Although many golfers would benefit from a swing rebuild and structured program of development, the truth is that most do not have the time, commitment or money to put into a process that can take even top players 2 – 3 years to complete. In practice most recreational players try different golf tips and ideas they pick up from magazines or golf shows. It’s a bit like taking a pill for a headache of putting a plaster on a cut. It’s acceptable to try golf tips occasionally, but I am not in favour of golfers depending on tips to try and keep their game working in the long term. One problem is that once you start using a tip to fix your swing it can frequently cause something else to go wrong and you then need another tip to fix that problem and so on. I once played with a doctor who told me that he could hit the ball just fine as long as he could remember just 12 things on each swing, I said that if you are putting that many plasters on one cut to try and stop the bleeding, it may be time to get some stitches and fix the problem once and for all! He came to me for some lessons and now he only has just one thought – THE TARGET.
The best golf tips either help you to create a single swing thought that you can use on each swing, or they revolve around an idea that will help you score better in a particular situation. Using swing drills is the easiest and quickest approach to correct your swing errors; this is because drills help you to “feel” the change, rather than having to think about it. Tour Professionals generally prefer to work with swing drills when trying to groove a change, they like the simplicity and the ability to revisit the feeling (even during competition). Often commentators suggest that drills are “too technical”, but the exact opposite is true. Teaching professionals like me devise swing drills to make teaching easier and let you focus on the new feeling and not new thoughts. Each week I will feature one of my favourite tips or drills, many can be found in my bestselling book Better Golf Tips.
Have a plan and stick to it!
With a little thought you should be able to come up with a realistic plan for each hole you are going to play, particularly if you play the same course most of the time. There are several simple things you can consider in your plan to improve your chances of scoring better.
Par-5’s – You do not need to hit driver on every par-5, if you have no prospect of reaching the green in 2 shots, hitting a 3-wood may put you in the fairway more often and result in a better score. Decide how close to a par-5 green you need to be before you will commit to “go for it” and if you are going to lay up, what is the optimum distance for you to hit your wedge?
Par-4’s - Which holes provide the best opportunity for making birdies and which have the biggest threat of making bogey or worst? Some holes will provide the best score on average if you are aggressive, while others are just a matter of survival and hope you get a lucky putt for a par.
Par-3’s – Some short holes offer a realistic chance to make par, while others are realistically just a driveable par-4 for most recreational players. Even for the professionals most par-3’s average over par.
Driving strategy – You should begin each round with a plan for what club you intend to hit for each drive. I encourage my clients to plan a “bailout” for every shot to a place where you can realistically still make a score. For example, missing the drive 50 yards right could leave you on the next fairway with a clear shot to the green but missing left will risk going out of bounds. Being aware of your safety zone will subconsciously help your misses to go that way. Tiger Woods frequently seems to get “lucky” with wild drives, but he is just very good at planning the best place to miss if thing go wrong.
Approach shots – Take time to get familiar with the greens at your course and decide where you would like to putt from, if you had the choice. Generally you would like to have a straight up hill putt, so consider how you can achieve that more frequently. Also, if you miss the green, where is the easiest place to chip from? Finally, making sure you take an extra club when playing over water can save you shots that you usually squander.
Stick to it? - Sticking to a plan does not mean being inflexible. For example you could decide to hit your drive with a 5-wood at a particular par-4 but plan to change to driver if the hole is down-wind and you feel you are swinging well. Not changing a plan means not throwing it away because you just had 3 bad holes. A good plan for the next hole is still a good plan, so stick to it!