Over the past (add double digit here) years, I’ve accumulated a lot of golf tips. Most of them languish in dusty binders up on a bookshelf somewhere, just above my Zebra putter.
Elsewhere, however, tucked in a pocket of my golf bag with this season’s new golf glove and brush-style tees, are a few tips that, year to year, have made a difference. They might not be gimmicky or flashy or even attributed to a golf legend—they just whispered the right things in my ear so my brain listened and spread the word to my ignorant muscles. Maybe they’ll help you too.
(By the way, I’m talking to righties here. If you’re a lefty, I think you know what to do.)
1. Eliminate the Wrists
This one is more a thought and feeling than a reality (but don’t tell your brain). Whenever I find myself throwing the club from the top, slicing it or pulling it, this tip has straightened out shots of all kind. It’s simple—take the club back to about ¾ without breaking your left wrist, then swing down the same way. I used to picture a splint strapped on top of my wrist, now I just imagine the swing of Steve Stricker—he does it for real.
2. Chip Low
This one is so simple it is nearly stupid. It is also a philosophy, not a reality. For me, it works like a charm and eliminates all but the two-beer chilli-dip. The thought is to hit your chips as low as you possibly can. Don’t think about height or distance—let the club and your feel take care of those—just try to hit low with no hands, follow through low, and watch the ball pop up and sail on line.
3. Show Your Back
Yes, I have a problem coming over the top. To get my lower body working first, I take my backswing and hold my back to the target as long as possible. This really works, especially early in the season.
4. Balance Boost
I had this tip a long time ago, but I was elated to hear it from Nick Faldo on TV last year. It is one amazing tip for a duffer like me. I can really get the feeling of proper balance by practicing on downhill lies, so my weight doesn’t fall back. I still can’t hit downhill lies, but I don’t fall down on flat lies anymore.
5. Kneed It
That little phrase sticks in my mind and helps remember this tip. I’m no Golden Bear, so when I lift my left heel on the backswing and my knee goes back, I’m off balance and swaying. So, I focus on maintaining a gap between my knees – as if a volley ball is between them. If I can be conscious of this, it even helps my putting.
6. Ridiculously Light Grip
We all know this one, but it really works for me. Driver to putter, feeling that light grip helps me on the downswing to help the club search on its own to get where I want it to go. I just let it happen.
7. Flatten in Sand
Slide the club under a dollar-size slice of sand is the great tip we all know. Key to accomplishing this (without even thinking about it) is to flatten the swing in bunker splash shots—and follow through. I repeat, follow through. When I go up to my ball on the green, I see a dollar bill beneath it. I swear. And it’s not mine :)
8. Distance Control
This is easier said than done for me, but it really helps me keep my tempo consistent. I try to control distance with trajectory, not swing speed or umph. A high ball goes farther, a low shot sails shorter with more run. Before I start my swing, I decide where my follow through will finish—waist (shorter), shoulder (medium), over head (long). This especially helps me feel as though I know what I’m doing—and the results reinforce it…mostly.
9. Driving Ranges Lie to Me
I used to spend literally hours most days pounding shots off plasti-grass mats, thinking how savvy I was spending a whole session on pitches and chips. Then I’d get to the course and have a “bad day” hitting fat, shanking irons, and finding that I have no real good shots to visualize. Plus I had elbow problems. Are driving ranges hazardous to my golf? Yes. But I found a remedy. Tees. Now, I tee up everything. I have a full set of those hollow rubber tees for nearly every club in the bag. Goal: don’t hit the mat. Now, I can actually feel where the ball hits the clubface. Be careful at these venues and be wary of the truth of their hard, well-worn golf balls. One sure supplement to this kind of practice is to have a knowledgeable witness—a PGA teaching pro.
Hope this helps. For me, the consequences of my score are much more enjoyable when I play golf with a plan.