Fun and Beneficial Way to Practice

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Get down to your local pitch and putt.

Getting in a round of golf is a major concern of amateur golfers due to time constraints and family commitments.

A great way to increase the number of ties you set foot on a golf course is to include a fortnightly trip to your local pitch and putt.

The time it takes to complete a round of pitch and putt is much less than the time to complete 18 holes, and the benefits of doing so are huge.

I know that many of you will consider a pitch and putt to be a lesser challenge and maybe you feel as though a round of golf is not complete without being able to smack a driver down the middle, but bear with me.

Heading down to a pitch and putt is an experience that will improve your game.

It will also show up your faults and the areas of your game that really need work on.

Why?

Because you will not be distracted by the long game, most notably the driver.

As an amateur golfer you will be losing more shots from within 100-yards than you will from the tee, but our focus is always on the “big” shots and this clouds the mind when it comes to truly analysing your game.

Playing pitch and putt shows you just how important the skills required to achieve a good result are on the golf course.

Pitching is often the most frustrating area of the game for amateurs as the need to be able to delicately control the distance with ½ or ¾ swings is challenging.

Get it wrong and you can hit some of the most frustrating and blood-curdling shots.

To become a good pitcher of the ball you must make sure that you practice this area of the game and making use of the local pitch and putt ensures that you become proficient in the art of pitching.

Faced with different shot lengths on each hole the need to stay on top of your distances is paramount and a pitch and putt offers the most realistic practice method for pitching.

Apart from pitching you are required to hole out and the size of the greens gives you a great opportunity to practice the mid-range putts, which on the course you are generally trying to leave within the “dustbin lid”, but on the pitch and putt you will be more aggressive as you search for pars and birdies.

Practicing on a pitch and putt regularly can really make a difference to your game, and it gives you the chance to play a couple more holes which can only be a good thing.

You will find that it will be both enjoyable and beneficial.

Right Way to Hold the Club

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What makes a grip a good one?

A good golf grip is key to developing a repetitive swing that has the correct amount of power and control of the clubface.

If you write into a search engine search “how to grip a golf club” you will come up with millions of results, each with differing opinions and advice.

Weak, strong, neutral Vs pointing this way, thumbs straight down etc etc etc.

I want to add to this myriad of advice, but I want it to be a little more straightforward and personalised to each golfer that is reading this article.

My own golf grip was dismantled and “rebuilt” by my golf coach some 20 years ago to my dismay I went from a good single figure golfer with potential to a player that looked like they had just begun the game.

The reason for the change was my grip was deemed to be a “weak” right hand and a “strong” left hand, but the result of the change was far from acceptable.

I quickly returned to my grip and became a professional golfer, playing on the satellite tours, before an injury halted my progression and my attentions where turned to teaching.

I continue to have the same belief in my philosophies regarding the golf grip, believing that the grip must follow the natural tendencies of the person with whom I am working.

Let me expand on what I mean. If you are “forced” to hold the club in a certain way that is contradictory to the way your hands naturally fall, then you will be “forcing” your swing.

You need to hold the club in the way that your hands are most natural, this is the position from which they will work to their most efficient.

I do not use the knuckles or where the Vs point to judge whether a golf grip is suitable or will work for an individual.

Instead I take the client and ask them to take their posture as normal.

Remaining in the posture position I ask them to drop their club on the floor and allow their hands to hang naturally underneath their shoulders.

From here I can get a truthful reflection of how they “hold” their hands, which we will then mirror in the way the club is laced into their hands.

It is so important to remember that as amateur golfers we are looking to hit better shots, become more consistent and holding the club in such a way that is unnatural will not help us achieve the goals we desire.

Take a look for yourself and see how your hands hang naturally and try to recreate this when you grip the golf club, unlike normal changes to your grip which feel horrible, this change should just feel different, rather than awkward.

Try it for yourself and see how it feels.

Know When to Chip and When to Pitch

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Learn the difference to understand your mistake.

A mistake that I have observed on numerous occasions around the chipping green is a major player for an amateur´s lack of skill around the green.

To be able to understand how to play a shot you must first be able to identify the shot that you are actually trying to play.

Too many golfers are trying to copy the shots they see on the TV with very little knowledge about the shot they are trying to play.

There are two main shots played from around the green and to play them well you have to know the differences in the technique and the shot type itself.

The first is the basic chip and run.

To explain it simply this is a shot that travels about 25% of its journey in the air with the remaining 75% along the ground, hence the name chip and run.

Playing this shot successfully requires two things;

1 – A landing point and good technique.

2 – The technique is simple, a straight back – straight through swing, with little or no wrist movement which will pop the ball forwards to land on a spot on the first portion of the green to then roll out towards the intended target (the hole).

