When things start going sour out on the golf course, it's critical you get to the root of your problems and get back on track as fast as possible. In many cases, it's not so much a swing component that's run awry; instead, how you approach your shots, your routines and your basic fundamentals are the culprit.
HOLD YOUR FINISH AND DON'T FORGET TO BREATHE When you're on the golf course, whether just before, during or at the tail end of your round, getting nervous can wreak havoc on your ability to play your best golf. When you get nervous, your thoughts can get the best of you, often leading to trying to steer or control your shots, which prevents you from making your natural golf swing.
To help relax, take your mind off the golf swing and get in a tranquil state of mind, concentrate on taking long, deep breaths. Deep breathing is a great exercise for helping the body and mind calm down. As you're doing this, rehearse a few practice swings, and hold your finish position. Feel what it's like to finish the golf swing in a relaxed, balanced and comfortable finish position. Come time to hit a golf ball, having the finish position fresh in your memory will help you make a fuller, more natural swing without any contrived motions or manipulations.
Tee Shots Getting Wild?
TEE IT LOWER If your tee shots are getting a little wild, consider teeing the ball a little lower. This will do two things. First, it'll force you to stay down and over the ball at impact, preventing you from lifting up and trying to murder the golf ball. Second, a lower tee ball will likely put more backspin on your tee shots. And in this case, backspin actually helps you by negating sidespin and helping you hit straighter shots. You might lose some distance, but at this point, reigning in your wild hit is more important than hitting big bombing tee shots.
Lost Your Rhythm?
WAGGLE MORE I love the waggle. It's a great way to keep the body in motion before you make a golf swing. It's almost as though the waggle is part of the actual golf swing. The other cool thing about it is the waggle is something you can dial in yourself. There's really no wrong way to do it. Some players like to waggle their arms and do mini-rehearsals of their takeaway. Other players, like the Tour's Jason Dufner, keep their waggle confined to their wrists, and yet others do a combination of both. The key with your waggle is to have it match the rhythm, tempo and feel of your overall golf swing. If you're a long, smooth swinger, your waggle should also be long and smooth. Stick with a waggle that matches your swing and you'll find it easier to stay in rhythm throughout the round.
KICK-START YOUR SWING Once you stop waggling, how do you start your swing? You need a swing trigger. My favorite one is to activate the knees, and gently kick your right knee in toward the ball just before you start your backswing. This "kick-starts" your swing and helps ease the transition from a static position to a dynamic motion.
If that doesn't feel right for you, try some other triggers like swiveling the head (a la Jack Nicklaus), pressing the club down into the ground, or even pulling your right elbow into your side. These types of triggers can eliminate the frozen feeling you sometimes have at the setup and help you make a smooth, free-flowing golf swing.
CHECK YOUR GRIP If you're struggling with controlling your shots, sometimes it's not so much your swing but how you hold the club in your hands. If the club is slipping, or if you're readjusting at any point during your stroke, you'll never have consistency out on the golf course.
Also, pay attention to not only your grip position, but your grip pressure, as well. If you have too little pressure, that too can cause control issues, and if you grip the club too firmly, you may be restricting the release and rotation of the hands. The key, as always, is to have a fundamentally sound grip that's out of the palm and in the fingers. And also a grip that retains a firm but comfortable pressure on the handle throughout the entire swing.
Make sure the club is out of the palm of the left hand and laying more toward the base of the fingers. This promotes proper face rotation on the takeaway, also called a one piece takeaway. A good grip and smooth start will make a big difference in your consistency. Try holding the club as I'm doing here. You'll get the proper feeling right away.
Hitting Short Chips & Pitches Fat & Thin?
GET LEFT! One of the common faults from my students on greenside shots is improper weight position. It's an easy thing to forget on the golf course, as well. So, here's what you need to know. If you're struggling with fat or thin shots, stop feeling the need to lift the ball into the air and get behind the golf ball. Keep your weight on your left side, and trust the loft of the club! By staying left and hitting down into the ball, you'll find it easier to make ball-first contact and, in the end, hit better, more consistent shots.
Trouble With The Shanks?
LOOP IT LINK FURYK While I've suggested that swing changes aren't a good idea midround, if you have the shanks, something has got to be done to stop it. And since shanking the ball (where you make contact with the hosel and the golf ball) has such a scary connotation to it, I like to take it to the extreme to stop shanking right away.
This means, swinging the club like Jim Furyk! If you're shanking the ball, likely you're cutting across the ball from too much outside to inside the target line. So, to fix this, consider routing the club on the backswing way outside your target line, and then drop it under the target line on the downswing. This creates a swing path that lassoes out and back inside the target line, ensuring you swing more from inside to outside the target
Distance Control Issues? REHEARSE LOOKING AT THE HOLE There are two major factors in putting: pace and line–pace being the more important of the two. Reason being, the line changes depending on how fast or slow the ball is rolling, and how far away from the hole you are. It's possible to make a putt from the same spot using different lines, as long as each line chosen has the right pace to go along with it.
So how do you determine the right pace? The length of arm swing dictates the distance the ball will roll. Try looking at the hole while making your practice stroke and feel the amount of arm swing required. Set up and aim, then just try to mimic your rehearsal stroke and hold the finish. This simple drill helps you get a visual picture of the pace and the stroke needed to get the ball close.
Missing Short Putts?
FIRM UP YOUR LEFT HAND Missing short putts can be mental and physical. On the mental side, try to keep the self-talk positive and choose to trust your stroke. On the physical side, keep the face of the putter moving down the target line. This prevents a jab stroke that's never reliable on short putts.
My favorite trick for helping to get the putter moving down the line and not releasing too soon is to remember to firm up my left hand. This helps keep my arms active in the putting stroke. If I get flippy, (see opposite photo), I'll have a tough time making short putts! Instead, keep that left hand firm and swing the putter with your shoulders, not with your wrists. Do that and I bet you'll start making a lot more short putts.
Bobby Hinds, PGA, teaches at Woodley Lakes GC in Van Nuys, Calif. For more information, visit bobbyhinds.com.