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5 tips to help guarantee you’ll break 100 (or 90, or even 80!)

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In my writing and teaching, I strive to constantly break from the norm, tread the paths less trodden, and help the players I coach — or people who read my articles and books — in ways that move beyond the typical. That being said, I’ve decided to finally jump on that bandwagon of clichés and write a “5 tips” type article. Why? Because these types of articles are actually quite effective, especially when the premise behind the 5 tips are so simple and effective.

Lets leave the debate over clickbait for another time, and focus here on getting you to shoot your best score ever. I’m confident these 5 tips will help you get there.

1) Stop hitting it straight

If you’re struggling to break triple digits, you probably own a two-way miss. Most of the best players in the world take one side of the course out of play by rarely hitting a straight ball. They’re typically moving the ball off the tee in a direction that favors their most natural shot shape. Now for most of us that’s a fade, and that’s a good thing, so stop fighting that fade and just play for it. There’s a reason Lee Trevino once said, “you can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.” And Trevino wasn’t alone, as many of the most consistent drivers of the ball (including Hogan) played the fade, but what’s most important is to play for your most natural shot shape off the tee and stop trying to hit it straight!

2) Stop short-siding yourself

Huh? Listen to network golf coverage and you’ll hear the commentators mention how a player short-sided him or herself, but like many viewers, you likely have no idea what they’re talking about. Short-siding yourself is missing the green to the side where you have the least amount of green to work with in relation to the flag. It’s the kiss of death in golf, and something good players seldom do. Chipping (read bump-and-run type shot) is much easier, and you pay a far less severe penalty for a mishit chip than a pitch (lob shot). Aim for the long side of the flag on pins closer than 20 feet from the edge and your misses won’t keep ending up in a places where the unfortunate results of your next shot are “chunks”, “skulls”, and “chili-dips.”

3) Sleep with your sand wedge

Lots of players pitch with a pitching wedge, lob with a lob wedge, and relegate their sand wedge to only those shots they’re forced to endure from the beach. Now most of us don’t practice our short games enough to begin with, and if we’re splitting what little time we spend out there on the practice green between three (or four) different greenside wedges then we’re not likely to be very good with any of them. The sand wedge is the most versatile club in the bag, and you should learn to hit every shot inside 50 yards with it, and hit them proficiently, before you branch out to different clubs.

I grew up with nothing but an old Cobra Trusty Rusty 56-degree sand wedge that I learned to hit from every conceivable lie and situation and I knew exactly what I could do with it and what I couldn’t. Find that one club and practice with it until you know and trust your short game with it implicitly, and you’ll be surprised at how much pressure that ends up taking off your long game.

4) Quit “hitting” your putts

If you can’t break 100, chances are you don’t putt very well, and if you don’t, you likely have poor distance control. Most people who struggle to control their distances with the putter, “hit” their putts, they don’t “stroke it” or “roll it”. “Hitting” a putt is the inevitable result of a putting stroke that is too small for a given distance. One thing I consistently preach with my Academy students is the bigger the putt the bigger the putting stroke. If you’re hitting it progressively harder as you get farther and farther from the hole, try instead to let that stroke get progressively longer, and watch how much more often that first putt rolls up to within tap-in range.

5) Start closer to the hole

There’s only one reason the average men’s handicap in this country hovers around 18 while the average woman’s around 33, but it’s a very big one. Distance! The average woman hits the ball 140 yards off the tee while the average man hits it 210. Over the course of 18 holes, that’s about 1300 yards, and it doesn’t even account for the approaches. Research has been done which suggests that, in order for players to be able to hit most greens in regulation, they should play from tees that are about 30 times their average drive. That would put most women at tees that measure 4,200 yards, and most men at 6,300 yards.

Sadly, most clubs aren’t offering tees at 4,200 yards, but we should be, and until then we should all be realistic about how far we hit the ball off the tee, multiply that number by 30, and find the closest set of tees we can to that number and play from there. And if we do that, we not only might finally break 100, and speed up the pace of play at the same time, but we just might have a bit more fun in the process!