To control the distance, we do not make any adjustment to the swing. The swing stays the same, instead we change the club.

So if you have a hole that is close to the edge of the green you would select the sand wedge which would land the ball in the first portion of the green and roll out a little to get to the hole.

If you have a larger distance to chip the ball, then you would select a lower lofted iron.

You should be using EVERY SINGLE iron in your bag to chip with, this gives you more of an arsenal and allows you to reach almost any distance.

The second is a pitch

A pitch shot will travel about 75% of its journey in the air and 25% along the ground.

In order to play this shot successfully you need to achieve two things:

1 – control of distance using the weight of the club and your length of swing

2 – a swing that replicates your natural full swing (it is just a shortened, controlled version)

The movement will involve a wrist hinge and a release of the hands and will send the ball into the air to land softly on the green.

You will use your wedges to play the shot dependant on the distance you need to achieve.

With pitching you can quickly change the height and the spin on the shot by making two subtle adjustments, but make sure that you only begin to experiment when you can consistently pitch the ball the distance that you want.

Understanding the differences between the shots will help you play more consistent shots around the green helping to lower your scores.

A Simple Method to Get Out of Bunkers

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Ask amateur golfers what they fear most on a golf course and many would say a greenside bunker shot, especially if they are faced with a high lip or a plugged lie.

But bunker play can be easier if we forgo the “orthodox” method of teaching and head down the root of an almost fool-proof method.

Let us look at the technique most commonly taught;

Open clubface, open stance, weight on the target foot.

Long swing with the club sliding through the sand.

This is great if you understand the basics of how to get a ball out of a bunker, but for beginners, ladies and many high handicappers, this method is just too complicated.

I would like to put forward a method that I have tried and tested and had tremendous success with my clients with.

It is simpler and if you can repeat it, which with practice you will be able to do, you will get the ball out every single time.

The technique starts with a set-up where the club face is square to your intended target.

I believe that this is the single biggest reason why this method works. A sand wedge has its name because it has been designed to get the ball out of sand, so why would you want to change the characteristics of the club designed to do the job?

We are going to use a mid-distance bunker shot as the example here.

Start by drawing a line in the sand about 2 meters long. This is going to be your entry point.

Now this line is the key, when a ball is in play the line is one ball behind the ball you are trying to splash out of the bunker. (I use a ball instead of 2 inches or 5 centimeters because we know the size of a golf ball).

So open your stance about 10º to your intended target line. Widen your stance and flex your knees a little more than normal, this is to get you lower to the ground. The line should be in line with your sternum.

Now beginning at the line I want you to splash the sand out of the bunker using your normal swing (along the line of your feet as always).

The thing you are practicing is not getting the ball out, it is learning to hit the same entry point with each swing, building consistency.

Once you can hit the line 80% of the time you can draw a new line and place a ball, a ball further forward than the line.

Focus on the line and repeat what you have been practicing with the line.

You will quickly see ball after ball flying over the lip of the bunker and on to the green.

To play a longer shot, stand square to the target line and follow the same procedure For shorter shots, open your stance more.

Why Club Fitting Is Important?

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In recent years the idea of being custom fitted for new clubs has become the norm.

You walk into a golf store and you are offered a “free” custom fitting service, to ensure that you have the best equipment for your swing.

As a golf coach I have often been asked by my clients what do they need to get the best out of their game and the answers have always depended on the individual person.

This may seem like an obvious statement, but it really is not a clear cut as you may believe.

There have been clients that have requested I fit them for their new clubs, before they head to the store to find out what they have available.

My personal opinion is that this is the right way to go, and I have on occasion accompanied a client to the in-store fitting to ensure that they are being given the right information.

I would recommend that everybody speaks to their professional first and where possible test the equipment with the professional in attendance.

Why? They know your swing, and sometimes the sight of a new club increases a person’s confidence and this in turn improves the quality of shot, giving the indication that the new club has improved your results.

Don´t make your decision based on a single fitting session either, unless you are an accomplished golfer that also has an understanding of shaft flex and launch angles.

For those of you looking to buy your first serious set of golf clubs, so high handicappers that have been playing around a year or so, I suggest that you actually get fitted only for shaft flex.

This is because your swing although improving is still inconsistent and the results that you have on trial day 1 and trial day 2 could be worlds apart.

You should avoid any changes to loft and lie angles as your swing is not repetitive enough.

If you were to make a change to the loft or the lie of the golf club you could actually be creating more problems, you may have to make adjustments to your swing to be able to hit the ball correctly with the newly fitted clubs.

To me, this is not conducive to a continual progression within your game, it actually means that you could end up taking steps backwards.

Getting custom fitted is a great way to help you reduce your scores, but in reality the club is only the equipment we use, it is the way the body works that creates the shot we play.

