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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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2020 Open Championship canceled; PGA scheduled for August, U.S. Open for September, Masters for November

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The R&A has officially scratched the 2020 Open Championship due to the current Coronavirus pandemic in a statement today.

While this seemed poised to be the professional golf schedule news of the day, shortly thereafter, the Augusta National Golf Club, European Tour, LPGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour, The R&A, and USGA released a joint statement regarding the fate of the other three major championships as well as play on the LPGA and European Tour. 

First, the canceled major: The 149th Open Championship will now take place in 2021 from 11-18 July, and the R&A will transfer over tickets and hospitality packages purchased for the Championship to next year’s event.

St. Andrews, which was due to host the 150th Open Championship next year, will instead host the event in 2022.

In a statement published on the R&A’s website, Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said

“Our absolute priority is to protect the health and safety of the fans, players, officials, volunteers and staff involved in The Open. We care deeply about this historic Championship and have made this decision with a heavy heart. We appreciate that this will be disappointing for a great many people around the world but this pandemic is severely affecting the UK and we have to act responsibly. It is the right thing to do.

“I can assure everyone that we have explored every option for playing The Open this year but it is not going to be possible.

“There are many different considerations that go into organising a major sporting event of this scale. We rely on the support of the emergency services, local authorities and a range of other organisations to stage the Championship and it would be unreasonable to place any additional demands on them when they have far more urgent priorities to deal with. In recent weeks we have been working closely with those organisations as well as Royal St George’s, St Andrews Links Trust and the other golf bodies to resolve the remaining external factors and have done so as soon as we possibly could. We are grateful to all of them for their assistance and co-operation throughout this process.

“Most of all I would like to thank our fans around the world and all of our partners for their support and understanding. At a difficult time like this we have to recognise that sport must stand aside to let people focus on keeping themselves and their families healthy and safe. We are committed to supporting our wider community in the weeks and months ahead and will do everything in our power to help golf come through this crisis.”

Shortly therafter a joint press release from the Augusta National Golf Club, European Tour, LPGA, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, The R&A and USGA was circulated by email, which revealed the PGA Championship is now slated for August, the U.S. Open for September, and the Masters for November.

From the press release.

USGA: The U.S. Open, previously scheduled for June 15-21 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, has been officially rescheduled for September 14-20 and is confirmed to remain at Winged Foot. 

The R&A: The R&A has decided to cancel The Open in 2020 due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, and the Championship will next be played at Royal St. George’s in 2021. The Open was due to be played in Kent, England, from July 12-19, but it has been necessary to cancel the Championship based on guidance from the UK Government, the health authorities, public services and The R&A’s advisers. 

PGA of America: The PGA of America is announcing today that the PGA Championship is now scheduled to take place August 3-9 and will remain at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California.  The PGA Championship was originally slated for May 11-17 but was postponed on March 17.

Augusta National Golf Club: Augusta National has identified November 9-15 as the intended dates to host the 2020 Masters Tournament, which was previously scheduled for April 6-12 and postponed on March 13.

Additionally, the release noted the Ryder Cup will still be contested September 22-27, at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin.

For those updating their schedules at home, the release also included this handy summary.

  • TO BE CONFIRMED: June 15-21 (formerly U.S. Open week) – potential PGA TOUR event
  • CANCELED: July 13-19, The Open Championship, Royal St. George’s GC, Sandwich, Kent, England
  • TO BE CONFIRMED: July 13-19 (formerly The Open Championship week) – potential PGA TOUR event
  • TO BE CONFIRMED: July 27-August 2 (formerly Men’s Olympic Competition week) – potential PGA TOUR event
  • CONFIRMED: August 3-9 – PGA Championship, TPC Harding Park, San Francisco, California
  • CONFIRMED: PGA TOUR’s season-ending event/FedExCup Playoffs
    • August 10-16 – Wyndham Championship, Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro, North Carolina
    • August 17-23 – THE NORTHERN TRUST, TPC Boston, Norton, Massachusetts
    • August 24-30 – BMW Championship, Olympia Fields CC, Olympia Fields, Illinois
    • August 31-September 7 (Labor Day) – TOUR Championship, East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, Georgia
  • CONFIRMED: September 14-20 – U.S. Open, Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York
  • RECONFIRMED: September 22-27: Ryder Cup, Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin
  • CONFIRMED: November 9-15: the Masters Tournament, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia
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GolfWRX Spotlight: Golf Drawn’s custom golf art

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I recently converted an extra bedroom in my house into a home office (golf-themed, of course). In my search for stuff to put up on the walls, I came across a company that was doing something different. They had a booth at this year’s PGA Show showing off some of their unique work, and when I dug in a bit more, I realized it was a really innovative product for the golf community. So, I reached out to the people at Golf Drawn to see if they could help me create a piece for my office.

