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Senior golf: Practical suggestions for lowering your scores

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This is the second article is our senior series. I was away for a while, so let’s get back to helping you seniors! If you missed the first article, take a look.

I live just a few yards from the green of a par 3, and it never ceases to amaze me the number of times I see two shots turned into three. Or more. All golfers, (particularly seniors) looking to cut their scores need to pay attention, not just to putts, but to the simple up and down opportunities that they missed. The par three by my house plays anywhere from 160 to 200 years, has a pond bordering the green on the left, and out of bounds (MY HOUSE) on the right. So it’s not an easy hole, and golfers miss that green all day; but even the poorer shots will come within 15, maybe 20 yards of the green. I see no reason a player should leave that hole with anything more than a bogey. Yet I see fives and sixes more than you can imagine…a chip shot is a very simple shot to learn.

MOST of your senior golf years should be spent chipping, pitching and putting.  Here’s why:

After a certain age. or perhaps when one has played a certain number of years, your golf swing can be changed slightly at the most! By slightly I mean this: Let’s say you are a 15 handicap player, you are hitting around five greens a round in regulation. If you make huge improvement in your swing, you may get to seven greens a round in regulation (the average of a 10-handicap player). That still leaves you 11-12 times per round OFF THE GREEN. Now, it’s true of course that swing improvements can also lead to missing closer to the green, but even here we are talking perhaps a pitch instead of a chip from the edge. BOTH these shots are within the skill set of most any golfer if they think and play differently around the greens. Hitting more greens is not always in that player’s capability, but getting the golf ball in the hole in fewer strokes IS!

I’ll use the green by my house as an example: the green is over 25 paces (75 feet) long. Like most courses, carts are kept on the cart path on all par 3s. I can’t begin to tell you how many players leave the cart with ONE, maybe TWO clubs regardless of the length of the shot. Those clubs are very often a wedge (of some loft) and/or a sand/lob wedge. Again most golfers are short with their tee shots (on all holes not just par 3s). So now they are standing in front of chip possibly 70-80 feet long with a 55-degree club. They either stub it or skull it, leaving themselves in double-bogey (or worse) position. That club selection is like taking a hit on 16 in blackjack when the dealer is showing 6!

Again, I know studies show that ballstriking is primary. Of course, you have to get your swing to the point where you can get the ball in play off the tee, but let me ask this question: when ballstriking is as good as it is going to get, you will still miss plenty of greens. What then? Are you doomed to shoot 94 because your swing cannot change greatly? The answer is NO, if you think better, and learn to hit short shots better. A big change in a golf swing requires time and athleticism. Short shots need technique and feel, but MUCH less strength, flexibility or general athleticism.

As a general rule, I teach most of my students the following priority list when near the green

  • PUTT whenever you can
  • CHIP if you can’t putt
  • PITCH only when you must.

Putting and straightforward chipping or bumping-and-running is a MUCH higher percentage shot. Do yourself a favor and play the shot that you are most capable of NOT the one you’ve seen on TV. Look, you’re probably not gonna hole a chip or pitch, so where do you want to be on your next shot?

Many of you have heard of the “rule of 12.” I’m going to try to explain this as simple as possible and suggest quick math for the course.

  • Pace off the distance you want the golf ball to fly and land two paces (5-6 yards) on the green. NO FURTHER THAN THAT!
  • Let’s say that distance is 4 paces (two yards off the green, two yards to land on the green).
  • Now pace from that point to the hole. Let’s say for the sake of simplicity the hole is 8 yards (25 feet or so) from the landing spot.
  • You have a 2 to 1 relationship of carry to roll.
  • Here’s how to do quick course math in your head: 12-2=10 iron, PW
  • If you have 3X roll vs carry, 12-3=9, iron.
  • If you have 4X roll vs carry, 12-4=8 iron. and so on…
  • This is NOT CAST IN STONE, it is merely a guide.
  • NOTE:  This applies to chipping only; next time I’ll deal with pitching. And course, just like putting uphill, downhill, into grain, down grain etc. have to be taken into consideration.

 Simple drill:  Put a headcover two paces on the green. Chip to it, no further! See what club it takes to reach various hole positions.

No one knows better than a golf instructor of nearly 40 years how difficult it is to get someone to change their habits. I can’t tell you how many times I have suggested people try another approach around the green, and invariably they go right back to their “favorite club.” It’s your choice, but PLEASE practice your short game most of the time!

