Play Like A Pro

11 Tips To Help You Play Your Best

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Practice With A Purpose
Charlie Wi and Tour pros like him don’t just “play around” during their practice rounds. He practices with a purpose. Here he is chipping on Riviera Country Club’s 12th green. But he’s not chipping to the hole, he’s chipping to where the hole will be cut on one of the tournament days. Lots of pros take a hole-sized rubber “Frisbee” that they can place anywhere on the green and putt or chip to. Just because the pin is cut in a specific position doesn’t mean that that’s the only hole you should play to.

Divide The Green Into Thirds
Here’s a maxim I always tell my students: “Putt when you can putt, chip when you can’t putt, and pitch when you can’t chip.” In short, the closer your ball is to the ground, the easier it is to control. All Tour pros know this.

First, however, you have to establish a landing spot. If there’s no trap or hazard in the way, it should be roughly two paces onto the green, regardless of where the pin is. Once you establish this spot, determine which club you should hit and at what trajectory. The higher the shot, the less the ball will roll; the lower the shot, the more it’ll roll.

Next, divide the green into thirds. If you hit a sand wedge or pitching wedge, the ball should not roll very much. In fact, it’ll stay on the front third of the green. A 9- or 8-iron should roll to the middle third of the green, and a 7- or 6-iron should roll to the last third of the green. Regardless of which club you hit, factor in green speeds and other conditions that’ll affect these ratios.

Make A Real-time Practice Stroke
A few years ago, I had dinner with one of the game’s best putters, Loren Roberts, the so-called “Boss of the Moss.” Inevitably the conversation turned to putting. I asked him what he thinks about when he stands over a putt. He answered with only one word: “speed.”

Without question, average golfers have a hard time controlling their putts’ speed. If that sounds like you, consider making “real-time” practice strokes. Take one or two practice strokes and hold your finish for the amount of time you think it’ll take the ball to arrive at the hole. Five-footers on most greens take about three seconds, whereas 50-footers (obviously) take considerably longer. In both cases, hold your rehearsal finish for the amount of time you think it’ll take for your ball to arrive at the cup. Then make the same stroke when the ball is there.

These real-time practice strokes program your brain to get a sense of the right speed and eliminate all those unwanted 3-putts.

Keep The Club In Front Of Your Chest
Look at Jim Furyk’s great postimpact position here. He has kept the club in front of his chest and has transferred weight onto his left side. (See how his right toe points down to the ground?) You can be sure that his club has synced up well with his chest on the backswing, too. Doing so is one of the easiest ways to remain consistent.

John Stahlschmidt, PGA, is the head instructor at the TOUR Academy in Scottsdale, Ariz. For more info, visit


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