Golf Drawn is a custom design and illustration service that specializes in creating original, hand-drawn course routing designs of your favorite club. Any club. That’s the best part. They can draw any course in the world using the wonders of satellite imaging.

Goat Hill Park

Brooklawn on Wood Canvas

Streamsong

“We began just as we still do now, by drawing up folks’ home tracks,” said Anthony Malky, Owner and Creative Director at Golf Drawn. “Whether it was a par three, municipal course, top-100, or whatever. Our whole deal was that we would draw any course….and we still do. There’s yet to be one that we couldn’t execute.”

If you’ve spent any time looking around for golf art or memorabilia, you realize how big a deal that actually is. The top-100 courses get all the love. Golf Drawn is filling a void out there and providing custom art focused on your favorite local course.

“We receive the course request from you and get to work on creating the design,” said Malky, “Once the design is complete, we send you proofs, and then you choose background color, labeling, frame and any additions.”

Popular additions to the framed prints include images of the scorecard table, compass to show direction of the course routing, alternative club logos, etc…

And Golf Drawn can then put that routing design or logo on a tee-shirt, sticker or other items if you like as well. Every new design requires a one-time design fee to get the work completed. But once that design is done, it is free to put on any framed print or tee in the future for anyone. Tee-shirts are becoming a rather popular item on the website.

If a course has been renovated or simply no longer exists, Golf Drawn has worked directly from old photos or original course plans to recreate the old track you remember. And, of course, Golf Drawn can do the famous courses as well. It’s a great way to commemorate a favorite round, hole in one, or once in a lifetime score.

My local club is Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. They already had a design drawn of Colonial, so it wasn’t hard to customize what I wanted and finish the order. I added the columns logo to the top left corner and script location on the bottom right.

So how did this all begin? Anthony Malky grew up in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. He caddied at Oakmont Country Club for over a decade…and even got to play the course on some Mondays. He loves golf, just like we all do. And he started drawing courses as a hobby.

“I began drawing up the clubs that meant a lot to me,” Malky said. “After some time, at the urging of others I made an Instagram. I had a ton of course designs done and figured might as well post them for folks. From there, the Instagram took off, that turned into a website…then the custom orders started coming.”

Fast forward a couple of years, and Golf Drawn now has an entire wholesale catalog of unique products, over 250+ club accounts, and products stocked in shops around the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. That is pretty impressive for a business that does everything in-house with a fully customizable product. And keeping prices low has always been a goal for Malky, as he remembers a time when he wanted to buy golf art himself but found everything to be overpriced and low quality.

Sticker Variety Pack

“We’ve tried to keep our prices, minimums at wholesale, all low and cost effective,” Malky said.  “That was part of the initial start too, allowing people to get their course drawn up, framed, etc. for a price that anyone could pay. Not some outlandish design fee or commission type setup.”

Prices per print with framing included

The supply is working hard to keep up with the demand. Golf Drawn is still a small operation and Malky does all of the designs himself. There is a team that helps with operations and a few sales reps across the country, but the business definitely remains small. That is intentional. Malky believes that allows Golf Drawn to offer a personal, high-level service to each individual customer. And it allows the company to remain focused on the reason they got started in the first place.

“It’s always been about shedding light on and propping up courses and places that otherwise wouldn’t be,” Malky said.  Giving attention to and making that local municipal course look as good as a top-10 track. Getting the par-3 course by your house designed, framed and up on a wall, highlighted in a way that many people have only seen the big courses like Pebble, Pinehurst, Oakmont. It’s always been about highlighting the places and the memories that mean so much to people.”

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Report: 2020 Open Championship set to be cancelled; R&A releases statement in response: “continuing to work through options”

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This year’s Open Championship will be cancelled outright by the R&A due to the Coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from Golf Digest.

Per the report, an unnamed source has divulged to the publication that the championship will next take place in 2021 with St. Andrews hosting the event. Royal St. Georges, due to host the 2020 Open Championship, would instead host the 2024 edition.

According to Golf Digest’s source, insurance has played a pivotal role in the decision making. As with Wimbledon, the Open Championship has an insurance policy that protects itself against a global pandemic if the event is cancelled by a specific date.

On Wednesday, the R&A officially announced that the 41st Curtis Cup would be played in 2021 while the organization also moved the British Amateur and British Women’s Amateur from June to August.

Though unconfirmed, this would mark the first major championship of 2020 to be cancelled outright, with the Masters and PGA Championship having been officially postponed.

*UPDATE*

On Thursday morning, in light of the speculation surrounding this year’s Open Championship, Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, released a statement where he said the R&A are “continuing to work through our options for The Open this year.”

“We are continuing to work through our options for The Open this year, including postponement. Due to a range of external factors, that process is taking some time to resolve. We are well aware of the importance of being able to give clear guidance to fans, players and everyone involved and are working to resolve this as soon as we can. We will give a further update as soon as we are in a position to do so and thank everyone for their support and understanding in this challenging situation.”

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