Fixing What's Broke
When I was a young golfer, my father's consistent words of wisdom about my golf game went something like, "There's nothing wrong that another 5,000 practice balls won't fix." I think that was his interpretation of Mr. Hogan's famous advice that "the secret is in the dirt, and you have to dig it out for yourself."
I didn't have to do it all alone, fortunately, as my father was a very good player who was most helpful, and we had a wonderful golf professional at our little 9-hole course who loved working with all of us kids. Carl "Swede" Gustafson was tough as nails when he needed to be, and gentle as a pony when that was called for. He nurtured our love of the game, taught us fundamentals and created drills for us to really learn how to execute various shots.
So, the point of all this is that as we enter another golf season, maybe we should reflect on what shots caused us the most grief this past year, and make those our focus for early season work. I know it is fun to head to the range and make lots of full swings, and pound drivers to see the ball rocket off into the distance. But is that what really caused your higher scores last year?
Or was it that your chipping wasn't as sharp as it could have been? Your pitch shots weren't ending up close enough to the hole? Bunker woes? Or you just weren't making enough putts? Maybe you didn't hit enough greens from short- and mid-iron approach range. But I assure you that if you really analyze your golf last season, you can isolate two or three things that could really improve your scoring in 2014.
And those are the pieces of your game that should get overtime practice duty early this year.
For me, it's my scoring game – chipping, bunker play, and putting. So that's where I'm going to focus my work sessions. Starting yesterday, I spent an hour around the practice green hitting short chips and pitch shots. With a dozen balls, I worked my way around the green to give me all kinds of looks and all kinds of shot options. I worked on tempo, rhythm, set up and posture, grip pressure — all the basics. To me, yes — it is kind of boring, as I love the range as much as anyone. But if this handicap is going to come down this year, it will be because I'm better around and on the greens.
And I'm taking this routine to my pre-round sessions. Instead of pounding a bag of balls, I'm going to stretch, swing a couple of clubs to warm up, hit 15-20 balls with full swings... then spend about 20 minutes around the practice green and bunker.
What are you going to fix first?
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The bit between my ears that says "Ally that shot has about a 10% chance of coming off go for it" 6 swings later I finally reach the green. AAAArrrhhhhh!
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Your pitch shots weren't ending up close enough to the hole? Bunker woes? Or you just weren't making enough putts? Maybe you didn't hit enough greens from short- and mid-iron approach range.
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