downhill putt

Fast Downhill Putts

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Having recently discussed uphill putts and how to ensure you make the most of the opportunity when they arise, we are now going to take a look at the dreaded downhill putt.  Fast downhill putts in-particular cause a lot of anxiety for beginner and amateur golfers.

The sight of the hole well below the ball and over 10 feet away from the ball on a fast green is a nightmare scenario for many.  However, today we have some tips to help you deal with fast downhill putts.

The major fear when playing a fast downhill putt is sending the ball beyond the hole and leaving a long second putt.  To avoid this, begin by gripping down on the handle of the putter so the thumb is close to the actual shaft of the club.

Doing this will help to slow down your stoke and give you more control over the putter head.  Think about moving the putter through at a slow, even pace.  You want to produce a soft roll on the ball and gripping down and swinging gently at an even pace will help you do that.

Many players tend to look up early when playing a fast downhill putt.  As soon as the putter strikes the ball it is tempting to look up immediately to check it is not travelling too quickly and is going to race beyond the hole.

Doing this often leads to moving your head early and missing the intended line of your putt.  If you have a fast downhill putt and there is a break involved, missing the line of the putt could prove very costly.  Always keep your head and body still until you have completed the putting stroke.

This brings us on to the final aspect of fast downhill putting, which is the break.  If you are faced with a fast downhill putt and there is a break involved, it is a double whammy.

When assessing the impact the break will have on the ball, you must remember on a fast downhill putt the break will be accentuated due to the slow speed you need to hit the ball.  In other words, the ball will break a lot more than you think and you must compensate for that by aiming wider.

It will feel strange aiming so far wide of what would be your normal line but if you fail to do so, the ball will swing away from the hole early and you will be left with a very tricky second putt.

If you are a long distance away from the hole when playing a fast downhill putt, think about leaving yourself an easy second putt and sinking the first putt as a bonus.

playing from the rough

Options for Getting Out of Trouble

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Every golfer, even professional players, get into trouble on the course.  When playing a par-4 and attempting to reach the green in one or trying to get to the green in two on a par-5, there is always risk attached.

You are trying to achieve maximum distance off the tee with the driver and when it happens, it is fantastic but when it goes wrong, you can be left in a difficult spot off the fairway.  If your ball is in the rough on one side of the fairway, the question is, what do you do next?

You have a few options and they each come with a different level of difficulty but the first thing you need to do is check the lie of the ball.  If the ball is sitting up nicely, you may have the option to play an attacking shot but if it is buried in the rough, your options become more limited and you will need to just get the ball back on the fairway.

However, just because the ball is sitting up in the rough it does not mean you should automatically be playing an attacking shot.

Take a look around you, are there any branches or obstacles which are going to interfere with your swing or the flight of the ball.  If there is something which could do either of these, you are advised to play the shot with caution and do what you can to get the ball back in play and then play an attacking shot when the path to the green is clear.

Asses what you have in-front you on the golf course.  If you are going to attempt to get your ball on the green, are there any hazards you need to clear?  If there is a bunker or water hazard between you and the green, is playing an attacking short over the hazard the best option?

If you know you can comfortably clear the hazard with your chosen club, you will feel more confident playing the shot.  However, if you need to get maximum distance out of the club to clear the hazard, this will be unlikely from the rough and you should consider the safe approach and get the ball back on the fairway first.

If you have a clear run to the green or know you can comfortably clear any hazard which is between you and the putting surface, you can play an attacking shot knowing if you do not get as much distance as expected, the ball will be safe.  Before you do, consider your current score or where you are on the leaderboard if playing in a tournament.

If you need to pick up shots and you are running out of holes, you are more likely to attack but if it is early in the round or you have a decent lead, you may opt to keep it simple.

playing uphill putts

Uphill Putting

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When playing an approach shot to the green, you are advised to leave yourself below the cup.  This is because hitting an uphill putt is easier to control than a downhill putt.

The main reason an uphill putt is considered easier than a downhill putt is because it will break less.  Downhill putts role for longer than uphill putts and this gives more time for the break to change the course of the ball.

You also have to be more precise on downhill putts to get the correct break.  However, walking towards the green to see your ball below the hole does not mean it is time to celebrate just yet, you still need to make the putt.

