by Brian Kramp, PGA Head Golf Professional
In this lesson tip, I would like to talk about putting and offer a few drills to try to help you lower your scores on the golf course. Many times when I have a lesson with a golfer who says that they want to try to lower their average score by five or ten strokes, I always try to find out how much time the golfer spends on or around the practice putting green working on their short game and putting. The answer is usually “Oh, not much.” Or “Maybe five or ten minutes.” I try to make the student realize that the 12 inch putt or the chip shot from just off the green counts just as much as the 300 yard tee shot at the start of any hole.
Most golfers do not realize that if they played a perfect round of golf on a par 72 golf course, that with one club, the putter, 50% of their shots would be on the putting green and that less than 20% of their shots would be with a driver. Think about it, you tee off on all the par 4’s and 5’s with a driver. That is 14 shots. Your second shot on the par 4’s you might use anywhere from a 3 iron to pitching wedge, depending on the length of the hole. On the par 5’s, you would lay up on your second shot and then hit a short iron to the green. On the par 3’s, you are probably hitting an iron to tee off. Once on the green, if you two putt every hole, that would be 36 putts. Yet most golfers want to continuously hit a driver, 3 wood, or long iron when they come for a lesson.
When putting, I basically like my students to stand with the ball in the middle of their stance, arms relaxed and hanging from their shoulders, with their eyes directly over the ball. The stroke should be almost a pendulum type motion keeping the putter head close to the ground. Try to keep the body as still as possible and do not look up to see where the ball is going too soon. Most times when you look up too early, this causes you to open the putter face and push the ball or you hit the ball on the upswing causing the ball to bounce and not take a true roll.
There are a couple of drills that I like to do when I am practicing putting. The first one, I call the circle drill. Starting about three feet from the hole, I place six or eight balls around the hole. I then work my way around the circle of balls putting each one into the hole. If I miss one, I start over again from the beginning. If I make them all, I then move back to five or six feet and do the same thing. I then finish the drill with an eight to ten foot putt. This drill can give you a feel for uphill, downhill and hopefully putts that break both left and right.
The second drill helps me with the pace of the green and my distance control. Find an area of the putting green that is relatively flat. Place a tee next to where your ball is. Take your putting stance and make a putt, taking the putter back to about the middle of your foot. When the ball comes to a stop, pace off the distance from the tee to where the ball came to rest.. Now make a second putt from the tee but this time only take the putter back to the inside of your foot. Pace off this distance. It should be shorter than the first putt. Return to the tee again and make a third putt, taking the putter just past your foot. When you pace this distance, it should be farther than the first. Now when you get on the golf course, all you do is pace the distance from your ball to the hole. Based on what you did on the putting green, you should know about how far you have to take the putter back to achieve the correct distance. Remember though to make some adjustment if it is an uphill or downhill putt and for any break in the green. Work on these two drills and it should help take some shots off of your score.
For help with your putting or any other part of your golf game, please see any one of the PGA Professionals at Chesapeake Bay Golf Club.
New! Improve Your Tee Game
by Scott Vandegrift, PGA Professional
Most players when you talk to them about their tee game immediately think you are referring to how they hit a driver. Players that have excellent tee games are capable of hitting fairways with multiple clubs at high percentages. One of the keys to hitting more greens is having a good tee game that gives players more opportunities to hit approach shots from the fairway. The result of an improved tee game causing the player to hit more greens in regulation will normally facilitate lower scores.
The best plan of attack to improve a player's tee game is based upon 54 balls. The first step is to determine what three clubs you use off the tee most. This might be a driver, number three fairway metal, and a number three hybrid. The player determines this himself. Once this is done you want to position yourself on a practice range where you can look out on to the range and envision a fairway no wider than 35 yards. You can use target greens, flags, or signs to set up the boundaries (see illustration below). Lay out the three clubs you've selected to practice your tee game. You are going to play three tee shots with each club. The goal is to play solid tee shots in to your prescribed fairway. Notate how many balls land in your fairway.
The next step is to lay out nine more balls in three piles of three and start the process of hitting each club three times and record your results. You go through this sequence six times reaching on the sixth cycle the 54th ball. The concept behind this 54 ball tee drill comes down to these principals:
Learn to practice your tee game this way and you will see your fairway percentage hit go up and your overall score go down.
