Has your play been off lately, or are you new to golf? This list of top tips covers the basic and more nuanced techniques and practice ideas, as well as making sure you’ve got your club choices and your approach to the green under control. Whatever issues you’re having with your play, check out these suggestions.
Getting Out of the Sand Bunker
A sand bunker can easily be the end of your game, but if you can get out of it in only one or two shots, you can find yourself in a prime putting position. Getting your technique for sand bunkers right means you can spend more time worrying about your putting, rather than about the time you’re spending swinging misses repetitiously. Firstly, it’s important that you take a sand wedge with you. Even if none of the clubs in your set of wedges say Sand Wedge or SW on the club, it should be the wedge with the most bounce and a wider sole.
However, it isn’t all in the club – you need to get your technique right as well. Drawing or visualizing lines in the sand is one practice that can improve your performance in a sand bunker. Imagine a line connecting the hole and the ball, and extending just beyond it. You can then add a second shorter line with an acute angle, the point being a few feet behind the ball, and your feet should be positioned along this line, the left foot not going beyond the ball (for right handed players). You then need to swing up, with a longer follow-through which ends at the most vertical angle possible, to take you out of the bunker, and in the direction of the hole.
A player’s approach shots make more difference to their score than any other type of shot. For this, you’ll need the best the best golf wedges in your collection. The objective of an approach shot is to take you onto the green. If this is going to be a long range shot then forget about aiming at the flag – you should simply aim to get onto the green. This way you’ll find it easier to avoid sand bunkers. If you’re close enough that it’s worth aiming for the hole then do so, perhaps with a pitching wedge, remember to account for the tendencies of your swing. If your misses tend to be too far left, then aim right a little, and vice versa. It’s also important to worry about your alignment more than your distance since many factors like wind speed and the gradient the ball lands on can increase the distance of a shot – whereas an increased distance will not make up for poor alignment.
However, you’ll often find that you have to clear the sand bunker, some trees or some other feature to get onto the green. For these shots, make sure you’ve got a lob wedge with you. This will increase the angle of your shots as well as their altitude – but when you’re performing a shot like this, make sure you’re following through enough.
Know the Drill
There are some practices and drills that will improve your putting rate if you practice them. The Around the World Drill teaches consistent putting from different angles, distances and inclines. Place four balls on the green, equidistant from the hole, and moved around putting all four balls in a streak. When you’ve putt all four, move them all further back by a foot or so. When you’ve putt all these, then you can move them back further, but if you miss one then you have to start all over again.
Some easy drills that will improve your putting are the Foot Up Drill, where you putt twenty balls or so with one leg in the air, the Eyes Shut Drill, where you hit a few putts with your eyes closed, and the Distance Drill, which simply involves hitting some putts from long range.
Have you tried the Coin Drill as well? This involves putting a coin between the hole and the ball, so that you have to send the ball over the coin, or clear it, in order to putt. This will improve your accuracy. You can also improve your accuracy with the Long Putt Points Drill; place the ball twenty feet from the hole and try to make the putt within two shots. The first shot must get you within three feet of the hole for one point, and for the second point, you have to putt it in the second shot.
What You Need to Know About Putters
With a good drive, you can find yourself mainly using putters throughout most of the game. Putters are the most varied kind of golf club, and one of the most important choices to get right. With a heavier head, you get more power, but you lose the smoothness and the control that more experienced players often look for when choosing their club. However, these clubs fall into three broad categories which should inform your choices. Firstly, there are blade putters. These have comparatively light heads, but they have a straighter edge, and they have a simpler design than some of the contemporary putters.
Mallet putters have larger heads that come in a greater range of shapes and styles, and because they tend to be much heavier, you can get more power in your putt with a mallet putter. Being heavier, they have a lower and deeper centre of gravity when they make contact with the ball, which reduces the amount of backspin. The weight of the head is also further back, away from the face, which gives a different feel when putting.
Another key type of putter is the half-mallet. These tend to be smaller and lighter than mallet putters and give you a balance of power and control. They also tend to have a preferential centre of gravity for newer players.
Read the Green
Some players don’t even bother trying to read the green – they hit and hope. However, putting is more complicated than aiming at the hole with uncalculated adjustments to account for the slope or the distance. For example, a player might aim five or so inches to the right of the hole to account for a slope, with the figure of five inches coming off the top of the player’s head. There are many ways of reading the green available for you to discover on the internet, in books and magazines, or even in specialized golf lectures and courses, but here’s a basic one.
Firstly, stand with your legs apart and use your weight distribution to calculate the gradient, which you can give a rough score out of six. Hold up the same amount of fingers as the score, pointing at the hole. Aiming against the gradient, make the shot in the direction of the outside finger and give it enough power to go a few inches past the hole. This process, or a variation of it, will improve your accuracy. Reading the green has become an increasingly important part of the game, and if you make do without it, you must bear in mind that you’re relying on no more than chance.
Before you hit the Ball
Once you’ve selected the right clubs and got yourself onto the green, and once you’ve read the green, you should still bear in mind all the basics before you hit the ball. Is your stance right? Your legs should be apart, and your dominant leg should face forward, your torso and shoulders should be level with the ball, and you should be holding the club tightly. Your head should be still, and the strength of your grip should be in your arms and shoulders rather than your hands and wrists.
You should have a way of maintaining close concentration. Some players block out sound with their hands, but whatever you do it should be just you, the ball and the hole out there. It’s easy to overestimate how much power you need in your shot, especially when putting, so be careful not to overshoot. Practice is obviously essential, and if you do it enough, then you’ll find it much easier to find concentration and to account for external factors like slopes and wind. You should also be aware what type of shot you’re making if you’re trying to curve the ball. A fade is made by an open-faced shot when you draw from outside to inside across the ball as you swing; the direction is from left to right, whereas a draw will direct the ball from right to left. Slices and hooks give you much more dramatic curves, but they’re difficult to control over long distances.
Know your shot and your stance; be fully on the ball, and you won’t miss. However, it can often be even more useful to approach the putt correctly. If you’ve used the right clubs and you’ve had plenty of practice, then you might find that it makes a much bigger difference to your overall score.