Let's Play Already!
Dan Witt, PGA
Usually when I ask my students what they want to work on, they immediately want to go to the range. Now I'm not saying that there shouldn't be ample time on the range, because it's helpful; but the driving range should not be the only place where lessons happen.
My students want to lower
their scores but often overlook the fact that golf is played on the course. I try to simulate on-course
circumstances as much as possible in my range lessons, but there is no
substitute for the real thing.
Lessons conducted on the course are valuable for both me and the student to gauge the student's ability to make decisions. As we play, I can improve the student's course management, and give practical advice in different situations. I can also see how the student reacts to these real situations and apply that performance to future lessons. Here are some of the basic things I teach while on the course with a student:
When you step on the tee box, the first thing you want to do is play the hole
in your head. Visualize your tee
shot, your approach shot, and finally your one putt on the green. The key is identifying where and how
you want to hit your ball to attack the hole. I've never met a golfer who stands on the tee box and says
"I'd like to hit the ball in the woods, lay up in the bunker, and finally,
when I get on the green, I want 3 putts." By visualizing what you want to do, you put a positive
picture in your mind of how you will play the hole.
And finally, focus in on where you want to hit the ball exactly. Pick out a tree in the distance, a window on a house, or something similar to target. And keep this tip in mind - the smaller you make your target in the distance, the more room you have for error. It also helps to find a spot a couple of feet out in line with the target to help aim correctly.
The first thing that you need
to evaluate in hitting an approach shot is the lie of the ball. Your lie dictates what kind of shot you
can hit. Assuming you are in the
fairway with a good lie, get an accurate distance by factoring in yardage, wind
direction, and elevation change.
Get all of these factors into a baseline reading and calculate what club
to select. I usually tell my
students to figure out how long the shot is actually playing. For example think: I have good lie, I'm
150 yards away, there's a 10 mph wind into me and zero elevation change; so it
will probably play 160 yards.
A key factor in setting up the shot is to determine how the wind will affect the shot. The higher the shot, the greater the wind will affect the flight of the ball. Also, the harder the swing, the more the ball will spin, increasing the wind's affect.
Once you’ve decided on the “playing” yardage and club selection, aim for the biggest part of the green. If the pin is on the right side of the green, aim for the center or left-center of the green. If the pin is set on the front of the green, play a yardage for the center. Try to put your ball on the part of the green that has the biggest distance between the hole and the edge of the green. This will help prevent a “short-sided” result.
If you missed the green with your approach, but played towards the largest section of green, you should have a decent amount of green between you and the hole. If this is the case, try to use the least lofted club for your chip or pitch.
I see too many people that use their lob or sand wedge for every shot around the green. The problem with using a lot of loft is that the bigger swing needed brings a greater chance for error and makes you land the ball further from you. This requires more skill and precision. Using a less lofted gap wedge, pitching wedge, or even a 9-iron to chip makes for a smaller stroke, a closer landing spot and better accuracy.
On the Green
You have two basic questions to answer when putting: “is the putt uphill or downhill?” and “will this curve to the right or left?”. Always determine the slope first, since it will affect how hard or soft you have to hit the ball.
Speed is the most important
part of putting- and the cause of most three putts. If you cannot figure out which way the ball is going to
curve, remember that most greens slope from a higher back to a lower
front. Gravity will pull
your ball to the lowest spot, so figure that the ball will curve toward the
If you have not been on the
course with your instructor, I encourage you to schedule a playing lesson
soon. In the meantime, these basic
but effective tips will help you manage your game better and lower your scores.
Dan Witt is the Head Golf Professional at The Sagamore Club in Noblesville. For any questions, comments or to schedule a lesson, you can reach Dan via email at email@example.com or via phone at 317.776.2000 ext 108.