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5 keys to flighting your wedges lower for better control

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If you watch the best players in the world hit wedges, you’ll see them frequently using a shot that most amateurs don’t have. It’s called a “flighted” wedge, and it flies with a lower-than-normal trajectory and usually moves from right-to-left (for righties) into the pin. This is helpful because the lower ball flight stays below the wind, improves consistency and offers more spin. It’s a shot that can take an average wedge game to the next level.

Below are my 5 keys to flighting your wedges for better control.

1) Maintain a Consistent Angle of Attack

The best wedge players nip the ground with their wedges, only “bruising” it, not spending their day on the course carving up pork chops. That’s because their angle of attack (AoA) isn’t overly steep and their swing mechanics allow them to re-create a desirable impact position (an AoA that’s a few degrees downward to ensure clean contact) time after time.

All golfers golfer should aim to take shallow divots like tour players, but getting a little steeper is OK so long as you’re consistent. You want the ball to launch in the same “window” with a predictable trajectory and amount of spin when the ball hits the green.

2) Control your Dynamic Loft

The loft of the club at impact is called dynamic loft, and if you want to lower the flight of your golf ball you will need to reduce it. If you lean the shaft forward too much at impact, however, you will reduce your trajectory to a point that the landing angle of the ball is too flat and no amount of spin you produce will make the ball stop or spin back. This factor is the most difficult one for most amateurs to control, so you will need to practice.

3) Reduce the Overall Height of the Ball Flight

As stated above, if you decrease the dynamic loft you will decrease launch angle and the overall height will be affected. Take this with a grain of sand. We desire a “flatter” ball flight, not a head-high screaming bullet into the green. You know what your normal peak trajectory looks like (around 75-90 feet for most golfers) with your wedges, so make sure it is a touch more flighted than your full-shot height.

4) Manage Spin Rates

The spin rate of the ball will influence its landing action on the green. It makes no sense to spin one shot at 10,000 rpm and the other at 6,000 rpm from the same distance. The point of flighting a wedge is consistency, not adding variance.

The key to a consistent spin rate, assuming your mechanics are solid, is keeping your wedge face and grooves clean and making contact on the same part of your club face time after time. The next time you’re practicing using your favorite launch monitor, make sure to keep an eye on the spin rate and try to keep it in a tight range.

5) Move the Ball into the Pin from Right to Left

First, I want to thank Mike Bender. He taught me the aspects of moving your wedge shots into the green from right-to-left and why you should do it.

He and Zach Johnson worked on this before Zach won The Masters, and it was one of the keys to his success. Most greens are pitched from back to front, so if you hit the ball into the pin from right to left and land the ball right of the pin, the ball will land, hop and spin back, moving toward the hole instead of away from it. When the ball stops, you’re also more likely to have an uphill, right-to-left putt, which is statistically the easiest putt to make for right-handed players.

To move the ball from right to left with your wedges your club path must be right of your face angle at impact. Pay attention to your starting direction and make sure the ball is beginning a little to the right of the pin so you can move the ball towards the pin, not away from it.

The Numbers

Let’s take a look at what a flighted wedge shot looks on Trackman so I can show you what the numbers should look like. One thing I like about the latest Trackman software (TPS 4.1) is the ability to see my average number within each data point, as well as the plus-minus difference between all my shots; it helps me chart how tight my tolerances are in each category.

Here is a screenshot of my “flighted” wedge practice session.

TrackmanWedgesFlightedEdit

You can click/tap the image to enlarge it.

The big numbers in each category are for the last shot hit, while the smaller numbers (on the left) are the averages for the 15 or so shots I hit for this article.

Angle of Attack

My AoA is right about -7 degrees, which is OK for this shot. As you can see, it was a very consistent data point at only 0.8 degrees of difference. I would prefer to have a slightly less downward AoA, but at least it’s consistent.

