Rid the Slice and Hit the Ball HIGHER, FARTHER, and STRAIGHTER

So often I see new players and higher handicappers resist the rotation of the clubface in an effort to keep the clubface perfectly square to the target . This not only fails to create much centrifugal force, but directional control suffers. The result is thin shots, shots that curve to the right, shots that lack any sort of “POP” or compression of the ball. A “glancing blow”.

Consider the following to help you swing the club with more speed AND accuracy.


We want to let the club face stay square to the arc of our swing. This arc, ideally, would trace along our target line in at least in the moment prior to… and after impact.

Think of a tilted Ferris wheel, but more as a thrill ride. The kind that throws you upside down on an angle. The Ferris wheel represents the arc of our swing and the target line is the straight line at the lowest point. Put simply, the chairs of the Ferris wheel come toward the target line in the downswing and away from the target line on the follow through.

In golfers terms, we want the clubface to be rotating slightly to the left of our target line in the moment after impact. (for a right handed player). This action will square the face and rotate the shaft counter clockwise, adding both speed and accuracy.

The first thing to look at is your grip. Does it allow you to easily rotate your left arm and the clubface? If not, you may need to make an adjustment. Place the heel of your left hand on top of the handle and that your right palm is facing the target. This gives the left wrist more freedom to rotate the clubface. Be sure your grip pressure is soft enough to allow this action.

After this adjustment, you should start to feel more solid, crisp shots. If the shots are hit sharply but a bit to the left or right, that is progress. Then its time to adjust the alignment and the direction your Ferris Wheel is swinging.

Rehearse Your Swing Like Jordan Speith and Transform Your Game

So often I see golfers struggle with their ball striking. The most common miss hits prevail; topped shots thin shots, fat shots, really fat shots. Set the range balls off to the side and take a cue from the current Number 1 player in the world.

Jordan Speith has a wonderful way of rehearsing his swing during his round. He uses a continuous motion activity. He doesn’t stop and reset after each swing. He flows from the end of his follow through and smoothly transitions to the top of the backswing in a “back and forth” manner often using shorter swings. Jordan scuffs the ground perfectly with each pass. More specifically, he strikes the ground slightly to the left of where the golf ball would be.

Consider this activity at the practice tee. Start with an 8 or 9 iron and make small continuous motion swings that brush a swath of grass on the way thru. Keep the swing short, with only a little bit of wrist action. Keep your hands below your hips (This activity is easier with short swings) Avoid digging in to the ground. Instead, work to “thump” the ground.

A good objective is to scuff the ground in front of your left shoe (for a right handed golfer). If you miss your mark, don’t stop and think and regroup. Just keep swinging. Back and forth. Think about the adjustments you need to make to hit your mark, but do this “on the fly”. Work to get closer and closer to you mark with each swing.

This is a continuation exercise. Avoid stopping, regrouping, resetting your feet or waggling the club. Just keep swinging. Avoid thinking.

Especially avoid technical thoughts about how to do this. Instead keep a clear intention of what you are trying to do. Put simply, all you are trying to do is … scuff the ground in front of your left shoe (for a right handed golfer).

Once you can scuff your mark time after time with a half swing, slowly increase the length of the swing working your way up to a “Three Quarter” length. Over-swinging makes it really easy to miss the ground altogether or to hit the ground before the ball. Neither is ideal. Keep these continuous motion swings shorter and you will begin to scuff the ground in the proper place more often. Once you feel proficient at scuffing the ground in the ideal location, try this swing from a more static address position. If you can scuff the ground from there, you are ready to swing at a range ball. If you revert back to topping or fat shots, go back to the “Jordan Speith” activity with no ball. Eventually you will convince yourself that you can swing with a ball there and your ball striking will improve.

This continuous motion activity is a great way to rehearse proper fundamentals without a ball, loosen up before a round, keep you loose in pressure situations and as part of an efficient pre-shot routine. If you are new to golf this is a great activity to start accumulating swings without the worry of where the ball might go. Just swing.

Ladies Golf Challenges

There are many challenges that face lady golfers. Most commonly, I see women use improper and often inconsistent alignment when aiming at a target on the golf course. Another common problem women face is getting any significant loft on their shots. Overcoming these hurdles is a key step to making the game more fun.

There are two ways to get more air under your shots. Both rely on solid ball striking.  If a golf ball is struck crisply by a golf club swung with enough speed, the ball spins. The dimples on the ball provide resistance or wind drag causing the ball to climb into the air. The more strength a golfer has, the greater their potential to spin the ball. The strongest players hit the ball higher more easily than golfers that play with less power.