So there’s your five tips! And now that I’ve guaranteed you’ll all be breaking that milestone number in your game, I expect the editors of big-time golf magazine publications to come knocking on my inbox for that 101st cliché cover story. Hope it helps!

image credit: sacrededge on reddit

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Mike Dowd is the author of the new novel COMING HOME and the Lessons from the Golf Guru: Wit, Wisdom, Mind-Tricks & Mysticism for Golf and Life series. He has been Head PGA Professional at Oakdale Golf & CC in Oakdale, California since 2001, and is serving his third term on the NCPGA Board of Directors and Chairs the Growth of the Game Committee. Mike has introduced thousands of people to the game and has coached players that have played golf collegiately at the University of Hawaii, San Francisco, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, University of the Pacific, C.S.U. Sacramento, C.S.U. Stanislaus, C.S.U. Chico, and Missouri Valley State, as men and women on the professional tours. Mike currently lives in Turlock, California with his wife and their two aspiring LPGA stars, where he serves on the Turlock Community Theatre Board, is the past Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission and is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Turlock. In his spare time (what's that?) he enjoys playing golf with his girls, writing, music, fishing and following the foibles of the Sacramento Kings, the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants, and, of course, the PGA Tour. You can find Mike at mikedowdgolf.com.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Larry Covey

    Sep 12, 2018 at 2:08 am

    The PGA pros play to a factor of 25 or lower! Most pros drive the ball 300+ and using a 25 factor equals 7500 yds! For me, being 77 years of age and hitting my driver 225 yds, my factor would be 5625 yds! Pretty hard to find courses offering men’s tees less than 6000 yards, raising my factor close to 27! I normally play 6100 to 6350 yds and carry a high single digit hdcp. I hit my #4 hybrid 200 yds, pros hit their 7 irons the far!
    So using that as the average men’s factor, (27), the pros SHOULD be playing courses at 8100 yds or more!

  2. joro

    Sep 11, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Another great article, Truth is most people that play Golf have no ability to do any of that and play for fun until they get an overload of articles telling them how to swing, hook it, hit it solid, and a million other things to think about, get frustrated and quit. And the great gurus keep on writing and confusing more people.

  3. Bob Jones

    Sep 10, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    (5) The PGA Tour presents courses that average 25 times the average drive, the LPGA 26 times. 30 times is too long for recreational golfers.

    Instead, I use this rule: add together the distance of my average drive and the carry distance of my average 7-iron. Half the par 4s should be this distance or less.

    • Aztec

      Sep 10, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      Excellent idea, makes a lot more sense than suggesting 30 times average driving distance. Too bad it’s not backed by ‘research’ like Mike Dowd’s statement.

  4. Michael

    Sep 10, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Mike – Do you have a video explaining 2) Stop short-siding yourself?

  5. DaveyD

    Sep 9, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    Good article- I try to focus on a few other things- get as many greens in regulation as I can; avoid the penalty stroke situation by staying in the fairway; no three-putts. Not as successful as I would like, but I’m down to a 14 handicap.

  6. Richard Douglas

    Sep 9, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    6. Stop lying to yourself about your carry distances. Seriously. You don’t hit it nearly as far as you think. Also, on most holes, it’s better to miss long than short. Short is where they put most bunkers and water hazards. Sure, you sometimes see these in the back, or drop-offs back there that are horrible. So change your approach there. Better yet, aim to the center of almost all greens, unless there is a specific reason to aim long or short. Besides, it feels awful and weak to come up short, but missing long is almost a “good” miss. Slammed it!

    • BigHitter

      Sep 9, 2018 at 11:37 pm

      I increase my carry distance by 20 yards annually with each new driver model. I’m projecting 300 yard carry in 5 years at this rate of improvement.

  7. Aztec

    Sep 9, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    So, if someone drives 250 yds on average they should play tees at around 7,500 yds? And the big hitters at 300 yds should play tees at 9,000 yds?
    Really, this is what ‘research’ is suggesting? Your credibility is very tenuous.

    • Jason

      Sep 10, 2018 at 9:55 am

      I agree, I think a factor of 25 is much more reasonable. For people hitting the ball 250 yards that would be 6250, which is about what I do. For people hitting it 210 yards that would be 5300 yards.

      Since you are talking average handicaps and giving them a factor to use for what tee boxes to use 25 makes a lot more sense than 30.

      Now you could say “I’m a scratch golfer who hits it 250 yards. Playing from 6250 is too easy.” Well congrats and this general reference wasn’t made for you. It was made for the group of 15-20 handicaps in the group in front of you that are playing from the tips while you complain about the round already taking 5 hours while you are standing on the 15th tee.

    • GMR

      Sep 10, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Haha I was wondering the exact same thing! I’m a long hitter averaging about 290 off the tee, and thought it might be fun to play the back 9 at Kiawah Ocean Course off the tips at around 4k yards (for 9 holes)… Let’s just say that while that was an interesting experience I won’t be doing that again anytime soon (or ever). And yet by Mr. Dowd’s math that course was actually TOO SHORT for me!!!

