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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. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

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: Azinger: If Brooks doesn’t like the Ryder Cup… | U.S. RC team targeting unity & birdies

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By Ben Alberstadt
For comments—or if you’re looking for a fourth—email me at [email protected].
Good Thursday morning, golf fans… I am looking to form a long-term M9 partnership with a coffee company — seems like a natural synergy! — if you’re the right highly caffeinated person, please drop me a line. 
1. Azinger: “If Brooks doesn’t love the Ryder Cup…”
Who could have forecast the winds of blowback yesterday? That’s right. Everyone.
  • Golf Channel Digital team…”Former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger, in an NBC Sports/Golf Channel conference call to discuss next week’s competition, said he read Koepka’s full quotes and didn’t think Koepka was fully invested in the matches.”
  • “Brooks, when I just read that article, I’m not sure he loves the Ryder Cup that much. If he doesn’t love it, he should relinquish his spot and get people there who do love the Ryder Cup,” the 2008 winning captain said.”
  • “Not everybody embraces it, but if you don’t love it and you’re not sold out, then I think Brooks should – especially being hurt, should consider whether or not he really wants to be there.”
2. Rahm out of pro-am with stomach bug
The World No. 1 sat out Wednesday.
Golf Channel’s Max Schreiber…”World No. 1 Jon Rahm withdrew from the Fortinet Championship’s Wednesday pro-am because of a stomach illness.”
  • “Rahm was supposed to tee off at 8:40 a.m. PST and moved his press conference to 2 p.m. But he then canceled his pre-tournament presser altogether and the Tour announced he would not appear at Silverado Resort and Spa’s North Course at all on Wednesday.”
3. Unity & birdies
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”If the team scouting trip to Whistling Straits this week is any indication, there are at least two themes that will define the Ryder Cup – U.S. captain Steve Stricker’s message of team unity and a golf course that will be set up for plenty of low scoring.”
  • “The majority of the U.S. team spent Sunday and Monday at Whistling Straits playing two practice rounds and attending a relaxed team dinner hosted by Stricker.”
  • “We understand how much it means to [Stricker], how much it means having it in his home state. I think you are going to see a very cohesive team that’s playing for each other and understands the bigger picture,” Harris English told GolfChannel.com. “We are all a team.”
The Morning 9 Recommends…
Like lightning in a bottle, this jolt of electricity in your coffee cup will vanquish grogginess and “revolutionize your morning.”
A smooth, subtle, never-bitter cherry and chocolate flavor profile, Death Wish’s brew is the only one I count on to hit my 5 a.m. Morning 9 deadline!
GolfWRX may earn a commission of “Recommends” products.
4. Storylines of 2021: The Bryson saga
ESPN’s Bob Harig rounds up the major plot points of the 2020-2021 season. Not surprisingly, one Bryson DeChambeau features prominently.
  • “No player made more headlines than Bryson DeChambeau. From his six-shot U.S. Open victory in September 2020 to his spat with Brooks Koepka — and that was just the beginning of the Bryson drama — DeChambeau was an overwhelming story in the season just completed.”
  • “He won his first major at Winged Foot, had a stirring victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, wowed fans with long drives, contended at the 2021 U.S. Open, lost in a stirring playoff at the BMW Championship and continues to approach the game from a different place.”
  • “But after his March win at Bay Hill, the headlines were mostly for other things. The spat with Koepka that began at the PGA Championship was the biggest one and is still ongoing. That led to on-course heckling and some verbal, social-media sparring between he and Koepka.”
5. Assistant captain Stenson
BBC report…”Sweden’s Henrik Stenson has been named as the fifth and final European vice-captain for next week’s Ryder Cup.”
  • “The 45-year-old joins compatriot Robert Karlsson, Germany’s Martin Kaymer, Luke Donald of England and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland in the role.”
  • “The 2016 Open champion has played in five Ryder Cups, winning three times.”
  • “He knows what it takes to win – and that experience and knowledge will be crucial for us,” said European captain Padraig Harrington.”
6. Keeping the dream job
Adam Schupak puts some meat on the “PGA Tour rookies” bone with his item for Golfweek.
  • “There are 27 rookies in this season’s class on the PGA Tour, the most since 2011 when 35 earned cards, and 26 of them are in the field this week (all but Matthias Schwab). Max McGreevy and Jared Wolfe are making their Tour debut.”
  • “Some, like Aaron Rai, a 26-year-old Englishman who once holed a record 207 straight 10-foot putts at age 15, needed just three starts in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals to graduate while others such as Scott Gutschewski, 44, is returning to the big leagues full time for the first time since 2011, and had made just two PGA Tour starts in the past 10 years. How did he celebrate his success? He went to Denny’s.”
  • “It ain’t Applebees, but still pretty fancy,” he tweeted.
7. Furyk to seniors
Listen to Jim! Golfweek’s Tim Schmitt with remarks from the 17-time PGA Tour winner that point to the appeal of the senior circuit for shorter hitters — and the relevance for golfers getting on in years.
  • “It’s one of the reasons why I really enjoy the Champions tour. Not the only reason, but I joke that I got to know my 4- and 5-iron really well playing the PGA Tour and kind of missed hitting the 8, 9 and wedge into par 4s,” Furyk said on Wednesday. “I get an opportunity now to attack a little bit more at times and get some shorter irons in my hand and make a few more birdies. It’s a lot of fun.”
  • “But while Furyk was mandated by PGA Tour rules to play the world’s best courses at their very longest, he said it’s a mistake that common players make when enjoying the game in middle age.”
  • “As amateurs get older, it’s very common that if they grew up playing the blue tees, they want to play the blue tees. It’s hard to move up to the whites,” Furyk said. “When they finally do, they go, ‘Wow, this is fun, why didn’t I do this earlier? I should have been doing this five years ago.”
8. Inbee the best putter in golf?
Our Andy Lack…”The PGA Tour has embarked on a data driven revolution over the past decade, and with the unveiling of KPMG Performance Insights, the LPGA is following suit.”
  • “Beginning at the 2021 LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship in June, the KPMG team has gathered data from over 240,000 individual LPGA Tour Shots.”
  • “While there were a number of a fascinating conclusions that Justin Ray this week highlighted for LPGA.com, Inbee Park’s putting stood out the most.”
  • “Any LPGA Tour fan is familiar with the fact that the seven-time major champion is one of the best putters in the world, but the advanced analytics shed even more light on just how brilliant she has been.”
  • “Since the start of KPMG Performance Insight tracking, LPGA Tour pros have a conversion rate of 28% on putts from 10 to 15 feet. For context, PGA Tour golfers hover around 30%, with the leaders in that statistic making 10-15 foot putts 40 to 41% of the time.”
9. Photos from the Fortinet
GolfWRX is live from Napa for the 2021 Fortinet Championship. Along with the return of in-hand WITBs (8 players!) we have a number of general galleries for your perusal.
In addition, we got a look at putters from Ping, Bettinardi, and Scotty Cameron — covers, too!
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Photos from the 2021 Fortinet Championship

