Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dear T.J.,
I get consistent yardages with all my irons, but not my wedges. One time I'll hit my sand wedge 80 yards and the next time I'll hit it 60 yards. Please help.
Scott S., Minneapolis, Minn. Help is on the way, Scott.

I'm going to assume that the problem isn't that one time you hit your sand wedge 80 yards and the next 60 -- it's good to be able to vary your distances. The reframe here is that you hit the ball 80 yards when it should be 60 and 60 when it should be 80.

While no one hits every shot perfectly, one of the qualities of a good player is the lack of surprises during a round. And if you're like a lot of golfers, I can just see you in your best Kodak Moment pose, sure that you flagged your wedge -- as it comes up short in the water hazard.
What's happening is you're releasing the club too early. It's such a short shot that you get overly manipulative. In an attempt to prevent any mistakes, you stop your turn through the ball, which causes your hands to release early, adding loft to the clubface and ensuring a shorter flight. Then two wedges later you make your normal swing and surprise -- over the green it goes.
My advice is go to the range and hit your sand wedge hard a bunch of times -- rotate you core fast and keep everything moving up into that big finish you reserve for your "nuclear wedgie."  Then after you say to yourself, "This is genius stuff," cut everything by one-third, but stay synced up.
Report back to me and if all is well I'll give you a drill that will take you to the next level. Dear T.J.,
I've been playing for 15 years and I seem to be stuck shooting in the low 90s, occasionally breaking 90. I've tried lessons and more practice, and I play better for a little while but then revert to my normal scores. What can I do?
Richard C. Vancouver, Wash. Dear Mr. C.,
Scoring is an art form involving much more than just the proper full-swing technique. While too many golfers are trying to make a perfect golf swing or hit the longest drive, the good players focus is score, no matter how ugly it looks.
When you get paid to play, a skulled 5-iron that finishes 10 feet from the hole is better than a perfectly struck 6-iron that catches a gust of wind and goes in the bunker.
Champions Tour star Allen Doyle, not exactly a golfing Mona Lisa, says his goal is to shoot the lowest score and "I don't care how I do it."
So to break 90 consistently Mr.C., you have to do a couple of things. First learn to leave "golf swing" on the practice tee and play "golf" when you are on the course. Don't think about the "how" think about the "where."
Second, the scoring clubs that you must fall in love with are the driver, wedge and putter, and with the limited time most 90 shooters have, you should divvy up your practice time accordingly. Since about 64 percent of all golf strokes taken are from under 100 yards it follows that 60 percent to 70 percent of your practice should be with the wedge and putter.
Let's say you have 10 hours to practice a month -- allot six hours to your wedge/putter and the rest to your full swing clubs. Very few golfers do this except -- guess who? -- the Tour pros, the lowest scorers of all.
I know it can be boring and seem like a waste of time to practice the "little shots" but as Bobby Jones said, "three of them and one of those" can make you a match for anyone. Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You can learn more about TJ at www.tjtomasi.com

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