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Category:  Golf Tips

Sand Is Child’s Play

 

On the Practice Tee
with Joe Giles


PGA Professional and
Southern Ohio PGA Teacher of the Year

 

Think back to your childhood. Remember how much fun you had playing in the sand?  Building sand forts, digging holes with your shovel, or covering your brother or sister with the fluffy stuff.

 

As you got older and started playing golf, memories of those happy times in the sand box were replaced with agonizing attempts to remove your golf ball from a sandy grave known as a bunker. I think golfers and whales have a lot in common. When either of them find themselves in the sand, a slow death seems inevitable. Let me try to return you to your youthful days when sand was your friend, by offering a little advice on how to execute the shot correctly.

 

First, let’s talk about hitting a shot from a fairway bunker. The key to hitting this shot a long distance, depends on the type of lie that you have. Is the ball sitting up in the sand? Is there a lip (or mound) above the ball, preventing you from hitting a less lofted club used for distance? Are you standing uphill or downhill? All these factors will affect your club selection.

 

If you are able to hit a long iron or wood out of the bunker safely, here are some fundamentals to help you:

  • Dig your feet into the sand to anchor your body
  • Choke down a bit on the club to compensate for your lower posture
  • Keep the legs still during the swing
  • Use more club since you are only swinging with your arms and hands
  • Play the ball in the middle of your stance so contact is made at the bottom of your swing arc.
  • Don’t touch the sand with your club prior to making your swing, that’s a two stroke penalty
  • To avoid hitting the ball heavy, try to maintain the same weight level throughout the swing

 

The greenside bunker can be a very exciting shot as you watch the ball blast onto the green and spinning back towards the hole. Or this shot can be very disheartening when it takes more than one try to get it out.

 

My teaching method for hitting shots out of a greenside bunker is very simple:

  • Dig your feet as you did on the long shot
  • Open your stance considerably (aim left)
  • Open the face of the club
  • Adjust your weight and how high you grip the club according to the length of the shot. For a longer shot stand more upright and grip high on the club. For a shorter shot, bend more and choke way down on the club. Your grip and body weight will determine how deep the club penetrates the sand which will determine the distance of the shot.
  • Take the club back on the same line as your feet (It will be outside the target line)
  • Cock your wrists at the top of your backswing
  • Uncock your wrists at the bottom of your swing
  • Pull through with your left hand (right handed player) in a sliding motion as if you’re cutting through a tomato
  • Above all make a long follow through. 

 

Hopefully, with a little practice, using these simple tips, hitting out of a bunker will seem like just another day at the beach.

Cure Your Slice

 

On the Practice Tee
with Joe Giles


PGA Professional and
Southern Ohio PGA Teacher of the Year

 

The pure slice, or the shot that starts to the left of the target and spins wildly to the right, is a result of a down-swing path that starts from outside the target and finishes inside. Typically the reason for the improper path is that as the player starts the down-swing with too much right side, causing the left side to open too soon, forcing the club to first swing out, then be re-routed to the inside. It feels like an aggressive swing, but actually most of the potential speed is wasted pulling the club-head inside the intended path, which creates all the unwanted spin. Another cause may be an incorrect club-face position at the top of the back-swing. If the face is pointing to the sky and the toe is pointing to the right, this will cause an outside to inside path every time.

 

Now let’s talk about how you would prevent these two swing flaws from happening. Grab a club and take a slow motion back-swing. At the top of your back-swing check a couple of critical positions. Make sure the shaft of the club is parallel to the target, and cock your wrists so that the toe of the club is facing the ground. The face will be pointing to the right. Now, slowly start the down-swing. It’s important that you pull the butt-end of the club down with your left hand, returning the club to a position so that the shaft is parallel to the ground, your wrists are still cocked, and most importantly imagine a laser beam shooting from the hole in the bottom of the grip. The laser beam must be pointed slightly to the right of the target. This confirms that you are now swinging from a slightly inside to outside path. A slice path will have the beam aiming left of the target.

 

Once you arrive at this position you must now release the club properly. Slowly un-cock your wrists and return the club to a square position. Next, let the left hand make a circular motion which catapults the right hand outward. You’ll notice that in a flash the club-face has gone from being behind you, to being flung in front of you. The right arm is extended now, while the left is slightly bent. Your swing-path has just rotated through the hitting area, rather than being pulled through. The speed of the release should now pull the right side to the target.

