Bobby Jones once said there is golf and there is championship golf and the two aren't nearly alike, or something like that. We watch the greatest golfers of our time and marvel at their ability. The networks show us every 300 yard drive, every 65 foot putt, and every miraculous recovery shot. Occasionally you will see a pro golfer get on a hot streak and shoot in the low 60s but most of the network broadcast is filled with the 'highlight reel' shots as they happen. You put 70 pros on the course at the same time and you can fill 4 broadcast hours with great golf. If you ever get the chance to go to a tournament spend an hour following one group and just watch how they play. Tour pros make the game look boring. Fairway. Green. Par. It's true that birdies and eagles are the ultimate goal of every golfer, but they are not the path to lower scores for the weekend warrior. In fact they happen more often when you aren't pushing the envelope than from heroic shot-making. Learning to fight for par and accepting the result will teach you more about yourself than you realize.
If you're reading this then you are at least somewhat interested in scoring better. Congrats! You have taken the first step. Contrary to popular belief making a decision is a step. Step two is dedicating yourself to make changes to reach your goals. So are you ready to lower your scores? Are you willing to do what it takes? I can ask the questions but you have to be honest with yourself about where your game is and where you want to take it. So if you answered yes to both questions lets get started.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!
Yeah, its an old joke, but its true. Theres more to practicing than hitting buckets of balls though. Practice has to be focused and targeted. Aimlessly beating balls is counter-productive and can ingrain bad habits. In order to have a targeted approach you have to know your strengths and weaknesses, so lets go out and find them. To monitor your improvement shell out a couple of bucks and buy a note pad and pen to keep in your golf bag.
Now a few guidelines. If at all possible I suggest you practice on grass. Hitting off mats can mask ball striking errors. If you don't have that option then listen closely to the sound of impact when you're hitting. A thump-thump sound is bad! You get the idea. Secondly, make sure you have time to practice when you go to the range. In fact when you are working on the practice tee you need to simulate playing the game as closely as possible. I make a point of stepping behind the ball and spotting my target before EVERY swing. This gives me time to think about what I'm doing, helps me keep my emotions under control, and sets up my rhythm when I'm playing the game. If you develop a good pre-shot routine it relaxes you on the course. More on that later.
Another rule to follow is to warm up properly. Stretching and getting the muscles moving is essential to playing your best. There are several ways to get your blood pumping. I have a friend that runs a half mile before going to the course. Whatever works for you just do it, although you won't catch me running unless theres something big and hairy chasing me.
Now that you are all warmed up its time to warm up the clubs. I have a specific routine I stole from Jack Nicklaus that really gets my mind and body ready to play. I start with the pitching wedge and make slower than normal strokes gradually increasing to almost normal speed, maybe 10 to 15 balls. Follow that up with 7 iron, 4 iron, 3 wood, driver, 5 iron, 8 iron, and sand wedge, hitting five or six balls each. Lastly I hit a few shots with whatever club I'll be hitting off the first tee. A few years ago I found out Tiger uses the same warm up. Who am I to second guess two of the greatest players of all time.
OK. Now that you and your game are properly warmed up it's time to apply a little pressure and see how you respond. Count out 25 range balls and select 5 clubs; one wedge, one short iron, one long iron, one fairway wood, and your driver. Next take a good look at the range and decide what targets you will play to with each club during your test. Remember to take out your note pad and write down your results after every shot. Grade each shot on a scale of 1 to 4 with 1 being excellent and 4 lousy. This is where your personal level of acceptance comes into play. Pick your target on the range and hit five shots with each club. The more advanced you are the more critical you should be in scoring your shots. Now review your results and make sure you date each test. Remember the only way to improve is to record and analyze your results. This should give you a starting point to begin your full shot work. As you improve change the format so that you change clubs and targets on every shot. Work from the driver down, or wedge up, or completely randomize the process.
As far as your short game and putting you can apply the same test to them as well. I will let you set your own parameters for the short game as this is the most personal part of the game. I will say this; Spend at least 50 percent of your practice time on the short game and you will see your scores drop. Practice chips, lobs, bump and runs, and any other way you can think of to get the ball close to the hole. Learn your strengths and work on your weaknesses. You don't need a thousand different shots around the green but you better have some options when you need them.
I will be adding content to this and all of the pages from time to time so check back later.