Dynamic Loft

My dynamic loft on this shot was 38.9 degrees with my 54-degree wedge. While this might look good, it represents too little loft for my needs. As stated above, when you hit down too much on the ball you’ll tend to also lean the shaft too far forward. If I shallow out my AoA, the dynamic loft will fall more inline with what I’d like it to become.

Height

I’m pleased with the overall height of my shots, though the AoA and Dynamic Loft ranges were a touch off. The height of my shots stayed relatively consistent at 43.4 feet (my shot traveled about 75 yards on average) with a variance of only 3.5 feet. At least I will have a consistent shot reaction from the golf ball when it hits the green.

Spin

I am not as concerned with the overall rotations per minute, but the rather the consistency of them. My average spin rate was 4760 rpm (not too bad for the range balls I was hitting), but I was concerned with my range at 1142 rpm. As you can see, I hit too many short and spinny wedge shots that didn’t go as far as the others, radically affecting the overall spin consistency. I must stay “down” a touch longer though impact for this to subside.

Face-to-Path

The value here was -4.6 and the consistency was +/- 1.6 degrees, showing me that most of my shots were moving in the direction that I’d like them to be moving. It’s easy to “hang” wedges or overcook them when you don’t practice, so this isn’t too bad for me.

StickneyFlightedWedgesEdit

So it’s off to the lesson tee for me to make sure I can do this without hitting down on the ball too much. Learn how to flight your wedges, your scores will thank you!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. Dill Pickleson

    Feb 22, 2017 at 1:23 am

    I like this article. It’s a guideline that I can reference. And, confirms my believe that a little right/left is good.

    Sure, more time can be spent on HOW but you have to start somewhere, right?

  2. T bone

    Feb 20, 2017 at 9:14 am

    As a +handicap and a fader of the golf ball, I completely agree with Tom about the draw for this particular golf shot. While the article doesn’t really instruct on how to do it without the launch monitor, the advise of hitting a slight (1-3yds) draw is KEY to LOW, CONSISTANT wedges. The phrase my instructor used to use is “coming in strong to the pin”. The draw matches the elements better of good wedge play, meaning it’s easier to compress the ball with only taking a SHALLOW divot. For me, trying to fade a wedge means I am going to take a ton more grass, my hands need to be ahead of the ball way too much causing inconsistency, the ball will fly slightly HIGHER with the fade, leaving more room for wind to effect the shot. Even if I do manage to hit the proper distance, the increased spin of the fade will have the ball zipping back instead of that nice couple hops and stop. If any of you have access to a grass range, try taking swings that barely brush the grass, I bet you will find that the more left you swing, the harder to do, especially when trying to press hands forward to hit lower shots. Bottom line, with the short (most important) clubs, a SLIGHT draw is the stronger shot that will leave you with better birdie ops. The high floater should only be used when needed.

    • Yessir

      Feb 21, 2017 at 12:51 am

      Literally 100% spot on about hitting low cuts and taking too much turf. Low draw wedges have always been my things, easy to stay shallow and keep dynamic loft down controlling the flight and spin. Really can’t do that moving the shaft leftward.

    • Dill Pickleson

      Feb 22, 2017 at 1:18 am

      nice post.

  3. Golfwrx and chill

    Feb 19, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    Error 404: instruction not found

  4. Fire left

    Feb 18, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    This article is terrible. Zero actual instruction. “If you want to hit controllable low wedges just flight it lower by having a tour pros swing plane and lowering dynamic loft. Oh and hit a draw.” Thanks Tom I’ll be wedging it like ZJ in no time!

  5. Alex

    Feb 18, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    I agree with everything except the ball should be coming into the green left to right not right to left.

  6. Jeff

    Feb 18, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    This is another awful article, plus the fact that you as a teaching pro can’t do it htf are amateurs that play once a week expected to do it.

  7. Skip

    Feb 18, 2017 at 11:56 am

    “he next time you’re practicing using your favorite launch monitor, make sure to keep an eye on the spin rate and try to keep it in a tight range.”

    Ya lol, ’cause we’ve all got one of those.

