Dial in short clubs: Breaking 80, Week 1
DIAL IN YOUR SHORT CLUBS
While it's always a good idea to get your clubs fitted, the most important thing for scoring is to get your wedges and short irons dialed in. First you need to be sure your distance gaps are correct. In many modern iron sets the lofts are jacked very strong to encourage more distance. Unfortunately, this can wreak havoc on your distance gaps and short-game scoring shots. Basically, you want 4-degree gaps between each of your scoring clubs; I recommend having the lofts checked. Then, make sure you have the right collection of wedges to complement your short irons. For example, if you have a 37-degree 8-iron and a 41-degree 9-iron (common in game-improvement iron sets), you need to make sure you have 50-, 54-, and 58- or 60-degree wedges to round out your arsenal. If you don't, you should invest in new ones, or have your existing wedges bent (be aware that if you strengthen your wedge lofts, you'll take away bounce, which isn't always a good thing).
WEEK 1 DRILL: WEDGE ASSESSMENT
Once you have your wedges and scoring irons set up properly, you need to get out to the practice range and dial in your distances. To do so, take your 8-iron through LW and hit 10 practice balls with each (if possible, the balls you normally play, not range balls). Hit these shots from a good flat spot on the range. It's important to do this on a quiet day with little wind. It's also important to know your yardages as accurately as possible, so I recommend using a rangefinder for this exercise.
Mark the average yardage you hit with each club. You should notice a 10- to 15-yard gap between the distance you hit successive clubs (for example: 60-yard LW, 75-yard SW, 90-yard GW, etc.). It may not be exact, but you should be close to this gap structure.
Now, the real test: Hit 10 solid shots with each club, paying close attention to your landing spot. Your goal here is to see how consistently you can hit each club based on the yardage you charted in Step 1. At the end of six weeks you should be able to consistently land about 70 percent of your shots with each of these clubs in a 10- yard radius. The other thing to figure out during this session is which scoring club is your favorite, or the most reliable. If you're going to cut those last few strokes and break 80, you'll need to have a go-to lay-up distance.
WEEK 1 ACTION PLAN (3 HOURS)
1. Gear Check (60 minutes): Have your scoring clubs (8-iron through LW) checked by a clubmaker. You want 4- or 5-degree increments between each club. Be certain your lofts are correct and that the gaps are appropriate. If need be, you should consider purchasing a new wedge or two to fill out your set.
2. Distance Check (60 minutes): Hit 10 balls with each club until you can confidently say how far you hit each club when you make solid contact.
3. Distance Practice (60 minutes): Mark off the yardage for each club from 8-iron to your shortest wedge and hit 10 balls with each club to each corresponding target. By the end of six weeks you should be able to hit 70 percent of your shots within a 10-yard radius of the target.