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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: Morikawa wins WGC, thanks Tiger | Another week, another Korda win | Tiger tributes abound

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By Ben Alberstadt
For comments—or if you’re looking for a fourth—email me at [email protected].
You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.
March 1, 2021
Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. Morikawa wins WGC, thanks Tiger
AP report…”PGA champion Collin Morikawa shook off an early mistake and played a steady hand on a Concession golf course known for calamity, closing with a 3-under 69 for a three-shot victory in the Workday Championship.”
  • “Morikawa picked up a few short-game tips from major champions – Mark O’Meara on his putting, Concession member Paul Azinger on the chipping — and he says it carried him to another big win.”
  • “And there was a tribute to Tiger Woods, his golf idol growing up.”
  • “We don’t say ‘Thank you’ enough,” Morikawa said, referring to how much Woods has raised the profile and prize money in golf. He also mentioned his grandfather dying a month ago and began to get emotional.”
2. Another week, another Korda win
AP report…”Nelly Korda seized control with three early birdies and finished with 12 straight pars for a 3-under 69 to win the Gainbridge LPGA on Sunday, giving the Korda family two victories to start the season.”
  • “Her older sister, Jessica, won the season-opening Tournament of Champions last month in Orlando.”
  • “Korda won for the first time on American soil – her other three LPGA wins were in Australia and twice in Taiwan – and the first time with her parents watching. Her father, Petr Korda, is a former Australian Open tennis champion.”
3. Grace wins in Puerto Rico—weeks after his father’s COVID-19 death
Adam Woodard for Golfweek…”On Sunday afternoon, he did the same, holing-out for eagle on the par-4 17th and then making birdie from the sand on the par-5 18th to reach 19 under and claim the trophy at the 2021 Puerto Rico Open at Grand Reserve Country Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.”
  • “All wins are emotional, but this one hit close to home for Grace. Just weeks ago, the 32-year-old South African lost his father to a bout with COVID-19.”
4. Forensic experts discuss: Was Tiger asleep at the wheel? 
The question is being asked, and it’s only right to address it here. Maybe you don’t like it. Hell, as someone who grew up as a die-hard Tiger Woods fan, who watched more rounds in Sunday Red than I can remember, I don’t relish anything in the negligence family. However, we must examine the facts and the (incomplete) information before us.
  • Brent Schrotenboer, USA TODAY…”The available evidence from the recent car crash involving Tiger Woods indicates that the famed golfer was not paying attention to the road and drifted off of it before crashing his car, three forensic car accident experts told USA TODAY Sports.”
  • “The same experts also say the evidence does not indicate he lost control of his vehicle because of excessive speed on a curved downhill road that is known for speeding cars.”
  • “They arrived at this theory based on several factors, especially the way Woods’ vehicle appeared to keep going straight ahead instead of staying on the road as it curved right.”
5. Several players wear red/black in support of Tiger
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”Tony Finau made the grandest entrance, wearing a red mock golf shirt, black pants and his Nike hat backwards — the way Woods often arrives at tournaments.”
  • “I was pretty inspired,” Finau said. “I heard earlier quite a few guys were going to do it. I for sure felt like it would just be a nice touch. We’ve enjoyed so many Sundays watching Tiger do his thing. Red and black, that’s what Tiger does on Sundays, so to just join in and just let Tiger know we’re supporting him in the best way we can. We’re still playing as we miss him out here, but it was just cool to be part of that today.”
  • “At the Puerto Rico Championship, the opposite field event this week won by Branden Grace, the entire grounds crew wore red for Woods. Phil Mickelson, who was playing the PGA Tour Champions event in Arizona, said he bought a shirt locally to wear to pay tribute to Woods.”
6. Sutherland wins Cologuard Classic
Todd Kelly for Golfweek…”On Sunday, when Weir birdied the eighth hole at the Cologuard Classic, the second PGA Tour Champions event in 2021, he took a four-shot lead. It started to look like the drought would finally be over.”
  • “But on a chilly and windy day, Sutherland, who started the final round two shots back of the lead, made his move on the back nine at the Omni Tucson National Resort.”
  • “He birdied the 10th and 12th and then chipped in for birdie on the par-3 16th, the only birdie on that hole on Sunday. When Weir bogeyed the 16th, there was a tie for the lead with two to go.”
  • “On the par-5 17th, Sutherland made a short birdie putt to take a one-shot lead. Both striped their drives on the 18th hole and after Sutherland stuffed his approach to about 10 feet, he made a par putt to clinch the win at 15 under.”
7. Tiger tweets appreciation 
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”Tiger Woods, in a tweet Sunday night, said it was “touching” to see so many players wearing his trademark Sunday red for the final round of the WGC-Workday Championship, just days after a serious car accident left him hospitalized and needing emergency surgery.”
  • “It is hard to explain how touching today was when I turned on the tv and saw all the red shirts,” Woods wrote in the tweet. “To every golfer and every fan, you are truly helping me get through this tough time.”
8. Nelly Korda’s winning WITB
Driver: Titleist TSi1 (10 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD IZ 6 S
3-wood: Titleist TS2 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Red 6 S
Hybrids: Titleist TSi2 (21), Ping G410 (25)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 7 S
Irons: Titleist T100 (5-PW)
Shafts: Aerotech SteelFiber I95
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 ( 50-08F, 54-10S, 58-08M)
Shafts: Aerotech SteelFiber I95
Putter: Scotty Cameron Prototype Concept 2
Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet
Ball: Titleist Pro V1 (2021)
9. Collin Morikawa WITB
Driver: TaylorMade SIM (8 degrees @8.5)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 70 TX
3-wood: TaylorMade SIM Titanium (15 degrees @13.5)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 80 TX
5-wood: TaylorMade SIM2 (19 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 80 TX
Irons: TaylorMade P7MC (4-6), TaylorMade P730 (7-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (52, 56-14F @55), TaylorMade MG2 (60)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400
Putter: TaylorMade Spider FCG
Ball: TaylorMade TP5
Grips: Golf Pride Z-Grip Cord
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Tour Rundown: Four winners make for a full TR!