  8. bogeypro

    Feb 18, 2017 at 10:55 am

    I like the data and the 5 points, but would have liked to have seen a little more instruction on how to hit the shots. Maybe a few practice drills instead of using a launch monitor that very few have access to play on.

  9. david

    Feb 18, 2017 at 8:47 am

    There’s an easier way to practice hitting lower shots at the range: tie a string to 2 sticks, the strings about 2 feet off the ground, and put the sticks about 4 or 5 feet in front of you, and try to hit the ball under that string. You’ll learn how NOT to flip you wrists and hit it on a proper trajectory

    • Daniel Smith

      Feb 21, 2017 at 11:56 am

      These comments are so salty about instructions and launch monitors. This is EXACTLY the method I used at the range and with a couple sessions I was able to consistently hit this shot. If you don’t know enough about the golf swing to take his comments and apply them then you shouldn’t be attempting this shot. Just keep hitting high wedges uncontrollably.

      You don’t need an LM to tell you spin/ball flight. 1. Move ball back in stance. 2. Look at your divot. 3. Look at your ball flight, it should be lower 4. Check the direction of the spin when the ball lands. HINT: it should move left.

  10. Devilsadvocate

    Feb 17, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Tom I have a TON of respect for you as an instructor and usually you articles are FANTASTIC…. but what is this??? Zero swing thoughts, moves, or adjustments to make to get the numbers you speak of… why don’t u shoot me DJS driver numbers while youre at it? Im sure ill be hitting it 350 in no time!

  11. Joey5Picks

    Feb 17, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    “Take this with a grain of sand.” The phrase is actually “Take this with a grain of salt.”

    • Wizardofflatstickmountain

      Feb 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      Considering this is a golf site, you probably don’t find too many salt bunkers on the course…

    • Steve

      Feb 17, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      Did you at least hear the wind from the joke as it soared over your head?

  12. Cornwall1888

    Feb 17, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Why do none of the instructions for this shot mention hitting it low on the face? that’s one of the main aspects of it and where most amateurs go wrong

  13. Leftshot

    Feb 17, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Some good stuff, but left out one of the biggest factors. This shot requires a smooth swing. If you watch the pros they are hitting smooth 1/2 to 3/4 swing shots with an abbreviated follow through. They are accelerating into the ball, but 50% effort is about the norm. The whole point of this shot is consistency and accuracy.

    Important especially with amateurs. Most weekend golfer’s swings are a violent explosion and if they try to abbreviate the backswing, it’s an even more violent, abrupt transition. Because of this, the flighted shot requires practice, but has the added benefit of improving the player’s full swing if they transfer some of the skills learned here.

    • Acemandrake

      Feb 18, 2017 at 9:21 am

      Perfect

      A smooth, shorter, unhurried arm swing with a quiet (but still slightly involved0 body rotation) works for me. This also makes it easier to repeat.

      BONUS: You can practice this until the cows come home without getting tired.

      #dialedin

      • Double Mocha Man

        Feb 18, 2017 at 2:39 pm

        What range do you practice at? That has cows?

  14. MBU

    Feb 17, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Hit it from right to left, with a draw? You’d be very likely to get a few shanks with that method, and in any case that piece of instruction is near pointless on many levels. But the rest of the article is sound advice.

  15. tom stickney

    Feb 17, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    If you don’t have a launch monitor available you can always use something in the distance to audit your trajectory.

    If the pin is on the right side of the green the obviously you wouldn’t move the ball in from right to left.

    • Jeffrey Purtell

      Feb 18, 2017 at 2:52 am

      What did golfers ever do before launch monitors????????????? I guess they just hit the ball already.

  16. Jimmy Ray

    Feb 17, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    my “favorite launch monitor”? Yeah, that’s gonna be tough. I have sooooo many lying around my private, GN-1 seeded, 275-yard backyard practice facility…

  17. Cmoregolf

    Feb 17, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    “not spending their day on the course carving up pork chops” Tell that to Jordan Spieth, his are the size of small parks.

