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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 [email protected]

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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GolfWRX Classifieds (10/28/20): Olson putter, Titleist TS4, PXG 0811X Proto

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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 Luke1333 – Olson 303 Stainless

There are putters—and then there are putters! This Olson 303 is made from stainless steel and features a simple site dot, along with a sound slot for improved feel. This is by far not the least expensive putter you’re going to find, but it could be the nicest!

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

Member Footjoy16 – Titleist TS4 driver

Have some shafts with Titleist tips already kicking around and looking to build a low spin monster? The Titleist TS4 is one of the lowest spinning heads on the market and this is your opportunity to flatten that trajectory.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Titleist TS4

Member staust5 – PXG Proto 0811X driver head

PXG is known for doing things a little different, and the 0811X Proto drivers were released under the radar—almost stealthy—and have slowly made their way into the hands of the public. Now is your chance to get a used one for a really nice deal!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: PXG Proto

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

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Morning 9: Topgolf, Callaway merge | Tiger won’t tee it up in Houston | The lost major of 2020

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By Ben Alberstadt
October 28, 2020 
 
Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Merger alert: Callaway, Topgolf 
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard with the details of the chevron’s now-controlling interest in the golf-entertainment chain it previously owned 14 percent of…”Callaway and Topgolf announced on Tuesday an all-stock merger with an implied equity value of Topgolf of approximately $2 billion.”
  • “Together, Callaway and Topgolf create an unrivaled golf and entertainment business,” said Chip Brewer, Callaway’s president and CEO. “We’ve long seen the value in Topgolf and we are confident that together, we can create a larger, higher growth, technology-enabled global golf and entertainment leader.”
  • “Callaway invested in Topgolf in 2006 and the equipment manufacturer already owned 14 percent of the open-air entertainment company. That agreement included an integrated partnership at all Topgolf venues.”
2. The lost major of 2020
Excellent stuff from John Huggan at Golf Digest on the decision to cancel the 2020 Open Championship…“On March 23, as soon as the United Kingdom officially joined multiple nations around the globe in COVID-19 “lockdown,” Slumbers began talks with the game’s other power brokers. Alongside the R&A chief executive, representatives of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the LPGA Tour, the USGA, Augusta National and the PGA of America sat down in an attempt to assemble and salvage a viable tournament schedule for the remainder of the year.”
  • “All to no avail as far as the 14th Open at Royal St. George’s, on England’s southeast coast, was concerned. By April 6, Slumbers had released a statement saying that the “champion golfer” of 2019, Irishman Shane Lowry, would have to wait at least another 15 months to defend his title over the Kent links.”
  • “In those 13 to 14 days, we covered ground that in normal times would have taken a year’s worth of thinking,” Slumbers said. “We all worked together, which is a very powerful point to make. That doesn’t happen often. But you build friendships in good times, and all of us knowing each other as well as we do really paid off. It was like putting together a jigsaw without a starting point. It really was extraordinary.”
3. Tiger won’t tee it up in Houston
Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington…“Steinberg told Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport via phone on Tuesday: “There was some speculation whether Tiger would play Houston based on what he said at Sherwood, but he has decided to prepare for the Masters at home.”
4. Masters taketh away Par 3 Contest, giveth ESPN’s College GameDay
Adam Schupak for Golfweek…”Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, announced the Masters, scheduled for November 9-15, will provide an expansive slate of content across multiple platforms, including ESPN’s College GameDay airing live from Augusta National on Saturday, November 14.
  • “Given the circumstances brought about by the pandemic, the delivery of quality content is as important as ever to the storytelling of the Masters Tournament,” said Ridley. “While we will dearly miss our patrons at Augusta National this fall, we are excited to showcase what promises to be a truly memorable Masters in a variety of ways for viewers around the world.””
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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. 
 