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GolfWRX is live from Napa for the 2021 Fortinet Championship. Along with the return of in-hand WITBs (8 players!) we have a number of general galleries for your perusal.

In addition, we got a look at putters from Ping, Bettinardi, and Scotty Cameron — covers, too!

You’re not here for the words, though. Let’s get to the photos!

General galleries

Special galleries

WITBs

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2021 Fortinet Championship betting tips and selections

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After the shortest offseason in sports, the PGA Tour kicks off its new 2021-2022 season with the Fortinet Championship in Napa, California. If this tournament sounds unfamiliar, fear not, it will still be held at Silverado Country Club, which has been the host course for the past seven years. It merely received a new title sponsor, as this was primarily the Safeway Open. While many of the world’s best players will be opting to rest up after a grueling super-season, three of last year’s major champions, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, and Phil Mickelson will be in attendance.

As far as the task at hand, Silverado Country Club is a par 72 measuring just 7,123 yards on the scorecard with a poa-bent greens and poa-Bermuda fairways. Players will certainly be able to take advantage of the Robert Trent Jones design, as all four par 5s are reachable, zero par 4s measure over 458 yards, water only comes into play twice, and there is not a huge penalty for missing the fairway. For those reasons, I will primarily be looking to attack elite wedge players who thrive in low scoring events.

Let’s dig into my outright selections.

Harold Varner III (40-1, DraftKings)

On a course where every player in the field will have a wedge in their hands often, I’m comfortable skipping the top of the board and beginning my card in the 40-1 range. I tend to feel that elite players lose some of their advantage on easier courses. Much more randomness is involved in tournaments that can turn into a putting contest, so you’ll notice that I am taking a couple more chances with selections at longer odds.

With that being said, Harold Varner feels like an adequate place to start. The East Carolina University alum is coming off back-to-back top-15 finishes in the FedEx Cup Playoffs where he gained over 3.5 strokes on approach. Now, he enters a tournament with a much weaker field on a course he has already experienced a fair amount of success at. Varner has four top-30 finishes in six appearances at Silverado, and he continues to come here every year and is often hovering around the first page of the leaderboard. Both his off the tee and approach game are trending positively as well. This feels like a logical breakthrough spot for the Ohio native.

