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.
What's this have to do with you? Like professionals, we're on our own when it comes to getting ready to play our best, only we have to pay for it. There are no free practice nines, no free range balls. You get what you pay for, making it important that you play your best to get your money's worth. So, let's look at few quick ways to help you get your game back on track._Ê
#1 Get Mentally and Physically Ready
Too often, I see students come rearing to play golf by bashing golf balls on the range, expecting to find their swing and work their way back to top form. Truth is, it doesn't work that way. After a layoff, you want to stretch, strengthen and take care of your body. Start by stretching key areas, such as your back, arms, shoulders and upper legs. Make an effort to stretch every other day.
Second, one of the best ways to develop a smooth tempo, rhythm and feel is to start taking practice swings without a ball. Go outside, put a tee in the ground and make a few swings just as you would with a ball. By removing the ball, the body will swing freer and the mind won't be so fixated on immediate results.
#2 Remember: P.G.A.
Think: Posture, Grip and Aim
It can help to think of your favorite PGA pro, but that's not what's meant by Remember: P.G.A. I mean, Think: Posture, Grip and Aim—the three most important factors to the golf swing. First, check to see if your spine is straight and your shoulders are directly over your feet (see left photo). Then, check your grip using a mirror. Your hands should look exactly like mine, with the back of the glove showing and the fold of your lower thumb and index finger pointing at your back shoulder. Finally, the body should aim parallel to the target, which then allows the clubface to aim at the target. To sharpen your aim, try using an intermediate target to get your clubface on track. It makes alignment a lot easier.
#3 Fast Fixers
Hitting good shots requires a lot of things to go right. Poor shots on the other hand, can be due to one fault.
If you head onto the golf course and the ball is going any which way but straight, odds are the clubface isn't square at impact. No matter what swing path you have, if the clubface is open at impact, the ball will veer right. If it's closed, the ball will hook. But fixing the clubface isn't always a matter of simply adjusting the clubface at address or swinging in a new direction. Often, it's a matter of poor posture, grip and aim that causes the clubface to be too open or closed at impact. Finally, if you're hitting shots that fly straight left or straight right, you might have a square clubface but an incorrect path.
Posture: Stand taller, closer to the ball, move ball back in stance
Grip: Weaken the upper-hand grip (left hand for righties), apply more pressure in the lower hand
Aim: Swing along the target line. Try to avoid cutting across it or swinging too inside-out
Posture: Stand slightly farther from the ball, move the ball forward slightly in the stance
Grip: Strengthen the upper hand, apply less pressure in the bottom hand
Aim: Practice swinging more along an inside-out path relative to the target line
Pushed Shots: On the backswing, take the club back along the target line for as long as possible
Pulled Shots: On the backswing, take the club back slightly inside the target line and swing to the right on the downswing
#4 Divide Your Time
Practice is not meant to be taken lightly or casually. Stick with a solid routine and work on the shots you find yourself hitting the most during the round. Odds are, it's the short irons, wedges and woods that require the most attention on the practice tee. Be patient and take your time.
When you do head to the driving range, always bear in mind that every shot should have a target. Don't just hit balls to get loose. Imagine every practice ball is a crucial shot on the golf course. Also, I recommend that players divvy up their practice time by how often they use particular clubs in the bag. After all, what good is it to hit a bucket of balls with a 5-iron when you'll likely encounter only one or two 5-iron shots during a round of golf? Try the 40-20-40 rule. Spend 40 percent of your time on short irons and wedges, 20 percent on middle-iron shots and 40 percent on hybrids, fairway woods and drivers. This will help you improve in areas where you need to hit the most shots without compromising the shots you sometimes need to pull off.
For many, most_Ê strokes during the round are wasted within 40 yards. So, practice your wedges with putter-like precision and pick specific targets. A good chip can make a big impact._Ê
A quick and effective way to make sure you're maintaining a proper clubface angle through the impact zone is to try this simple drill. Grab your sand wedge and stand with your feet together. Simulate the address position, then hinge the club to waist high on your backswing. The toe of the clubface should be pointing directly up, indicating a square clubface. If it doesn't, practice a few swings until you get used to the correct position. Secondly, do the same for the downswing, and check the position of the hands postimpact. Although the clubface is closed, the toe should once again be pointing directly toward the sky. Do this and you'll see straighter shots.
#6 Short Game Rules
It may be called the short game, but in actuality, it requires the longest duration of your practice time.
Read the sentence above and burn it into your memory. Your short game includes chipping, bunker play, pitching and, of course, putting, all of which should be practiced every day if you really want to sharpen your game. Begin by paying attention to your putting. Start without a ball, and visualize making a few putts every day. Work your way to putting a few balls down the hall at home or on a local practice green. Do the same with your wedge game, then pitching, bunker game and so on. Whether it's in the backyard or at a practice facility, staying sharp with your short clubs is key. Also, unlike hitting too many drives, it's impossible to over-practice your chipping and pitching.
Jeff Yurkiewicz is a teaching professional at the Kostis McCord Learning Center in Scottsdale, Ariz. For more, visit www.kostismccordlearning.com.