The most important aspect of the fitting process is getting the best shaft for your swing, do not head into a fitting closed minded, be open minded and try a variety of shafts and flexes, you may be surprised which flex is best for you.

4 Things To Do For Great Putting

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Throughout the amateur game, and indeed the professionals, the person that holes the most putts from inside of 6 feet is generally the person that wins the most often.

It is something that many amateur golfers fail to notice as a major shot saving skill and therefore rarely practice from this distance, instead focussing on longer putts and learning the speed of greens.

But if you can dedicate at least 50% of your practice time to putts of up to 6 feet, then you will see a reduction in your scores of around 3 shots per round.

Increase the number of hours you spend practicing holing this length of putt and the number of shots saved could be even greater.

OK, I know that putting practice can be tedious and boring, but you need to try and spice things up on the green.

There are a few things you could do;

1 – Practice with a friend

Practicing with a friend offers up two benefits; a) you are not alone and the boredom is removed and b) you have someone to compete with in friendly competitions

2 – Practice at home

By including at home practice you are immediately reducing the “block” of time that you need to practice, by doing it in small bursts practice sessions become more interesting and more intense. Increasing the intensity of your practice sessions yields better results.

3 – Set goals

By setting goals you can track your progress.

Tracking your progress can help to motivate you so that you continue to develop.

4 – Use practice drills

Practice drills are the main stay in any practice regime

Using drills ensures that you are sticking to the plan.

There are a number of drills that you can use for your putting practice.

But for me the two most productive drills are;

The compass drill.

At each point of the compass place a ball a 12 inch intervals, back to 6 foot (6 balls). Starting with the closest see how far you can get before you miss.

Ideally you want to keep trying to do this until you can hole all 24 balls, to build confidence you can start with just three balls at each point.

The Clock face

Place a ball on each hour. You can start at 12 inches from the hole.

Work your way around the clock face, holing each ball.

With the juniors I taught I used to select 4 balls numbered 1 to 4 and ask a junior to pick the number of times they must complete the clock face before they could move on to the next drill.

The same idea could be applied to the distance you set the balls from the hole.

If you want to improve, you must look at your putting and become more efficient from 6 foot and closer.

Get Ready to Play Tournament Golf

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One of the most annoying aspects of arranging a golf tournament is the failure of golfers to arrive in plenty of time to collect their cards, or fail to turn up. (It is even more annoying if you are running a shot-gun start tournament)

Being prepared is a skill that is conducive to playing good golf and giving yourself the best opportunity to perform to the level that you want and desire.

If we take a look at the rules of golf, they recommend that a player arrives a minimum of 5 minutes before their scheduled tee off time.

Most courses will ask for you to arrive to the tee 10 minutes before, which I think should be respected.

But arriving to the tee on time is not the only consideration when preparing yourself for a tournament.

The process begins at home, and in all honesty the night before you play.

It is always worth heading to bed a little earlier the night before, as this will ensure that you get a good night of rest. Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and also watch the food that you eat. Avoid things that may upset your stomach.

Check your bag for golf tees, balls and gloves. If you are playing in the heat of summer, stick your bottle of water in the freezer so that you have an ice cold drink when you get to the course. If you are using an electric trolley make sure your battery is on charge.

Set your alarm so that you give yourself plenty of time to have a good breakfast before you leave.

Grab the water you put in the freezer.

Make a snack to take with you so that you can munch as you walk around the course.

Enjoy a hearty breakfast, some porridge and egg on toast is a great choice with some fresh juice.

Avoid drinking too much coffee, it is a diuretic.

Pack up the car, grab your shoes and head off to the course with plenty of time to spare.

On arrival, go and register and confirm your tee time, collect your card and if you are playing a shot gun confirm your tee and find out the quickest way to reach the hole.

Once you have done this, grab your clubs and head to the range and warm up. 20 balls are more than enough to get you into the right frame of mind.

Onto the putting green to get a feel for the speed.

Go to the toilet, get your tees and ball ready and head to your tee.

Preparation is a massive part of playing tournament golf and you should look to be early with time to kill, rather than rushing around.

Stretch Your Way to Better Golf

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Golf is often considered to be a sport that requires very little physical ability, when in fact it requires a huge amount of effort, with each and every swing.

As you age, in general you will become less agile and lose flexibility and power.

This is all part of your personal evolution and is something that cannot be avoided.

But we can try to reduce the effect by becoming more aware of what we are doing and what we can do to try and maintain our games.

The most basic and easy to do is begin a stretching program.

If you are unsure of how to do this then speak to a physio, doctor or golf instructor that can point you in the right direction.

You should never try to this on your own if you have no experience of what you are going to be doing.

A stretching program should take a few minutes to complete.

Which muscle groups should you focus on?