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. DS

    Sep 29, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    My favorite columnist. I’m finally a single digit handicap and it’s via short game. I’m now focused on keeping my tee shots in play (pray for me) as I can still hit it with the youngsters but will continue to play 2 rounds a month at our local executive course to specifically focus on the short game. Keep ‘em coming, Dennis.

  2. Dennis Clark

    Aug 20, 2019 at 8:40 am

    ALL of my articles and tips that I share are SUGGESTIONS. They are ALL based on lesson tee and golf course observations over my 50+ years of playing and 35+ years teaching. Paul Runyon “little poison” was the first to observe this this. He called it the “rule of eleven” at the time, but as clubs have gotten so much stronger, the rule of twelve is the new algorithm. Try this, if you like it great. If not bag it!. Just remember, NOTHING is for EVERBODY!! Thx for reading.

  3. Gary

    Aug 17, 2019 at 8:39 pm

    Really good advice. Couple of typos, however: 1) bullet 1 – two paces is
    5 – 6 feet, not yards; bullet 4 – ratio is one to two, not two to one.

  4. Norm Wayland

    Aug 17, 2019 at 5:39 pm

    Good advice. I am older and shorter with all my clubs, so I have to pitch, chip or putt from off the green a Lot. My go-to club is 8 iron from fairway or short rough. Easier to calibrate w/ practice. Wedges need more skill/precision.

  5. Scooter

    Aug 16, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    Good stuff Dennis. I started using the rule of 12 a few years back and it’s VERY helpful. It’s also helpful and fun to work on factors such as ball position in the chip, using the club bounce vs. the leading edge, practicing from tight lies as well as rough, and even hooding the face slightly to help learn spin control etc. And even chipping with a hybrid at certain times. I developed my own “best for me” chipping techniques vs. situation and my short game & scoring improved quickly. Chipping is now one of my favorite parts of the game. I even gave up putting through longer/fuzzy patches of fringe in favor of chipping because I’m able to get the ball closer most of the time … I know this violates one of your suggestions 😉

  6. Acemandrake

    Aug 16, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    You can’t go too far wrong as a senior player if you can be competent with the driver, wedge & putter.

    It’s that simple.

    Short game practice is boring but improvement comes relatively quickly.

  7. Norm

    Aug 16, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you, Dennis! The first two articles are very helpful. I look forward to more instruction.

  8. 2putttom

    Aug 16, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    I was the 5th like. good article

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Tour Rundown: Swafford slips and recovers | Wolfe | + Catch up on the winners you missed last week

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During the excitement of last week’s US Open, we were unable to give proper coverage to the LPGA and PGA Tour Champions. We plan to rectify that this week, with a look back at the last, full week of golf in September 2020, along with a look waaay back at what else went on during US Open week. It’s strange to imagine fall as majors season, but with the Masters coming up in November, golf suddenly carries some weight with American football. The world’s top players will play some sort of schedule, in the run-up to an 11th-Month Augusta, and we should have quite the look at our favorite players as the leaves turn majestic. Time to Tour Rundown. Wake me up, when September ends.

Swafford captures Corales Puntacana title after slipping

The University of Georgia’s Hudson Swafford came out on tour in 2011. He won on the Korn Ferry tour the following season, then claimed an inaugural PGA Tour title in 2017. Three years on, he has a second, big-tour win to add to his wiki, thanks to a solid, bike-balancing in the Dominican Republic.

Swafford sat second to Adam Long on Saturday evening, but inherited the top spot as Long struggle on the outward nine, eventually settling in fifth place. Swafford was out in 31, thanks to a mighty eagle on the par-five fifth hole. Then, awareness rose from the mists, and he made double bogey at 13, followed by bogey at 15. At that juncture of the fairways, Nate Lashley, Tyler McCormick, and Mackenzie Hughes had worked into contention.

Bogey at 17 did Lashley in, while Hughes suffered a similar fate at the final hole. McCumber surged late, capping a bogey-free 32 back nine with a birdie at the last. This effort garnered him solo second spot. As for Swafford, he struck a magnificent iron on the windy, par-three 17th hole to fifteen feet, then dropped the slow-roller for deuce and a lead that would hold to the end. The tour returns stateside this week, at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.

Wolfe claims second KF Tour victory of 2020

Back in January, before the world knew that it would turn inside-out, Jared Wolfe took a large step in his ten-year touring career. Buoyed by PGA Tour Latinoamerica victories in three consecutive seasons, the former Racer from Murray State earned a Korn Ferry tour victory in the Bahamas. Eight months later, Wolfe can add a bookend trophy to his home shelf, following a one-shot win over Canada’s Taylor Pendrith.