 

If you practice these tips, I can’t guarantee that your slice will vanish, but at least you will be headed in the right direction. The path is the key, it’s not as easy as following the yellow brick road, but you’ll feel like a wizard when you start hitting the ball straight, or even a little right to left.

Know Your Distance

 

On the Practice Tee
with Joe Giles


PGA Professional and
Southern Ohio PGA Teacher of the Year

 

Nothing can be more frustrating than hitting a great shot, with the wrong club. In most cases, your mismanagement can only be blamed on yourself, due to poor planning. In order to improve your scores, you might need only to improve some incidental aspects of the game, such as obtaining the correct yardage, and learning how far you hit each club.
Most golf courses make it simple for you to figure out yardage. Make it a habit, when you get to the course, to ask how they mark the distances on the course. Do they have bushes, trees, posts, concrete slabs, birdhouses, or the like, to represent 200 yards, 150 yards, and 100 yards? Are they measured to the middle of the green, or to the front? Or better yet, purchase a “range finder” so that you can accurately determine the distance of your next shot.

 

Since nearly every golf course in the area has watered fairways, find out if the yardage is indicated on the sprinkler head. Again, it makes a difference if the yardage is to the front, or to the middle of the green.

 

It is also a good idea to actually measure how far one of your paces is, so that when you’re walking off distance from let’s say 150 yards, and you take 9 paces forward to your ball, you will know for sure, if you have a shot of 141 yards or more.

 

Many courses will either give you a yardage book, or have them available for sale. If you do have to buy it, they are worth the money. The book will make it even easier for you to plot the distance, especially when you hit it in the rough, or behind some trees. Hole descriptions may also offer some helpful insight into planning your strategy.

 

The best way to learn about the distance you hit each club is to hit about 12 – 20 balls with each one. Disregard any “missed” shots, and try to get an average distance that you hit the rest. Take into consideration how far they are bouncing when you come up with your average, because you’ll need to know how far they fly, not how far they go, after the roll. Record your data and either memorize it, or you can make a label, and stick it on each club.

 

Now that you know how to find the yardage, and have the knowledge to hit the proper club, you still must consider some other factors. Are you hitting into the wind? Is the shot uphill? Have the greens been holding, or are they firm? Find the hazards. If they are in front of the green, hit a bit more club. If you are in the light rough, you may have what’s called a flyer, and you’ll need to hit less club, cause it’s going to shoot off the club a little farther than normal.

 

If you aren’t hitting the ball solid, don’t fall into a mode where you tell yourself to hit more club than normal. If it is a 130 yard shot, on level ground, with no wind, no hazards, on soft greens, hit your 130 yard club whether you think you’ll hit it good or not. If you think that you’re going to hit it poorly, 9 times out of 10, you will.

 

You know you’re going to hit some bad shots during a round. Don’t make matters worse by guessing how far away you are, and what club to hit.  If you want to get serious about improving your scores, start by paying more attention to the yardages, and the distance you hit your clubs. Take the guess work out of your next round by getting more prepared.

Back to the Basics

 

On the Practice Tee
with Joe Giles


PGA Professional and
Southern Ohio PGA Teacher of the Year

 

Easy come, Easy go. Here today, Gone Tomorrow. That was then, this is now. The right stick at times will save you on #9. All the cliché’s in the world can’t describe how frustrating it is to play like a champ one day, and a chump the next. Just when you thought you had this game figured out, you play twenty four hours later and all the feeling you had the day before has vanished.

 

There are a lot of things which can cause a sudden loss of golf memory. Are the conditions the same as yesterday? Weather, wind, and temperature are factors which can disrupt your normal game. Are you playing a different course? Maybe one you don’t care for or is intimidating to you. Are you playing with the same people? Maybe yesterday you enjoyed the other members of your group but today you’re playing with a couple of jerks. Did you spend too much time at the nineteenth hole after your fine round yesterday? Whatever the reason, you just can’t seem to hit a solid shot.

 

When you “lose it”, (and we all do) here are a few ideas I have for getting it back.

  • Go back to the basics. Check to make sure your grip, posture, and aim are all correct. Any change of the three could cause a sudden loss of feel.
  • Take an easier swing. Until you are able to get your rhythm back, hit an easy 7-iron instead of swinging hard at an 8. You’ll hit it more solid with an easier swing.
  • Think back to your past. What kind of things did you do to improve, the last time you “lost” your swing? What types of bad habits have you had in the past? Old habits can creep back in you swing without warning. Have you gone back to one.
  • Focus on your target. Don’t focus on hitting the ball. Concentrate on swinging smoothly and sending the ball to the target.
  • Once you’ve got the feel back, write down the swing-keys you’ve used to regain it. Carry your notes in your golf bag so you can quickly refer to them in time of need.

