Save 5 Shots Every Round
Use my Tour-proven mid-round fixes to turn a bad day into a scoring day
By Geoff Ogilvy
with Michael Walker Jr.
If you had your "a-game" every round, golf would be easy. We all post low scores when we're splitting fairways, hitting pure irons and draining long putts. But what makes you a really good player and a tough-to-beat opponent is how you play when you've left your A-game (and maybe even your B-game) at home.
When you're not playing well, the worst thing to do is to try to hit perfect shots. Save the perfect shots for when you feel perfect. On days like this, you need to recognize what you still can do, and then use that to get the ball from tee to hole. You don't need to hit perfect shots to win if you're missing right, aim left and let it cut. That shot will feel more doable, and that's the name of the game when it feels like nothing's working.
If you start planning and executing shots no matter what shots they are your confidence will come back, and you may very well find that your game comes back with it. Here's how to make those mid-round fixes to your drives, iron shots, chips and putts that will get even your shakiest round back on track.
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Putt With Your Eyes Closed
If you're having trouble trusting your feel, a good drill is to putt with your eyes closed and guess where the ball went. Your feet read the green much better than your eyes. When you can't see your putts, you realize how good your feel is, and after just a few putts you'll know exactly where the ball is going.
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BEFORE YOUR NEXT PUTT...
Make One-Armed Practice Strokes
Sometimes on the course I'll make practice putts with one hand. It's an easy way to get your putting stroke back on plane. I'll also make a few practice swings using only my left hand. This helps you stand square to the target line and a set up correctly for the putt.
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GOAL One less three-putt
SAVE 1 stroke
Trust Your Instincts
When I was younger, Ian Baker-Finch told me that when you're not putting well, you should stop reading greens. That's an exaggeration, but if you stop overanalyzing the greens, your mind will instinctively know what to do. The important thing is to keep it simple. Trying just makes it worse. If I'm not having a good day on the greens, I don't think about my mechanics, and I try not to over-read the greens. Instead, I just line up in a comfortable position that lets me feel like the ball is going to go in. The more I do by instinct, the better I putt.
Amateurs should tap into their instincts more instead of doing what they're told is the "right thing." I can't tell you how I know a putt feels right; I just know it does. Your feet will feel the slope better than your eyes. Stand over the ball and line up so that the putt feels right. If it feels wrong, step away and start over.
Don't overthink your putts. Instead, tap into your instincts.
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BEFORE YOUR NEXT CHIP...
Many amateurs aim left when chipping and try to cut across the ball. That's bad technique. Your chip swing is a mini full swing, so your chipping motion should be a mini-draw. Make practice swings and focus on pointing the toe of your wedge at the sky in both your backswing and your finish. Notice how you must release your left hand through impact, just like you do with your irons and woods.
Make sure that your practice swings move from toe-up to toe-up.
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GOAL Hit one more chip to tap-in range
SAVE 1 stroke
Get the Ball Rolling
If you have a solid short game, you can rescue a lot of bad drives and approaches. The key to chipping is to get the ball rolling as soon as you can. Look at the lie: If the ball is sitting down deep in the grass, use a more lofted club. If the lie is tight, you want less loft.
Also, don't try to spin your chips; you'll get better roll with less spin. If you're hitting them fat, avoid the temptation to move the ball back in your stance. The reason you're hitting it fat is that the angle you're bringing the club down on is too steep, and this causes the clubhead to hit the ground first. With the ball back, you're just going to come in even steeper.
If your ball is in the rough, use a more lofted club.
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On a bad-iron day, move the ball back and narrow your stance to ensure ball-first contact.
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BEFORE YOUR NEXT IRON...
Set Up for Ball-First Contact
If I'm not hitting great iron shots, I'll set up with my feet closer together, choke down on the grip, and play the ball back in my stance. These adjustments help me contact the ball before the club hits the turf and hit more of a knockdown-type shot. You'll see a lot of guys do this on Sundays when they're in the hunt. They're looking for a "safe" feeling.
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You'll know how the ball will react on the greens after the first couple of holes. If I'm playing well, I'll aim about 10 feet to the left of the hole. If it's "one of those days," I aim away from trouble. Rule No. 1 on a bad day is to take double-bogey out of play. Determine your landing area based on how confident you are. No matter how well I'm playing, I never go right at the pin: 10 feet left is pretty good.
You can win your match with your B-game if you miss in the right spots.
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GOAL Hit one more green
SAVE 1 stroke
Manage Your Misses
On a good day, you can go after any pin. But when you're not feeling it, it's crazy to go after difficult pin placements. The key is to miss on the correct side of the hole so you can land the ball on the green and not waste a stroke chipping or pitching from the rough or sand. Move your target area to the fat side of the hole. If the pin is to the right, like it is here, miss it left. If the pin is short, miss it long.
Take a tip from how Tour pros play the biggest tournaments. In a U.S. Open, you need to manage your misses. You can get up and down from the correct side of the hole, but the firmness of the greens and thickness of the rough make it impossible to get up and down from the wrong side. Augusta National is the same. You can get up and down all day from under the hole, but it's impossible when you're above it.
Give yourself a wider margin for error on your approaches when you don't have your A-game. C-DAY: Simplest route to green B-DAY: Fat portion of green A-DAY: 10 feet left of the flag
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GOAL Hit one less drive out of bounds
SAVE 2 strokes
Find A Swing That Works
The most important thing to do when you can't find the fairway is to find a driver swing that will get you back on track and eliminate the chances of really losing one left or right. If I'm hitting my driver horribly, I'll throttle back to my 3-wood or 2-iron. Another great mid-round fix is to simply choke down on the club an inch. It's amazing how much easier it is to control your drives if you do this. The lower ball flight will feel more controllable, especially when you're been hitting it all over the place. Finally, if you're missing to one side or the other, plan for it. My main miss is right, so if I'm having a tough day, I'll aim at the left edge of the fairway and let it come back.
BEFORE YOUR NEXT TEE SHOT....
Swing Like a Baseball Player
When I miss, it's usually to the right, because, like many draw-hitting players, I sometimes get "caught" in my downswing. Swinging the club like a baseball bat is something I do to fix this. It gives me the smooth and powerful feel I want in my swing. Because you're standing upright with no back tilt you have fewer angles in your body. You can't get stuck when you're up here.
When you start losing it right, set up like this, left, bring the club back like a baseball player and swing. This is the smooth motion you want with your driver.
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Find What Works Today, Fix What Doesn't Tomorrow
The key to winning your match without your A-game is to realize what's working and what the safe shots are that will get you through the round. Today you need to figure out how to get it done. Tomorrow you can start working out your problems on the range. When you finish your round, go right to the clubhouse and order a beer or a soda or whatever you like. Do not go hit balls on the range. I've never understood why guys do that. If you're playing badly, why keep hitting bad shots? And if you're playing well, you don't need to start hitting them badly.
He Proved It!
In his final round at the Mercedes-Benz Championship in January, Ogilvy opened with four bogeys in his first eight holes, then went 7 under over his final 10 holes to win the first tournament of the year. That's what we call a turnaround!
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