  18. Philip

    Feb 17, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Go to the range and practice hitting lower flights until one finds a feel that works … at least that is my plan in 2 months

  19. Rick

    Feb 17, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for sharing this information on how to hit low wedge shots. How do your students that don’t have access to a trackman practice this shot? Thanks.

  20. F

    Feb 17, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Ah yes, let me just take my trackman out in my spare time to hit wedge shots.

  21. Tim

    Feb 17, 2017 at 10:06 am

    So no actual info on how to hit this shot, k.

  22. straightdriver235

    Feb 17, 2017 at 9:18 am

    To play this shot, acceleration into the ball is more controlled, and it’s almost as if the ball were caught on the upswing. The club is still moving down and from the right, but the body and hands have started to move into the follow through and to the left. Hitting down to much with de-lofted face will still spin the ball up, causing a balloon, and reduce chance of right to left.

  23. C

    Feb 17, 2017 at 8:34 am

    About the ‘right to left’ thing… If a right-handed golfer draws the ball into the green, he/she will tend to end up on the left side of the green. This will leave uphill left to right putts, statistically harder putts to make.

    • J

      Feb 17, 2017 at 9:42 am

      Is the pin always in the dead center of the green?

      • AB

        Feb 17, 2017 at 11:04 am

        According to the article, yes and what if the pin is on the right side of the green should we still hit the R to L shot

    • Tom

      Feb 18, 2017 at 5:27 pm

      C ….” When the ball stops, you’re also more likely to have an uphill, right-to-left putt, which is statistically the easiest putt to make for right-handed players”

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Instruction

Davies: The Trail Elbow In The Downswing

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In this video, I discuss the role of the trail elbow in the downswing. I also share some great drills to help golfers deliver the trail elbow correctly, which will help improve distance and contact.

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The 3 different levels of golf practice

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“I would have practiced as hard, but I would have made my practice more meaningful. I would have worked more on my short game and putting. I would’ve done a lot more drills to make the practice more meaningful, and I would’ve added pressure to the practice as much as possible.” — Lee Westwood

Now here’s the rub. Practice is not monolithic! I approach practice as having three different, distinctive and separate curriculum and criteria.

  • Level 1: Basic
  • Level 2: Advanced
  • Level 3: Extreme

Basic Practice (Level 1) by definition is “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” Basically, it’s doing the same thing over and over again to get better at it. My favorite skill that requires practice is the 76-yard “flighted wedge.” I do it, and I recommend it be done at every range practice session. Additionally, I identify and then practice as many different “skills” that are required to hit different golf shots. I have found that a non-pressurized environment is the best way to practice in a basic model.

It goes without saying that golf is not played in a pressure-free environment, so basic practice doesn’t help us play golf. The prime objective of Level 2 Practice (Advanced Training) is to take what you do in Basic Practice to the golf course.

First, create on-course situations that require you to hit the shots you have practiced. There should be rewards for demonstrations of competence, and there should be consequences for demonstrations of incompetence

“When you practice, try to find a situation to fit the shot you’re trying to practice.” — Ben Hogan

For example, a major problem is the unevenness of the lies you will encounter during play as opposed to the lies you used for your drills. From marginal to extreme, lies are difficult to replicate on the practice tee. So, play a round of golf and move the ball into the most undesirable lie that is very close to where you are.

Another example would be duplicating the creativity that is sometimes required during actual play. The prime example of that would be the sensation of “being in-between clubs.” I would suggest that you play an occasional round of golf using only half of your clubs. Take two wedges instead of four. Take only the “odd” or “even” numbered irons. Look at not taking the driver, or not taking all of your fairway clubs. I have not taken my putter, which forced me putt with my sand wedge!

A third example would be to play a round of golf and deliberately miss every green in regulation. Should your ball accidentally finish on the green in regulation just move it off into the rough, a bunker or whatever else could use the extra attention. You can create games where your opponent moves your ball off the green into something that would be advantageous to him.

