Harvey Penick, one of golf’s greatest instructors, always said the best way to improve your score was to improve your short game. You can see this week in and week out on the PGA Tour as the players who win usually have the best short game stats for that week. Here are a few tips to help you lower your scores. On chips and pitches around the green use a club that gives you confidence. I play golf with a friend who is very good around the green, and he always uses his eight iron for these shots. He opens and closes the face according to the type of shot he wants to hit, so I have suggested he try wedges instead of that one club. On occasions when he does use a wedge, he very rarely gets the results he does from that trusty old eight iron. Why? Because he has confidence in that club, he relaxes and hits good shots. Phil Mickelson uses his high-lofted wedges around the green for most of his chip shots for the same reason. The lesson here is play the club or shot you feel most confident with and you will be more consistent. When chipping or pitching from around the green the first rule to follow is “always get the ball on the green.” How many times have you been faced with a pitch shot, over a bunker, with a closely tucked pin, only to flub your pitch shot into the bunker? Better to have a 25-foot par putt than be in the bunker with double or triple bogey staring you in the face. Always play the safe shot; in the end it will save you many strokes. Practice that short game! Practice that short game! Before each round go to the putting or chipping area and practice. Get your golf buddies to engage in some short game contests. Be creative and practice unusual shots. Practice in your backyard. The players with the best short games practice these shots more than others. That’s why they usually shoot the lowest scores.
There are better places to play from than the bunkers. But should the ball come to rest in a bunker, the type of sand can make a noticeable difference in play – especially on your scorecard. Balls may form “plugged” or “fried-egg” lies in the bunker sand when the ball makes a crater in the sand on impact. Your golf course superintendent looks at several variables when selecting bunker sand to prevent your ball from being buried should your shot go astray. The United States Golf Association specifies particle-size criteria for selecting bunker sand. Sand in the prescribed range provides the best all-around conditions in terms of ball lie, firmness of footing and ease of bunker maintenance. For some golf facilities, bunker maintenance is an important aspect in sand selection. For example, a golf course that is subject to high winds would have to stay away from selecting sand that is too fine. If the sand is too fine, wind will displace the sand particles, causing a continual need for replacement. The predominant particle shape of sand and its “sphericity,” – or roundness – also comes into play. A desired bunker sand shape is angular with a low degree of roundness. The sharp corners of an angular sand help it resist movement after impact from a golf ball, resulting in fewer “plugged” or “fried-egg” lies. Truly round or “soft” sand requires a substantial amount of skill to play from. It’s like playing a shot in a pudding-filled pit. Round sand needs to be avoided because it shifts more under the weight of the golfer and can allow golf balls to bury and disappear on impact. A hard, silica sand is often preferred in bunkers, since silica sand will resist weathering and retain its original shape longer. Sand such as limestone sand is more subject to weathering and the fine particles released in the process affect the playability and maintenance of the sand. Limestone sand can “set up” or become “crusted,” because of the cementing action of finer silt and clay particles. Limestone sand requires more frequent raking to maintain a suitable playing surface. Your golf course superintendent may choose to have a certified soils testing laboratory help evaluate sand when making changes at the course. The lab will check the sand’s particle-size, distribution, shape, color, crusting potential, hydraulic conductivity (ability to drain water) and its resistance to buried lies. Bunker sand selection affects the condition of play as well as bunker maintenance. Always do your part to preserve favorable playing conditions by raking the area that you disturbed after hitting from the bunker. By doing so, you can help make the game more enjoyable for other golfers unfortunate enough to hit their golf balls into the sand. When choosing a bunker surface, the varying skill levels of golfers must also be considered. A lower handicap player typically prefers a hard, smooth bunker surface. However, the higher handicap player prefers a softer surface that allows them to get their club through the sand. As a result, superintendents will try to provide a surface that satisfies the widest range of players. Ronald Bruce Romberg Sports I know it is difficult to find enough hours in the day, let alone find some extra time to practice golf. But with a little time here and there and a plan of attack for your practice, you can improve. Here are some suggestions for making the most of your time. Practice golf at home There are a lot of things you can improve without the use of a practice range or a golf ball. One of the most difficult changes is the way you hold the golf club. This is better practiced away from the golf ball. Keep a club at home and practice placing your hands correctly on the club ten times. Repeat this five times a week and before you know it a proper grip will start to feel comfortable. Have a specific goal From my experience, the better the golfer the more specific they are with what they are attempting to accomplish during their practice. Rather than just going out to hit balls, picking a specific goal over time will help you to improve. For example, if you tend to top the ball, you may choose to work on clipping out the tee under the ball or sweeping the grass for the next three months. By choosing a specific issue, rather than skipping around, you are more likely to make a change that will have life long benefits. The magic 10 minutes Find 10 minutes here and there to work on the shot that causes you the most trouble. If you don’t like the bunker, make yourself practice for 10 minutes in the bunker. It may not sound like a long time and it isn’t, but this small commitment to your weakness will require you to pay attention to it. Make your practice time fun It can make practice time so much more fun if you have the right attitude. Trying to get pitch shots to land into a bucket, can help to focus your practice and provide the wonder feeling of accomplishment and fun when the ball does land and stay in the bucket. Or practice with a friend. By adding a social element, you may find that time goes much faster and is more enjoyable. Add quality goals to your practice Rather than just practicing randomly, you may find your practice can replicate on course situations if you add quality goals. An example would be to try to sink twenty three-foot putts in a row. Rather than just putting with no repercussion for a missed putt, the added pressure of having to complete a certain number in a row will help you to perform better during your play on the course. Proper practice will help you to improve your golf, but you must have specific objectives in mind, rather than just exercising. You may want to keep small notes on your scorecard when you play to help you focus on the right areas. Have a plan, so that when you do have the time, it will be productive. Ronald Bruce Romberg Sports I was recently working with a golf student who was having a hard time shifting his weight through to his front side. Most of his shots were off the back foot as seen in the photo below. To help him feel the correct motion I asked him to imagine he had a bucket of water and he was going to throw the water out in front of himself. (I used a basket and a golf ball for these pictures because I could not achieve the desired result with the water bucket.) I asked him to hold the bucket with the front facing towards the target, then to swing the bucket back … … and through to the target without having the water splash back on him. He performed the move perfectly. If he performed this task the way he was swinging the club earlier, this is what it would have looked like: As you can see the water would not have gone forward! Next, I asked him to take his club and perform the same move as with the bucket. The improvement was instantaneous, and he now has a good weight shift. So, if you are having trouble shifting your weight (and most high handicap golfers do), use the image of the water bucket to get the correct feel!