The fact is, we’ve all chosen to play what is quite possibly the hardest game ever devised. But the good news is that there is always a way to get better. To hit more good shots and fewer bad ones. And to make your bad shots much more palatable.
From the survey we took a while back, it seems that the GolfWRX readers are pretty evenly divided between those who put emphasis on the actual score at the end of the round and those who are more likely to evaluate the day on the number of good shots they hit, or their avoidance of the really bad ones. But no matter which camp you find yourself in, the pathway to that enjoyment is the same.
The USGA had an ad campaign a while back featuring the late and superbly great Arnold Palmer, with the campaign slogan “Swing Your Swing”. The point of it was that we all have a golf swing that has produced a number of wonderful shots. Some are more fundamentally sound than others, of course.
And some of us are blessed with more natural athletic abilities, body strength and flexibility, or just outright skills. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get that swing of yours to repeat more reliably and hit a higher percentage of good shots without committing to a swing overhaul. Very few of us have time for that kind of commitment.
One of my friends from way back had a saying . . . when something in your life was getting you down bit by bit. He would say, “nibbled to death by a duck”. Well, I want to turn that around and suggest you can improve your golf game dramatically in that same bit-by-bit manner. So, let me offer you a few suggestions of “the easy way” to improve your rounds this year.
Give your body a chance. The golf swing is a very athletic motion that requires much more of your body in the way of flexibility than strength. And most adults, especially men, are guilty of letting their flexibility wane as they get older. I cannot tell you how important it is to stretch . . . not just before each round, but on a daily basis. If you will incorporate just 3-5 minutes of stretching into your daily routine, not only will your golf swing improve dramatically, but you will feel better all around. I find the easiest time to do my stretching is before I even get out of bed in the morning. I guarantee you it will make a difference.
Give “your swing” a chance to repeat. As I mentioned, we all have a swing that has the ability to hit a good, or even great, golf shot on an occasional basis. So, how do we get that to happen more often? It’s a matter of paying attention to your set-up and ball position. Some time back, a very accomplished custom fitter friend of mine shared some data he had collected on golfers of all skill levels, regarding their consistency of set-up and ball position. What he showed me is that the higher the handicap, the less precise the golfer was in his or her alignment and set-up to the ball. For your swing to repeat, you simply have to be consistent in the position of the ball in two directions – how far it is from you, and where it is located with regard to the lead foot (the left for right-handed players), and in the alignment of your body to the target line. On the advice of another great teacher whom I was privileged to meet, I never hit a ball on the range without my alignment stick in place, so every swing – especially in your pre-round warm-up – is also a piece of practice on good alignment and ball position. It takes no athletic ability to give yourself a chance at a good shot by getting the pre-swing part of it right.
Chill out and lighten up. In golf, just as in life, stress is a killer. When we are over a shot and feel stressed – which happens all too often – our grip tightens and our whole body tenses up. Those are killers to the smooth, flowing action that the golf swing, chipping/pitching motion or putting stroke all require. But we all have our own personal weaknesses, and facing those shots – even if it’s just a three-foot putt or a simple chip shot – causes us to tense up. Before each shot, pay attention to your stress level by focusing on your grip pressure. And then lighten up and execute the shot.
I hope these three tips will help you get ready for the 2021 golf season and make it your best one ever, regardless of how long you have been playing. It’s never too late to get into a path of improvement with golf. That’s one of the wonderful things about this game.
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Something new from The Wedge Guy
For 2021, Edison Golf has become an advertiser on my blog page and will be giving away one free Edison Forged wedge each month to a reader of this blog. All you have to do to be eligible to win is to send me a question or a topic you would like me to address in future columns. Please send your questions to [email protected]. I’ll announce a winner in my first column of each month.
The Wedge Guy: The Red Zone
For those of you who are big football fans, we are lost in the off-season, waiting a few more months before we get to watch our favorite pro or college teams duke it out on the gridiron. Living in Texas, of course, football is a very big deal, from the NFL Cowboys and Texans, through our broad college network representing multiple conferences and into the bedrock of Friday nights – high school football, which drives fans and entire towns into a frenzy.
In almost every football conversation on TV, you hear talk about “the red zone”. How a team performs inside the 20-yard line is a real measure of their offensive prowess, and usually a pretty good indicator of their win/loss record, too. It breaks down to what percentage of the time a team scores a touchdown or field goal, and how often they come away empty.
I like to think we golfers have our own “red zone”. It’s that distance from the green where we should be able to go on the offensive and think about pars and birdies, ensure no worse than bogey . . . and rarely put a double or worse on the card. Your own particular set of red zone goals should be based on your handicap. If you are a low single digit, this is your “go zone”, where you feel like you can take it right at the flag and give yourself a decent birdie putt, with bogeys being an unpleasant surprise. For mid-handicap players, it’s where you should feel confident you’ll guarantee a par and rarely make bogey, and for higher handicap players, it’s where you will ensure a bogey at least, give yourself a good chance at par, and maybe even a birdie.
But regardless of your handicap, your own “red zone” should begin when you can put a high loft club in your hands – one with over 40 degrees of loft. Of course, that has changed a lot with the continual strengthening of irons. In my early days that was an eight iron, then it migrated to a nine. But regardless of your handicap or the make and model of irons you play, my contention is that golf is relatively “defensive” with all the other clubs in your bag. With those lower lofted irons, your goal should be to just keep it out of trouble and moving closer to the goal line . . . er, the flag. Even the PGA Tour pros make a very small percentage of their birdies with their middle irons.
When you can put a high loft club in your bag – whether that’s from 150 yards or 105 – that’s when you should feel like you can put your offense into high gear and raise your expectations. It’s no longer about power, because this isn’t about raw distance, but rather distance control and precision. From the red zone, it’s about trusting your technique and your equipment and taking it to the golf course a little bit.
As most of us are in the early stages of the 2021 golf season, one of the best things you can do for your golf improvement is to begin tracking your “red zone” performance. Put the numbers down as to how you are scoring the golf course from your 9-iron range on into the flag. My guess is that you’ll see this is where you can make the most improvement if you’ll give that part of your game some additional time and focus. Any golfer can learn to hit crisp and accurate short range approach shots. And so you should.
Pay attention to your own red zone stats, and work to improve them. I guarantee you that you’ll see your scores come down quickly.
Club Junkie: Reviewing Titleist TSi3 drivers and fairways! (Finally!)
The moment you all have been waiting for: I finally have a TSi3 driver and 3-wood in my hands! Talking about how they performed and maybe some shaft changes for each in the future.
GPI: From indoor winter training to “time to play”
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