Instruction

39 Ways To Fix Everything: How to split more fairways, make more birdies and have more fun than ever!

Photo: Russell Kirk

"Sorry, busy on Monday -- I have a tee time at Winged Foot. Oh, you've heard of it?"

1. YOU WANT TO PLAY A TOP PRIVATE TRACK BUT DON'T KNOW ANY MEMBERS THERE
With a down economy, gaining access to premier private courses is more feasible than ever. Here are four ways to get behind the gates.
No. 1: Take a lesson with the club's pro; an on-course playing lesson or even a full 18 holes might be the result.

No. 2: Buy a spot in a Monday charity outing. Tough-to-access courses like Winged Foot and Medinah host plenty of them.

No. 3: Join a web-based "network" that allows access to private tracks. Boxgroove (boxgroove.com) has a network of 746 private clubs; Tour GCX (tourgcx.com) is affiliated with several Top 100 Courses. Fees vary.

No. 4: Call or e-mail a club's general manager and simply ask to tee it up. Request to play during a quieter time to up your chances. If you're traveling, some clubs respond favorably to requests from hotel concierges.

FIX-IT WEEK ON GOLF.COM:

MONDAY: 39 WAYS TO WIX EVERYTHING

TUESDAY: THE ULTIMATE SLICE FIX

WEDNESDAY: HOW TO FIX YOUR MATCH

THURSDAY: THE NEW WAY TO PRACTICE

FRIDAY: GOLF MAGAZINE INTERVIEW WITH BOB TOSKI

2. YOU'RE A TRIGGER-SHY HEAD CASE OVER THE BALL
Rediscover the kid in you. "When you were young you didn't think about how to shoot a foul shot or throw a baseball -- you looked at the target and pulled the trigger," says Top 100 Teacher Keith Lyford. "Try my 'Two-Second Rule,' which requires you to swing within two seconds of your last look at the target. This prevents you from staring at the ball for too long and keeps the image of the target fresh in your mind."

3. YOUR BACK HURTS
Squat down and hug your knees to your chest, or simply bend over and touch your toes, says PGA Tour physical therapist Jeff Hendra. Both exercises loosen your lower-back muscles and can also help relieve pain mid-round. If you're a walker, Hendra recommends that you make sure your bag straps are correctly adjusted so you maintain even pressure on your shoulders.

 

Golf Clubs
JAMES WESTMAN
 

4. YOU KNOW YOU CAN CARRY 14 CLUBS -- BUT WHICH 14?
Proper set makeup is largely a distance-gapping question, so spend time at the range determining how far you hit each of your clubs. You may find you have a 15- or 20-yard hole that a hybrid, driving iron or fairway wood can fill. "More critical, though," says Mark Timms, founder of custom clubmaker Cool Clubs, "is dialing in your scoring clubs, because those are the clubs that will most help you get the ball close to the hole. So don't be afraid to replace a long club (adios, 3-iron!) with a 58- or 60-degree wedge, even if you already have three (or four) wedges in your bag.

5. YOU CATCH YOUR IRONS THIN
"This results either from swinging on a plane that's too flat, or from lifting up through impact," says Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs. "Either way, you need to deliver the club to the ball on a steeper descending path. Move your feet closer together at address and make sure your left shoulder is pointing down toward the ball in your down-swing. As you swing down, rather than using your arms and shoulders to power the club, let the club's weight fall down into the ground. The club should feel heavy through impact and make a nice 'thump' as it passes through the ball."

 

Shanks
JAMES WESTMAN
Think about driving the butt into your thigh.

6. YOU HAVE THE SHANKS!
Shanks happen because your hands moved closer than normal to the ball at impact, says Top 100 Teacher Chris Como. "To fix them, imagine that you're going to stick the butt of the club into your left thigh as you swing through impact," he says. "This simple move ensures that your hands square the clubface and move slightly away from the ball, not at it."

7. YOU MISS TOO MANY FAIRWAYS
Ditch the driver, suggests a fellow named Tom Watson, who won eight majors, including five Open Championships. "You'll hit your 3-wood straighter and possibly just as far." Playing from the fairway, not the forest, is an instant stroke-saver.

