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10 Little things that will make a BIG difference in your game

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What I find again and again with my students is that they believe the keys to better scoring lie in hitting their drives farther or adding another 10 yards of distance to their irons. And of course, I’d be the first to agree that distance plays an important role in scoring, but there are so many other contributing factors. Below are 10 tips for better scoring, which are going to help you score better right away.

10) Your first putt

The problem with long-putting is that you may at times become preoccupied with the line of the putt without paying the proper level of attention to speed, which dictates distance the ball will roll out. As the line of the putt is of secondary importance, your focus should be on those factors that affect speed. Your final thought before striking the putt should be speed with only a general concern for the line of the putt.

9) Bunker Play: Get out, get on, get in

In bunker player, there are three levels of expertise. The first level is the ability to get out of the bunker on a regular basis. The second level is the ability to get the ball out of the bunker and have it finish anywhere on the green. The third level is the ability to play a shot from the bunker that ends up close to the pin. You must work through each of these stages, one at a time, to eventually become an expert bunker player.

8) Greenside shots

In earlier days, the chip-shot played an important role in the game. But with the change in today’s maintenance practices, it has become virtually extinct. The grass around the greens is now allowed to grow considerably longer, dictating a different approach than in the past. The best club to use for these shots is not the traditional 7-8-9 irons, or even the pitching wedge, but a sand or lob wedge. The clubs (56-60 degrees) are heavier, allowing them to cut through the grass while at the same time, because of their added loft, allowing you to be more aggressive when playing these shots.

7) Let go of score

A major impediment to scoring is keeping track of where you stand with par on a moment-to-moment basis. Should you be a player who is constantly concerned with score, looking forward or back, you are making the mistake of not staying in “the now.” You must learn to control your thought process, which takes mental discipline. The proof of that discipline is at the end of the round. You should be surprised at the exact total of your score.

6) Elevation affects distance

The ability to adjust for elevation is to a large degree instinctive. The best approach is to think in terms of determining, to the best of your ability, whether the differential is one, two or three clubs and then commit to your decision. The shot will play longer going uphill and shorter going downhill.

5) Playing from sidehill lies

In the case of sidehill lies, the ball is inclined to curve in the same direction as the hill slopes. Should the ball be ABOVE YOUR FEET, it will tend to curve to your left. Also, because the ball is physically closer to you then from a level lie, you must effectively shorten the length of the club. The best approach is to choke up on the handle or stand a little taller at address. In cases where the ball is BELOW YOUR FEET, the ball is physically further from you, dictating that you must maintain your forward posture as you play the shot. The ball will tend to curve to your right.

4) Avoid the big number

A number greater than 3-over par on any given hole could be considered a “big number.” There are several reasons why you or other players mix in a big number with their score, even when penalty shots are not a factor. The nature of the game dictates that at some point you will play a poor shot. The question is how you react to that shot mentally and emotionally. Are you able to immediately put it behind you, or do you allow your emotions to spill over into the next hole causing you to play a succession of poor shots?

The basic rule after hitting into trouble is to get out of trouble with your next shot. You should choose a LOW RISK option that gets you “back down the road.” You may be tempted to play the “hero shot,” which often backfires into an even larger score. You should practice trouble shots on the range and on the course learning how to hit the ball high or low, while at the same time having the ability to curve it in both directions.

3) Playing in the wind

The wind adds another dimension to the game. The difference between playing on a windy day when the gusts are over 20 mph and playing on a day when there is no wind is like the difference between chess and checkers. The two games use the same board, but they are vastly different in their complexity. A player who consistently strikes the ball in the center of the club-face will have an advantage over other less skilled players, as his ball will be less affected by the wind.

2) Make your misses count

You may only hit a few “perfect shots” during your round. The rest will be “misses” of varying degrees. A percentage of these shot will fall under the category of “good misses,” which are shots that are eminently playable. Do you find this concept hard to accept? You may be looking through the “prism of perfection.” A ball that goes a reasonable distance and in the intended direction should be not be accepted as good fortune.

1) Play the course for shape

In the game of billiards, a skillful player is always looking at least one shot ahead while making sure that the next shot is as easy as possible. In golf, this means finding the best angle off the tee — one that is both safe and proves the best access to the pin. In preparing for competition, walking the hole backward in your imagination can be helpful in seeing what the architect intended when he constructed the hole. From there, you can develop a comprehensive “game plan.”

What now? I would suggest that you systematically work your way through each of the 10 steps on the practice range while observing the outcome, and then as you become more confident, test them out on the golf course… and watch your scores come down.

