“The Golf Basics To Get Your Game Up To Par”
Not every player gets to practice before every round with his teacher hovering behind him, watching his swing, checking for malfunctions, making sure everything is working just right. Just those on the PGA Tour.
And not every player has the luxury of going for a lesson or visiting an instructor on a periodic basis, usually because the cost can be prohibitive.
How Do You Get To Be A Better Player?
So, how do you become a better player? What is it that you need to know to improve your game and lower your scores, which is the desire of every player who has ever teed a ball, hoisted a club and tried like heck to make the ball go high, straight and, yes, especially long?
Well, short of having a certified PGA teaching professional on your payroll, or taking one to the golf course every time you play, the Post-Gazette has asked five local professionals and PGA-certified instructors to provide a list of the top 10 tips a player should know and work on to become a better player.
Consider it the PG’s version of Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book,” a compilation of teachings, lessons and musings designed to help players understand the work, preparation and execution that is required to lower scores and make golf a more enjoyable game. Or just less frustrating.
The participating professionals are John Aber, head professional at Allegheny Country Club; Eric Johnson, director of instruction at Oakmont Country Club; Kevin Shields, teaching professional at Rolling Hills CC; Sean Parees, teaching professional at Quicksilver GC and Robert Morris University Island Sports Center; and Jim Cichra, director of instruction at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center.
The tips are not listed in order of importance. Also, keep in mind there are other tips that could be more useful to a player’s specific need. Still, these lessons represent a compilation of suggestions players should heed if they want to become a better player and shoot lower scores.
1. Identify Your Weakness
Eric Johnson, who formerly worked with former European Ryder Cup member Per Ulrik Johansson, said the first thing a player has to do to get better is figure out where his game is weakest.
“When I worked with Johansson, the first thing that I did before every lesson was to look at his tour statistics,” Johnson said. “That gave us a clear path on what we were going to work on during his lesson. Unfortunately, you do not have PGA Tour statistics to look up.”
This is what Johnson suggests:
The more information you have, the easier it is to solve a problem.
2. Develop A Pre-Shot Routine
One of the biggest reasons for hitting bad shots is poor alignment, Sean Parees said.
Parees said the best way to avoid that is to develop a pre-shot routine that will accomplish two things: Proper alignment and proper ball position.
Here’s What To Do:
3. Clubface Control
The single biggest thing that separates average players from good players, good players from great players, and great players from Tour-caliber players is clubface control, said Kevin Shields.
Here’s What To Do According To Shields:
Some of that rotation comes from turning your body, but most comes from your hands and arms. Learn to turn the face toward the ball sooner in the downswing.
4. Rotate Your Torso
“While the arms do swing up and down and the wrists hinge and set, these motions are secondary to torso rotation,” Parees said. “That is what creates the majority of speed in the swing.”
Here’s What To Do:
Parees: To make a correct backswing, establish your spine angle/address posture and rotate your core by turning your torso away from your target. To do so, attempt to position your left shoulder as close to being over your right leg than your left. And maintain the same spine angle/address posture throughout the backswing.
As you start the downswing, pretty much do the reverse of what you did on the backswing. Rotate your torso toward your target until your right shoulder is closer to being over your left leg than your right. Again, maintain the same spine angle/posture throughout the forward swing.”
“I feel safe in saying that all really good players perform this motion during their swings,” Parees said.
5. Take A Full Swing At Half Speed
John Aber, a former collegiate star at North Carolina who played with Davis Love III, said he has never forgotten a tip given to him by his former teacher, Jim Ferree. And, to this day, it is one he gives to all his students.
“I even think about this tip to improve my own game,” Aber said.
Aber said it’s the best way to really feel your swing, feel the club head, and to make sure your swing is in sequence.
Here’s What To Do:
To do so, Shields said golfers have to realize that the club shaft must properly stress, or bend, at certain times in the swing for speed and power.
Here’s What He Suggests To Gain More Power:
7. Spend More Time Putting
During his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational a month ago, Tiger Woods made a remarkable 58 of 58 putts from 6 feet or less.
Johnson uses this statistic to tell students: Do not spend all your time just hitting balls at the range.
Most players hit balls for an hour and hit a couple of putts before you rush off to the first tee. It should be the complete opposite.
8. Develop A Routine For Putting
Here Is Aber’s Routine:
After he has determined the line, he takes a practice stroke while looking at the hole, puts his putter behind the ball, takes one more look at the hole, and strokes the ball.
“This is my routine,” Aber said. “You can come up with your own routine, but make sure you do it every time you hit a putt. This is very important and no different than a great free throw shooter. Tiger Woods has the same routine on every putt just as Michael Jordan had the same routine on every free throw.
This is an area that is largely ignored and can really pay off in much lower scores. Especially because most average players usually miss the green in regulation.
Here’s What To Do He Said:
Also, consider whether the green is hard or soft, fast or slow, uphill or downhill. All of these factors will determine where you should land your ball.
10. Practice Wisely, Not Aimlessly
Parees said there are many facets to improving a golf game and just going to the range and hitting a bunch of drivers or a bunch of 5-irons isn’t going to necessarily make it a better practice session.
Here’s What To Do:
With a more focused plan when you practice, your game is bound to improve.