In my writing (and teaching) I’ve striven to constantly break from the norm, tread the paths less trodden, and help the players I coach or people who read my articles and books in ways that move beyond the typical. That being said, I’ve decided to finally time jump on that proverbial bandwagon of clichés and write a 5 tips type article.
Now, I’ve seen this headline (or something close to it) on the cover of hundreds of issues of Golf Digest or Golf Magazine over the years, but up until now, I’ve passed them off as the mosttired form of golf instruction journalism (I don’t even read them). But if you’ve heard of click-bait, those teaser headlines that suck you into clicking on them by promising more than they typically deliver, there’s one undeniable truth. 5 ways, 5 tips, or 5 reasons type articles, no matter how many you’ve fallen for before, deliver the goods. I suppose it says more than a little something about our collective attention spans (and gullibility), but since this approach is so effective, I decided this old fisherman was overdue to throw his bucket hat in the ring and set the hook.
- Stop hitting it straight! If you’re struggling to break triple digits you’ve probably own a two-way miss. Most of the best players in the world take one side of the course out of play by rarely hitting a straight ball. They’re typically moving the ball off the tee in a direction that favors their most natural shot shape. Now for most of us that’s a fade, and that’s a good thing, so stop fighting that fade and just play for it. There’s a reason Lee Trevino once said, “you can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.” And Trevino wasn’t alone, as many of the most consistent drivers of the ball (including Hogan) played the fade, but what’s most important is to play for your most natural shot shape off the tee and stop trying to hit it straight!
- Stop short-siding yourself! Huh? Listen to network golf coverage and you’ll hear the commentators mention how a player short-sided him or herself, but like many viewers, you likely have no idea what they’re talking about. Short-siding yourself is missing the green to the side where you have the least amount of green to work with in relation to the flag. It’s the kiss of death in golf, and something good players seldom do. Chipping (read bump-and-run type shot) is much easier, and you pay a far less severe penalty for a mishit chip than a pitch (lob shot). Aim for the long side of the flag on pins closer than 20 feet from the edge and your misses won’t keep ending up in a places where the unfortunate results of your next shot are “chunks”, “skulls”, and “chili-dips”.
- Sleep with your Sand Wedge! Lots of players pitch with a pitching wedge, lob with a lob wedge, and relegate their sand wedge to only those shots they’re forced to endure from the beach. Now most of us don’t practice our short games enough to begin with, and if we’re splitting what little time we spend out there on the practice green between three (or four) different greenside wedges then we’re not likely to be very good with any of them. The Sand Wedge is the most versatile club in the bag, and you should learn to hit every shot inside 50 yards with it, and hit them proficiently, before you branch out to different clubs. I grew up with nothing but an old Cobra Trusty Rusty 56-degree sand wedge that I learned to hit from every conceivable lie and situation and I knew exactly what I could do with it and what I couldn’t. Find that one club and practice with it until you know and trust your short game with it implicitly, and you’ll be surprised at how much pressure that ends up taking off your long game.
- Quit “hitting”your putts! If you can’t break 100, chances are you don’t putt very well, and if you don’t, you likely have poor distance control. Most people who struggle to control their distances with the putter, “hit”their putts, they don’t “stroke it”or “roll it”. “Hitting”a putt is the inevitable result of a putting stroke that is too small for a given distance. One thing I consistently preach with my Academy students is the bigger the putt the bigger the putting stroke. If you’re hitting it progressively harder as you get farther and farther from the hole, try instead to let that stroke get progressively longer, and watch how much more often that first putt rolls up to within tap-in range.
- Start closer to the hole! There’s only one reason the average men’s handicap in this country hovers around 18 while the average woman’s around 33, but it’s a very big one. Distance! The average woman hits the ball 140 yards off the tee while the average man hits it 210. Over the course of 18 holes that’s about 1300 yards, and it doesn’t account for the approaches. Research has been done which suggests that, in order for players to be able to hit most greens in regulation, they should play from tees that are about 30 times their average drive. That would put most women at tees that measure 4200 yards, and most men at 6300 yards. Sadly, most clubs aren’t offering tees at 4200 yards, but we should be, and until then we should all be realistic about how far we hit the ball off the tee, multiply that number by 30, and find the closest set of tees we can to that number and play from there. And if we do that, we not only might finally break 100, and speed up the pace of play at the same time, but we just might have a bit more fun in the process!
So there’s your 5 tips! And now that I’ve guaranteed you’ll all be breaking that milestone number in your game, I expect the editors of those bigtime publications to come knocking on my inbox for that 101stcliché cover story. Hope it helps!