Chez Reavie (70-1, DraftKings)

Moving down the board, Chez Reavie has my attention as a player who is both riding some impressive form and has already experienced success at Silverado. The two-time PGA Tour winner has made the cut in every appearance at this event, culminating with a career-best third-place last year, where he gained 7.4 strokes on approach.

While Reavie is not long off the tee, he is able to mask that with elite driving accuracy and wedge play. With impressive performances at Pebble Beach, TPC Scottsdale, Waialae, and PGA West, the Arizona State product also has a clear affinity for west coast golf and poa greens.

Most importantly, I love the way his ball-striking is trending. Reavie has gained over 1.7 strokes off the tee in four consecutive starts, and he is coming off a performance at the Northern Trust where he gained 3.2 strokes on approach. I will gladly back Reavie at this very reasonable price.

Doug Ghim (90-1, DraftKings)

Doug Ghim is a player I continue to believe is on the precipice of a break-through win. At the tender age of 25, the former University of Texas standout boasts a decorated amateur and collegiate career, and while he has yet to find the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour, a contending performance at the Players Championship in March displayed his talent.

The reason I have interest in Ghim on this specific course is two-fold. First of all, Ghim is an incredible wedge player. Over his last 36 rounds, he is one of only two players in this entire field to rank inside the top 15 in every proximity distance between 75-150 yards, where the large plurality of Silverado’s approach shots come from.

Secondly, Silverado can be picked apart with elite driving, and Ghim is coming off a week at the Northern Trust where he gained 5.3 strokes off the tee, good for the best performance of his career. If the former Ben Hogan Award winner has truly found something off the tee, and irons can continue to trend positively, Ghim will be firmly in the mix come Sunday afternoon.

Pat Perez (95-1, FanDuel)

Pat Perez might be my favorite play on the board this week, and I would encourage readers to shop around, as he can be found as low as 60-1 at other books.

With four top-20 finishes in his last six starts, the three-time PGA Tour winner is clearly percolating. Most recently, Perez gained 5.7 on approach at the Northern Trust, which featured one of the strongest fields of the entire season. Now he returns to a much weaker field in a fall series event, where he is certainly most comfortable.

Two of Perez’s three career wins have come in fall series events, and his affinity for resort-style courses where birdies are the currency runs deep. I expect the Arizona State product to mesh perfectly with the vibe this week in Napa, and pick up win number four in the process.

Dylan Frittelli (140-1, FanDuel)

While Dylan Frittelli’s 2021 season has been marred with inconsistency, Silverado is the perfect set-up for the big-hitting South African, as evidenced by a 25th and seventh in two appearances.

While Frittelli is mediocre at many things, he is downright elite at two very specific things that have been proven to be very important at Silverado. The University of Texas product is long off the tee, and he is an excellent wedge player. Frittelli is actually one of only two players in this entire field to rank top-40 in all of the proximity distances between 75 and 150 yards, as well as driving distance.

At an extremely elementary level, selecting players that can bomb it off the tee and stick their wedges is not a terrible strategy to adopt this week. Obviously, recent form cannot be ignored, and while Frittelli has missed two of his last three cuts, he is coming off his best off the tee performance in over a year, and his irons are trending positively as well. This is far too large of a number for a PGA Tour winner with a recent top-five at the British Open, who also happens to fit this course to a tee.

Patrick Rodgers (160-1, FanDuel)

After a standout career at the University of Stanford, there is only one way to describe Patrick Rodgers’ PGA Tour career: disappointing. Rodgers is not short on talent, but he has yet to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together and pick up that elusive first PGA Tour victory. While some may have already lost hope, I’m not yet willing to give up on the big hitting former Ben Hogan Award winner with one of the silkiest putting strokes in the game.

In a nutshell, Patrick Rodgers hits the ball a long way and can get insanely hot with his putter, which is never a bad formula in a birdie-fest. I think Silverado is the perfect course for Rodgers, and not just because it is in California, where Rodgers has un-coincidentally recorded some of his best career finishes.

With seven of his last eight made cuts, Rodgers’ game is really starting to come around. He has gained off the tee in seven of his last eight starts and gained with his irons in three straight as well. I’ve already alluded to the putting stroke, and now Rodgers returns to his preferred surface, poa annua, where he was last seen gaining 7.2 strokes putting at Torrey Pines.

Featured image c/o Fortinet Championship on Twitter

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