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As a teacher, Rod Lidenberg reached the pinnacle of his career when he was named to GOLF Magazine's "Top 100" Teachers in America. The PGA Master Professional and three-time Minnesota PGA "Teacher of the Year" has over his forty-five year career, worked with a variety of players from beginners to tour professionals. He especially enjoys training elite junior players, many who have gone on to earn scholarships at top colleges around the country, in addition to winning several national amateur championships. Lidenberg maintains an active schedule teaching at Bluff Creek Golf Course Chanhassen, Minnesota, in the summer and The Golf Zone, Chaska, Minnesota, in the winter months. As a player, he competed in two USGA Public Links Championships; the first in Dallas, Texas, and the second in Phoenix, Arizona, where he finished among the top 40. He also entertained thousands of fans playing in a series of three exhibition matches beginning in 1972, at his home course, Edgewood G.C. in Fargo, North Dakota, where he played consecutive years with Doug Sanders, Lee Trevino and Laura Baugh. As an author, he has a number of books in various stages of development, the first of which will be published this fall entitled "I Knew Patty Berg." In Fall 2017, he will be launching a new Phoenix-based instruction business that will feature first-time-ever TREATMENT OF THE YIPS.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. millennial82

    May 14, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Rod Lindenberg is a Sr. Jedi in golf. Thank you for the lessons, i will surely train in all 10 this weekend.

  2. Bob Jones

    May 14, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Fabulous list. I would add the importance of doing whatever it takes to get the ball in the fairway off the tee. The pros can drive the ball anywhere and still make par; we can’t.

  3. ButchT

    May 14, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    Very good article!

  4. Sherwin

    May 13, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    I believe this is one of the best article written for GolfWRX. Why the negative responses? I don’t get it. I think the author is spot-on.

  5. Albert

    May 13, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    Okay, let’s get this straight:
    11. Cheat
    12. Imbibe
    13. No x-e-s
    14. Void
    15. Page Sp.
    16. ??????

  6. BParsons

    May 13, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    15. Take Paige Spirniac out for a photoshoot before and after round.. BOOM BABY

  7. ogo

    May 13, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    14. Void yourself so that your lower bowel is unburdened of waste material. A glycerine suppository does wonders to start the process. You will have that floating feeling throughout the round while others labor absorbing their contaminate material. 😮

  8. ogo

    May 13, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    13. Avoid x-e-s first thing in the morning as it will drain you of essential fluids needed to pulverize the ball off the first tee and thereafter. Save and store your energy for the game, not the gal.

  9. Tom

    May 13, 2018 at 11:58 am

    great article Mr. Lidenberg. Many facts over looked by golfers,mostly weekenders and some I forgot about.

  10. larry

    May 13, 2018 at 9:57 am

    maybe the worst i’ve ever read! Shank

  11. ogo

    May 12, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    12. Imbibe before the first tee. Alcohol is a depressant and will eliminate all your first tee jitters and keep you from a panic attack. Bobby Jones and Moe Norman all took a wee dram of Scotch whiskey to settle their golfing nerves. Many still do.

    • James T

      May 12, 2018 at 11:29 pm

      I subscribe to sipping an Italian Sports Drink during the round to keep the swing lubricated. i.e. A pinot grigio from Tuscany.

  12. Obee

    May 12, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Wow! Somebody understands the elements of scoriing!! 🙂

  13. KAndyMan

    May 12, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    Great article! Simple, to the point and great things to always have in the back of your mind at all times. I personally think the first putt and playing the hole backwards are the 2 best. They come into play on almost every hole. My dad beat into my head at an early age to “get your line close but most important your speed even closer on your first putt”.

  14. James T

    May 12, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    Pursuant to #4. Be emotional before the shot. Be emotional after the shot. No matter if something good or bad just happened. DURING the shot be a robot, unaffected by human emotions, because good or bad emotions can ruin the current shot.

  15. ogo

    May 12, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    11. Cheat. Ignore the USGA/R&A Rules of Golf, particularly after slicing your drive into the deep rough. Don’t play stroke and distance back to the tee. Carry a second ball in your pocket and quietly dropping it and saying you found your ‘lost’ ball.

  16. apple support

    May 12, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Those who are playing Golf or love to play this at some point in time should follow these rules and things that are mentioned here. If anyone wants to be a pro in the game, then all the aspects of the game should be known.

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Unlocking Your Golfing Potential: How to train harder to make golf feel easy

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If you want to make playing golf easier, you need to take a look at how you train.

Dropping down unlimited golf balls on the range simply isn’t like what we face on the golf course. When you look at other sports, their practice and training is very difficult. They make the training physically exhausting and mentally challenging so that when it’s game time, it seems easy. Listen into this episode so you can learn how to do that for your golf game.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Club Building 101: Understanding epoxy

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There are three main components to a golf club: head, shaft, grip–but what keeps the head from flying off while traveling over 100 mph?  One of the most under appreciated pieces of every club, epoxy!