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No matter how much the current crop of golf stars matters, the legends matter more. Annika Sorenstam made an LPGA tournament appearance (she was explicit in stating not a comeback) and Tiger Woods survived a frightening automobile accident. Those two stories stole our attention for different reasons, as we deservedly cheered both on.

Other stories unfolded as the week progressed, with four champions emerging from rigorous tests. It’s time to chase down the week’s story lines in another edition of Tour Rundown. Adjust your mirrors and have a look back with us.

World Golf Championship: Workday at The Concession

The new site for the opening WGC replaced the tree-lined fairways of Club de Golf Chapultepec. The Concession was a visual shift for the golfers and the viewers. Gone were the narrow corridors and overhanging arbor. In their place was a wider Nicklaus course, with some swamp and sand, and a few palmettos that would make a difference. After 72 holes, the story line was easy to see in reverse: the three young’uns stole the week.

On Thursday, we watched as Young’un number one, Matthew Wolff, hit his ball with his practice putting stroke, then withdrew from the event after opening with 83. On day two, we watched Viktor Hovland, Young’un number two, play a gorgeous round of golf through 17 holes. Seven birdies danced with ten pars, as the Norwegian comet moved quickly up the leader board. Just as precipitously, Hovland tumbled down the slope after measuring eight strokes on the par-four ninth, his closing hole. Those palmetto bushes came into play twice as bad swings, bad fortune, and bad decisions conspired to annul four of his hard-earned birdies. To his credit, Hovland would remain in the story line across the weekend, tying for second place with Billy Horschel and Brooks Koepka.

