing straight down the target line. This full arm extension, which features no muscle interference or tension of any kind, is an absolute must for the production of clubhead speed and power, because it allows the clubhead to actually accelerate through the ball. This type of swing is accomplished by leveraging and releasing the body, rather than by sheer muscle strength.

5. Extend For Power Through impact, the arms should be thrown out, away from the body and not connected to the chest. This move not only generates power, but also helps create the proper release of the club. Contrary to popular belief, the arms shouldn't be in front of the body at impact; they should be on the right side of the body. Try to think of your arms reaching the ball when your belt buckle is facing the target. If it feels like your arms are sucking into your torso, try to exaggerate the feeling of rotation–your arms should start to shoot out by themselves.

6. Try This! Swing Magic Driver The new Kallassy Swing Magic Driver provides the same level of full-swing training as the original Swing Magic, but in a driver-length, wood-headed design. The Swing Magic Driver features a special split-handle sliding grip, a transition clip (which allows each individual to customize his or her desired set position at the top of the swing), and a flared right-hand grip, which helps reduce tension and promote a more relaxed hand action. The Swing Magic Driver is designed to teach a mechanically sound, rhythmic swing that allows a player to feel the club swing through impact. Other benefits of the Swing Magic Driver include increased shaft loading, improved tempo and acceleration, and the development of a slightly inside-out swing path for reduced slicing. Also available in left-handed and junior models. For more information, visit www.swingmagic.com.

Jamie Pipes7. Gear Effects: Light Is Right Jamie Pipes, PGA, Product Development, UST Golf Shafts

Golfers who want to increase swing speed should consider improving their technique and their level of flexibility and fitness. However, there are simple equipment changes that can be made to help add speed and power. The most obvious step is to determine if your driver is set up for optimum distance. In many cases, golfers are using drivers that don't have enough loft for their particular swing speed, which effectively limits carry and overall distance. The basic formula for maximum distance is high launch and low spin, and a driver with too little loft will accomplish neither of these goals. Equally if not more important is shaft flex and weight. Using a shaft that's too stiff or too heavy can significantly limit swing speed and driving distance. If you're not hitting the ball as far as you'd like, try switching to the lightest and most flexible shaft you can control. This will allow the shaft to do as much work as possible during the swing and will help increase clubhead speed.

Vincent Benoit8. Gear Effects: Eliminate The Slice Benoit Vincent, Chief Technical Officer, TaylorMade Golf

Helping golfers who struggle with a slice was our primary goal in designing the new TaylorMade r5 D driver. We approached this challenge by packaging the elements we know reduce slicing into a dedicated product•–a driver meant for slicers, not the full range of golfers. The elements that we found critical for the reduction of slicing in average golfers were a two-degree closed clubface (we did this rather than offsetting the head, which distracts some golfers), a CG that's located significantly toward the heel of the club (which helps the toe of the club release past the heel through impact), as well as a tip-flexible shaft that further aids in the release of the clubhead. These design elements are critical to overcoming a slice off the tee, and any golfer who has a chronic problem with slicing should try our r5 D, or another club that features at least one or more of these known, anti-slice design elements. Good luck!

9. Follow The Ball A common mistake recreational golfers make is keeping their head down for too long in the downswing, which hinders the amount of turn, and power, they can produce. Instead, it's best to let your head rotate with the downswing of your shoulders, which should let you follow the ball as it comes off the clubface and heads toward the target. Loosening your head movement through impact will speed up the rotation of your body toward the target, making it much easier to finish your swing.

Swing Around Right10. Swing Around Not Under Moving the shoulders and club more around (big photo)_Ê and less up and down (small photo) into the finish creates a swing that's athletic and uninhibited. It also makes it easier to produce a right-to-left Swing Around Wrongballflight, which is obviously the best way to get rid of a slice. Another reason this move is helpful is it gets the body out of the way of itself, meaning it won't interfere with its own movement. When the weight travels around the body, it allows for rotational movement and improved balance.

Ten Tips For Iron Shots 11. Get On Top At Impact Maintaining a stacked position (chest on top of knees)_Ê through impact allows you to strike the ball with a descending blow, reducing the chance of thin or fat shots and producing divots that start at the ball and continue beyond it. Solid iron shots are all about compressing the ball against the ground, which requires ball-first-grass-second contact. If your chest is pointed behind the ball, the club will bottom out early, creating heavy scoops and thin shots. But if you stack your chest over your lower body, you won't have to try to hit down on the ball–your arms will simply extend into the correct position.

