Midseason Tune-Up: 5 Drills to Sharpen Your Game
Use my best practice keys to hone your skills in three critical scoring areas and finish off the season on a high note
By Stuart Appleby
How To Hit More Fairways
You began the season driving the ball in the short stuff more times than not. Pars and birdies came in bunches.
Now, in the midseason, you're hitting only two or three fairways per round. And you're missing them every which way with hooks, slices, pulls and blocks.
To finish the season strong you need to check out your alignment. For me, that's what straight driving is all about. If I'm not aligned correctly, then I have to make adjustments that are difficult to time, i.e. swing across the ball at the bottom because I'm aimed too far left at the top. There might be clubface issues to consider, but if you properly align your body and club at the target at address and then swing along the line you've chosen, your fairways-hit percentage will skyrocket.
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How To Avoid Three-Putting
You began the season draining everything you looked at inside 12 feet. You felt comfortable in your stance and trusted your stroke.
Here in midseason, you're three-putting like a 30-handicapper, and your stroke feels unbalanced and out-of-sync.
To finish the season strong, try to keep your body still. When I start missing putts, it's because something other than my shoulders is moving when I make my stroke. The more moving parts I have, the more likely one of them is going to throw my putterhead off line. I've played enough pro-ams over the years to know that this is your problem, too. The longer the putt, the worse the problem gets, which is why you're not getting your first putt close.
My Stroke Drill
Take your putting stance and anchor the grip of one of your wedges against the outside of your right thigh. Place the wedge so that the grip just rests against your thigh and make your stroke. This drill tells you instantly if you're guilty of turning your body toward the target when you putt (you'll feel the grip slide down your pant leg if you do). Turning like this creates a cut stroke and, depending on the angle of the face, pulls the putt left or cuts it right. Keep the wedge against your thigh and use shoulder power not leg power to stroke your putts.
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The clubface should look open to you at address. This activates more of the bounce of your club so it can glide through the sand.
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If your clubface looks square from your perspective at address, you're in danger of digging the club too deeply into the sand.
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How To Fix Your Bunker Swing
You began the season taking the perfect amount of sand from the bunker. You made several sand saves and even holed a few.
Here in the midseason, you're not getting your sand shots even remotely close. Most of them are coming up short and far beyond your makeable putt range.
To finish the season strong, you must stop taking so much sand (the reason you're leaving bunker shots short). This sounds like a swing problem, but it's really a setup problem. Your club is digging too far into the bunker because you're swinging toward the target like you do on full swings. In the sand, you need to swing left of the target.
My Bunker Drill
Drop a ball in a practice bunker and, with the toe of your sand wedge, draw a line in the sand angled 30Ã‚Â° left of the line that runs from the ball to the flag. (You can lay down a club or a dowel like I have here instead.) Set your feet, shoulders and hips parallel to the line you've drawn in the sand and point your clubface down the target line. The face should look open. When you make your swing, forget about the flag and swing your wedge in the direction of the angled line. A cut swing like this makes it easier for the clubhead to glide just under the ball and take the right-sized divot. It won't dig, so you won't come up short.
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6. Set your feet perpendicular to the line and give the final target one last look. Then, turn your eyes to the ball and pull the trigger.
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5. Set your clubhead behind the ball and point the face down the line. Your focus still hasn't moved from the line in front of the ball.
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4. Turn your focus to the target line in front of the ball and start walking into your stance from the left. Keep your eyes on the line the whole time.
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3. Make a full practice swing (still from your spot behind the ball). Get a sense of your clubhead moving down the target line through impact.
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2. Draw a line from your target back through the ball. Square your clubface to this line and then settle into your stance.
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My Alignment Drill
This isn't so much a drill as it is a routine I use on every single driver swing (as well as those taken in the fairway). Doing it helps me find the right line (the one to the safest part of the fairway) and systematically align my body and club. Follow these steps:
1. Stand behind the ball with your hands at your sides and pick your target.
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Call up the gate image on every swing.
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My Swing-Path Drill
This drill teaches you the most important thing about hitting fairways: Swing your clubhead along your target line while it's in the hitting zone. Picture two poles spaced a foot or two apart about three yards in front of your ball. (If possible, stick two dowels in the ground to form a real gate like I've done here.) Your goal is to hit your practice drives through the gate, and the way to do it is to swing your clubhead at the opening between the poles. This is a great image to remind you to swing down the line during impact. With a narrow, close target, you'll be less likely to come over the top with your driver.
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My Contact Drill
Get into your putting stance and have a friend hold the butt of any club against your head at the hairline (or where it used to be!). Make sure the grip just barely touches and then stroke the putt. If you're like most golfers, your head will either move into or away from the grip. You can't make a level strike this way. The ball will hop instead of roll and you'll come up short. Practice until you can maintain contact from start to finish.
Stuart Appleby is playing his 13th season on Tour. His tournament earnings of $22 million place him 12th on the career money list.
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