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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

More stroke-saving advice for seniors: Love thy hybrid

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Continuing our series for seniors, this is a topic I’ve written about before but it is so important to our senior games, it is worth revisiting.

Some of you may be aware of the “24/38 rule.” It deals with the idea that most golfers lose consistency with an iron that is less than 24 degrees of loft and over 38 inches long. That USED TO BE a 3-iron. And I always thought even that was marginal—a 3-iron for a middle handicap players has always been a bit “iffy.”

Then came the “juicing era” when manufacturers started making golf clubs with much less loft and some added length. Now, that “24/38” rule applies to 5-irons! The cavity back era gave way to some great innovations, particularly forgiveness, but it also introduced stronger lofts and added some length. For example, today’s 6-iron, on average is 31 degrees and 37.5-38.o inches. The point is this: Many golfers do not have sufficient speed to hit 5-irons, maybe even 6-irons, from the fairway!

This goes for golf in general, but in senior golf, it is even more important to remember!

What to do? Voila! The invention of HYBRIDS! We have to understand one simple golf impact principle:  Getting the golf ball airborne from the turf requires speed. If we lack that speed, we need clubs with a different construction. The HYBRIDS are built to help launch the golf ball. Basically, it works like this: when the center of gravity is further from the hitting area (face), it is easier to launch the golf ball. On an iron that CG is directly behind the ball. In a hybrid, it is moved back, so the ball can be launched higher. There are other factors, but basically, that’s it.

My personal recommendation is as follows

  • If your driver clubhead speed in under 85 MPH, your iron set might go 7-PW
  • Driver speed 85-90 MPH, your iron set might be 6-PW
  • Driver speed 90-100, your iron set might be 5-PW
  • Driver speed over 100, you can choose the set make-up with which you are comfortable

As this piece is largely for seniors, I’m assuming most of you are in one of the first two categories. If so, your game may be suffering from your set make-up. The most common swing issue I see in seniors is “hang back” or the inability to get weight through at impact. This is often the result of a club shaft too stiff, OR clubs too difficult to launch—example, a 3-iron. Please DO NOT beat yourself up! Use equipment that is easier to hit and particularly easier to launch.

The question invariably arises, what about fairway woods of similar loft?  They are fine if you do not mind the added length. The great thing about hybrids is they are only slightly longer than similarly lofted irons. My advice is to seniors is to get with a pro, get on a launch monitor, find your speed and launch conditions and go from there.

Note: I am NOT a fitter, and I DO NOT sell clubs of any kind. But I do know, as a teacher, that hybrids should be in most seniors’ bags.

 

Want more help with your swing? I have an on-line swing analysis service. If you are interested in a “look” here it is.

 

 

 

 

 

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Clement: Long and short bunker shots

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It happens to all of us where: We get short-sided and need to put a shot together to save the furniture. The short bunker shot can really be a challenge if you do not have the right task to perform it and can result in you wasting a shot in the bunker or letting the shot get away from you because you don’t want to leave that delicate shot in the bunker.

And of course, so many of you are afraid to put a full swing on a longer bunker shot because of the dreaded skull over the green!

We have the easy solutions to all of the above right here and the other videos I have, which are great complements to this one including an oldie but goodieand this one with Chantal, my yoga teacher.

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The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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