Most golfers regularly suffer from the inability to take their game from the practice area to the course. Why is this? Why can they hit it, chip it or putt it so great when practicing, but struggle once they set foot on the course? To answer this question, we first need to understand what most golfers are experiencing when they’re on the course.
Common answers include:
- I only get one try.
- I’m thinking about my score too much.
- There’s a consequence to a bad shot.
- I get too mechanical.
- I experience different lies on the course.
- I feel a lot of pressure.
After reading that list, it may be more obvious why practice is easy and playing well on the golf course is a different story. It also makes sense that those who perform better on the course bring the elements of variability, consequence, pressure and score to their practice sessions.
“How do you prepare for such pressure-packed situations like the Ryder Cup?” Ian Poulter, Europe’s most clutch Ryder Cup player, was asked. His answer: “Everything is a game.” He, too, turns his practice sessions into competitive, game-like situations.
My name is Trent Wearner, and I’m the author of a new GolfWRX series called “Game of the Weekend” that I know will help you shoot lower scores. I’m going to introduce you to a great new golf game every Friday, and you can take my training further by logging your scores into an interactive practice website called www.golfscrimmages.com. There you can find a couple dozen games for every area of the game that will help you make practice as difficult as, or even more challenging than what you experience on the golf course.
Game of the Weekend: Drawback
- Gear needed: A putter and one ball. Ball marker is encouraged.
- Time needed: About 15 minutes to play one round.
If Drawback was the only putting game you ever practiced, you would become a fantastic pressure putter from all distances.
The Rules: You will play 9 holes of this putting game. The first hole should be from 20 feet away, the second hole from 30 feet away, and the third from 40 feet away. Then repeat that process an additional two times for a total of 9 holes. If your first putt goes in the cup on each hole, you record a score of one. If it doesn’t go in, you must draw the ball back one putter length. (Note: Those of you who use a long putter or belly putter should only draw it back 3 feet). If that putt goes in, you score a 2. If it misses, you must draw the ball back one putter length again, continuing in this same manner until the ball is holed. Total the number of putts it takes you on all nine holes and enter that score.
The Benefits: Here’s what this game helps you with.
- On the first putt of each hole, your mindset will soon change from “a good lag putt is acceptable” to “I want to hole this first putt.” Trust me, you won’t want to fiddle with all of the drawing back business. The mentality of striving to hole putts instead of just getting them close is a big step to lowering your scores.
- Odds are that you won’t be able to make the majority of your 20-, 30- and 40-foot putts, so it’s inevitable that you will have a large number of pressure-packed short putts from 3-8 feet and that’s where you’ll gain ice in your veins.
- By playing this game often, you’ll become accustomed to drawing it back after your first putt. When you get on the course and don’t have to draw it back, however, the on-course play will feel so much easier. And when the course feels easier than the practice area, you know you’re doing something great for your game!
For this game, I encourage golfers to go through their entire pre-shot routine before every putt. Depending on your routine, that probably means marking your ball, reading the putt and taking a certain amount of practice strokes. Remember, we want this drill to feel just like putts on the golf course.
Have fun getting better this weekend!
- Game of the Weekend: 100
- Game of the Weekend: Go Low
- Game of the Weekend: Chipping Median
- Game of the Weekend: 18 holes of up-and-down… with a twist
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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301
In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.
Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.
Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.
Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”
“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”
“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”
Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?
- Make sure the face is clean and dry
- Open the blade slightly, but not too much
- Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
- Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going
Make sure the face is clean and dry
If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.
Open the blade slightly, but not too much
Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.
Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.
My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.
Opened too much
One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.
Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack
As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.
So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.
Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!
Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going
The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.
Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.
Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!
An awesome drill for lag that works with the ball!
Many lag drills have come and gone in this game because they have a hard time working when the ball is there! How many times do you hear about someone having a great practice swing and then having it all go away when the ball is there? This one is a keeper!
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