 

So there’s no need to cry over spilled milk the next time you feel you’ve “lost” your feel. Now you’re fully prepared to cross that bridge when you come to it.

Course Management

 

On the Practice Tee
with Joe Giles


PGA Professional and
Southern Ohio PGA Teacher of the Year

 

One of the most important, but least understood aspects of the game of golf involves what is called “course management”. Some people think course management refers to etiquette, others misinterpret it as the ability to make the proper club selection, while some players would simply guess that it applies to the people who get the best parking spots next to the pro shop door. In order for me to explain what it is, and how you can become better at it, I’ll need to take you back to when I first started playing the game at about age twelve.

 

My earliest experiences playing golf took place in the mid 60′s, back when shafts were wooden and golf balls were stuffed with feathers. Every Sunday my father would take me to his favorite golf course where I would hook up with my grandfather and aunt for a 9 hole round. In my mind I was far better than either of them. I hit much farther than they did, so obviously I was the superior player.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth. While I was trying to hit over, under, and through trees, bushes and hazards, they would walk a straight line from the tee to the green, just stopping long enough to hit a few shots along the way, and to glance over to me in my quest to return the ball back to the hole I was trying to play. When the 2 1/2 hours of torture was over, my grandfather would make it a point to loudly add up the scores (he knew it ticked me off). Just like so many times before, he would shoot 46, my aunt 47, and Joe 55. I wanted so much to kick some relative butt, I knew I was good enough, but what I didn’t know was that I wasn’t smart enough.

 

Finally, after many frustrating rounds, my grandfather gave me some advice that I vividly remember to this day. He asked me if there were any holes on the course that I thought I couldn’t make a bogey on. I laughed and said that there aren’t any holes on the course that I couldn’t par, what are you talking about. In a stern, but friendly voice, he reminded me that he didn’t ask me that question. So I told him that I thought I could make bogey on every hole. Then he asked what score would be the result of nine bogeys. I really had never thought of it, so I wasn’t quick to reply. After some quick math I responded with the number 44 (par 35). After he reminded me that I had never scored below 50, he said that the next time we played together, all he wanted me to do is make a bogey on every hole. Up to the challenge, the next time I went to the course I played with much less pressure and a whole new game plan. The result…. a 48, the best round of my life!!!

 

So, the point of the story?  Course management is the ability to turn a 55 into a 48, with nothing but a change of attitude, and purpose.

 

If you are consistently shooting in the high 40′s and above, try this simple experiment. Before playing your next round, get a scorecard beforehand, and fill it out. The total score should add up to your normal round. Let’s say you usually shoot around 53. On your card you’ll have a lot of bogeys, but you will also be guilty of making some 7′s, 8′s, and maybe higher. I know when you look at the card your going to think that there is no way your going to make an 8 on that short par 5. Well let me remind you, this is reality, you need to make that 8 to reach your normal score. Now, when you play that next round, pretend you’re playing high stakes, and your opponent bet you $20.00 that you’ll make an 8 on this hole, the short par 5 (he’s already seen the card), I would imagine that you will do whatever it takes to make less than an 8 on the hole. That might involve chipping out, instead of trying to hit through the trees, or hitting to the right side of the green instead of going for the pin and ending up in the bunker. Your future has been laid out in front of you, are you wise enough to avoid making the mistakes that you know you normally make?

 

Too many times I see young players tee off with the attitude that if I don’t shoot par I don’t care what I shoot. These are people who constantly turn 42′s into 50′s. The first time they miss a green or hit a bad shot their world falls apart and so does their golf game. Remember, the tour players only hit 12 or 13 greens in regulation on average, so they hit quite a few bad shots too. The difference is that they are able to recover from poor shots, hardly ever making more than a bogey.

 

Course management is not something I can teach you on the range. All I can do is offer advice like my grandfather did to me. Analyze the way you play golf. Are your scores high because you make silly mistakes? If so, the next time you hit your tee shot in trouble, say to yourself, I bet this is the hole I’m going to take that 9 on, and play the rest of the hole with the purpose of making less than a 9. With this attitude I think you’ll “manage” to lower your score.

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