Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Our Top 100 Teachers are here to save your next round. E-mail to cure what's hurting your scores with advice from the very best
teachers in the game. Please include your name and hometown. Or post
your question in the comments section below.
I just can't get the distance or consistent accuracy out of my irons that I feel I should have by now. I think the main problem is that for some reason I never take a divot with my irons or even my wedges. Is it necessary to take a divot in order to properly compress the ball and get the distance and consistency required in order to shoot lower scores?Ryan O'Leary, St. Louis, Mo.

Dear Divitous Minimus,
No, it's not necessary to take a divot with your irons if you have the nerves of a diamond cutter, but you should at least brush the grass. Johnny Miller tells a story about playing a round with Jack Nicklaus. Jack shot 66, but Johnny thought his irons sounded clunky and afterward he mentioned it to him. Jack's reply was "I was practicing hitting it one groove down." Think about that -- have you ever heard the phrase "fat to win"? Fat is not where it's at, but you can hit it thin all day and still win.
Some very good players are diggers because of the steepness of their arc and the way they drop down into the ball, while other good players are pickers.
What this all means is that first you develop a good swing and from that good swing comes a characteristic divot pattern. Tomasi_300 I use a forward press when I putt, but have trouble with distance control. On the shorter putts I have problems because it is hard for me to take the putter back without it wobbling. If I use the forward press on short putts I worry about hitting it too hard so I often decelerate the putter. I'm probably decelerating on all my putts, but it just seems to be more pronounced on the shorter putts (along with the wobbling of the putterhead.) Can you help?Daniel Tinkham, Oklahoma City, Okla. Dear Wobbler:
Sightings of the forward-pressing, decelerating Wobblers are very common on golf courses all over the world. To rid yourself of this not-so-rare bird, here's what you do.
Your goal is to have a stroke that is equal lengths back and through. What you're currently doing is trying to add and subtract force to each putt. That's a bad approach. The force to move the putter should come from the amplitude of your stroke, so if you swing a foot back you should swing a foot through. If you swing 4 inches back you should swing 4 inches through.
Here's your drill: Go to the practice green and set up to a 10-foot putt with the putter in the mid-line of your body (that is, right in front of your belly button). Swing your putter back to the length you consider to be the correct backswing and stop. Mark that length with a tee then go back to your address position. Now mark the other side at the same distance in front of the putter (remember: it's important to use a different tee); the two lengths should be equal.
Practice swinging back to one tee and through to the other until you get the feel of equal amplitude on both sides. Then go ahead and strike a few putts. You don't want to be in the business of adding and subtracting force -- let the length of your swing do that for you and get in the business of sinking putts. I'm confident with about four clubs in my bag: the driver, sand
wedge, pitching wedge and putter. When hitting driver, I place the ball
off of my left shoulder and my left heel, depending on the type of shot
I want to hit. With my wedges I play the ball in the middle of my
stance. However, I feel like I'm guessing with every club between my
driver and my pitching wedge on where to place the ball. Is it
something that develops over time as you sharpen your feel or is there
a rule or tip to help me out?
Matt Ritchey Dear Guessing: You have two options as I see it. One is to play with
just four clubs -- if so I hope your golf course taps out at about
1,000 yards. The other option is to learn the THREE CLUSTERS. [Editor's note: T.J. likes to use capital letters to announce that something VERY IMPORTANT is coming.]
Your bag has three clusters of clubs:
1. 5-iron through wedges2. Long irons and fairway woods cluster3. Driver/3-wood.
Each cluster has its own ball position. For the driver/3-wood
cluster, play the ball off your left heel, for the
long-irons-and-fairway-woods cluster play the ball off the logo on your
shirt, and for the 5-iron-through-wedge cluster off the left side of
your cheek. Just remember whatever else this game is it's a game of
geometry and you need to get it right
[Little-known fact: Pythagoras was a 3 handicap -- pretty good considering he wore all those robes.]
(Photo: Neil Beckerman)

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