When putting uphill, you should begin assessing your putt before you step onto the green.  Look at the overall picture as you approach the green.  Are there any dips or slopes on the green which could cause you trouble on your putt?

As you have an uphill putt, the break will have less of an impact on the shot because of the pace you will hit the ball but the further you are away from the hole, the more you must take the break into consideration.

Step a few feet behind your ball and look toward the hole.  Is the green level or are there any breaks you need to consider?

When you are happy, play the putt with a firm swing.  The ball will never reach the hole if you do not give the putt enough and as there is likely to be little break to worry about, you can afford to hit the putt with purpose.

You will be very frustrated if you leave an uphill putt short and while this can happen for long distance putts, anything inside five feet should never be left short of the hole.  Always use the practice greens before a round to get a feel for the pace of the putting surface and make a few uphill putts so you can feel confident of making a good strike during the round.

When playing an uphill putt from distance, obviously you will need to send the ball further along the green but that does not necessarily mean hitting the ball harder or gripping the putter harder.

To get the ball to travel further on an uphill putt, try making a longer stroke.  If you lengthen the swing but hit the putt with the same force you would if you were playing a 10 foot putt on a flat green, you will hit the ball further along the green.

By doing this, you will keep the same amount of control over the putt but find the extra distance required to reach the hole.

driving range balls

Practice Range Golf Balls

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Using the driving range is a great way to practice your golf.  You can hit hundreds of balls and never have to worry about collecting them yourself.  This gives you uninterrupted time to work on your swing for various clubs and if used properly, the time is extremely valuable.

However, you may have noticed the golf balls used on the practice range are not the same as the golf balls you use when playing a round of golf.  We don’t mean the balls are a different brand, we are talking about the quality and make-up of the ball itself.

So, what should you be aware of when using the golf balls on a practice range?

Many of the balls used at a driving range are lower compression balls and this means they will not travel as far as the balls you are using on the golf course.  This will be most noticeable when using the driver and if you find you are not hitting the ball the same distance, do not be alarmed, it is unlikely to be anything you are doing with your swing.

The range balls will land at roughly the same distance with a consistent swing so think about how far you usually hit the ball with each club and you can work out the average distance you are losing on the range ball.  This will allow you to know if you are hitting the ball the same way you do on the course.

However, if you find you are hitting the ball all over the place at the range, this is more likely to be something to do with your swing, especially if your hitting your short irons almost as far as your long irons.

Range balls can also have a lot of marks and scratches on them as they are being used regularly.  This can lead to a loss of distance on shots and even a brand new range ball will not travel the same distance as a golf ball you are using during a round.  If there are heavy scratches on a practice range ball, this can result in 20% to 30% less distance than a standard golf ball.

Always ask the golf club if they adjust the yardage markets on the practice range to compensate for the range balls.  Some do as a way to accommodate for the lower compression balls and it is good to have this information to hand before you begin practicing.

Practice Mats at the Range

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Taking time to practice your golf is very important and without practice, you will struggle to improve.  Much of your practice is likely to take place at a local driving range and this is a great place to work on your swing with various clubs.

However, there are a few things you must be aware of when playing shots at the practice range.  This first of these is the mats

The practice mats at a driving range are often not made from grass.  You are lucky if you get to practice at a grass range as taking a divot is an important element of a golf shot using the irons.  However, many practice ranges do not have grass and you will be hitting off a synthetic mat.

When playing off a mat, it encourages you to take the ball off the surface of the mat without the head of the club hitting the mat.  When on the golf course, this type of ‘scoop’ or ‘clip’ shot is not what you want to be playing.

To avoid this from happening, the club should always be brushing the bristles of the practice mat after contacting the ball.  Do not be afraid for the club to make contact with the top of the mat having hit the ball.

Clearly you do not want to be hitting the mat hard with the head of the club as this will lead to a poor shot and could damage the club.  However, you must avoid scooping the ball off the mat because this will get you into bad habits on the golf course.  The club should be bottoming out after making a good strike and brushing the AstroTurf after the ball.

If you strike a fat shot on the practice range mat, the club will bounce off the mat but still make a reasonable strike of the ball.  The same shot will not have the same result on the fairway and if you hit too far in-front of the ball, you will be lucky to see it travel more than 10 yards.