    • Josh Leyes

      Sep 10, 2018 at 1:34 pm

      Agreed! Not sure where he got that “research” from, but for golfers to hit the most greens in regulation possible, they should play from the most forward tees possible. Duh. I know a lot of guys who hit it 250+ (myself included) who struggle to hit greens on some days playing courses 6300-6500 yards. Not a well thought out point at all by Mike Dowd.

  8. Jim

    Sep 9, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    They arnt whats wrong here… you are. Go back to bedding your sister and collecting confederate flags and dip cups.

  9. Tom

    Sep 9, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Mike…. you are talking to the 1% of golfers who are committed to the game of golf. These people will make an effort to improve, while the remainder only play golf for yuks and fun. I suspect you already know that.

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Instruction

Clement: Best drill for weight shift and clearing hips (bonus on direction too)

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This is, by far, one of the most essential drills for your golf swing development. To throw the club well is a liberating experience! Here we catch Munashe up with how important the exercise is not only in the movement pattern but also in the realization that the side vision is viciously trying to get you to make sure you don’t throw the golf club in the wrong direction. Which, in essence, is the wrong direction to start with!

This drill is also a cure for your weight shift problems and clearing your body issues during the swing which makes this an awesome all-around golf swing drill beauty! Stay with us as we take you through, step by step, how this excellent drill of discovery will set you straight; pardon the pun!

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Confessions of a hacker: Chipping yips and equipment fixes

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There’s a saying in golf that, paraphrasing here, it’s the person holding the weapon, not the weapon. Basically, if you hit a bad shot, it’s almost certain that it was your fault, not the fault of the golf club. It has a better design than your swing. And while that truism is often correct, it ain’t necessarily so.

For example, if I were to try to hit one of those long drive drivers, I’d probably mis-hit it so badly that the ball might not be findable. That stick is way too long, stiff, and heavy for me. Similarly, if I were to use one of those senior flex drivers, I’d probably hit it badly, because it would be too floppy for my swing. It’s clear that there are arrows that this Indian can’t shoot well. Maybe a pro could adapt to whatever club you put in his hand, but there’s no reason he would accept less than a perfect fit. And there’s little reason why any amateur ought to accept less than a good fit.

I was never a competitive athlete, although I’m a competitive person. My path led a different direction, and as my medical career reached its mature years, I was introduced to our wonderful and frustrating game.

Being one who hates playing poorly, I immediately sought instruction. After fifteen years, multiple instructors, a wallet full of videos, and a wall full of clubs, I am finally learning how to do one particularly vexing part of the game reasonable well. I can chip! But as you may have guessed, the largest part of this journey has to do with the arrow, not the Indian.

We may immediately dismiss the golf shaft as a significant issue since chipping generally involves a low-speed movement. And as long as the grip is a reasonable fit for the hands, it’s not a big deal either. The rubber meets the road at the clubhead.

Manufacturers have worked hard to get the best ball spin out of the grooves. Their shape is precisely milled, and then smaller grooves and roughness are added to the exact maximum allowed under the rules. Various weighting schemes have been tried, with some success in tailoring wedges to players. And some manufacturers market the “newest” designs to make it impossible to screw up wedge shots. And yet, nothing seemed to solve my yips.

So I went on a mission. I studied all sorts of chipping techniques. Some advocate placing the ball far back to strike a descending blow. Others place it near the center of the stance. The swing must have no wrist hinge. The swing must have a hinge that is held. It should be a short swing. It should be a long swing. The face should be square. The face should be open. There should be a “pop.” There should be no power added.

If you are confused, join my club. So I went on a different mission. I started looking at sole construction. Ever since Gene Sarazen popularized a sole with bounce for use in the sand, manufacturers have been creating massive numbers of “different” sand wedges. They have one thing in common. They are generally all built to 55 or 56-degrees of loft.

The basic design feature of the sand wedge is that the sole extends down and aft from the leading edge at some angle. This generally ranges from 6 to 18-degrees. Its purpose is to allow the wedge to dig into the sand, but not too far. As the club goes down into the sand, the “bounce” pushes it back up.

 

One problem with having a lot of bounce on the wedge is that it can’t be opened up to allow certain specialty shots or have a higher effective loft. When the player does that, the leading edge lifts, resulting in thin shots. So manufacturers do various things to make the wedge more versatile, typically by removing bounce in the heel area.

