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Stickney: How to avoid blowup holes

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Par, par, par, birdie, quad, par, bogey, triple, par. Nice round of 44—with four pars and a birdie! Sound familiar? Do you ever wish you could play without having a blowup hole per nine or how about only one per eighteen holes? Wouldn’t that be nice! Obviously, we are all trying to be more consistent and as we get better the blowup holes subside or reduce themselves in number, but is there anything you can do to avoid or stop them from occurring quicker?

In my almost 30 years as a full-time teacher and watching tens of thousands of players’ swing the club, I have come up with a few of keys that I think will help you eliminate the blowup holes and reduce your handicap once and for all regardless of your current level of play!

So, here are a few of my thoughts that I think will help you…

The Driver

  • As we all know the big miss is a killer, the biggest reason why this happens is usually a severe out-to-in swing path. If you can find a way to keep your swing path closer to your target line, you will see the BIG miss fade away.
  • Snap hooks occur when the face is severely left of the club’s path, and as the loft of the club is reduced, this miss becomes larger and more severe. Audit your grip and your clubface’s position at the top, most of the time I see stronger grip players, flattening their wrists at the top of the backswing placing the club in an overly shut condition that is hard to overcome on the way down.
  • Weak slices are the problem of the new golfer and intermediate player and these occur when the path is left of the intended target and the clubface points right of the target during impact. When the face-to-path relationship is in this condition, the loft of the club tends to increase (when you flip at it) and weak slices are the result. Fix the face-to-path relationship, and you’ll have a chance.

Fairway Woods

  • Don’t automatically reach for your 3-wood every time you are in the fairway on a par 5…unless the lie is perfect, you’re better off using a higher-lofted wood for added height and control.
  • Most golfers try to hit their fairway woods too hard and lose control of their balance making it hard to hit the ball in the center of the clubface. When the ball is impacted low on the face, the effective loft of the club is reduced and fairway woods will launch way too low.

Irons

  • If I had a dollar for every iron set that is misfit as it pertains to shaft flex and lie, I’d be retired by now…if you are trying to score and playing golf with clubs that don’t fit, you have no chance unless you play a flat golf course and have wonderful hand-eye coordination. But beware the radical miss will always be looming.
  • Trying to do too much in the rough—you are not as strong as Brooks, nor do you have the speed of Tiger, so stop trying to use a lower lofted club when you are in the cabbage. Take your licks and chop it out into better position.
  • When you hit it into the trees, find the most direct way out into the easiest and most open position to the green first, then try to reduce the yardage you have into the green second. All too often I see players try to always hit it to the 150 marker when they are in trouble—sometimes 160 is a super easy shot out of the trees while the 150 yardage shot is much harder. Hit the simple shot first!
  • From 100 yards and in, it would help if you focused on hitting the green first and worrying about the pin second. Trying to hit it from 100 into the wind to a tucked pin on a shelf is asking for a short-sided miss and a big number

Wedges

  • Wedges at 100 percent of your full speed are about as accurate as your driver at 100 percent when it pertains to your shot clustering around the pin. Far better to hit shots at 70 percent so you can control the launch, spin, trajectory, and distance rather than try to slamdance your lob-wedge from 120.
  • Wedge lofts are important, and it’s far better to have ones that you know the yardage of rather than a “matched” set. The pro set standard is somewhere around 48, 52, 56, 60 for the wedge lofts…if you can’t hit the numbers you need out of the clubs you have, change the lofts. The lofts don’t matter, it’s all about the numbers you want to hit them! So what if you play 45, 51, 54, 62 if you know exactly how far they go.

Around the Green

  • There are other clubs that can be used around the green besides your lob wedge or your other favorite club.
  • Understand what moving the ball around in your stance does to the ball’s trajectory and landing angle because this controls what the ball will do when it lands on the green. Far too often I see players trying to hit the ball high from a “low shot” set-up and vice versa.
  • Become your own best friend out of the sand or at least be able to get out within 20 feet in one shot!
  • Understand how radically fat, thin, chili-dips, and shanks occur fundamentally so you can get them out of your game before they creep in for too long and become mental.
  • For every single ball you hit on the range, hit five balls around the green in all types of situations to learn what you can and cannot do with each club.

Putting

  • Speed work. Speed work. Speed work. Speed work…there is no excuse for poor speed when you have a putting green at your disposal before the round. Fine-tune your speed with big breaking putts and severe up/downhill putts before you play.
  • The putterface’s direction at impact controls the ball’s starting direction so if you cannot control your lead hand you cannot control your short putts regardless of how easy the putt seems.

As you can see, these thoughts are pretty simple and straightforward, but I promise you the next time you (or I!) make an 8 on a par 4, we have violated about three of the rules I’ve mentioned above. Damn, it’s aggravating, but I promise if you read and reread this list and put it into practice you will reduce your number of funky holes.

NOTE: If you think it’s your course management that is to blame on your poor scores then I would suggest checking out DECADE Golf created by Scott Fawcett. It is the best course management system out on the market today. You will be amazed at how understanding your miss patterns from certain distances coupled with his aiming techniques could make the game so simple!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Jack

    Oct 7, 2019 at 10:46 am

    Loads of coulda woulda shoulda in this. I appreciate the attempt. But what do you tell a plus handicap who still averages 1 or more doubles a round ? ( as in 1.4 currently ). It’s all about focus. And it’s hard to keep it for 70 shots a round.

  2. Dennis Clark

    Oct 6, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    Great advice pro!

    • Tom F. Stickney II

      Oct 7, 2019 at 12:13 am

      Thanks buddy! Can’t add but other than that it’s a good one. Ha.

  3. Ardbegger

    Oct 6, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Blowup holes for me are usually because of a missed “hero shot”. The Keep-It-Simple, Stupid (KISS) principle helps me out when I feel the urge to go for the coffee room bragging rights shot.

  4. Scratchscorer

    Oct 6, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    7 over par is usually a 43 on most nines, rarely a 44.

  5. Kim Chee

    Oct 6, 2019 at 9:17 am

    The best way to avoid blowup holes is to not play golf in the first place.

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Me and My Golf: The difference between long and short irons

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Long irons vs. short irons. In this week’s Impact Show, we discuss the differences between long irons and short irons. We talk through the different ball positions, postures, and techniques for both irons and give you some golfing drills to help you differentiate both irons!

 

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Walters: Avoid these 3 big chipping mistakes!

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Chipping causes nightmares for so many amateur golfers. This s mainly due to three core mistakes. In this video, I talk about what those mistakes are, and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

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The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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