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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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Morning 9: Match 3 details announced | The New York Yankee who nearly won the Masters | Good news for golf card collectors

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By Ben Alberstadt
October 20, 2020 
 
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.

 

1. The Match 3 details announced

PGATour.com staff report…“Turner Sports will present Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Change, a premier golf event with the World Golf Hall of Famer and crossover legends competing – Phil Mickelson, Charles Barkley, Stephen Curry and Peyton Manning. TNT will exclusively televise the event, to be held Friday, Nov. 27, at 3 p.m. ET at Stone Canyon Golf Club in Oro Valley, Ariz. Bleacher Report will also provide exclusive live content leading up to and during the event on the B/R app.”
  • “Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Change will uniquely contribute toward and highlight diversity, equality and inclusion through donations to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), while raising awareness and spotlighting opportunities for diversity and equality in sports. All four players have previously supported diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout their careers, which has led to them teaming up for this event. Additional information on these elements, among others, will be announced at a later date.”

2. DJ out of ZOZO
ESPN’s Bob Harig…“Dustin Johnson has withdrawn from this week’s Zozo Championship at Sherwood after missing last week’s CJ Cup due to a positive COVID-19 test.”
  • “Johnson, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, was eligible to return Thursday because he would have been 10 days past the onset of symptoms.”
  • “Unfortunately, Dustin just made the decision to withdraw from Zozo,” said David Winkle, Johnson’s agent, in a text “While he is feeling much better, he is still a bit low on energy and feels it would be best to wait and resume his schedule in Houston. “
3. Hero World Challenge canceled
PGATour.com staff report…“Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and associated travel restrictions, Tiger Woods’ TGR Foundation announced on social channels today the cancellation of this season’s Hero World Challenge at Albany, Bahamas.”
  • “The unofficial 18-player event was to have taken place Dec. 3-6.”
  • …”Here is the statement…Given the current global restrictions and ongoing developments resulting from COVID-19, the 2020 Hero World Challenge will not be played this year. This decision was made with the health and well-being of all tournament constituents and the Albany community in mind. We look forward to hosting 18 of the top players in the world and welcoming tournament guests to Albany, Bahamas next year.”
4. Solheim Cup: 2023 event to take place in mid-September in Spain
BBC Sport report…“The 2023 Solheim Cup in Spain will take place from 18-24 September.”
  • “Andalucia’s Finca Cortesin was already confirmed as host of the event – the first time Spain has staged the match between Europe and the United States.”
  • “Spain will be the sixth European nation to host the biggest team event in women’s golf.”

Full piece. 

GolfWRX Recommends 
 
We think a quarterly journal is the best complement to a website that publishes dozens of articles daily. And while that might not make sense to you now, it certainly will once you subscribe to The Golfer’s Journal and dive into some of the best golf writing and photography around. If you haven’t subscribed, do.
 
GolfWRX may earn a commission on sales of “GolfWRX Recommends” products.
5. Good news for golf card collectors
Adam Woodard for Golfweek…”Come next spring, a new set of trading cards will be available for golf fans thanks to Upper Deck. The sports and entertainment collectibles company announced a new set of cards that will feature golf’s current stars like Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Matthew Wolff, Danielle Kang and Lexi Thompson alongside legends like Arnold Palmer and Annika Sorenstam.”
  • “Collectors have been begging us to bring golf cards back for years,” said Upper Deck’s Sports Brand Manager, Paul Zickler”
  • ….”The release will be Upper Deck’s first golf cards since 2014 and feature a 50-card base set, a 30-card rookie set, a multi-major winners subset and rare signed memorabilia cards.”
6. Barkley guarantees victory in “Match”
We’ll see, Chuck…
Adam Schupak for Golfweek…“The competition format will be modified alternate-shot match play with five-time major winner Mickelson teaming with Barkley, a Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer, in facing Curry, a three-time NBA Champion and near scratch golfer, and two-time Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning, who played a pivotal role in his team winning the last edition of Capital One’s The Match.”
  • “I’m excited to return for the third edition of Capital One’s The Match and get out on the course with these three legendary athletes,” Mickelson said. “While we may need a handicap for Chuck, I’m looking forward to playing with Peyton and Stephen and to help raise money for another important cause. It’s also going to give fans and viewers an up-close look at Stone Canyon Golf Club, a place that I’m extremely proud of and excited to show how special it is.”
  • …”Barkley added: “Capital One’s The Match has been a lot of fun to be a part of over the past few years and I’m excited to finally show off my skills on the course. Phil and I got this, I GUARR-AAAN-TEEEE!!!”
7. The New York Yankee who nearly won the Masters 
Ashamed to say this is first I’ve heard of Sammy Byrd. Excellent stuff from John Fischer for the Morning Read…”it earned him much more than that: an invitation to play in the 1940 Masters. The Masters, which debuted in 1934, originally was known as the Augusta National Invitation Tournament, and the name change, beginning in 1939 and over club co-founder Jones’ initial objection, didn’t alter the “invitation” aspect. All players were invited by Jones to participate. There were no automatic entries based on prize money or other measurements of standing in the golf world.”
  • “It didn’t hurt that Byrd had played golf with Jones in 1933 and impressed him with his ball-striking ability, nor did it hurt that Byrd’s boss, Dudley, was the head professional at Augusta National Golf Club during the winter. In his first Masters, Byrd finished a respectable 14th, but the best was yet to come.”
  • “The next year, Byrd finished third at the Masters with a score of 3-under 285, behind Craig Wood’s winning 280 and runner-up Byron Nelson’s 283. Byrd finished one stroke ahead of Ben Hogan and four ahead of Sam Snead. Byrd was right in the mix of a major golf tournament.”
  • “In 1942, Byrd started the Masters with back-to-back rounds of 68, putting him one stroke behind the leader, Nelson. Byrd’s last two rounds of 75 and 74 put him at 285 and in fourth place, behind Nelson, the winner in a playoff with Hogan, and third-place Paul Runyan.”
8. How Kokrak got it done
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski…“For the first time in his career, Kokrak led the field in stroke gained/putting, gaining 2.573 strokes on the field. He made a little more than 401 feet of putts. A putter switch, to a club with a longer, stiffer shaft, that he made late last season has made a huge difference for a guy who ranked 151st in strokes gained/putting in the just completed campaign.”
  • “Experience on the tricky greens didn’t hurt. And reliance on his caddie, former tour player David Robinson, to help read those greens was another ace in the hole, so to speak.”
  • “Jason Kokrak praised his caddie, former tour pro David Robinson, for his assistance throughout Sunday’s closing 64.”
  • “I would characterize it more D-Rob’s work,” Kokrak said, magnanimously. “I mean, he reads them pretty dang good. I did a good job of hitting the spots where we were trying to putt it to. Very happy with how I’ve been putting and kind of paying off with all the work I’ve been putting in.”