At my last count, I have eight 56-degree wedges in my collection. Each one was thought to be a solution to my yips. Yet, until I listened to an interview with Dave Edel, I had almost no real understanding of why I was laying sod over a lot of my chips. Since gardening did not reduce my scores, I had to find another solution.

My first step was to look at the effective loft of a wedge in various ball positions. (Pictures were shot with the butt of the club at the left hip, in a recommended forward lean position. Since the protractor is not exactly lined up with the face, the angles are approximate.)

I had no idea that there was so much forward lean with a simple chip. If I were to use the most extreme rearward position, I would have to have 21-degrees of bounce just to keep the leading edge from digging in at impact. If there were the slightest error in my swing, I would be auditioning for greenskeeper.

My appreciation for the pros who can chip from this position suddenly became immense. For an amateur like me, the complete lack of forgiveness in this technique suddenly removed it from my alleged repertoire.

My next step was to look at bounce. As I commented before, bounce on sand wedges ranges between 6 and 18-degrees. As the drawing above shows, that’s a simple angle measurement. If I were to chip from the forward position, a 6-degree bounce sand wedge would have an effective bounce of 1-degree. That’s only fractionally better than the impossible chip behind my right foot. So I went to my local PGA Superstore to look at wedges with my Maltby Triangle Gauge in hand.

As you can see from the photos, there is a wide variation in wedges. What’s most curious, however, is that this variation is between two designs that are within one degree of the same nominal bounce. Could it be that “bounce is not bounce is not bounce?” Or should I say that “12-degrees is not 12-degrees is not 12-degrees?” If one looks below the name on the gauge, a curious bit of text appears. “Measuring effective bounce on wedges.” Hmmm… What is “effective bounce?”

The Maltby Triangle Gauge allows you to measure three things: leading-edge height, sole tangent point, and leading-edge sharpness. The last is the most obvious. If I’m chipping at the hairy edge of an adequate bounce, a sharp leading edge will dig in more easily than a blunt one. So if I’m using that far back ball position, I’ll need the 1OutPlus for safety, since its leading edge is the bluntest of the blunt. Even in that position, its 11-degree bounce keeps the leading edge an eighth of an inch up.

Wait a minute! How can that be? In the back position, the wedge is at 35-degrees effective loft, and 11-degrees of bounce ought to be 10-degrees less than we need. The difference here is found in combining all three parameters measured by the gauge, and not just the angle of the bounce.

The 1OutPlus is a very wide sole wedge. Its tangent point is a massive 1.7″ back. The leading edge rises .36″ off the ground and is very blunt. In other words, it has every possible design feature to create safety in case the chip from back in the stance isn’t as perfect as it might be. Since a golf ball is 1.68″ in diameter, that’s still less than halfway up to the center of the ball. But if you play the ball forward, this may not be the wedge for you.

Here are the measurements for the eight sand wedges that happen to be in my garage. All are either 56-degrees from the factory or bent to 56-degrees.

A couple of things jump out from this table. The Callaway PM Grind at 13-degrees has a lower leading edge (.26 inches) than the 11-degree Bazooka 1OutPlus (.36 inches). How can a lower bounce have a higher leading edge? Simple geometry suggests that if you want a higher leading edge, you will need a higher bounce angle. But it gets worse. The Wishon WS (wide sole) at 6-degrees (55-degree wedge bent to 56-degrees) has a leading-edge height of .28 inches, higher than the Callaway which has over twice the nominal bounce angle!

One thing is missing from this simple discussion of angles.

If I place one line at 34-degrees above the horizontal (loft is measured from the vertical), and then extend another at some angle below horizontal, the height above ground where the two join depends on how long the lower line is. This means that an 18-degree bounce with a narrow “C” grind will raise the leading edge a little bit. A 6-degree bounce on a wide sole may raise it more because the end of the bounce on the first wedge is so close to the leading edge.

 

Let’s look at this in the picture. If the red line of the bounce is very short, it doesn’t get far below the black ground line. But if it goes further, it gets lower. This is the difference between narrow and wide soles.

This diagram describes the mathematical description of these relationships.

Our first task is to realize that the angle 0 in this diagram is the complement of the 56-degree loft of the wedge, or 90 – 56 = 34-degrees since loft is measured from vertical, not horizontal. But the angle 0 in the bounce equation is just that, the bounce value. These two angles will now allow us to calculate the theoretical values of various parts of the wedge, and then compare them to our real-world examples.