The first and obvious solution is to check your equipment. The latest gear is engineered using more lightweight materials. You might be using clubs that are too heavy. A lighter club can make it easier to swing faster.  Another possible solution is to try to gain some strength in your hands and arms to help swing the club faster. Unfortunately, some women, no matter how much time they dedicate to gaining strength, will not generate enough club head speed to help them hit the ball significantly higher.

As I mentioned, a common problem is with technique. They tend to swing at the ball using a “lifting” type of action. This action is counter-intuitive and puts the golfer into an incorrect position at impact. The clubhead gets in front of the players’ hands putting them  in a “scooping” position. This incorrectly engages the leading edge of the club which has no loft. This leading edge strikes the ball first and the ball stays low along the ground.

Fortunately, there are other ways to hit the ball higher. Use a short iron like an 8 Iron, 9 Iron or a Pitching Wedge. Instead of trying to lift or scoop the ball into the air, pinch or trap the ball against the ground so the ball pops off the clubface. This will put you in an impact position in which the handle is in front of the clubhead. The face of the club gets onto the ball and helps the ball fly by virtue of the loft built into the club.

If you continue to have problems even with good solid contact on the face of the club, seek out short irons with wide-bottomed soles like you would find on a hybrid club. Several manufacturers produce entire sets of irons like this.  These clubs focus more weight, or Center of Gravity, toward the bottom of the club. This can also help get the ball higher.

When it comes to the driver, consider one with more loft than you currently use. Also, try moving the ball more forward in your stance. This will help you to strike the ball on the upswing. The combination of a more lofted driver and this adjustment in your ball position can also help get ball into the air regardless of how much or how little power and strength the golfer possesses.

I also see a lot of women struggle with proper alignment. From full swing shots to chipping and putting, lady golfers often have both their club face AND their body lined up incorrectly. This makes the process of advancing ball toward the target much more difficult.

I see a lot of inconsistencies in how women get themselves ready to hit golf shots. Sometimes they set their feet BEFORE they set their club head. Other times they set the club first. The key to success is to be consistent. A Rule of Thumb is to set the club head FIRST then line up your body. As you get ready to hit your next shot, get very specific about the line you want the ball to travel over. The ball may not go exactly where you want it to, but the more specific you get, the greater your margin for error. Start your routine behind the ball so the ball is directly between you and your target. From here, walk up to your ball and start your alignment process.

Try using a long range target on longer shots. Focus on anything in the distance such as the flag, a tree in the distance or anything that you can lock your eyes on to. On shorter shots around the greens, the use of an intermediate target can help you get lined up properly. Pick a spot a few feet in front of your ball directly in line with where you want your ball to go. Square your club to that line set your body parallel to that line and you are ready to play your shot.

If you find yourself suffering from some of these challenges in your game, try the ideas discussed here. Inspect your equipment. See if there are any indications on the shaft of your clubs regarding weight of your clubs. These “specs” are typically measured in grams. If your clubs weigh more than 55 grams, and you are struggling with them, they are probably too heavy. Also, think about trapping the ball with your shorter clubs and sweeping up on the ball with your driver to help you hit the ball higher. Consider even switching to a driver that has a higher loft (and less grams). To help improve your consistency, work on your targeting and you pre-shot routine. These elements can help you eliminate variables and help you play better golf.

Taking your game to the course

Do you hit better shots at the range than when you go out and play? Have you spent time grooving a swing at the range only to find that swing elusive on the golf course? Consider the following advice to help you take your game from the range to the course and play better golf.

A key element to playing better is practicing better. Make sure you practice both your fundamentals and your pre-shot routine. Stick to the basics of proper alignment, an efficient grip and good posture. Always use a target when you practice. Once these elements are in place rehearse your pre shot routine down to the smallest details. Make a note of each waggle and each glance at your target. Practice them enough that you consistently perform these actions without thinking. Rehearse how you line up to a target and how you step into position to hit the ball. Repeat everything all the way to the moment you start your backswing.

Once these actions become ingrained, you are in a better position to flow from your routine into your swing without much conscious thought to interfere. When you get on the golf course focus on the task at hand, get very specific and commit yourself to your targets. Immerse yourself into your routine and stick to it for every shot the entire round. All this can distract you enough to help you execute especially under the most nerve wracking tournament conditions.

Another good way to help you transition from the driving range to the golf course is to simulate real golf situations when you practice. Practice with a partner. Take turns hitting shots, use different clubs and change your target frequently.