8. YOU WANT THE RIGHT BALL FOR YOUR GAME
Ball manufacturers shout about how far their balls fly, but you'd be wiser to concentrate on how different models perform on shots into and on the greens. Mike Gibson, Titleist's golf ball fitting manager, recommends you start by using a ball maker's online selection tool to pare your choices to two models. From there, take a sleeve [or box] of the two recommended balls for an on-course evaluation. Work from the green back to the tee -- hit putts and short-game shots while focusing on distance control, feel and accuracy. Next, hit full-swing shots with irons, hybrids, fairway woods and, finally, your driver. It takes time [and a small investment] to find the ideal fit, but in the end, it's worth the effort.

9. YOU HAVE ONLY FIVE MINUTES TO GET LOOSE
If there's only time for a few quick swings on the range, hit your 8-iron, says golf-analytics expert Mark Broadie, the mind behind the PGA Tour's Strokes-Gained Putting stat. "The 8-iron best bridges the gap between short irons and your longer clubs, even your driver."

10. YOU NEED A BREAK FROM YOUR REGULAR FOURSOME
"Exiting that kind of relationship can get pretty messy," says Jason Zacher, a political strategist and co-author of Political Golf, a book devoted to the nuances of on-course relationships. He suggests a more diplomatic approach. "Instead of breaking up, recruit more members. Turn your foursome of potential partners into an eightsome. You bring fresh blood into the mix without causing bad feelings."

11. YOUR TEMPO MAKES CHARLES BARKLEY LOOK LIKE ERNIE ELS
"For better tempo, soften your grip pressure," says Top 100 Teacher and Golf Channel guy Michael Breed. "Imagine you're in your car holding a lidless cup of coffee. To accelerate to 60 mph without spilling the coffee, you'd hold the cup gently and accelerate gradually. This is the combination you want in your swing."

12. YOU'RE NOT MAXING OUT YOUR DISTANCE
Exhale through impact. "Most amateurs unknowingly hold their breath during the downswing," says E.A. Tischler, director of instruction at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. "Think of a weight lifter exhaling when bench-pressing, or a tennis player grunting. Exhaling relaxes your muscles, freeing you to hit it with everything you've got."

 

Hulk
Don Penny
"Lesson no help Hulk save par. Hulk smash Haney!"

13. DOUBLE BOGEYS STIR YOUR INNER-HULK
Get mad. Then get over it, says Dr. Joe Parent, author of Zen Golf. "It's okay to get upset," Parent says. "But Tiger says he only lets himself stay mad for 10 paces from the spot of the last shot." So let your fury build as you count your footfalls. By 10, you should quite literally have moved on.

14. YOU LOVE PLAYING GOLF BUT NOT PAYING FOR GOLF
For short-term or last-minute savings, visit third-party discount tee-time providers such as golfnow.com, ezlinks.com and golfhub.com. GroupOn also offers tee-time deals. Check out individual course websites for daily specials. Call resorts for packages, which often bundle golf, lodging and other amenities -- dining, spa services and instruction. And consider off-season dates. You can save up to 75 percent by playing Sun Belt destinations like Florida and Arizona in July versus March.

15. YOU'RE PLAYING WITH A RAGING HANGOVER
Hair of the dog will only make matters worse as the day progresses, says Dr. John Brick, author of The Doctor's Hangover Handbook. You're dehydrated, so guzzle water and maybe an electrolyte-rich sports drink. Ibuprofen can help too.

16. YOUR HANDS BLISTER EASILY
If you can't grip it, it's tough to rip it. "During play, apply a dab of Vaseline to blisters and cover them with athletic tape," says Matt Doles, a trainer for the golf team at Texas A&M. Post-round, wash them with soap and warm water. "But don't remove skin-flaps -- they're natural Band-Aids. Apply antibiotic cream and cover them with Band-Aids during the day, but let the blisters air out at night." To avoid blisters in the first place? Weakening your grip pressure can help. And worn-down grips are often the cause.

17. ALLERGIES RUIN YOUR ROUNDS
"To calm the symptoms, splash some cold water on your face and hair," says Dr. Beth Corn, an allergy specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "If you have an extra shirt handy, change into it, because shirts can carry pollen."

18. YOU FORGOT TO USE SUNSCREEN, AND NOW YOU'RE HURTING
To reduce peeling from sunburn, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends starting with a cool shower or bath, then slathering on a moisturizing cream, ideally one with vitamin C and vitamin E. As for the sting, aspirin or ibuprofen can help, but frequent applications of aloe vera are still the best way to treat sunburn, according to Cory Couture, an athletic trainer at Florida State University. Hydrocortisone cream will also help with the inflammation.