The hamstrings: A great stretch for the hamstring is to spread your feet shoulder width apart and from the hips bend forward keeping your back straight. Repeat twice and hold each repetition for around 30 seconds.

Obliques: Standing up straight turn to your left and place your hands flat on a wall, keep your feet on the ground. Repeat to the right and repeat the stretch twice. Hold each repetition for 30 seconds.

Hip abductor and adductor muscles: Kneel on a mat, with one knee on the floor (the other foot flat) and push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your leg with the knee on ground. Repeat twice for each leg holding for 30 seconds.

Shoulders: Facing a wall place your hands flat on the wall at eye level. Bend at the hips moving your chest and head forward and down toward the ground. Repeat twice and hold for 30 seconds.

Calves: Place your toe against the wall, with the heel on the ground. Lean forward towards the wall until you feel the stretch in your calf. Repeat twice with each leg and hold for 30 seconds.

Please take care when performing these stretches and make sure to seek professional advice if you have never performed them before.

Stretching is just one thing that you can do to help maintain a good, solid swing.

Each of the exercises above are designed to improve your posture and flexibility.

You may not see immediate improvements, but if you are struggling with muscle stiffness or poor flexibility then you should certainly try this.

Look Good and Play Better

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Now this is a tip that won´t do anything for your swing but you will feel much better if you take to heart what I am about to say.

When you head to the course, you should do so looking ready to play golf.

I have seen it all too often, a golfer turns up to the course looking scruffy, only to hit it the way they look.

OK, I know some people don’t have the money to buy top of the line clothing, but there is absolutely no reason why you can´t turn up with a pair of clean shoes, pressed trousers and a golf bag that is not full of holes and broken zips.

Your appearance is vital to building a confident image, without a confident image you will struggle to be a confident golfer.

Take a look at the best players at your club, they will be well-dressed (not necessarily in the latest gear) they will carry themselves confidently.

But this is not just because they are a some of the best players at the club, they are confident because they take the time to ensure they look like golfers.

So when you head home tonight go and take a t look at your golf shoes.

Clean them, polish them replace the worn out spikes.

Head up to the closet and pick out your weekend attire, inspect it and see if it meets the standards that you would set yourself when you are on the course.

If it doesn´t find something else, press your trousers and shirt in readiness.

Check your bag, make sure that there is no nasty surprise lurking in the deepest pockets, check for holes (and if you find some and can´t afford to replace the bag sew them up), organise your bag so that you know where everything is.

Throw out old gloves, the battered balls and broken tees, this is just clutter.

Now, I know that it is probably the worst job for a golfer to do, but grab the clubs and give them a thorough clean.

Grab an old toothbrush, a towel, a screwdriver, some warm water and soap.

Start by cleaning the grips, turn the club upside down, so that the club head is in the air. Scrub the grips with the warm soapy water and toothbrush. Dry immediately, make sure not to get any water inside the shaft.

Then turn your attentions to the club head and remove any grit and dirt from the grooves and dry them well.

If you have some polish lying around the house, give them a quick polish and bring back the shine of a new club.

As I said at the start this won´t lower your scores, but it will improve your confidence and how you feel about yourself, and that can only help your game.

How to Change Your Game

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One of the most common questions I face as a coach is “can you stop me slicing the ball in just one lesson?”

The truthful answer is no, and the reason is simple.

To change a slice into a fade or where possible a draw takes time, it is not possible to alter the cause of a slice in a single lesson, it is too ingrained into the golfers’ habits to remove during the course of an hour.

Please note that I am using this as an example, rather than the only situation in which quick fixes do not work.

If you are wanting to make a change to your swing in order to remove an unwanted shot type then you have to be prepared for some hard work, dedication and begin searching for a professional that is willing to help achieve this.

A professional that is willing to give you a lesson promising a quick fix to your issue, is one that I would have to say that you should steer clear of, because they are not engaging with you or being honest with you regarding the time it takes to remove a habitual issue.

Now, some of you might be thinking that you have had a successful “quick fix” lesson with the results immediate.

But I would ask you to question the current situation.

Has the error that was solved in just one lesson actually remained as part of your game, or have you developed a new issue that was caused by the “quick fix”?

More than likely you have.

And the problems that arise are more damaging to your game than the initial issue you had “fixed” because they are only shadowing the deeper lying issue.

As with anything in life, fixes are rarely straightforward, requiring work to put into place the necessary changes we are trying to implement, and there is no difference when it comes to golf.

I am not doubting for a second that you can see an improvement after just one lesson, but what I am trying to put across is that you must look to taking more than a single lesson to cure your problems. The development of a player, and in the case of fixing the dreaded “slice” will require time and patience as you try to rebuild and retrain your swing to a point where you feel comfortable with it on the course.

Make the commitment to change and you could see some great improvements in your game.