By Dean Claggett Director of Golf
It’s the best time of the year for golf in the Okanagan. The days are still long and there’s no shortage of sunshine. We all want to shave strokes off our game. Pars and birdies are better than bogeys, doubles and triples any day of the week. We all remember the good shots and the times when we broke through scorecard barriers like 100 or 90 or 80. Many of you have heard me say this over and over. Golfers tend to practise what they already do fairly well because it’s more fun. It’s more work to practise to improve a weakness.
The challenge is to cut strokes
There’s an old golf joke about the easiest way to a better score is to use the eraser on the end of your scorecard pencil. But, sometimes the journey to better golf is clouded with swing changes or new equipment purchases. And, there are two often neglected areas of your game that might just be the secret you’re looking for – chipping and putting. For most amateurs up to 50% of total shots in a round will be the combination of chipping, pitching and putting. How much time do you spend working on your short game? The answer is likely not enough. Imagine how you’d feel if you could average 3 or 4 fewer putts per round or become a better bunker player or your chip shots gave you looks at birdies and pars rather than being way too short or way too long?
The very best putters have a few things in common - ball speed, distance control and great alignment of the putter to the intended target. Remember that your target is not always the back of the cup. To practise speed and distance control, try the ladder drill. Select the following distances, 15, 20, 25 and 30 feet, on a relatively flat surface. Now hit two putts from each distance. Your goal is to have each putt finish just past the cup by 8 to 12 inches. Why? Normally the goal of putting from outside 15 feet is to two-putt. Therefore, practising speed control and consistency will help you develop touch or feel from a variety of distances. Wouldn’t you rather have a final putt from inside a foot rather than one of those nasty longer putts because you came up short or went way past the hole?
For short putts, use 3 or 4 balls and form a semicircle around the cup. Line up the brand name of the golf ball to the intended target and practise stepping into the putt. See how many you can make out of ten or twenty. The idea is to get accustomed to seeing your putter blade square to the intended target and seeing how consistent your short stroke can become. But, also be aware of your misses. Ask the question, are your missed putts pushed or pulled? With that information in mind, you can now make small adjustments to develop trust and consistency with your putting stroke.
Most golfers are accustomed to two different chip shots. One is a chip and run with a lower lofted club and the other is a shot made with a sand wedge where the ball is played in the air. A drill I like to teach is where the golfer selects three different distances away from the hole, anywhere from 5 to 20 feet off the green. Select two different clubs and play a game of good, better, best. In this challenge you alternate the club selection. You want to discover which shot fits the situation and how the roll of the ball is affected by the loft of the club. By playing a game, you make practise fun. And, it never hurts your confidence of you are able to chip the balls close to the hole over and over again.
When we were kids
As you learned to shoot a basketball in the schoolyard, did you play H-O-R-S-E with your buddies? Every shot made got you another letter. Spell horse first and you won. Now that you are an amateur golfer, make your practise routines into games and keep score. Have some fun! Developing good practise habits is the key to improving your technique and your strokes per hole. Your short game can quickly improve with some advice from one of our Pros, a little time and some effort.