 

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Tour Rundown: Sunday charge times three

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65…64…63. Those are the scores that your winners posted on Sunday this week. That other Basque golfer, Adrian Otaegui, got things rolling at the Scottish Championship, at those other St. Andrews courses, besting Matt Wallace by 4 with his 63. Next came Phil Mickelson in Virginia, where his 65 overtook that other lefty, Mike Weir, by three. Finally, and perhaps most satisfying, Jason Kokrak claimed his first PGA Tour title with a resounding 64, to best Xander Schauffele by a pair.

CJ Cup to Kokrak

With no offense meant to the winner, we ALL tuned in to see Shadow Creek. The mythical Las Vegas club, designed by Tom Fazio in the 1990s, carries a top-shelf sticker price and is not accessible by all. SC lived up to its billing…is Pine Valley next? Now, on to Kokrak. The North Bay, Ontario native had established himself on tour as a reliable money winner, but had not ever lofted a trophy on Sunday. A resident now of balmy Cleveland, Kokrak rode a four-birdie stretch (holes 5-8) to the lead, then withstood a charge by the X-Man, Xander Schauffele. In a tie with Kokrak, Schauffele drove left on the 612-yard par 5, and could but chunk his next a mere 85 yards, still in the rough.

Avoiding the fairway at all costs, Schauffele bombed his third shot into the right-side thick stuff, then failed to get up and down for par. Buoyed by his newfound, one-stroke advantage, Kokrak played error-free golf the rest of the way, then birdied the last for the margin of two strokes and his first tour title.

Otaegui is week’s low Basque with Scottish Championship win

Most weeks, unless he takes a rest, Jon Rahm Rodriguez is a shoo-in for low euskalduna. Rahm tied for 17th at the CJ Cup, opening the door to Otaegui for the coveted designation. The native of San Sebastian (Donostia) did not disappoint. Five birdies on the outward nine gave Otaegui the advantage over 54 hole leader Matt Wallace, who struggled with two birdies and two bogies on the front. Bogey at the tenth slowed the Spaniard, albeit momentarily. He recaptured his mojo with another five birdies from 11 through 18, finishing on -23, four clear of the runner-up, Wallace. The title was Otaegui’s third on the European Tour, and first since 2018.

Phil is two-for-two on the Tour Champions

Some say you need to know when to fold’em. Others say, you need to know when to say farewell. Phil Mickelson seems to know that now is a good time to bid adieu to the regular tour, although who can really phigure out Phil? On Sunday, Mickelson went lefty-vs.-lefty with that other, portside Masters champion, Mike Weir. It was the California vs. the Canadian, and sadly, it was one-sided. Mickelson made five birdies in his first eight holes, then survived a bellyflop bogey at the reachable, par-five ninth. Unfazed, the five-time major winner posted four additional birdies over the stretch run, reaching -17 on the week.

Weir had started quickly on in rounds one and two, both of which were played on Saturday (after a Friday rain-out.) Sunday was a different story. A passel of pars, and just one birdie, brought him to the ninth even on the day, pharther behind Phil. Weir’s fortunes on the inward half were slightly improved, and he closed at one-under on the day, one clear of Paul Goydos for solo second.

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GolfWRX Classifieds (10/19/20): Olson Putter, TaylorMade M4 Fairway, Sweetens Cover

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member osubuckeyes690 – Olson Mfg putter

Clean as clean can be. Milled, weld neck beautiful Olson putter—quality doesn’t come cheap, but this is still a pretty nice deal.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Olson Putter 

Member HeathBar – Tour Issue M4 3-wood

In a world of adjustability, sometimes it’s nice to know you’ve got things locked. This is a great condition 3-wood just begging for a new home and the opportunity to hit some more par 5’s in two.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: M4 3-wood

Member Aprovenz – Sweetens Cove driver cover

The only thing cooler than Sweeten’s Cove is Sweeten’s Cove merch, and this cover will keep you looking fresh and your big stick protected.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Sweeten’s Cove cover

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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