Chipping is All in the Stance
The chip from a few feet off the edge of the green is one of the most important shots in golf. If you can chip the ball very well, you should have every chance of holing it. If you chip poorly, you are going to waste shots needlessly.
Chipping is part of the game most players do not spend time on, however, it is a stroke very similar to the putting stroke and, at the same time, a smaller version of the longer game.
If you can master the chip shot, your putting will immediately improve because you will have shorter length putts. Your iron play will improve because you won't feel the pressure of having to hit the green.
You will be able to become more aggressive at the pin knowing if you miss the green, you will be able to save par or still have a chance to make birdie.
If you need to improve your chipping, I would recommend narrowing up your stance. I believe the majority of poorly executed chip shots are related to the stance width.
As you get closer to the hole, the closer you should get to the ball and the shorter your swing should become. In order to execute a softer and shorter motion, you must take a narrow stance to help stabilize and quiet the lower body which in turn will shorten the arm swing.
The majority of golfers I see are trying to execute a short chip by setting up with a shoulder width stance, ball position in the middle, normal grip, and hands carried low as if they are making a full seven-iron swing. This will cause too much wrist action and hinge and an inability to keep the shot small enough.
In the short game, a wide stance can get you in trouble. It causes many inconsistencies with the ball position and angle of attack. If affects the way you distribute your weight.
A shallow angle of attack will only allow the player to try and help the ball up which affects the shot in two ways: the player will strike the ball with the leading edge of the club which can create the typical "blade" or "thin" shot or the player will manipulate the club with his hands causing the clubhead to pass his hands before impact which will slide the clubface too much behind the ball and cause a short, "flubbed" shot.
The goal of a short chip shot is to take a club (I like to use a five through sand wedge) that will provide enough loft to carry the ball from the higher grass and onto the green as quickly as possible. The basic principle of short chipping is to make it as near as possible to putting.
The club needs to be angled so the heel of the club is slightly off the ground (to mirror the angle of the putter shaft). In reality, the club is angled to be a putter with more loft.
The stroke is played with the same rocking of the shoulders used for putting. I like to use my putting grip (the reverse overlapping grip) because it allows me to arch my wrists up (simulating a pendulum motion) and it allows me to grip the club in my palms.
It is important that the palms face one another. I see many golfers set the left hand on top and the right hand beneath the club. When the right hand gets underneath the club too much, the club can only attack the ball from a shallow angle which causes inconsistent strikes.
The best way to approach the chip shot is by attacking the ball with a descending blow. However, the only way to attack the ball from a steep angle is to angle your upper body so that your spine angle is tilted to the left. In order to accomplish this, your shoulders must be as level as possible, the center of your body must be in front or even with the ball (depending on how much loft you want), and your weight should favor your left side. I feel this is all possible as long as your stance is narrow (your heels are no more than six inches apart) and your knees are in a flexed position and almost touching (approximately two to three inches apart and aiming slightly left).
A closer stance and anchoring your weight on your left knee will stabilize the lower body on the backswing and will allow your arms to swing freely with minimal, or preferably, no wrist action (a one lever swing), and the club will be able to fall and descend on the ball.
A key understanding to have is when the clubface strikes the ball, the ball will compress and roll up the clubface which creates backspin.
The art of making the short chip is basically the positioning of your body and the angle of attack. The rule of thumb for the short game is the closer you are to the hole and the less green you have to work with, the more lofted club you need and the closer you need to get to the ball. The further the hole and the more green you have to work with, the less lofted club you need and the lower you need to keep the ball.
Once you have selected your club, your center needs to be angled in relationship to the ball. Center forward of the ball, the steeper and lower the ball will travel. The center moved back more even with the ball, the higher and softer the shot.
The ball position only changes by where your center is. With a narrow stance, there aren't many ball positions. Keep the ball between your feet and toe line.
When practicing, only practice with three or four balls. By the fourth ball, you should know the club line, the speed, and the shot to be played. If you practice with more than four balls, you will get bored and lose your concentration.
The longer the shot, the further you stand from the ball which will allow your arms to travel further. Allow your arms to swing freely with minimal wrist action which causes the club to descend down onto the ball.
This understanding of the positioning of your body will improve your short chips and overall game.
As published in Tee Time Golf Magazine, September/October 1995
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