My PM Grind Callaway wedge has its 3rd groove, the supposed “perfect” impact point, 0.54 inches above the leading edge. This should put it 0.8 inches back from the leading edge, roughly matching the measured 0.82 inches. So far, so good. (I’m using the gauge correctly!)

The 13-degree bounce at 1.14″ calculates out to 0.284″ of leading-edge rise. I measured 0.26″, so Callaway seems to be doing the numbers properly, until I realize that the leading edge is already .45″ back, given a real tangent of .69″. Something is out of whack. Re-doing the math suggests that the real bounce is 20-degrees, 40 min. Hmmm…

Maybe that bounce angle measurement isn’t such a good number to look at. Without digging through all the different wedges (which would make you cross-eyed), we should go back to basics. What is it that we really need?

Most instructors will suggest that striking the ball on about the third groove will give the best results. It will put the ball close to the center of mass (sweet spot) of the wedge and give the best spin action. If my wedge is at an effective 45-degree angle (about my right big toe), it will strike the ball about half-way up to its equator. It will also be close to the third groove. But to make that strike with minimal risk of gardening, I have to enough protection to keep the edge out of the turf if I mis-hit the ball by a little bit. That can be determined by the leading edge height! The higher the edge, the more forgiveness there is on a mis-hit.

Now this is an incomplete answer. If the bounce is short, with a sharp back side, it will tend to dig into the turf a bit. It may not do it a lot, but it will have more resistance than a wider, smoother bounce. In the extreme case, the 1OutPlus will simply glide over the ground on anything less than a ridiculous angle.

The amount of leading-edge height you need will depend on your style. If you play the ball forward, you may not need much. But as you move the ball back, you’ll need to increase it. And if you are still inconsistent, a wider sole with a smooth contour will help you avoid episodes of extreme gardening. A blunt leading edge will also help. It may slow your club in the sand, but it will protect your chips.

There is no substitute for practice, but if you’re practicing chips from behind your right foot using a wedge with a sharp, low leading edge, you’re asking for frustration. If you’re chipping from a forward position with a blunt, wide sole wedge, you’ll be blading a lot of balls. So look at your chipping style and find a leading-edge height and profile that match your technique. Forget about the “high bounce” and “low bounce” wedges. That language doesn’t answer the right question.

Get a wedge that presents the club to the ball with the leading edge far enough off the ground to provide you with some forgiveness. Then knock ’em stiff!

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Golf 101: What is a strong grip?

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What is a strong grip? Before we answer that, consider this: How you grip it might be the first thing you learn, and arguably the first foundation you adapt—and it can form the DNA for your whole golf swing.

The proper way to hold a golf club has many variables: hand size, finger size, sports you play, where you feel strength, etc. It’s not an exact science. However, when you begin, you will get introduced to the common terminology for describing a grip—strong, weak, and neutral.

Let’s focus on the strong grip as it is, in my opinion, the best way to hold a club when you are young as it puts the clubface in a stronger position at the top and instinctively encourages a fair bit of rotation to not only hit it solid but straight.

The list of players on tour with strong grips is long: Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Fred Couples, David Duval, and Bernhard Langer all play with a strong grip.

But what is a strong grip? Well like my first teacher Mike Montgomery (Director of Golf at Glendale CC in Seattle) used to say to me, “it looks like you are revving up a Harley with that grip”. Point is the knuckles on my left hand were pointing to the sky and my right palm was facing the same way.

Something like this:

Of course, there are variations to it, but that is your run of the mill, monkey wrench strong grip. Players typically will start there when they are young and tweak as they gain more experience. The right hand might make it’s way more on top, left-hand knuckles might show two instead of three, and the club may move its way out of the palms and further down into the fingers.

Good golf can be played from any position you find comfortable, especially when you find the body matchup to go with it.

Watch this great vid from @JakeHuttGolf

In very simple terms, here are 3 pros and 3 cons of a strong grip.

Pros

  1. Encourages a closed clubface which helps deloft the club at impact and helps you hit further
  2. It’s an athletic position which encourages rotation
  3. Players with strong grips tend to strike it solidly

Cons

  1. Encourages a closed clubface which helps deloft the club at impact and can cause you to hit it low and left
  2. If you don’t learn to rotate you could be in for a long career of ducks and trees
  3. Players with strong grips tend to fight a hook and getting the ball in the air

 

Make Sense?

 

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