Sunday, June 15, 2014

Golf Course Practice

If you are playing golf without the pressure of time or a group behind you, try some of these practice ideas.  Some of them will work in a fast round, too.  The best practice for a golfer is golf and here are some ways to play and get a little extra work in your round.

1.  Split the Fairway!  On every tee shot, choose a side of the fairway and make sure your ball ends there.  Make it tougher by working the ball into the half you chose.  Think about how you want to approach the hole location before choosing a side.  If it's windy, work the ball against the wind.  This is a great way to learn to hit shots.  Tip:  The pros often use their 3 wood when they need to draw the ball.

With a mowing pattern such as this, it would be easy to see your target and whether or not you were successful!

2.  Bunker Day.  Hit into one bunker per hole.  Choose the bunker before you tee it up.  Vary the targets between fairway bunkers, bunkers close to the hole and bunkers across the green from the hole.  This is also a good way to work on ball striking, because hitting it into a small bunker takes a good shot.  Keep score and see how many extra shots you need to get it into the bunker. 
Tip:  Which bunker shots were you the best at hitting close?  Work on the shots that gave you trouble and use your knowledge when attacking hole locations in the future.

Symetra Tour professional Casey Grice hits from a fairway bunker.

3.  One More.  Play a normal game from the tee, but on your approach shots, pull one more club than you would normally pull.  If you feel like it's a 7 iron, pull a 6.  Learn to hit knockdowns and to take a bit off a shot by gripping down, taking a smaller swing, controlling trajectory or hitting a cut.  If it seems easy to do, drop down 2 clubs.
Tip:  Take note of how you can best control your distance and if swinging with less pressure on getting the max distance from your club helps or hurts you.

4.  Short/Long.  When you get to the green, drop a ball short side (off the green, but as close as possible to the hole) and long side (on the opposite side of the green from the hole.  Get both up and down.  Keep track of your success.  Use your results to figure out how to practice and how to attack certain hole locations.
Tip:  Give yourself tough lies and tough looking shots to challenge yourself as you would in a round of golf.

5.  One Person Best Ball.  Play two balls and after both shots, choose the best and play two balls from there.  Continue until you hole out.

6.  One Person Worst Ball.  Play two balls and after both shots, choose the worst and play two balls from there.  Continue until you hole out.

7.  EWNS.  This is a good game to play in a practice round to give you a feel for greens.  It takes some time, so use it only when no one is behind you.  Drop 4 balls in the middle of each green.  Putt one ball to the front, one to the back, one to the right and one to the left side of the green.  Your goal is to get it as close to the fringe cut as possible.  It will give you a lot of good reps at learning the speed of the greens and a quick feel for the uphill and downhill slopes on the greens.  If you are just out playing golf, it is a great way to work on your distance control.

8.  Call Your Shot.  Before each shot, call it.  Example:  I'm going to hit a high cut.  I'm going to start it at the tree to the left of the pin and cut it right into the middle of the fairway. Here is a clip of Jim Furyk and his caddy Fluff preparing to hit a shot on the 17th at TPC Sawgrass.  There is not talk of where he doesn't want to hit it or even talk of where he does.  It is simply the yardages needed to get to the green, to the hole, what it's playing with wind and what it would take to get over the green.  Simple, precise, and clear.
Tip:  REALLY LISTEN to yourself.  This is much harder than it seems on first glance.  Many players talk about what they don't want.  Example:  I don't want to be in that bunker on the right, so I'm going to aim down the left side.  This is not about what you DON'T want.  As soon as you start talking out loud before your shots, you will understand how much mind power you are giving to what you don't want.  Imagine driving to the mall by stating where you aren't going to go.  "Today, I'm not going to go to school or the pool.  I think I'll drive to the mall."  Silly right?  Lots and lots of useless clutter that detracts from your goal.  Be clear.  Be simple.  Be specific.  Focus on what you will do.
Many players have a hard time being definite with their language.  Example:  I'd like to sort of start the ball on the left and have it work back into the fairway.  I want to hit it high.  At no time should you use the words I'd like, I want, I hope, I wish, or I might.  It should always be I WILL.

9.  ABCD.  This is another great game if you have some time on the course.  This is especially good for your ball striking and control.  On every approach shot, hit a ball to the front right, back right, back left and front left.  Hit shots!  In other words, work the ball into the areas.  Change clubs as needed.  Fix all of your ball marks!  It is called ABCD, because when you chart courses in practice rounds, you label them the same way.  For example, at Pinehurst #2 this week, there are many pins at which players can't aim.  In fact, just hitting the greens will be tough.  Here is a great interview with Chuck Cook on the Golf Channel on the challenges of planning a round at Pinehurst #2 and how he and Payne Stewart approached it in 1999.  Payne hit only 41 greens that week and carefully planned his "misses" to be in areas where he could get the ball up and down.  Course management is all about knowing your level of control, knowing the areas that will produce good scores and committing to the plan you set before you reach the first tee.
Tip:  This is a great way to learn to hit shots and will help you with your course management as you take your lessons learned into competition.

Payne Stewart graduated from SMU and this picture of him is on the wall of our office suite.  It is a great reminder of the possibilities we have if we work hard and follow our dreams.

10.  Match Play.  If you are a great golfer, play straight match play against the course.  Par is a push, birdie wins you the hole and bogey is a loss.  If you are new to the game, choose a bogey as a push, par or birdie is a win and a double is a loss.  Beat the golf course!  It is your ultimate opponent any time you tee it up.

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