Repeating the same shot over and over again with a bucket of balls is a good way to improve basic skills, but you should also practice your short game using only one ball. This can help you get used to the process of chipping and putting the ball into the hole on the first try.

Experiment with different shots around the practice green to keep you engaged. Set up putting and chipping contests with friends to keep you focused and make you putt those three footers.

Your swing may still desert you in the middle of a round despite these efforts. Here are a few “survival techniques” to mitigate those bad rounds and get you back to the clubhouse in one piece.

If you are really struggling with your ball-striking try gripping lower on the club. A shorter club can be that much easier to hit in times of trouble. Another way to get some confidence in the middle of a bad round is to hit more punch shots using a three-quarter length back swing.

When your swing goes sour and you find yourself missing the green hole after hole, use this as an opportunity to practice your chip shots. This can help you gain some confidence with the short game and take some of the pressure off the longer shots.

By creating real time golf experiences when you practice, immersing yourself in your pre-shot routine and committing yourself to your target; you are actively engaged in golf’s process. This can help to keep you busy so you don’t get in your own way with self doubt. Try some of these techniques to help you take your game to the course.

Golf at High Altitudes

Golf at high altitude is a scenic and exhilarating challenge. If you are golfing in the mountains, here are a few things to think about to get the most out of your game. The thin air, dry conditions and variable weather are just a few of the elements to consider. Attention to these details can all but ensure a great golfing experience in the mountains.

The air is thinner and the ball spins less. If your driver has a lower launch angle, the ball won’t climb as high into the air off the clubface. The ball then falls out of the sky more quickly. Consider using a driver with more loft and/or a shaft with a low kick point to maximize the carry on your drives.

If you typically play a ‘low-spin’ ball, play a ball that spins more for your rounds at high elevations. Keep in mind a ball that spins less, also curves less. That means hooks and slices are minimized compared to similar shots on low-land golf courses.

Be aware that mountain golf can be very different from the golf you regularly play closer to sea level. High altitude golf can be extremely hot and dry. Be sure to hydrate significantly prior to your trip, while traveling and during your stay in the mountains. Your body works harder at higher altitudes. Be sure to eat small frequent meals to stay sharp during your round. Avoid the hottest part of the day and alcohol until you become acclimated to your surroundings. All these precautions can help ward off altitude sickness and fatigue.

Due to the thin air, the intensity of the sun’s rays is greater in the mountains than in other parts of the country. Sunburns at high altitude can be significant and can really put a damper on the rest of your visit. Frequent application of a heavy duty sunblock will serve you well, even on a cloudy day. You may also consider sunglasses with polarized lenses to protect your eyes.

Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Storm clouds can build right before your eyes. There is often lightening associated with these storms. Check the weather forecast before your tee time, familiarize yourself of storm procedures at the facility you are playing and plan for a few contingencies. Packing an extra towel, umbrella, a fleece top and a rain jacket in your bag are all advisable. Just as quickly as these storms build, the skies can become clear and sunny. Consider synthetic shirts as they tend to dry faster than cotton.

Technically, experimenting with a driver with more loft and a ball with more spin, you can maximize the advantage of playing at a high altitude. Understanding the dynamics of how differently the ball flies at elevation can help you manage your game better. Anticipating the sun’s powerful effects can help you avoid overexposure and fatigue. Planning for weather contingencies can also give you a good chance to play your best golf. Add all these elements together to more thoroughly enjoy your mountain golf experience.

Con-Playing the Middle Tee

The game of golf is about getting the ball into the hole in the fewest strokes, and not necessarily about how far the ball goes. That’s why trying to shoot the lowest score can be so much fun for people of all ages and abilities. Juniors and beginners can play holes that are 100 or 150 yards long and enjoy the wonderful challenge of the game. Great players can also find it rewarding to play a shorter course, as this is a great way to develop skills around the greens.

Golf is a game of opportunity, challenge, risk and reward. When people play from tees that are too long or too difficult, they deprive themselves any scoring opportunities. All they get is penalty strokes, lost balls, shots from the rough, slow play and a lack of confidence.

I worked at a great course in Southwest Florida that was very long. In wet and windy conditions, at sea level with high humidity I often had long irons and fairway woods into many of the par fours; I had to lay up on all par fives and the course played very difficult for me. When the course finally dried-out and played a little shorter, I had more opportunities to score. My previous struggles caused panic when I finally got the chance for a birdie putt or a chance to save par and I continued to struggle.