Level 2 Practice is conducted on the practice ground as well as on the course. What I do and recommend is to take each of the shots, skills and drills used in Level 1 and add some accountability to the range experience. I have my students and clients use a “Practice Book” to schedule activities and to keep track of improvement.

Author Note: I will send you a sample practice book page that many of my players actually use. Request it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Please be advised that Level 2 Practice can feature games, wagering or other forms of friendly competitions because they should only activate the lesser emotions of irritation, annoyance, anticipation, anxiousness, joy, pleasure and disappointment. Dealing with these feelings in practice will help you recognize and deal with the minor stresses experienced by most recreational golfers.

Stress is the major cause of “CHOKING.”

Stress, by definition “is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Stress can ruin our ability to perform when we experience the major emotions such as fear, anger, shame, humiliation, euphoria, ridicule, betrayal, doubt and/or disbelief.

Level 3 Practice (Extreme Preparation) is on-course training sessions best suited for very serious competitive golfers. The more a player is able to compete in a simulated or controlled environment that accurately replicates the actual “pressures” that produce the kind of stresses that can effect performance, the better the player will perform when stressed in actual tournaments or events. Please be advised that Extreme Practice DOES NOT feature games, gambling or “friendly” competitions. They don’t control the conditions of play sufficiently to replicate the type of pressure that would induce “stress.”

“Simulation, which  is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones, often “immersive” in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion.” For many years now, the medical profession has used simulations to train doctors, the military has used simulations to prepare troops for the realities of the battlefield and aviation has used simulators to train pilots. Simulating has the added benefits of being cost and time effective while producing verifiable results.

If it’s possible for airlines to replicate every possible scenario that a pilot could experience in the cockpit by using simulations, then why isn’t it possible to replicate situations, and subsequent emotional responses, that a competitive golfer could experience on the golf course? Let me give you an example of what I mean.

“I got nervous all the time, as nervous as the next guy. It’s just that I caught myself before it became destructive.” Jack Nicklaus

Recent events at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play gives us some evidence of the destructiveness of uncontrolled emotions. Justin Thomas said that he couldn’t get the thought out of his mind of becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world should he defeat Bubba Watson in the semi-finals, which he failed to do.

“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said. “And that really sucked. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest.”

Then there was Ian Poulter being told that with his win over Louis Oosthuizen he had earned a spot in this years’ Masters tournament only to be told 10 minutes before his next match that he had not actually secured the coveted invitation. With elation, joy and satisfaction jerked away and replaced with disappointment, and possibly anger, the Englishman went out and got whipped by Kevin Kisner 8 & 6!

I concede that Justin Thomas’ and Ian Poulter’s situations were so unique that simulation-based practice and preparation techniques may not have been available to them, but now they both must know that their performance was effected negatively by mental stresses. And with that knowledge they may want to get tougher mentally. Level 3 Practice does that!

Not all that long ago, I was approached by a PGA Tour veteran for some on-course, one-on-one training. He was experiencing severe “choking” in pressurized short-game situations. So I took him out on the course and we replicated the exact shots he had problems with in the past. He demonstrated that he could perform each and every shot in a stress-free environment. We went into a “low-stress” training environment and his performance began to suffer. Then, at his urging to get “real,” we went into a “high-stress” practice mode and he melted down. Without going into details, he became so angry that not only couldn’t he hit golf shots, he tried to run me down with the golf cart as he retreated to the safety of his car.

Now, that’s not the end of the story. A few hours later, after some soul searching, he apologized for his lack of self-control and acknowledged that he had recognized the early signs of stress growing internally as we worked. We went back out onto the course and got back to work.

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Winning Ways: Here’s what it takes to become a winner in Junior Girls golf

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Every competitive golfer strives to win, and I want to help them achieve their goals. Recently, I wrote a story highlighting the statistics behind winning in junior boys golf, and how they can do it more often. Now, we set out to examine the data on winning in junior girls golf, and provide ways they can improve. The data is based on an analysis of tournament results from all events during the 2017 year from the Junior Tour of Northern California. We then asked stats guru, Peter Sanders, Founder of ShotByShot.com, to provide the stats related to the winning scoring numbers that we found. Finally, we discuss ways that juniors can practice building skills and work towards becoming tournament winners.