19. YOU'RE TIGER IN 2010: LOST

HERE'S THE SECRET SWING-PLANE SWITCH THAT PUT THE FORMER AND CURRENT WORLD NO. 1 BACK ON TOP
Most swing experts agree that in recent years Tiger hasn't been, well, Tiger -- not since his U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines, in 2008. And Woods has admitted that even before that iconic win, his hot putter masked full-swing flaws. In 2013? He claimed five Tour wins by early August. He's as close to being the old Tiger -- the one who led the Tour in greens in regulation five times in the 2000s -- as ever.

"Credit his coach, Sean Foley, and Tiger's army-like work ethic," says Top 100 Teacher Jon Tattersall, who has been observing the changes that Woods and Foley have been working on since 2010. "Together they've eradicated the error-prone backswing that had Woods missing in every direction -- the same type of errant shotmaking that plagues weekend players."

Comparing Tiger's 2008 swing to the one that has already brought him $7 million plus in earnings this year (below) proves that small fixes in key spots can turn slices and hooks -- and everything in between -- into straighter, longer shots. Woods may have fallen short in the majors this year, but his new swing has him back at No. 1, and back in the game.


Tiger Woods
Mark Newcombe
Tiger Woods in 2008.

2008
ADDRESS: Tiger's weak grip and tall posture look okay, but the taller you stand, the flatter you'll turn your shoulders. As you'll see later in Woods's old swing, this isn't always a good thing.

BACKSWING: The weaker grip allows the clubface to rotate open to his swing plane. It takes Tiger-like hand-eye coordination to get back to square at impact from this position, and sometimes even he couldn't do it.

TOP: Tiger's arms and shoulders move on completely different planes, with the club across the line. This mismatch requires so many compensations that achieving solid impact takes a bit of luck.


Tiger Woods
Mark Newcombe
Tiger Woods in 2013.

2013
ADDRESS: Tiger has a stronger, less neutral grip and more forward torso bend. With his chest closer to the ball, he can turn his shoulders on a steeper plane and start from a neutral shaft position.

BACKSWING: The stronger grip limits his forearm rotation and keeps the clubface more square going back. With no compensations required at this point, Woods simply keeps turning to store massive power.

TOP: Tiger's new shoulder-turn and arm swing are a perfect match. Everything lines up: shoulders, left-arm plane, left wrist and clubface. This is your goal on any swing. Now, swing away!

THREE MOVES FOR TIGER-LIKE PERFECTION
If you struggle to hit the ball straight, copy Tiger's new backswing. "When you're square and on plane at the top, like Tiger is now," Tattersall says, "you have a great chance to get square and on-plane at impact."

1. LOOK OVER YOUR LEFT SHOULDER
Notice how far Tiger has rotated his shoulders without moving his head out of the position it held at setup. "This is a sign of a fully coiled, fundamentally correct backswing," Tattersall says. You know you're in the right position if you can see the ball while looking over your left shoulder when you reach the top, something you won't be able to do if you move your head off the ball or sway instead of turn. Tattersall adds a word of caution: "You can't turn and keep your head still if your neck muscles aren't flexible, like Tiger's. Nobody thinks about stretching their neck, but it's critical for optimizing your swing power. Check with your trainer."

2. BEND OVER!
Because a taller posture fuels a too-flat swing, increase your forward bend at address. The trick, as Tiger has done, is to employ the right amount of tilt. "Most Tour players bend forward about 30 degrees," Tattersall says. "You might not know what this feels like, so imagine you have a light attached to the middle of your chest. Now bend over [from your hips, not your waist] into a position where the light would shine just beyond the ball."

3. PUT A KINK IN YOUR RIGHT WRIST
If there's one picture that shows how much Tiger's swing has improved under Sean Foley, it's the one below. "Tiger's left arm, the back of his left wrist and the clubface all line up," Tattersall says. "Not only is this classic Tiger, it's classic ballstriker." If you copy Tiger's new address position, you shouldn't have much trouble getting your left arm to look like his. The hard part is keeping your left wrist flat. "You have to really focus on it," Tattersall says, "because it doesn't happen by itself." Letting your left wrist cup [bend backward] is the fast way to hit a slice. "Amateurs struggle with this because most of them focus only on the left wrist," Tattersall adds. The fix? Use your right hand to keep your left wrist flat, or to even bow it [bend it forward] slightly. "As you swing to the top," Tattersall says, "try to move your right-hand knuckles closer to your right forearm, creating wrinkles in the back of your right wrist. This will pull your left wrist into perfect position."

