Instruction

Play Golf Faster and Better

1. How to put a spring in your step

Just because you don't take a cart doesn't mean you can't motor around the course. Here's how to turn a good walk spoiled into an aerobic workout, according to Jeff Salvage, former member of the U.S. Racewalking Team (so he's a guy who's really walked the walk).

  • Take a pull cart, and lead with your hips when you walk.

  • Lean forward, as if walking uphill.

  • Tighten your abs, says Therese Iknoian, author of Walking Fast. You're getting an ab workout while you walk.

  • Push off with the toes of your back foot to get an extra boost, and pump your arms, er, arm.

2. How to run a search and rescue mission

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3. How to choose your weapon

Wind, elevation changes and distance uncertainties cause indecision, and the longer you wait, the more tension creeps in. According to John Krikorian, vice president of training for caddie-staffing company CaddieMaster Enterprises, you can choose the right stick right quick if you:

  • Add or subtract one club for every 10 mph of wind. Side winds are more about direction adjustments than distance, so take one more club and shorten your backswing to keep the ball down.

  • Figure one extra club for every 25 feet of elevation. Subtract clubs the same way for downhill shots, though anything more than a 100-foot drop is a pick 'em.

  • Remember that bunkers, creeks and trees near the green make the flag look closer than it is. Trust your yardage, not your eyes.

4. How to pull the trigger

If your lie goes from fairway to knee-high rough during the time you take the club back, it's time to pare down your pre-shot routine. "Every step should serve a purpose," says Top 100 Teacher Bryan Gathright. "No wasted motion. And 20 seconds is plenty of time." For a routine that speeds up play and fights off negative thoughts, Gathright suggests this two-step setup:

  • Stand behind the ball, visualize the shot and take one practice swing.

  • Address the ball and look up at the target—not the ground—to align the club and your feet. Look back to the ball, waggle, take a final peek at the target, and when your head returns, fire!

5. How to decide who's away

If your not sure who's away, don't grab the tape measure. Say with supreme confidence "I'm away" and play. While we're young.

6. How to grab a quick bite

If your putting stroke is literally shaky, maybe that coffee-and Marlboro breakfast is to blame.

You'll play better if you eat a quick high-carb, high-protein snack, says nutritionist Melinda Manore. So unwrap an energy bar or down a bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, two pieces of lightly buttered whole-wheat toast and a glass of O.J. Even a PB&J helps keep your blood glucose levels fairly constant, which helps keep your blood glucose levels fairly constant, which helps with concentration and muscle control, she says. In a worst-case scenario, Manore says you can grab an Egg McMuffin, which is rich in protein and carbs. (If it grabs you back, run!)

7. How to make a starting time without stopping

Tired of calling for a tee time and instead getting "For the snack shack, press 5. For the creepy guy who mows the greens, press 6..."? Thankfully, more and more courses let you book tee times online. National tee-time web sites include ezlinks.com and book4golf.com. For links by region, there's teetimeking.com in the Northeast, lastminutegolfer.com in the Southeast, and golfsouthwest.net in the—wait, let us double-check—Southwest! Or, just Google "[Your city] tee times."

8. How to get loose in 120 seconds

You're on the tee in two minutes, and you're stiffer than George Will. Here's how to lose the tightness in the muscles essential to your swing, according to fitness expert Paul Hospenthal.

  • Stretch your neck and upper back by rotating your chin to each shoulder, 10-15 times.

  • Grab your elbow and pull your arm across your chest and hold for 5 seconds (then switch arms).

  • Place a club behind your neck and across your shoulders. Keep your hips still and twist left and right from the waist. Then reverse it: Keep your trunk still while twisting the hips. Five twists each.

  • Take a few practice swings right-handed and left-handed, emphasizing your weight shift, shoulder turn and follow-through.

9. How to get the ball rolling

Aaron Baddeley ranked first on the PGA Tour in putts per round through May. His secret: He likes to keep it moving on the dance floor. "My father was chief mechanic for Mario Andretti," says Baddeley, "which might explain my need for speed. I like to step up and hit it in four steps. First, I stand about three feet behind the ball to get the line and take some practice swings. Then I walk into my stance on the same line I want to start the putt on. This sets my body square to the putt. Next, I sole the putterhead and take one last look at the hole. As soon as my eyes return, I pull the trigger and, presto, there goes the ball."

10. How to cash and carry

Even if you just got skinned in the skins, you can get even quickly at the 19th hole. Here's a killer bar bet from Michael Hayes, magician and star of the video Never Pay For a Drink Again. (For more from Hayes, check out bartricks.com.)

The Levitating Golf Ball: Place two pro-style shot glasses (the thick ones with the fill lines) on the bar about an inch apart and put a golf ball in one of them. Bet your mark a Jackson that you can "levitate" the ball into the other glass without touching the ball or the glasses. The Trick: Once he slaps down his $20, blow forcefully on the ball in the proper direction. It will miraculously pop up, out and into the awaiting glass. (We recommend practicing at home so you don't look like David Copper-dork.) Then be a good sport and buy the sucker a round.

11. How to place your bets

Why run red lights and stop signs to barely make your tee time when you know you'll arrive at the tee to find your pals wasting time dickering about the wager? The first tee isn't the time to explain subtleties of Bingo-Bango-Bongo so keep it simple, says Scott Johnston, author of The Complete Book of Golf Games. With mixed handicaps, either match play (better net ball or net combined) or skins should please all, he says, since higher handicappers can endure the odd blow-up hole and stay in the game. And switch the teams every six holes, to keep things fair.

12. How to avoid pit stops

The only thing you should strain over at a golf course is a crucial putt. To be sure you leave the house fully vacant, Manore suggests waking an hour earlier than usual "to get everything moving." So take a walk, pour some coffee. "Food, caffeine and exercise stimulate peristalsis," she says. (Peristalsis is fancy talk for the contractions that make you go boom-boom.) "They make the body say, 'OK, let's get rid of what was there the day before,'" says Manore. Like, say, Egg McMuffins.

13. How to turn a dime

You'd love a well-seared burger after nine, but there are plenty to play with a group hot on your tail. So after you check in at the pro shop, scan the grill menu and place your order before you tee off. Tell Larry behind the grill to have it ready in two hours because you're going to be hauling ass. Bonus tip for the beverage cart: Lay down your credit card on the first pass and run a tab. It beats digging for change in the bottom of your bag and coming up with ball markers and grass.

14. How to get out of town

You can sense it. Something wicked this way comes! It's your in-laws! Take a deep breath and calmly click on pamsgolf.com, golfpactravel.com or customgolfvacations.com. Check into your hotel under an assumed name, just to be safe.

15. How to get ready for next around

Don't head home thinking about those three wedge shots you flubbed. Take a tip from the pros and spend five minutes at the range after your match working on shots that gave you trouble. You'll feel more confident the next time you're out.

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