Feel for when the club head bounces off the mat before hitting the ball.  You can also hear the thud of the club on the mat when the head strikes it too early before the ball.  When this happens, consider it a bad shot, regardless of how far the ball travels at the practice range.

negativity on the golf course

Adopt a Different Approach to Combat Negativity

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There is nothing worse than feeling negative before hitting a shot on the golf course.  Negative feelings can be stirred up for a host of reasons but one of the most common is because of a previous experience.

If you have had a bad hole during a round and it has cost you a good score, the next time you step onto the tee on that hole, you may begin feeling anxious.  Many golfers focus on the negative and cannot help but think whatever they do on this hole, it is going to result in a bad outcome.

One of the keys to preventing this negativity it to block it from your mind.  Some professional golfers are very good at this and Jack Nicklaus was one player who took it to another level.  If asked about a mistake he had made during a round he would often act as if it never happened.

Obviously, he did make the mistakes but he simply chose to ignore them and talked himself into believing they did not happen.

However, not everyone has the ability to do this and you leave the golf course thinking about what happened on that hole.  The next time to arrive at the hole, the negative feelings begin to enter your mind and the same mistakes are made.  It can be a vicious cycle so what can you do if you cannot block it from your mind?

When you next step on to the tee where you have had a bad experience in the past, why not try something new?  You do not have to follow the conventional route on every hole and by trying something new it will help to release the shackles of your previous issues on the hole.

If you have always used a driver off the tee, why not try an iron?  Simple having a different club in your hand can work wonders when it comes to banishing the thoughts of previous mistakes.  If you have always played a shot over water but found your ball landing in the drink, why not lay-up this time?

If you have previously taken a negative approach to the hole, now is the time to change and try being aggressive.  Attack the green on your second shot if it is a par-5, try and cut the dogleg or attempt to get the ball close to the hole rather than settle for anywhere on the green.

A change in perspective on a hole where you have previously made mistakes and suffered could make all the difference.

do putters wear out

Do Golf Clubs Wear Out? The Putter

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Golf clubs are always going to suffer from wear and tear, just like any other item you use regularly.  Both irons and divers will get worn due to excessive use and this can happen more quickly if clubs are not cared for properly.

However, what about putters?  This is the one club which you can guarantee you will use during every round of golf you play but can your putter wear out?

The type of shots you play with the putter are not going to lead to huge amounts of wear and tear quickly.  In most cases, all you are doing is making a delicate touch with the putter to send the ball rolling across the green.

You would think this gentle stroke will see the putter outlast any other club in the bag and you are probably right.  However, that doesn’t mean it will never get worn out.

If you have a soft insert in the club face for example, it can wear out.  These have even been known to crack so if you find you are struggling to use your putter as normal and you use a soft insert, check the face of the putter carefully.

This is a rare occurrence but if you have been struggling with distance control whereas usually you are very good in that department, it could be a problem with the face of the putter.

If you have a putter which provides precise feel on shots, the impact of any wear on the face of the putter will be more noticeable.  You will know, having used the putter many times, when something does not feel quite right and one of the first things you should do is check the face for any signs of wear.

It is surprising how many people immediately think there is something wrong or different happening with their putting technique when all along there has been some slight damage to the face.  If you are unsure, as a professional fitter or club pro to take a look at your putter for you before you take any drastic action.

As with any golf club, you should also check the wear on your grip.  The more you use the putter, the more the grip is going to get worn and if it is showing signs of wear you know it is time to have a new grip fitted.

wear and tear irons

Do Golf Clubs Wear Out? Irons

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In our previous article we looked at the wear and tear you can find on a driver.  Today, we are going to take a look at the irons, especially the wedges.  Approach play in golf is very important and if there is an issue with your golf clubs, your approach game is always going to suffer.

The first thing you need to look at when judging if your irons have worn is the grooves.  This is especially true for the shorter irons, such as the 9 iron and pitching wedge for example.  These clubs need to produce loft and height on the ball to stop it on the green.

If you find the usual quality of your approach shots has started to diminish and you have not changed anything in terms of the balls you are using or technique, it is time to check the grooves of the club.

If you are an experienced golfer, you may be hitting the ball in the same spot on the face of the club regularly and this can cause wear in that area.  If you are unsure about how the grooves should look, try comparing the club to an iron you do not use very often to see the difference.

If the grooves are worn you could use a groove sharpening tool to repair them but should do so with caution.  These are not illegal but you cannot use them to change the shape of the groves, only bring them back to what they were originally.