20. YOU DON'T KNOW WHICH WEDGE LOFTS YOU NEED
Build your wedge set around the loft of your pitching wedge. Most amateurs play with clubs that include a 45-degree pitching wedge, which is similar to what 9-irons used to be. As a result, you should strongly consider buying the gap-wedge that goes with your irons-set -- it's usually around 50-degrees -- and then adding two more lofted wedges, a 55- and 60-degree combo. If you struggle with the severely lofted clubs, consider a 54- and 58-degree tandem instead.

21. YOU TOP LOTS OF TEE SHOTS
"You're probably putting too much weight on your back foot," says Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs. "This moves the bottom of your swing arc behind the ball, making it tough to make solid contact, except with the top of the ball. Make a more rotational backswing -- don't sway off the ball -- and then focus on making a nice balanced finish with your weight over your front foot."


Snail
Alamy
 

22. YOUR PLAYING PARTNER MOVES LIKE A SNAIL
Instead of pointing fingers, frame the issue as a group problem. "Say something like, 'Fellas, let's pick it up -- the guys behind us are waiting,' " says Tim Scott, executive director of Speed Golf International. "That gets the message across without putting it on one guy." Set an example, too. If you're already marking your ball while Dawdling Doug is back in the fairway, he'll feel the pressure to step on the gas.

23. YOU SHAKE LIKE A KITTEN OVER BIG PUTTS
Feeling nervous on the greens? Top 100 Teacher Marius Filmalter suggests first gripping your putter very tightly, and then releasing your hands completely before regripping with a softer, proper touch. The contrast reminds your brain what a good grip feels like and helps you calibrate the just-right pressure.

 

Sam Snead
Augusta National/Getty Images
Say "Slammin' Sam" during your swing for a smoother motion.

 

24. YOUR HEAD IS OVERFLOWING WITH SWING THOUGHTS
Give yourself a good talking-to, says E.A. Tischler, the director of instruction at Inverness. "On the practice tee, utter a phrase while swinging that captures what you want to do. The phrase should be no more than four or five words and personalized for you. One tall student with a flat swing said, 'Tall Tom Watson!' which fixed his plane. Another student said, 'Turn, draw, finish!' to go from hitting cuts to draws." This works because words have meaning, sending a clear message to your motor skills.

25. AFTER A FEW GOOD HOLES, YOUR WHEELS COME OFF
To sustain focus, play mini-rounds within your full round. "I have my students play six three-hole rounds," says Top 100 Teacher Michael Breed. "For each mini-round, set specific goals like fairways or greens hit, or pick a target score for each one. This helps you reset your focus multiple times over 18 holes."

26. YOU NEED A PUTTING LESSON
Want immediate feedback on your putting stroke? Bypass that $500-an-hour teaching pro and pick up a Putter Wheel. Essentially a ball with two sides lopped off, the device wobbles like a drunken sailor when you hit it with anything less than a pure stroke. Catch it just right, though -- in the center of your putterface and with a slightly ascending blow -- and it rolls like a dream. $17.95 per wheel; 3-packs are $39.95; putterwheel.com

27. YOU'RE NOT SURE HOW OFTEN YOU NEED TO REGRIP YOUR CLUBS
If you play once a week, regrip your sticks once a year, says clubfitter Mitch Voges. If you play twice a week or more, regrip 'em and rip 'em every six months.

28. WARNING! SLOW PLAYERS AHEAD
So you're stuck behind a seemingly slow group. Don't let yourself get agitated. Assume that the ranger is doing all he can to keep things moving, says Doug Hodge, the head pro at Grayhawk in Scottsdale, Ariz. "It might not be the group directly in front of you that's the problem," Hodge says. "It may just be one of those slow days." Keep your rhythm by stretching, and sharpen your short game with closest-to-the-tee-marker chipping contests.

29. BLOW-UP HOLES RUIN YOUR ROUNDS
Often, big numbers happen when you try to hit a green that's too far away, says Top 100 Teacher Keith Lyford. Are you sure you can rip that 3-wood 235 yards to a green ringed by pot bunkers? Instead, divide and conquer. Divide the distance by two and hit two safe shots instead of one overly ambitious one that will probably end up in the sand, rough, or water.