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5. Zalatoris speaks (writes)
The rapidly rising Mr. Zalatoris for Golf Digest…”and I don’t know how much ghostwriting was done, but “Willy” is proficient with the pen…He begins “It’s summer 2007. “Ticks” by Brad Paisley has just come out and, yes-it’s a jam. Every prepubescent Dallas boy has these lyrics on LOCK … including me. Little Willy Zalatoris, all 11 years of age, daydreaming about singing it to his fifth-grade crush. Anyway, I’m sitting in the car with my friends, Cade Storey and Jordan Spieth. Cade’s mom had just picked us up from a junior event that, shocker, Jordan dominated and won by eight strokes.
  • …”We’re chatting away as we pull up to a stoplight when, bam, “Ticks” hits the airwaves and … I’m not sure whether it was the high from winning, but Jordan goes full Paisley and starts belting it out like there’s no tomorrow. Eyes closed, shoulder shimmies, singing into his water bottle-the whole nine yards. The kid almost cracked the windshield with his voice. Man, to this day, I haven’t laughed so hard in my life.”
6. Time to pay up, son…
Golf Digest Alex Myers… “George Kittle claimed Koepka owes him a set of golf clubs during an interview with Candlestick Chronicles. Apparently, Koepka enlisted the San Francisco 49ers superstar in a push-up challenge back in March and Kittle says the new sticks were part of the deal.” “Im a man of my word, I got him”
7. A Canadian on the rise
Scott MacLeod for Flagstick.com…“Conners’ play at Sherwood Country Club boosted him to 68th in the rankings, putting him two spots ahead of Hadwin. He still trails good friend Mackenzie Hughes in the battle for top Canadian, Hughes is in the #53 spot after a flurry of fine play at the end of the 2020 schedule.  The top two spots are key as they represent the team positions for the 2021 Olympics in Japan. Qualifying runs until June 21, 2021.”
8. Why did this take so long?
CBC report…”A review is underway in P.E.I. after two teen girls questioned why boys get to play twice as many holes in school golf tournaments.
  • When sisters Brayah and Lexie MacDonald joined Montague Intermediate’s school golf team last year, they discovered that girls play nine holes instead of 18.
  • The two sisters said that ability, not gender, should determine how many holes a student plays.
  • “Why is it not fair and equal for everyone?” Brayah said.
  • On Oct. 22, the province responded to the girls’ concerns, announcing it would review school sports to ensure gender equity.”

Full piece.

9. Woods: ‘I rolled it great’ – Why Tiger’s assessment of his putting at the Zozo is at odds with reality
Our Gianni Magliocco…“on his website in a piece by journalist Daniel Rapaport, Woods gave this head scratching assessment of the positive he’ll be taking from the Zozo.”
“The only thing I can take out of this week that I did positively is I putted well. I feel like I rolled it great. Unfortunately, they were all-most of them were for pars and a couple for bogeys here and there, but not enough for birdies.”
  • “Unfortunately for Tiger, that’s just not true.”
  • “For his four days at the Zozo, Woods lost over 3 strokes to the field on the greens. Of the 77 players in the field last week, Woods was 65th in putting. In what parallel universe, especially for arguably the greatest player ever, could that be considering ‘putting well’?”
  • “It was Woods’ second-worst performance on the greens since the Tour’s restart, and it’s worth a reminder that even before last week Tiger was in the midst of his worst form with the putter of his career.”
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Morning 9: Masters Champions Dinner is on | Can TW find his 2019 Masters form? | Other side of the golf gambling coin

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at [email protected]
October 27, 2020 
 
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. The putt that kept DJ at No. 1
Golf Channel’s Mercer Baggs…“Thomas birdied the 72nd hole Sunday at the Zozo Championship, joining Rahm in a share of second place for the tournament. That was just enough to keep Rahm from regaining the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.”
  • “Johnson, who did not play the Zozo as he continued to recover from a bout with COVID-19, leads Rahm by just over .08 points. Rahm, in turn, is .11 points ahead of Thomas, who stands third in the OWGR.”
2. Masters Champions Dinner is still on
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“Tiger Woods confirmed Saturday at the Zozo Championship that the annual Champions Dinner is still a go.  Woods, who won his fifth green jacket two Aprils ago, said the plan is to hold the dinner on Nov. 10, in its usual Tuesday night slot during Masters week. The dinner, though, will be relocated to downstairs in the iconic clubhouse, so they have more room to socially distance.”
  • “I think we’re not going to get a lot of the past champions coming because obviously they’re at the at-risk age,” Woods said. “It’s going to be a shame, but this is unlike any times we’ve ever had in the past, so we’ve got to do what we can do to obviously have the traditions that we’d like to have but also maintain safety guidelines.”
3. Can Tiger rediscover his 2019 Masters form?
He’s not exactly on pace to, writes ESPN’s Bob Harig…“The lead-up to the Masters in 2019 saw Woods play five times in the three months prior to the tournament, with his best result a tie for fifth at the WGC-Match Play. He was not a back-nine contender at the Farmers Insurance Open (20th), the Genesis Invitational (15th) or the WGC-Mexico Championship (10th)”
  • “But those results were far better than what we’ve seen since in the post-shutdown events. Woods’ best tournament was a tie for 37th at the PGA Championship. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open. In each of the six tournaments he played, Woods was never closer than 8 shots through 36 holes.”
  • “At least he showed some flashes at the first five events, where he gained strokes on the field in approach to the green. But even that aspect of his game was off at Sherwood, where he was near the bottom of the field.”
  • “And not much else was very good. Woods was 70th in the 77-player field in strokes gained off the tee; 71st in stroke gained tee to green; 55th in proximity to the hole; 21st in strokes gained around the green; and 65th in strokes gained putting.”
4. Shackelford’s ZOZO observations
An interesting point among many other of note…including the “funerary” milieu at Sherwood…The Sunday range scene was…intense. If you ignored the lack of fans and just watched players warm up, you sensed big money, a nice title and pre-Masters momentum was on the line. Matthew Wolff and instructor George Gankas engaged in a spirited putting lesson up to his tee time. And I mean, right up to his tee time. Eventual winner Patrick Cantlay’s instructor Jamie Mulligan was shuttling from his Virginia Country Club member-guest duties to keep a watchful eye on his student. The overall intensity seemed like the old days, minus too many range volunteers and agents blocking your view.”
GolfWRX Recommends 
 