The Winning Scores

In 2017 the Junior Tour of Northern California held 26 tournaments with 850+ members. According to our data collection based on information available on the website, the average girl’s tournament course measured 6145 yards. The average winning score for girls was 146 (36 holes), or 73 per round. Ten of the 22 tournaments where won with scores of 144 or better and the low 36 holes total was a whopping 133! In the data collection we also collected the average 10th place scores girls. The average 10th place score for girls was 159 or 79.5.

The Winning Stats

We provided the numbers to statistics expert Peter Sanders. Peter’s company has been providing Strokes Gained analysis for golfers for the last 29 years. Peter is the founder of ShotByShot.com, a website that provides golfers at all levels with Strokes Gained analysis, pinpoints specific strengths and weaknesses and highlights improvement priorities. Since the launch of ShotByShot.com in 2005, Peter has collected over 317,000 rounds. Accordingly, Peter has agreed to share the numbers, below, for a typical female player who averages 73. There are two important points to consider when reviewing these statistics:

  1. In order to have a complete picture of the puzzle that is golf, one must consider the ERRORS, or lack thereof, that play such an important role in scoring at every level. Even the 650+ PGA Tour stats ignore these important miscues. Shot By Shot has included them in their analysis from the beginning and they are highlighted in the infographics below.
  2. The data provided represents only tournament rounds. As such it will primarily represent the high school and college programs that use ShotbyShot.com

Infographics Created by Alexis Bennett

The Winning Preparation

Junior girls are encouraged to use these stats as a benchmark against their own performance to determine where they might need to improve against the “typical 73 player.” After identifying gaps in their game, they can then create practice plans to help improve. For example, a junior might notice they have more 3-putts than the model. To improve, they could work put more time into practice, as well as playing games on the golf course like draw-back and 2-putt.

  • Drawback is a game where after your first putt, you draw the second putt one putter length away from the hole. This often changes a shorter putt (> 2 feet) to a putt of between 3.5 – 5 feet. This putts significantly more pressure on your putting.
  • You may also play Two-Putt, a game where when you reach the green, you (or your playing competitor) tosses the ball away from the hole. You must 2-putt from that spot to move to the next hole (even if it takes a couple attempts!).

Others reading this article might find that they don’t hit enough greens. Improving this area will require more consistent strikes, which may require further technical development and block practice, as well as working on the golf course. To start, I would recommend that every junior implement the yardage rule. The yardage rule works like this; figure out the distance to the very back of the green. For example, this number may be 157. Then figure out what club ALWAYS flies 157, which might be 6-iron. Then choose 7-iron for the shot. This way your best shot will not fly the green, your average shot will likely be in the middle of the green and your less-than-perfect shot will hopefully end up on the front of the green.

During practice rounds, play competitive games with yourself to sharpen your ability to hit greens. For example, if you normally hit 7 greens per round, in practice your goal might be 9. You would track your results over a month and then see your progress.

Beyond building individual skills, like hitting greens or working on putting, junior golfers need times to play competitive rounds on their home golf courses. Ideally, these rounds are played against other people with similar skills and done under tournament like conditions with consequences (loser buys winner a coke or cleans their golf clubs). Playing hundreds of rounds at your home golf course under these conditions gives you a unique opportunity to sharpen your game, learn your tendencies and build skills such as endurance and mental toughness. Most importantly, it teaches you to win and shoot under par!

Please also keep in mind building these skills may take months (or even years). In my own personal experience, when I set out to improve my birdies per round, it took nearly 4 months and 75+ rounds and significant practice to begin to see a change. Depending on your schedule and access to resources like a golf course and instructor, some changes might take a year or more. Regardless, don’t ever worry; building a solid foundation in golf will always lead to rewards!

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