30. YOUR CADDIE WON'T STOP YAKKING
Be frank but friendly, says Ken Brooke, director of caddie services at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. No need to create tension. Try, "Hey, bud, I'm not a big talker on the course. I like putting all my focus on shooting my best score, and I'll need your help to do that." Now you're making him a partner -- a silent partner.

31. YOUR MONEY GAME NEEDS SOME SPICING UP
Need a change of pace from the old skins game? Try "Lakewood golf," a game that Lee Trevino cut his teeth on in Texas, according to golf-gambling historian Michael Bohn. Lakewood allows all manner of distractions: coughing, sneezing, name-calling, you name it. (The only no-no: touching a player or his ball while he's hitting.) It's not for the timid, and it will teach you to block out distractions, too.

32. YOU CAN'T ESCAPE GREENSIDE BUNKERS
Forget the laundry-list of bunker do's and don'ts, says A.J. Bonar, of AJ Golf School in San Diego. "Keep it simple. Set up like any other wedge shot. Then imagine that your ball is resting on top of a tee that's hidden beneath the surface. When you swing, just break the tee. It's that easy."

33. YOU CATCH YOUR IRONS FAT
"Fatties occur when you play the ball too far back in your stance and make a backswing that's too vertical," says Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs. "This terrible tandem creates a super steep path that buries the club in the ground. Try this: Move the ball closer to the instep of your left foot and rotate your hips clockwise in the backswing. This flattens your backswing and helps you approach the ball with a shallower attack."

34. YOU MISS LOTS OF PUTTS BUT AREN'T SURE WHY
You may have a stroke-posture disconnect. The more upright you stand, the more the putterhead rotates, says putting expert Marius Filmalter. Players like Tiger who want the clubhead to "release" through impact get better results with a more upright posture, while the straight-back-and-straight-through boys, like Jack Nicklaus, do better from a more bent-over posture. Experiment to see if your stance and your stroke are a good match.

35. IT'S UP TO YOU TO PLAN THE NEXT BUDDY TRIP
There are three basic rules: fun courses, good eats, fair prices. "Make sure you know a course's cancellation/no-show policy," says Tedd Maitland, golf sales manager at Arizona's Zona Hotel and Suites, in Scottsdale. Don't overschedule. Build in plenty of cocktail-and-story-telling time. "Establish payment parameters in advance. And appoint a group leader -- dissension and confusion are buddy-trip busters."

36. YOU GET MID-ROUND FATIGUE
The keys to keeping up your energy are balanced snacks and good hydration, says Sally Bowman, a dietitian with Central Texas Nutrition Consultants. "Don't wait until you get hungry or feel thirsty," Bowman says. "By then, it's too late. Instead, eat and drink in anticipation. Bring some extra snacks -- energy bars, snack mix -- to the course and have one at the sixth hole and the other at the 12th." Proper spacing, she says, will keep you focused, hydrated and ready to finish with a flourish.


Airplane
Getty Images
Bon voyage! [Don't worry, they'll probably resurface.]

37. THE AIRLINE LOST YOUR STICKS
Don't panic. "Most luggage is just delayed, not lost," says Gordon Dalgleish, the founding director of PerryGolf, one of the industry's leading custom travel service companies. "Submit your claim within 24 hours." Follow the process described for tracking luggage. Most airlines update lost-luggage status online. Also, keep receipts for all expenses you incur -- rental clubs, for example. If your sticks never resurface, the airline will reimburse you for their value (less any applicable depreciation). And don't forget to claim other stuff that was in your golf bag -- shoes, that box of pricey balls, that Rolex. . .uh, never mind.

38. YOU DON'T WANT TO GIVE UP YOUR ANCHORED PUTTING STROKE
Not every type of anchoring will be illegal in 2016. Try a grip that places the handle of the putter against your left forearm. This gives you a similar feel of stability without connecting the club to your sternum. Just hold the grip of the putter against the inside of your left forearm with your right palm, and you're good to go.

39. YOUR HANDICAP JUST WON'T BUDGE
If your game's in a rut, identify your biggest weakness and turn it into a strength, suggests PGA Tour winner Robert Garrigus. "Two years ago, my coach, Jim Ahern, asked me what my weakness was, and I told him, 'My wedge game,' " Garrigus says. "He said, 'Why isn't that your strength?' We made it a strength, and it's helped my game tremendously."
 

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