The pair entered the final round 1-2, and held position throughout most of day four. Pendrith made birdie at the 15th, but Wolfe topped him with an eagle at 14. Pendrith then notched a bogey at 16, but Wolfe outdid him again with bogies at 15 and 16. In other words, they were feeling the nerves. Pars at the final two holes for both meant a one-stroke cushion for Wolfe, and increased buoyancy in the world of professional golf.

It should be mentioned that Taylor Pendrith, in any other year, would be the story of the season. After finishing outside the top 25 in his first five KF Tour events, followed by a pair of missed cuts, the Ontario native has collected four 2nds and a 3rd over his last nine starts. With a win anywhere, Pendrith would top The 25 money list. Currently, he sits in 2nd spot, behind Will Zalatoris. The Korn Ferry tour heads to Savannah, Georgia, for this week’s penultimate 2020 tournament.

Catlin corrals second 2020 win in Northern Ireland

2020 is defining itself, in mild golf terms, as a year of the late bloomer. In addition to Jared Wolfe, we now have John Catlin. Over the years, the former University of New Mexico golfer has plied his trade on the Asian and European tours. As September arrived, so did Catlin, with a career-changing win in southern Spain. After the Irish Open this week at Galgorm Spa, the Sacramento native now has a pair of Euro tour titles, and a fair amount of standing and cache in the world of golf.

England’s Aaron Rai held a four-stroke lead on the first tee, Sunday morning. He worked his way around the course in 70, the second time he had done so all week. Thrice on the day, he traded birdie for bogey. Rai began his round with a lost shot, but retrieved it immediately at the second. His second birdie of the day, at the 10th, was immediately offset by stray play at the 11th. Finally, and most injurious, he made birdie at 17 to keep hope alive. Needing a 2nd consecutive one to tie Catlin, Rai made bogey at the par-five closer to finish at 8-under par, in solo second position.

What drove Rai to desperation? A seven-birdie onslaught by the American. Catlin burst forth with four birdies over his first 10 holes. A bogey at the 13th slowed his roll, but he surged again toward the end. Catlin gained strokes on Old Man Par at three of his final four holes, only failing to go red at the par-four 17th hole. His 64 was 2nd low of the week and day, eclipsed only by Fabrizio Zanotti’s Sunday 63. The European Tour returns this week to the Renaissance Club in Scotland, for that nation’s Open championship.

Hall earns first LPGA title on US soil (last week)

Georgia Hall, she of the masterful 2018 Open championship title, earned a 2nd career win and first in the states last week. Hall and her compatriots journeyed to the kingdom of Oregon, and waged war at the Columbia Edgewater Club. Hall lurked in the shadows after an opening 70, but burst forth into the light with a second-round 66. Joining her in contention was a healthy mix of names and not-yet-names. Among the former were Moriya Jutanugarn and Inbee Park. Checking boxes in the later were Robyn Ree, Yealimi N0h, and Ashleigh Buhai. It was this last name that would prove most intriguing.

While Hall crafted another fine round, a 68 marked by six birdies and two bogeys, Buhai was on the prowl. The South African posted eight birdies on day three, including four of her final five holes. Only an unfortunate bogey at the 13th kept her from a clean card (and an outright win!) As the dust settled and the ink dried, Hall and Buhai headed toward a reckoning in extra holes, thanks to their tie at twelve deep.

Pars at the 18th brought them to the 1st, where both missed the green with approach shots. Neither recovery was stone dead, but Hall was able to coax her five-feet putt into the abyss for par. Buhai was not so fortunate, as her wee par putt stayed on the surface. The LPGA Tour travels to the opposite coast this week, for a go-round in Galloway, New Jersey, at the ShopRite Classic.

Furyk holds off Kelly in PURE playoff (last week)

Any weekend in Monterey is special, and the PURE Insurance championship made certain to hold itself to that standard. Finishing 3rd was Ernie Els; 4th was Mike Weir; and 5th was Retief Goosen. Major champions in their hey day, any member of that trio would have been a worth winner at Pebble Beach. Instead, it was left to Jim Furyk and Jerry Kelly to decide matters in overtime. Let’s reverse gears, though, and find out how we arrived at extra holes.

