Become a Scoring Machine

Become a Scoring Machine

Driving: How to hit it straight

By way of a compliment, my swing coach Pat Goss likes to say my game is “consistently boring.” Call it boring if you like, but from the short grass, I hit the green about 75 percent of the time. When I miss the fairway, my greens-in-regulation percentage is less than 60 percent, so you can see why being accurate pays off. The more greens you hit, the more scoring opportunities you’ll have.

Borrow These Driving Keys

Get Tilted: Before you take your full address, make sure your upper body is behind the ball. I do this by stepping into the ball with my right foot, which lowers my right shoulder and tilts my spine away from the target (photo 1). This move shifts my weight to my right side–predominantly on the right heel–creating a solid base to turn around for a more powerful backswing coil.

Aim the Face: As you are establishing your tilt, aim the clubface at the target. Once it is aimed, set your feet and body parallel to the target line. The ball should be directly opposite your left armpit (photo 2). Don’t set your feet before you aim the face. If you do, you’ll likely be off with your aim.

Think Small: Standing behind the ball, pick out a very small target. For this shot, I’m eyeing the corner of the bowl in the mountain where the light and shade meet (right). That’s where I want the ball to finish. Since the fairway slopes from right to left and favors a draw, I’ll aim my body slightly right of this target and draw it back. That’s an important step: In addition to picking a very specific target, you should visualize the shape of the shot you want to play.

Luke Says: Before you play each par 4, know where the pin is located and what angle gives you the best approach into the green. That’s where you want to land your tee shot.

Set up with your body on an upslope [right shoulder and hip lower than left] and swing your arms on a downslope, keeping your head behind the ball through impact. Your arms make a descending blow, not your body.

Iron play: How to hit more greens

Pat Goss and I worked on widening my swing arc and quieting my legs on the downswing, so I could better control the trajectory of the ball. My long irons are a particular strength. I feel fairly confident that I can knock a 3-or 4-iron inside anyone’s 6-iron. You can feel that confidence, too, by following these tips.

My Iron Keys

Look for the Arches: Always check your distance from the ball. When you stand too far away, your weight starts toward your toes and you’ll have a pretty tough time maintaining your balance. If I’m set up correctly, my weight is evenly distributed over the middle of my feet and my arms hang directly under my shoulders, not away from my shoulders. Here’s how to make certain you’re the proper distance from the ball: Take your normal address position, close your eyes and hover the club off the ground. Next, rock back and forth between your toes and your heels until you find a balance between the two–over the arches of your feet. Then sole the club.

Get Wide: To create the full extension of the arms you want at impact, make the biggest circle you can with your arms as you start down from the top. Swing your right hand away from your right shoulder while keeping your back to the target. From the very top of your backswing, you will swing your arms more underneath your shoulders, instead of out toward the target line.

Stand Tall: You need good rhythm and balance to make solid contact. A good indication of both is your finish position. You should finish tall, with your belt buckle facing the target and the club shaft resting down the back of your neck. You should be able to stare the ball down for several seconds without losing your balance.

Pitching How to get more tap-ins

If you’re confident that you can save par most of the time when you miss a green, it takes a lot of pressure–and strokes–off the rest of your game. Here’s how to pitch the ball tight and save your round.

My Pitching Keys

Play It Straight: Open your stance, put more weight on your left foot and play the ball just forward of center in relation to your heels. My clubshaft is nearly vertical. If you have the shaft leaning sharply forward, you have the ball too far back in your stance. This reduces the club’s loft and makes you more prone to scooping.

Get On Your Big Toe: The pitch shot is more of an arms swing going back and a body rotation coming through. To get the feel for this motion, place a ball just under the heel of your right shoe so you’re up on your big toe. Then hit some pitch shots. Your weight will start left and finish left, which helps in two ways: 1.) The club goes back steeper, a sharper angle of attack, and 2.) The face remains open through impact, creating a high, soft ball flight.

Swing Left: As you swing forward, rotate your legs, hips and chest through so that your body points left of the target at the finish. Really accelerate onto your left side. The handle of the club should finish by your left hip pocket and the clubface should match the angle of your spine. If so, the face is open and square to your body.

How to get ready to rumble

Start Strong, Finish Strong

Unlike most Tour pros, I conclude my warm-up on the driving range, not the putting green. To finish up my prep, I start by hitting the shots I’ll need on the 16th, 17th and 18th holes–from the drive to the approach shot–then the first three holes of the course in reverse order: 3rd, 2nd, 1st. This way, the first hole is fresh in my mind when I head to the tee. I visualize each fairway, and then go through my normal pre-shot routine (picking out a target, visualizing the shot shape) before hitting each shot. You’ll often hear guys say how they didn’t get things kick-started until the fourth or fifth hole. This routine, developed by my mental coach Jim Fannin, puts me in a full scoring mode from the beginning. Also, by playing holes 16, 17 and 18 on the range, I’m confident that I can finish strong. There are few surprises, because in my mind’s eye I’ve already played these holes.

Luke Donald by the numbers

Category Donald Tour Avg. Ranking
Scoring Avg. 69.07 71.24 1
Send Save Percentage 78 48.7 1
Consecutive Sand Saves 18 NA 1
GIR Pct., 200+ yards 61.3 41.9 1
Scrambling, 20-30 yards 72.7% 48.5% 1
Par 3 Performances -13 +14 T1
Scrambling 67.6% 57.8% T2
Greens in Reg. Pct. 70.5 64.9 T4

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