This video explains a few simple things to pay attention for when using, mixing, or adding things to epoxy as well, as a few tips for those looking to put a few clubs together.

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How well do you really know the Teeing Ground rules? Here’s a refresher…

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There are a few things you need to know 18 times every round if you want to stay on the right side of the law, and some of them are quirky. They all surround the Teeing Ground, a very specific area defined by the Rules which is different from the larger (undefined) flat area upon which the tee-markers are placed and rotated.

One might think that putting a peg in the ground to start your hole is stupid-simple, but let’s reserve that judgment for a while. I recently had a discussion about this with a friend, and crudely sketched out some scenarios.  Please look at Illustration No. 1, and hold off on looking at Illustration No. 2 further below for the moment.

In the first illustration, you will find the depiction of two haphazardly-placed (square) tee-markers; five golf balls; and a representation of the depth of two club-lengths. Which of the balls has been placed in a position to legally start the play of the hole?

Decide, then read on.

While it may seem simple, irregularly shaped tee-markers and tee-markers which “aim” you in an off direction relative to the fairway actually require careful analysis in order to accurately determine where the Teeing Ground begins and ends. Here is the explicit Definition:

The “teeing ground” is the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.

When square tee-markers are positioned in such a way that their sides are not parallel to each other, the precise rectangular area of the Teeing Ground can have a surprising outline. And the fact that a ball may be partially outside the Teeing Ground and still considered technically within it can add to the possible confusion.  

Moving on to reviewing Illustration No. 2, you’ll see the rectangle of the Teeing Ground superimposed over the haphazardly placed tee-markers per the Definition. Ball A, C, and D are partially within the Teeing Ground and therefore legal to play, and Ball B and E are completely outside of it. So if you’re one of those players who wants to get every last inch closer to the hole when you tee it up (or on occasion want to be almost two full club-lengths away from the front of the Teeing Ground) take heed!

The exact place the tee-markers are positioned takes on critical importance in another way, too. Rule 11-2 forbids you from moving the tee-markers to assist you before you make your first stroke from the Teeing Ground. So unless you have already made a stroke (in which case the tee-markers have become movable obstructions which you may temporarily move) don’t intentionally move them — even to “straighten” them for groups behind you. Decision 11-2/2 gives you the fairly complicated details on when you may or may not touch them without penalty, but it’s way easier to just remember to leave them alone!

In wild contrast to the prohibitions against changing the position of the tee-markers, the Rules are downright liberal in terms of what you may do to the surface of the Teeing Ground before you play. While Rule 1-2 generally prohibits you from altering physical conditions with the intent of affecting the play of a hole, Rule 11-1 lets you go hog-wild in changing the surface of this particular area. You’re free to create or eliminate any irregularity of surface you wish: stamp on the ground with your foot, create a divot hole or tuft of turf with your club, pull out a hunk of grass or a weed — have at it if you’re so moved. In addition, Rule 13-2 allows you to remove dew, frost or water from the Teeing Ground. In all cases, make sure you’re doing this landscaping only to the ground within the two club-length deep official Teeing Ground. Do it to the surrounding area and you might be in trouble. (In particular, note that Decision 13-2/14 makes it clear that you may not break a branch off a tree near the Teeing Ground that might interfere with your swing.)

If you’ve got the nerve, there’s a way to sort of expand the Teeing Ground for yourself: Rule 11-1 assures us that a player’s stance may be outside the Teeing Ground when he or she plays a ball from within it. So if you’re looking to get a better angle to a dogleg fairway or to avoid some overhanging branches out there, feel free to tee it up anywhere you wish between the tee-markers and deal with your stance afterward. Just be sure your concentration skills allow you to ignore that tee-marker which may now be between your toe and the ball!

Finally, what do you do if you inadvertently tee off outside the Teeing Ground? Rule 11-4 covers this, and it’s dramatically different in Match Play vs. Stroke Play. In Match, you are fine unless your opponent immediately requires you to cancel your stroke and start again. There is no penalty in either case (other than the possible misfortune of having to cancel a good shot). In Stroke, teeing off outside the Teeing Ground is a critical mistake: You get a 2-stroke penalty for having teed off from an incorrect location and you must re-tee correctly and start again before you tee off on the next hole (or before you leave the 18th green without declaring your intention to re-play) or else you’ll be disqualified from the competition.

In either Match or Stroke Play, you may warn your opponent or fellow-competitor that he or she is about to play from outside the Teeing Ground. If you have the occasion, it’s a nice thing to do. Take care, play well!

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