12. Gear Effects: Tell A Lie John Tudor, CEO, Savile Row Golf

Every golf club is built with several key specifications, one of the most important being lie angle–the angle formed by the golf shaft and the sole of the golf club at address. The lie of the golf club determines how the face rotates through impact, a phenomenon that can negatively affect your shots if the lie angle is incorrect. For example, if the lie angle is too flat, the toe of the golf club will be lower than the heel at impact and the ball will fly right of target. If the lie angle is too upright, the heel of the club will be lower than the toe at the point of contact and the ball will fly left of target. The lie angle effect is most noticeable in mid- and low-irons.

Lie angle doesn't function autonomously. The overall length of the golf club controls the lie of a particular club set. If the clubs are a 1__ã2 inch too long, the lie will become one degree upright. Conversely, if the clubs are a 1__ã2 inch too short, the lie will be one degree flat. Each 1__ã2 inch change in length, either way, will effect lie angle by one degree.

Clubhead design also can influence the dynamic lie of the golf club. A club with the majority of its mass positioned in the center of the face (as seen in a traditional forged blade) forces the toe downward 1__ã8 inch during the strike phase of the golf swing. A golf club with the majority of its mass around the toe (as seen in a cast, cavity-back blade) could force the toe downward as much as a 1__ã2 inch.

Therefore, at address, the toe of the forged club should be 1__ã8 inch off the surface and the toe-weighted club should between 1__ã8 to 1__ã2 inch off the surface. Most golfers fail to acknowledge these basic spec requirements. If you're serious about your game, then have your lie angles checked by a clubfitting professional. Those unexplainable, wayward shots, either left or right, may not be your fault after all.

13. Stay Put irons_buttonline_good-copy.jpg Keeping your backside on the line it began against at address (right) ensures that you won't get closer to the ball through the swing. Keeping away from the ball in this manner produces solid contact on the clubface and keeps the angle of the clubshaft from becoming too steep at impact. Most people move closer to the ball, which prevents the arms from extending through impact, sapping power and accuracy.

14. Try This! Synca-Swing Proper tempo and speed is critical to any successful golf shot. The problem is that both parameters are difficult to discern. Sure, any golfer can sense fast from slow, but those small yet critical differences from one swing to the next are beyond typical human delineation. The Synca-Swing ($150) training device is no human and is one of the more fascinating self-learning tools we've seen. Simply attach the Synca-Swing unit to any shaft and begin making swings. As you do, the Synca-Swing records the timing and speed of each. Eventually, best swing timing and speed values are developed, to which you can compare future swings for every club in the bag. Better yet, data from the Synca-Swing can be downloaded to your PC or Mac and analyzed with user-friendly charts and graphs. The graphs allow you to compare hundreds of practice swings to your best, visually indicating speed rises and drops during different segments of the swing. It's great for practice and for grooving your best swing before teeing off. Visit www.syncaswing.com for more information.

Sergio15. Pro Files: Get Your Left Arm And Shaft In Line like Sergio For Straighter Shots Touring professionals like Sergio not only hit the ball a long way, but they're also amazingly accurate, even with the long irons. Of course, talent plays a significant role in creating this enviable combination of distance and direction, but there's one thing every top-quality player does in his or her swing that makes straight hitting possible. Notice how Sergio has his left arm lined up almost perfectly with the shaft of the club at the top of his swing. This position allows for an aggressive move through the ball without the need for any manipulation during the downswing, making for both great accuracy and speed. If you're serious about hitting longer and straighter shots, pay close attention to this position and spend some time integrating it into your swing. Once you do, you'll be able to swing as hard as you want and still have confidence.

Jeff Jackson16. Gear Effects: If You Go Light, Go Heavy In The Change Jeff Jackson, Director of Marketing, Tour Golf

Balance point, torque, flex–these are all highly influential shaft specifications. But if you really want to alter shot shape and trajectory, as well as your ballstriking ability, consider a weight change. A switch to a lighter shaft allows for a longer club, which in turn creates a longer swing arc and potentially more distance. In addition, a lighter club is easier to swing. Most steel iron shafts check in at 125 grams; the lighter-weight graphite iron shaft models weigh as little as 90 grams. Such a drastic change in weight could have a positive, practical effect on your game. Most fitting experts agree, however, that at least a 40-gram change in weight is needed to produce tangible results (considering similar balance points). In the past, when golfers went with a lighter shaft in their irons, they had to opt for graphite. Today, the market offers numerous ultra-lightweight steel models. So if you're looking for more power and more accuracy in your iron game, yet still desire the consistency of steel, there are more options now than ever before.