Young’un number one, Collin Morikawa, was the class of a classy field at The Workday. Morikawa avoided quads on day two and jumped into second place, behind Koepka, with 64. Over the weekend, Koepka was unable to return to the 60s, and reached 15-deep for his second-place tie. Morikawa burst from the tape on Saturday with six birdies on his opening nine. A pair of unsightly bogies on the two, back-nine, par fives, shrunk what should have been a sizable lead. On Sunday, the Californian played steady golf on the day, countering a hole-two bogey with four birdies coming home. Both Horschel and Hovland needed perfection on day four, and it lay just beyond their reach. Each counted a pair of bogeys on the inward half, giving Morikawa the cushion he needed for his first WGC title and fourth PGA Tour victory in a brief career.

LPGA: Gainbridge

The Gainbridge moved from Boca Raton to Orlando this year, and caught the attention of at least one champion. Annika Sorenstam has lived in the Lake Nona community for years, and decided that this year’s playing might be a good time to make an appearance, not a comeback (but just in case she ever wanted to consider a comeback, this was a great site). It was a turbulent week for the Swede, as she endured an inaccurate ruling on Thursday, a flirtation with the cut on Friday (she made it) and two banal weekend rounds that relegated her to a 74th-place finish among the 74 who made the cut.

On the other end of the leaderboard, many in the sub-thirty set were making noise. Lydia Ko (also a Lake Nonoan) had the halfway lead at 134, with Patty Tavatanakit and Nelly Korda a shot back at 135. Also close were In-Gee Chun, Chella Choi, and Lexi Thompson. Each had a chance to win over the weekend, but only one did. Tavatanakit and Jin Young Ko made Saturday moves with 66s, and Angel Yin did them one better with 65. Korda assumed the lead with a 68 as Ko dropped to a 72 on day three.

Sunday’s promise of a duel in the sun fizzled early. Korda jumped from the block with birdies on three of the first six holes. Saturday’s heroes lost their footing, with Yin, Chun, and Tavatanakit all moving into the 70s and out of contention. Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson jumped into a second-place tie with scores of 69 and 68, respectively. After her fierce start, Korda locked in on 12 consecutive pars, and won her fourth LPGA title (and first since 2019) by three shots.

PGA Tour: Puerto Rico Open

Puerto Rico’s Open is an interesting event. Until Viktor Hovland won at Mayakoba in 2020, none of its winners had been able to secure a subsequent tour title. It provides opportunity for those not in the WGC, to rediscover their game and bring it along the PGA Tour trail. Branden Grace found himself in an unwanted space this season, dealing with the recent passing of his father. Five years had passed since his inaugural PGA Tour win, at the Heritage in 2016. On Sunday, specifically in the last 45 minutes of the event, Grace discovered his own version of grace.

Homeland hero Rafael Campos was in contention all week long, and ultimately settled into a tie for third with fellow, 54-hole leader Grayson Murray, at 16-under par. Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas surged on Sunday with 65, but a 14th-hole bogey was his undoing. Grace played a game of cat-and-mouse on Sunday, with three birdies and no blemishes through 16 holes. Not spectacular, but not damaging, either. On seventeen, the Pretorian took advantage of a following wind and drove into a greenside bunker at the par-four trace. His bunker shot touched down, released, and rolled properly into the hole for eagle. At the closing hole, where Vegas had made birdie some time before, Grace found a greenside bunker in two, and hit another marvelous pitch from the sand, to within three feet. His putt dropped, he assumed the lead, and earned a second tour title for his efforts.

PGA Tour Champions: Cologuard Classic

If Puerto Rico is a place for ignition of careers, the Champions Tour is filled with stories of redemption. Mike Weir came to Tucson in search of that precise medicine, and he nearly filled the prescription. Unfortunately for him, the least-likely guy to have five CT wins (Kevin Sutherland) chose Sunday to make a charge and enter the fray.

At the beginning of the week, a carrot was dangled in front of Phil Mickelson: no player in golf’s history had ever won the first three starts, on any tour. Lefty had two of them in the pocket, and this week’s course was precisely where he had won his first tour event, as an amateur, decades back. Well, Lefty played like a righty this week, so that story fizzled.