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5. Pagdanganan just missed averaging 300 yards off the tee at the LPGA Drive On Championship
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins…“She’s averaging 288.8 yards for the season, besting fellow bombers Maria Fassi (282.2 yards) and Anne van Dam (281.8 yards) to lead the tour. But at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Reynolds Lake Oconee, Pagdanganan was hitting it far-even for her.  According to the tour, Pagdanganan’s longest drive of the week came during Saturday’s third round, when she hit her tee shot on the 18th hole 317 yards. She had an iron into the green with her second shot, while others had to lay up on the closing par 5.”
6. I’d be honored….
Golf.com’s Nick Piastowski on a truly bizarre/spectacular moment in the history of golf on television.
  • “As Thomas got ready to swing during Saturday’s third round of the Zozo Championship, Dion began to sing. A home near the 18th turned the speaker dial as far right as it would go. Then it dialed up the last stanza of the song.”
  • “You’re here, there’s nothing I fear”
  • “And anybody that can hit a shot through Celine Dion music coming from one of the nearby houses, it’s big,” announcer Dan Hicks said on the Golf Channel broadcast.
  • “And I know that my heart will go on”
7. Vandals hit Ontario course
If you live North of the border and have any information, help the folks at Lake St. George Golf Club out…
  • CTV Kim Phillips…”Provincial police in Orillia are asking for the public’s help to find the culprit who caused thousands of dollars in damage to a Severn Township golf course.  Police say someone drove a vehicle onto the Lake St. George Golf Club on South Sparrow Lake Road in Washago, ripping through the fairways and greens over the weekend.  According to its Facebook page, this is the first time in the club’s 40 years that anything like this has happened.”
8. The possible other side of the golf gambling coin
George Peper for Links with a cautionary scenario…Consider two big differences between golf and arena sports such as football and baseball. Number one is the proximity of the gallery to the players, and number two is the absence of loud “white” noise. We’ve all watched telecasts punctuated by yahoos yelling “Baba Booey.” Consider what might happen if one of those liquored-up clowns has a big bet on the line.”
  • “The Tour currently deals with such incidents by escorting the offender off the course, but there’s no way to prevent such an incident from occurring-especially if the disturbance is caused not by a stumbling drunk with a $100 bet but a deadly serious shark with a lot to gain.”
  • “Let’s say there’s a professional gambler, a shady character, who has placed a big bet on a player to win The Players Championship and stands to reap a seven-figure payout if it happens. And let’s say his horse is now in the clubhouse with the winning score and just one player has a chance to tie him, if he can sink a three-foot putt on the final green. Shady, in order to protect his bet, has hired a stooge who is standing beside the green. As the player takes his putter back, Stooge fires a blast from an air horn.”
  • “The ball never hits the hole. Stooge goes to jail for a week and pays a $50,000 fine, a pittance compared to the fee he receives from Shady, who is the big winner. The big loser is golf.”
9. Sawgrass turns 40: Some or the real beneficiaries are tour pros…
Cameron Morfit for PGATour.com…“TPC courses have hosted more than 400 professional tournaments, with the rent-free venues allowing for bigger purses and charitable donations…”
  • “It’s those world-class players, though, who may have the most to celebrate. For them, the TPCs are a lot more than a bucket-list destination. They’re a lifeblood; a top-quality driving range, an impeccably groomed course (or two), a place to find a game or just a putting contest. For them, it’s hard to overstate the importance of former TOUR Commissioner Deane Beman’s totally revolutionary “Stadium Golf” invention those many moons ago.”
  • “It’s home,” said 2014 FedExCup champion Billy Horschel, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach and practices at TPC Sawgrass, where his coach, Todd Anderson, is Director of Instruction at the PGA TOUR Performance Center. “It’s been a great place to practice, to get better.”
  • “About 77 professionals from the six PGA TOUR-owned-and-operated tours play out of TPC Sawgrass…”
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