Tom Wishon17._Ê Gear Effects: Add Forgiveness, Not Height Tom Wishon, Founder, Tom Wishon Golf Technology

Every golfer could use a little forgiveness, but if you shop the latest game-improvement iron models, you'll find most promise forgiveness, but with a low center of gravity. The low CG positioning is what helps launch the ball high. But what if you need forgiveness, not height? Clubmaking 101 tells us that shot forgiveness in an iron is controlled by the clubhead's weight distribution all around the CG. Therefore, it can definitely be independent of simply placing more weight low in the clubhead to lower the CG. If you need help on off-center hits, but desire a lower ballflight, look for cavity-back designs with reduced sole widths. With reduced mass in the sole, weight is automatically distributed to the heel and toe areas (adding forgiveness) and away from the bottom of the head, which raises the CG and prevents high shots. Of course, if you need forgiveness and extra help getting the ball into the air, a wide cavity design with a large sole width should do the trick.

finish-high.jpg18. Keep Your Hands Low Limiting the height of the followthrough will effectively reduce the height of your shots. The lower the hands, the lower the ballflight. Moving the ball back in your stance or selecting a stronger club and trying to swing easy are other ways to accomplish the same thing, but they're less reliable and more difficult to execute. Instead, simply keep your hands low in the finish (compare the two photos at left), and the trajectory of your shots will be low as well.

19. Give Your Spine The Forearm Making sure you're on-plane at the top of the swing is a surefire way to guarantee solid ballstriking and increased accuracy. Notice in the photo below how my right forearm is parallel to my spine, my left wrist is flat and my level elbows and arms form a tight triangle. These are indications that I've rotated my shoulders into the backswing rather than simply lifted up my arms.

20. Use Your Body For Power Every good golfer knows that power comes from the body, not the arms. To learn to power the club with your body instead of your arms and hands, put the club behind the ball at address, Spinewith your body in a dead-stop position. Without taking a backswing, try to drag the ball into the air. If you're a player who uses his or her hands to control the club, you'll probably struggle at first. However, you'll quickly find that once you start moving the club with your body, you'll begin to get the ball in the air more consistently. Practicing this drill regularly will teach you how to use your body for the pivot, instead of your arms. Remember, the proper sequence of movement should be body first, then arms, then the club.

Ten Tips For Perfect Putting 21. Straight Back And Through If you prefer this type of stroke, move the putter by swinging your arms parallel to the target line with little wrist action. Furthermore, play the ball forward in the stance, with the feet slightly open and close together, and your weight leaning left. The handle of the putter should stay perpendicular to the ground during the stroke, with the right palm facing the target in the finish.

22. Get An Alternative Grip These types of grips, like the saw or the claw, are becoming more popular due to the success of Tour players like Chris DiMarco, Tim Herron and Mark O'Meara. These alternative methods minimize the involvement of the right hand during the stroke, allowing the bigger muscles in the body to control the club. This technique can completely eliminate the yips, and makes the stroke noticeably smoother. Only minor adjustments to the right-hand grip are needed to use these methods.

23. Pro Files Arc Players The arc putting stroke, used by many Tour pros (including Jay Haas) creates a natural, free-flowing motion. To execute this stroke properly, the forearms must rotate with the face of the putter opening and closing relative to the target. This move creates the desired inside-square-inside arc. This stroke is most effective with the ball played in the center of the stance, with the feet and shoulders square and the body weight evenly distributed. The grip end of the club should be pointing at the naval throughout.

24. Try This! Eye Trainer Putter In putting, there are two absolute setup musts: eyes over the target line, and putter aimed directly at the target. Sounds easy, but even the best putters in the world constantly practice to ensure these setup musts are achieved. For golfers without the benefit of constant instruction and practice, the task is even more difficult. Enter the Eye Trainer ($130), a unique learning device (which also can legally be used during play after removing the unit's Training Bridge) that teaches golfers to achieve the two key setup requirements. An elongated sight line helps establish a square face to the target, with the sole of the putter resting flat on the putting surface. To ensure eyes over the target line, all the golfer must do is move his or her body forward or back to align two notches with two squares on the rear of the putterhead. VoilÊ! 25. Flatten It Out One of the biggest mistakes made by recreational golfers on the putting green is holding their hands too high, and cupping their left (for a right-handed golfer) wrist through impact. These two moves allow the clubhead to pass the hands, and at the same time, adds loft to the putter. The result is typically bad impact with the putter striking the ground before the ball, or putts that bounce too much due to the extra loft. Instead, be sure to let your arms hang down freely, and keep your left wrist flat all the way into the finish.