Through two rounds, Mike Weir played like the lefty that won the 2003 Masters and had plenty of game, before injuries and an ill-timed attempt at designing golf courses derailed his train. Sunday was a tale of two cities for the Canadian. The first eight holes were business as usual: three birdies for a four-shot lead. The final ten holes brought three bogies, the kind of finish that bleeds slowly and painfully. Two of those bogies came in the final three holes, just as Kevin Sutherland posted birdies at 16 and 17. The about-face was so sudden, it was hard to consider plausible. In the blink of an eye, Weir’s chance at victory had drifted away on the wind, as Sutherland lifted a Champions Tour trophy for the fifth time.

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WGC-Workday Championship Tour Truck Report: New putter for Rory, more AutoFlex experiments

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First and foremost, prayers and love to Tiger Woods and his family.

TaylorMade

Rory McIlroy is going back to an older model putter this week at Concession swapping his Spider X for a TP Juno.

Robert McIntyre AKA “Bobby Mack” put a new TaylorMade Rescue ’21 Hybrid ([email protected]) in the bag with a Project X HZRDUS Smoke Black Hybrid 100 6.5 TX.

Matthew Wolff put a new TaylorMade (19) UDI in the bag with a Mitsubishi MMT 125TX.

Collin Morikawa was testing SIM2, SIM2 Max hybrids this week with Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 80 TX shafts.

Dustin Johnson alongside TaylorMade’s Keith Sbarboro was testing SIM2 drivers with Fujikura Ventus Black 6 X, Fujikura Speeder Evolution 661 and an LAGP Proto.

Callaway

Jon Rahm made adjustments to his Mavrik Sub Zero 5-wood to optimize launch. The 5-wood has 16.4 degrees of loft and a Black Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8X. The adjustments were to the lie of the club going from 59.8 to 58.9 and weight distribution from 12g Front/6g Back to 10G Front/6g Back. Dialed.

Min Woo Lee put a new Epic Speed ([email protected]) with a Fujikura Ventus Red 7X. Lee also debuted his new logo which is on fire.

Titleist 

Genesis Invitational champion Max Homa tested TSi2 5-woods to give him some options for some of the tee shots at Concession. It’s equipped with a Graphite Design Tour XC 8 TX.

Lanto Griffin swapped into a shorter driver going from 45 to 44.5 in his TSi3 (10). Griffin’s driver has a Project X HZURDUS Smoke Black 70 6.5TX

Justin Thomas put a TSI3 (9) in the bag this week. The new set up is powered by a Mitsubishi Diamana ZF TX

Ping

Cameron Champ switched back into a shorter length Ping G425 LST this week going from 45 to 44.25 inches. The shaft is a Project X HZRDUS Smoke Green 70 6.5 TX (@44.25 , Tip 1.5, D4 SW).

Louis Oosthuizen did something interesting. He had a Ping build him a G425 LST (10.5 @ 9.4, Small -) with the company’s lightweight Alta Slate CB 55 stiff shaft. The 2010 Open Champion was looking for a softer feel with the driver, which isn’t surprising, considering he was seen taking a hard look at Adam Scott’s TSi with an AutoFlex. The whippy lightweight plot thickens…

Ping released a bunch of new putters this week for seeding. Multiple staffers tested them and we will see on Thursday if any go in play.

Cobra

Cobra’s Ben Schomin (and king of the mullets) is doing something to Bryson’s driver—wanted to post this because of the respect for Ben’s hair. Hair aside, Bryson did put a new LAGP Axis Blue 6X in his driver and was also testing new Rad Speed 3 Woods.

Misc/Free Agents

Tommy Fleetwood swapped out his Callaway MD5 Jaws wedges for a set of Titleist Vokey’s (52M, 56M, and 60T) with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts.

Adam Scott (Titleist staff) was testing long center shafted Odyssey Two Ball 10.

 

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