However, some groove sharpening tools are very sharp and they must be used with caution.  If you are unsure about what you are doing, it is best to ask someone at your local golf club who has experience and can do it for you without damaging your club.

Much the same as the driver, irons can bend, especially when being used on golf range mats.  The more you use your irons, the more the shaft will bend and this can eventually change the loft of the club.

The loft of irons can increase with use and this can lead to your shots becoming higher and reduced in distance.  If you find the ball has started to come up short on your approach shots, it could be due to increased loft on the club and this is worth checking.  Get in touch with a custom fitter who will be able to look at the club and give you some advice and if required, change the loft.

Finally, check the quality of the grip on your irons.  There are many reasons by the club could twist in your hands but always check the grip on your irons for wear as they can easily be replaced.

signs the driver is worn out

Will Golf Clubs Wear Out? The Driver

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The golf clubs you use are vital in your play and if they are not performing at their best, your performance level is also likely to drop.  As with any item of golf equipment, golf clubs can wear out but how do you know when they are worn out?

There are several signs you can look out for and some are specific to certain clubs but if you are struggling to prevent any of the clubs you are using from twisting in your hands when playing a normal shot, this could be a sign the grip has worn out.

Check the grip on the club which you are having difficulty with and compare it to the grip of a club you perhaps do not use very often.  You will soon notice the difference but thankfully this does not mean you need to invest in a new club, simply have the grip replaced and carry on using the club.

Now on to specific signs of club wear and starting with the driver, an inconsistent ball flight could be a sign the club is getting worn.  If the ball is regularly travelling off line or is dropping short of where you usually leave it then it may be time to look at your driver closely.

Check the face to see if there is any signs of wear or stress on the driver.  Some driver faces have been known to crack so look carefully to see if you can see anything.  Any damage to the face of the driver will result in a loss of distance and consistency.

How often do you practice at the range with your driver?  If you are using your driver regularly, both on the course and at the range then it could be starting to go dead.  The mats used at many driving ranges are not always ideal and if you have been using the driver regularly on these mats it can eventually dampen the effect of the driver.

You may not see any signs of wear on the face of the driver but you are no longer hitting the ball the same distance.  Nothing has changed in terms of your swing or the other equipment you are using so it could be the driver is losing its power.

Finally, take a look at the shaft of the driver.  The more you use the driver the more strain is being placed on the shaft and this can cause it to bend.  It may be tough to see this using the naked eye but if you take the driver to a professional golf fitter, they will be able to look it over and let you know.

The shaft of the driver can be replaced if the rest of the club is in good condition and you should only need to buy a new driver if there is an issue with the head, such as a crack or loss of power.

control the drive

Take Control on the Tee

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If you are like many beginner golfers, your first thought when stepping up to the tee on a par-4 or p-5 hole is to try and hit the ball as far as you can with the driver.  There is nothing wrong with being positive and if successful, you will be in a good spot for your second shot.

However, how often do you try and crunch the ball with the driver only to find your next shot is being taken from the rough?  Hitting the ball a long way is great but if you keep a record of how many fairways you are hitting when trying to hit the ball maximum distance, you may find it is very few.

If you are focused on swinging at 100% on every drive but are failing to find the fairway at least 50% of the time, perhaps it is time to consider a different approach?

When you stand over the ball over the tee, try and take a more relaxed approach to the drive.  Do not concern yourself with hitting the ball as far as possible or trying to match the distance your playing partner has hit the ball.

If you begin to feel some tension creeping into your body as you are about to swing back, stop, take a breath and re-set before beginning the backswing again.

Although you want to increase the accuracy of your drive, you do not want to be losing a great deal of distance as a compromise.  With that in mind, when you begin the backswing, move your arms away from your body but do not allow your front arm to bend too much as you reach the top of the backswing.

You will know if you are doing this successfully as you should feel a little stretch in the shoulder of the lead arm.  Keep that feeling as you begin the downswing and remember you are using a driver, not an iron, so the club should be moving closer to the level of the ground as it contacts the ball.

As you begin moving through the downswing, you want to start switching the weight to your front foot.  If many of your drives are being sliced, having too much weight on your back foot could be the problem. 

Think about turning your body towards the target on the downswing.  This will help to transfer the weight to the front foot and will combine with the tips above to result in a more controlled drive.