26. Gear Effects: Don't Forget The Hosel Benoit Vincent, Chief Technical Officer, TaylorMade Golf

A putter should provide at least two or three degrees of launch angle to get the ball above the level of the grass and rolling toward the target. Depending on where the hosel is inserted, and what type of shape it has, a given putter will have a tendency to close or open through impact, or add or subtract loft. The important thing is to find the combination that works for your particular stance, grip and stroke. Much of this is based on experimentation, but there's excellent putter-fitting technology as well.

27. Gear Effects: Balance Your Putting Mitch Voges, Founder, Max Out Golf Labs

Counterbalancing (adding weight to the butt end of the club) has proven to be valuable in putting and wedge play. The reason is that counterbalancing places more weight in the player's hands, adding an extra degree of feel and control, particularly for those players who tend to manipulate the club with their arms and hands. Counterbalancing also helps the golfer to control the putter with the shoulders and bigger muscles, which in turn promotes rolling the ball rather than hitting at it. Very few, if any, accomplished players hit at the ball, which is why they look so smooth and relaxed when they make a putting stroke.

28. Gear Effects: Putter Length Is Key Jeff Jackson, Marketing Director, Tour Golf

The length of your flatstick is perhaps the most important parameter when it comes to putter fitting. If you correctly match length to your putting posture, you'll ensure consistent eye, shoulder and arm position in relation to the golf ball. Most putter models are offered with a standard length of 35 inches, although a number of studies indicate that, for most golfers, 35 inches is too long. The correct length (and lie angle) should allow you to assume a comfortable putting posture with your arms hanging naturally from your shoulder sockets and your eyes positioned directly over the ball.

29. Lag With Purpose Looking at the hole while lag putting can have a profound effect on your ability to get the ball close to the target on a consistent basis. Not only is this method dependable, it's also more natural for anyone who has played sports like baseball or basketball, where the target is the focus rather than the ball. Use this technique to get the ball real close to the hole instead of just near.

Through The Gate30. Stroke Through The Gate Most golfers invariably start the ball on a line that will never give the ball a chance of going in the hole. A good fix is to create a gate for the ball to roll through at the apex of a breaking putt. Practice setting up the gate with a couple of tees on both right-to-left and left-to-right breakers, and see how quickly you can pick the right spot and speed.

Ten Tips For Escaping Trouble 31.The Long Bunker Shot This is one of the most challenging shots in golf for pros and amateurs alike, but it doesn't have to be. Instead of trying to blast a long bunker shot with a sand wedge or pick the ball clean, try using an 8- or 9-iron, and execute the shot the way you normally would. Be aware that the ball will come out lower than it does with a sand wedge and will release more as well. _Ê 32. From A Divot Every golfer has a perfect drive ruined from time to time by a ball ending up in the middle of a sand-filled divot. When this happens, there are some simple steps you can take to promote a good result despite the bad break. Begin by placing slightly more weight on your front leg•–you want to be sure to have your chest over or in front of the ball at impact. Then, be certain to fire your right side all the way through the shot. This will help ensure ball-first contact and a clean escape.

Over The Lip

33. Over The Lip When the lip of the bunker is higher than your head, your goal should be simply to get the ball out of the hazard on the first try. One of the keys to accomplishing this is creating a setup that produces a high shot. This means opening your shoulders and the clubface as wide as you can. But the real trick to getting out of deep bunkers is adopting a stronger grip with the left hand and maintaining the bend in the wrist from address through impact and even into the finish. Doing so will make the ball fly out high and soft every time.

34. Gear Effects: Know Your Bounce Don Wood, President, For Golfers only!

Wet course conditions, and specifically wet bunkers, can be extremely challenging for all types of golfers. As such, it's even more critical that you pay extra attention to the loft and bounce built into your wedges. For wet conditions, it's best to have wedges that feature a relatively high degree of bounce (at least 16 degrees for a 56-degree model), as well as a fair amount of loft. Most golfers are better-served by a 58- or 60-degree wedge for normal sand; in wet conditions, a higher-bounce utility wedge tends to work the best. It's not a bad idea, however, to have one higher-bounce wedge and one with lower bounce.

harman-todd.jpg35. Gear Effects: The Rough Stuff Todd Harman, Dir. Product Marketing, Cleveland Golf

To determine what type of iron or wedge is best for thick rough and generally soft course conditions, you have to pay close attention to the design of the clubhead. Typically, irons with wider soles are better suited for these types of conditions than ones with more traditional, thinner soles. A wider sole has more effective bounce, which helps these clubheads glide through heavy grass more easily. When it comes to wedges, the same rule generally holds true, but be aware that wide-sole wedges don't work well from tight lies._Ê

36. Gear Effects: Hybrids Are Here To Stay Don Wood, President, For Golfers only!

The hybrid's popularity is due to the fact that its design combines the best attributes of both

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