Golf has a reputation for being something of an elite sport, played by just a stuffy few in exclusive clubs by men wearing silly clothes. While that is still the case in some places, golf is certainly becoming more accessible and increasingly popular. The experience can be daunting — with the eyes of other players on you as you set off on a round, but we have come up with the following golfing tips, that will make your play and your golf experience that much better.
1. Take golf lessons
People can be stubborn and refuse to accept help or instruction, preferring to try and make it their own way — the simple advice is don’t. Teaching yourself, even with a good instructional book, can lead you to get into bad (and sometimes irreversible) habits. A good golf pro may well have to take you back to the basics, but in the long-term, there will be lasting benefits to your game.
2. Don’t neglect your putting
Many people become obsessive about practicing at the driving range, constantly hitting hundreds of long range shots. While this can help, provided that you are using the correct technique; many golfers (both experienced and beginners) neglect their putting. Putts account for about 50 per cent of your strokes in a round, yet far less than 50 per cent of golfers’ time is spent practicing putting.
3. Work on your golf grip
Since the hands are the only part of the body that come in contact with the club, it is vital to get the grip right. Take instruction from an expert regarding the grip
There are three main grips: the interlocking, the Vardon and the baseball — decide with your coach which is best for you. A proper grip can take months to learn, so it is best to get used to it, even without hitting balls. For practice, try gripping a club while watching television.
Five local professionals and PGA-certified instructors tell you how to become a better player.
Not every player gets to practice before every round with his teacher hovering behind him, watching his swing, checking for malfunctions, making sure everything is working just right. Just those on the PGA Tour.
And not every player has the luxury of going for a lesson or visiting an instructor on a periodic basis, usually because the cost can be prohibitive.
So, how do you become a better player? What is it that you need to know to improve your game and lower your scores, which is the desire of every player who has ever teed a ball, hoisted a club and tried like heck to make the ball go high, straight and, yes, especially long?
Well, short of having a certified PGA teaching professional on your payroll, or taking one to the golf course every time you play, the Post-Gazette has asked five local professionals and PGA-certified instructors to provide a list of the top 10 tips a player should know and work on to become a better player.
Consider it the PG’s version of Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book,” a compilation of teachings, lessons and musings designed to help players understand the work, preparation and execution that is required to lower scores and make golf a more enjoyable game. Or just less frustrating.
The participating professionals are John Aber, head professional at Allegheny Country Club; Eric Johnson, director of instruction at Oakmont Country Club; Kevin Shields, teaching professional at Rolling Hills CC; Sean Parees, teaching professional at Quicksilver GC and Robert Morris University Island Sports Center; and Jim Cichra, director of instruction at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center.
The tips are designed for players of all skill level, but primarily are geared toward the average player. And, with the average score in this country over 100, there are plenty of players in search of lessons to improve their game.
The tips are not listed in order of importance. Also, keep in mind there are other tips that could be more useful to a player’s specific need. Still, these lessons represent a compilation of suggestions players should heed if they want to become a better player and shoot lower scores.
1. Identify your weakness
Eric Johnson, who formerly worked with former European Ryder Cup member Per Ulrik Johansson, said the first thing a player has to do to get better is figure out where his game is weakest.
“When I worked with Johansson, the first thing that I did before every lesson was to look at his tour statistics,” Johnson said. “That gave us a clear path on what we were going to work on during his lesson. Unfortunately, you do not have PGA Tour statistics to look up.”
This is what Johnson suggests:
Keep simple statistics of your own — fairways hit, greens in regulation, short game up and downs and total putts. From this, you can determine your weaknesses. The best solution that I have found for keeping statistics is shotbyshot.com, which helps you electronically track your rounds and gives you a handicap for each part of your game. This can provide a much more in depth look at your statistics and give you an idea what you need to work.
2. Develop a pre-shot routine
One of the biggest reasons for hitting bad shots is poor alignment, Sean Parees said.
“If your body is aiming one direction and you’re swinging at a target in another direction, you have to make some sort of compensation,” Parees said. “That means it is very difficult to swing the club properly.”
Parees said the best way to avoid that is to develop a pre-shot routine that will accomplish two things: Proper alignment and proper ball position.
• Here’s what to do:
Get behind the ball with your feet together and set your clubface down so it is facing an intermediate target. Then, as you look at your real target, take a small step with your left foot and slightly larger step with your right foot. This will ensure the ball is in the proper position in the left half of your stance, between the left heel and the center.
To practice this, take two clubs and, placing them on the ground, use one to represent the target line and the other to represent your body alignment. Place a third club perpendicular to your body alignment to represent your ball position. This will help you aim correctly.