7 Easy Moves for a Better Game
Golf isn't a game of playing better, but playing more consistently. Here are my favorite keys for repeating your best swings and short-game shots over and over again.Before I joined the PGA Tour I'd rate the quality of my game by my good shots the big drives, the high-flying long irons and flop-shot saves. But the more I play against the best golfers in the world, the more I realize that highlight-reel swings have little to do with posting the best score possible. I've jumped more than 300 spots in the Official World Golf Rankings since 2004 if only because my game has become more consistent.
Check the stats other than driving the ball (something I've always done well), I'm in the middle of the pack in almost every stat category. This means I'm not relying too heavily on one part of my game or suffering too badly from another. I'm repeating my good swing on almost every shot. If you can add this type of consistency to your game, you'll improve faster than you ever thought possible. The first step: follow the same seven rules I do when I need to play my absolute best.
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Hit Your Targets
My aiming trick stops you from missing left or right
When you see me playing in a tournament on TV, you'll notice that I stand behind the ball on every shot, point my clubshaft out in front of me, close my left eye, and then take my stance. What I'm doing is setting the shaft along the line I want my ball to start, then looking down the shaft to select a spot on the ground about three inches in front of the ball to help me get aligned at address. I do this because it's a lot easier to align your body and club to a close target than to one that's 150 to 200 yards away.
I've set up to the ball like this for many years, but when I was younger I'd point the shaft directly at the flagstick there were very few pins that I wouldn't go after, and I missed a lot of greens as a result. Now, I'm more apt to aim at the center of the green than directly at the pin, unless I'm playing catch-up and need to pull off a risky shot. If you're a mid-handicap golfer, it's a safe bet that you'd save at least four strokes every round if you aimed for the middle of the green on every approach.
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Good swings are loose swings
I take an athletic approach to the tee box, and although you may not be the athlete you once were, you can tap into your innate skills anytime by staying loose and relaxed. Golfers tend to make hurried, uncoordinated swings when they're tense. That's why when I step on the tee, I take a deep breath. As I inhale in and out, I can almost feel the tension drip out of my body. When I'm free like this, my swing speed goes off the charts. If the breathing trick doesn't work for you, try making your body as tense as possible, and then let every muscle go slack all at once. By going from taut to loose you'll start to understand what "tension-free" really means.
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Simplify Your Backswing
Use your shoulders as your guide
When I play in pro-ams I see a lot of amateurs freeze up at address you can see the gears turning in their heads as they cycle through all the things they've been taught to do to get the club started on its way to the top. Once you start thinking about how to turn your hips, when to hinge your wrists, or what to do with your arms, you're toast. I haven't thought about my backswing in years, except for the times I've been working on something specific at the range. In my opinion, the more you think about mechanics, the less likely you are to repeat a good swing.
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I will, however, concentrate on my shoulder turn before I begin my takeaway. I picture a nice big turn so that my back faces the target at the top. If I do that, then I know that everything else is in perfect position. I know where my clubhead is at the top of my swing because I've seen it on video, but I don't strive to put it there on the course. I just turn my shoulders. Easy and repeatable.
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Get Square at Impact
You can do it without having to worry about clubface position
My all-time favorite swing tip is to keep your left wrist flat when you strike the ball. My first golf coach back in Colombia taught me this when I was a kid I use it almost every time I play, and it's the one move I fall back on when I start to struggle. If your left wrist is cupped (bent back) at impact, then you've allowed the clubface to pass your hands you'll hit the shot thin or off to the right every time this way. If it's bowed (bent forward), then you're likely to have hooking problems (I'm guilty of this one). It's not often you or I will hit an errant shot if this part of your swing is correct.
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Finish In Balance
Getting this right means everything that came before it is solid
When you watch a Tour event you'll notice two things: PGA Tour pros never make full-speed practice swings, and they always hold their practice-swing finish for a count or two. I've been doing this for years because I know if I can finish in balance to the point where I can hold my end position for a few seconds, then I've made a good swing. Finishing in the same place and in balance like this is the ultimate key to consistency and repeatability, because you can only get there one way: with a good swing. On the other hand, you can finish off balance by making a hundred different backswing and downswing errors.
The next time you play, make practice swings with the sole intent of finishing in balance, then step up and repeat that swing when you hit the ball for real, even if it means you have to swing a little slower. You'll be amazed by your results.
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Land Your Chips Closer
It's the fast-track secret to making more putts
Good chippers aren't born. They're made. They also know something most amateurs don't the hole is rarely the target. When I'm chipping the ball from around the green, I focus on where I want the ball to land and the kind of bounce I want it to make once it hits. If I get this right, then there's a good chance it will end up near the cup.
The trick is to work backward. First, I'll look at the green. If it slopes down toward the hole, then I know I need to land the ball closer to the fringe and let it take a soft first bounce so it doesn't skid past the cup (I'll pick a landing spot closer to the hole if the green slopes uphill). Then I'll look at my lie. If it's down in the rough, I'll pull my landing spot closer to my stance since I won't get any spin. If the lie is tight, I'll shift my landing spot closer to the hole since I know the lie will give me some shot-stopping spin.
I used to think about holing every chip, but now I realize that even the best in the world hole out only a few times a year. My primary goal is to hit the chip that will leave me with the easiest putt, and I use my landing spot to set the distance of the shot. Pulling off a miracle chip-in will improve your score once; pulling off chips that land consistently within one-putt range will improve your score every time you play.
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Get a Better Read on the Greens
Dropping down to green level gives you the best perspective
My green-reading posture isn't just for show it gives me the angle I need to determine exactly how much a putt breaks. I didn't always drop down to the ground like I do now, but I've always tried to get as close to the surface of the green as possible to read putts. Often, I'd step into a greenside bunker to set my eyes near the level of the green. But you don't even have to do that. Most modern courses feature elevated greens, so there's a good chance you can get your eyes close to the putting surface by standing a few yards off the green. Try it a few times and you'll see how easy it is to get a consistent read. It's the same principle as hanging a picture on the wall. You check if you hung it correctly by looking the top edge of the frame and seeing if it's leaning to the left or right, and you hang most frames at eye level.
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