Furyk opened with 64, good for a one-shot advantage over Els, Cameron Beckman and Stephen Leaney. Kelly was seven shots back, at 71. On day two, Weir shone with 65, while Furyk regressed with 73, and jumped up with 68. Els was your overnight leader, but the Big Easy was too easy on the field, and did not capitalize on his standing. It’s safe to say that Els lacks the killer instinct of a Bernhard Langer; too many times in his career, he has let tournaments large and small, escape from his clutches.

Day three saw Kelly complete his monster comeback. His 65 was tied for low with Rod Pampling, and while Rod rocketed from 63rd to 31st, Kelly’s rise was even more valuable. He jumped from 9th to 1st, with a bogey at the scenic 8th the only speed bump between him and outright victory. As for Furyk, that 73 left a rotten taste in his mouth, so he returned a slightly-bizarre 67 of his own. The bald eagle was out in 31 strokes, thanks to three birds and a bald eagle in the first six holes. Furyk then Faldo-ed his way home, with 12 consecutive pars. Somehow, his bland play was good enough to reach the playoff.

The old guys lasted just one hole. Both Furyk and Kelly had wedge approach shots left to the fabled 18th green at Pebble Beach. Kelly got his ball left of the hole, and it spun away, to a dozen feet. From there, he two-putted for par. Furyk was able to keep his approach right of the flag, and the spin brought it back to about 30 inches. He knocked down the birdie putt, and moved to two events, two wins, on the tour for seniors. He might want to retire undefeated, but we doubt it. The PGA Tour Champions returns to action next week, in Cary, North Carolina.

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Morning 9: Hud Swaff | Finau’s former backer sues | Gene Parente: Hero | Tiger backup putter fetches $150K

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1. Hud Swaff!
A big win…and some interesting victory headwear. 
 