This course had six different sets of tees. To keep our games interesting the staff had competitions from all of them. We threw a few bucks into a pot and everyone on staff had a chance to be competitive. Playing from these shorter tees also gave me the opportunity to use wedges on all par threes, I could reach some of the par fours and get to ALL the par fives in two. I now found myself putting for birdie and eagle on many of the holes. Some of these putts went in and I slowly became more comfortable with these opportunities. My scores came down and my confidence went up. When I played again from the longer tees and had scoring opportunities, I was in a better emotional state to execute.

Not everyone hits the ball 300 yards. Power is but one of the many factors that go into determining the appropriate set of tees to play. Golf is supposed to be fun, so consider what you want from the game. Playing different tees can be a great way to handicap a match. If you want to feel like a tour player, play from the tees that give you a chance to shoot a good score. If you like to play all golf courses from as long as possible no matter what the yardage, consider the conditions. Is it particularly cold or windy or wet or all of the above?

Going to the Masters for the first time

Congratulations! You get to go to the Masters this year for the first time! If you are so fortunate, here are a few hints about where to go, what to see and do. Here also are some ideas about where to park, what airport to use and where to stay.

Tickets to practice rounds can be more easily obtained than tournament rounds. This is a great time to see the course and take pictures. The crowds are spread out and you can get up close to some of the best players in the world. Be aware cameras are only allowed during practice rounds, and cell phones are never allowed on the course.

Walk as much of the golf course as you can, especially the Front Nine. TV coverage has only recently included these holes, but the cameras don’t show everything. Check out the severity of the green on the short par 4 Third; see for yourself the difficulty of the tee shot at the 240 yard par 3 Fourth. Note the “elephant” buried in the green at the par 3 Sixth hole. Oh, and the green at number Nine is diabolical.

The wonders of the golf course don’t stop there. The second shot at number 10 is like threading a needle. Number 11 is a beast and the rest of Amen Corner is larger than life.

The Par 3 Contest is the highlight before the Championship begins. As soon as the gates open, hundreds of people rush to park small camp chairs along the ropes on the Par 3 course. As they head off to explore the rest of the property they know they have a front row seat waiting for them. The crowds swell when the contest begins at 1pm. Of course they sell these chairs with The Masters logo. It makes for a functional souvenir, and you can easily ship it home.

The roars from the galleries at The Masters are famous, and you can hear these crowds cheer even during the practice rounds. The atmosphere is casual and boisterous and a huge crowd traditionally surrounds the par three 16th hole. Every group that comes through is goaded into hitting a shot that skims across the pond toward the green. Poor attempts are met with collective groans and lighthearted boos. The skipped shots that find the green are treated to “Championship Sized” cheers that echo through the property.

If you get the chance to attend one of the competitive rounds, take it! The competitive energy permeates the grounds, the crowds are huge. There is no mistaking the fact that this is a major and the course is set up to really show its teeth.

Don’t worry about packing a lunch. Tournament organizers at The Masters have the concessions down to a science. The food is very simple, the prices are downright cheap and the concession areas are centrally located. The flow of traffic through these areas allows spectators to get what they need without missing a lot of the action.

Parking is something to consider. If you have to use the main gate and you get to the course early in the day, save yourself a few steps and consider paid parking. For $20, close in parking is available along Washington Road near Magnolia Lane. If your ticket does not mandate you enter via the main gate, you can park off Berckman’s Road along the Western boundary of the golf course for $5 to $10. Keep in mind the closer you park to the main gates, the more traffic you will have to fight at the end of the day. Keep a street map of the Augusta area handy, as you may be able to access side streets to evacuate the event area.

Many attendees fly into Atlanta, approximately 2 hours from Augusta. Another alternative is to fly in and out of Columbia, South Carolina. Columbia is about an hour East of Augusta. If you plan to attend The Masters for more than 1 day, Columbia is a reasonable point from which to commute back and forth to the tournament.

If you plan to stay in Augusta, book early and expect to pay a lot for a simple roadside motel room. Many local homeowners rent their houses for the week. If you are travelling with a group, this could be a great option. There are rooms in Columbia, but beware that you get what you pay for. Look for newer hotels and prominent hotel chains to ensure a clean and comfortable place to get some rest. Read customer reviews if they are available.

More information about attending the Masters Golf tournament can be found at www.masters.org. There you will find internet links to the local Chamber of Commerce, information about the waiting list for tickets that is closed will never reopen, Augusta housing and transportation. Have a great trip!!