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…“Thanks to a timely birdie on the penultimate hole and a clutch par putt on the final green, Hudson Swafford got back into the winner’s circle at the Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.”
  • “Swafford started the day two shots behind Adam Long, but he quickly became the man to beat in the Dominican Republic after playing the first eight holes in 5 under. At one point Swafford held a four-shot lead on the back nine, but a double bogey on No. 13 let a handful of players back into the tournament. After dropping another shot on No. 16, Swafford stepped to the tee at the par-3 17th tied for the lead with Mackenzie Hughes and Tyler McCumber.”
  • “But he went on to hit the shot of the tournament, stuffing his approach inside 15 feet to set up a decisive birdie.”
2. Catlin closes in Ireland
AP report…”John Catlin birdied three of his last four holes Sunday to close with a 6-under 64 and storm from behind for a two-shot victory in the Irish Open, his second in three weeks on the European Tour.”
  • “Catlin, a 29-year-old American who until this year had only won on the Asian Tour, will move into the top 100 in the world for the first time in his career.”
  • “Aaron Rai never got anything going in favorable conditions at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort. A birdie on the 17th hole pulled him within one shot of Catlin, and a birdie on the par-5 closing hole would have forced a playoff. Instead, Rai made bogey and closed with a 70.”
3. Gene Parente’s in-flight heroics
Mike Stachura at Golf Digest with a heckuva story featuring Golf Laboratories’ Gene Parente as protagonist and hero.
“…Relaxing in a mostly empty business section on a return trip from Incheon, South Korea last Thursday, Parente found himself called on to wrestle down an unruly passenger on a Korean Air flight who was threatening he had a bomb and was trying to break down the cockpit door…”
  • “I was probably a little groggy so I really wasn’t sure what was going on,” he said when reached by phone on Sunday after initial news reports of the incident. “But then I saw this guy up ahead of me in business class yelling, maybe not psychotically but he’s clearly upset. And then I see that’s he’s got a plastic bag on his head.
  • ….”Parente said as he reached for the man he was nearly knocked out when the man punched him in the chest, but then he began returning punches and shouting in the galley at the front of the plane, an area Parente said felt about two feet square. “I’m doing all of this while wearing a mask, but I can assure you we were not social distancing,” he said. “I don’t know if this was going on for 10 seconds or 10 minutes, it was all a blur. I push him against the wall and we’re screaming and punching each other and just at that instant both my arms are grabbed from behind.”
  • “Two Korean Air pilots who were traveling on the flight had jumped in to break up the disturbance not realizing that Parente was the good guy. When the man had been subdued by Parente and the pilots, he refused to speak to anyone but Parente. “We had been fighting each other like five seconds ago, but when we got him he sat down, I could see in his eyes that he was mentally ill,” Parente said. “And then the guy bolted for the cockpit again, and ran through another flight attendant like NFL linebacker hitting a middle school kid.”
4. Another winning wolf
Golfweek’s Jared Wolfe…“Make that two Korn Ferry Tour players who are now one win away from promotion to the PGA Tour.”
  • “Jared Wolfe captured the Wichita Open on Sunday at Crestview Country Club to join Davis Riley as two-time winners this season on the developmental tour. The 32-year-old from Louisville, Kentucky, shot 1-over 71 and hung on at 16 under for a one-shot victory over Taylor Pendrith.”
  • “Wolfe made no birdies during his closing round in cold, wet and windy conditions, but his eagle at the par-5 14th hole gave him the cushion he needed, as he bogeyed Nos. 15 and 16. Pendrith, who now has five top-3 finishes since the restart, also bogeyed No. 16 before making two pars coming in for a closing 69.”
5. Finau sued by former backer
Mike Sorensen for the Desert News…“Utah professional golfer Tony Finau is being sued by Molonai Hola, a former business associate, for more than $16 million.”
  • “The suit, which was filed last week in 3rd District Court, claims Hola paid Finau and his family’s expenses for several years with the agreement of being paid back, but was never compensated.”
  • “Hola became acquainted with the Finau family around 1997, and as the owner of Icon Sports began financing expenses for Tony and his younger brother Gipper, according to the suit.”
  • “Also named in the lawsuit are Finau’s brother, Gipper, his father, Gary, his agent Christopher Armstrong and the Wasserman Media Group.”
6. A Tiger Woods backup putter fetches $150K
Tom VanHaaren at ESPN…“A Tiger Woods backup putter from 2001 sold at Golden Age Golf Auctions early Sunday morning for $154,928, which is believed to be the most a putter of this caliber has ever sold for.”
  • “The putter is a Scotty Cameron Newport II produced for Woods as a backup to the putter he has used to win 14 of his 15 major championships. Scotty Cameron made Woods a backup putter nearly every year if something were to happen to the putter he used in tournament play or he decided to make a switch.”
  • “This putter was produced in 2001, the year Woods completed the “Tiger Slam” in which he won all four majors consecutively after winning the Masters that April.”
7. Will Zalatoris’ impressive run continues
Adam Stanley for PGATour.com writes Zalatoris is…”inching closer to special temporary membership on the PGA TOUR.”
“Zalatoris, who is tops on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List, shot a bogey-free 65 Sunday at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship to finish T8.”
  • “With the top-10 result, the former Walker Cup team member will earn a spot in next week’s Sanderson Farms Championship. He got into the event in the Domincan Republic after an impressive T6 at the U.S. Open.”
  • “Zalatoris is in the midst of a record-setting season on the Korn Ferry Tour but admitted he was “drained” this week after finishing inside the top-10 at Winged Foot.”
8. Mel Reid opens up
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols with an excellent piece on Mel Reid’s journey…A morsel: “Four years before that, Reid lost her mother, Joy, in a car accident in Munich. Mel was there to compete in the UniCredit Ladies German Open. She’d go on to win in Prague one month later.”
  • “Yet the healing process was anything but a straight line. Reid, a six-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, nearly quit the game twice and only recently said she’s starting to come to grips with so many struggles from the neck up that have held her back.”
  • “One week before she left for Royal Troon in August, Reid spoke with sports psychologist Howard Falco for the first time. She immediately felt comfortable with Falco, and opened up deep-rooted wounds she’d been reluctant to address.”
  • “Understanding her self-worth was at the heart of it.”
  • “I think that has been a big issue for me,” she said, “whether I deserve stuff.”
9. Hudson Swafford’s winning WITB
Driver: G400 LST (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila NV 60 TX
3-wood: Ping i25 (14 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Rogue 125 MSI 80 TX
5-wood: Ping i25 (18 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Tour Blue 85
Irons: Ping S55 (4-9)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM8 (46-10F), SM7 (52-12F, 56-10S), TaylorMade MG Hi Toe (60-09LB)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X Tour
Grip: SuperStroke
Ball: Titleist Pro V1

 

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The DailyWRX (9/24/2020)

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My kid trying to convince me Pokemon is a kid in his school…

…best words start with F and end with K…if you wanna get creative add you or me to the end. Helps me daily.

Is it me or did Rory barely swing at that…

I’m bummed I have to leave a course I won and play at a course I dominate on. Classic TDub!

Who cares…ESPN isn’t ESPN anymore…hasn’t been in YEARS.

DM @johnny_wunder if you know what happened to ESPN

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