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Improving Playing Skills

You need a plan when you play golf. And you have to have an arsenal of things to call upon. Experience helps when you know what to do in certain situations…what club to pull, what shot to try, you’re a lot more relaxed. When you’ve had several years of this kind of decision-making experience, it makes the game more enjoyable and your playing more effective.

When you compare a beginner to an experienced player, they don’t make the same decisions on a golf course. The experienced player has found him/herself many times in similar situations and knows what to do and not to do. My advice has always been, if you have a bad shot, don’t follow it with a bad decision. Inexperienced players try to “make up” for their errors while on the course.

The following is offered to help you improve your skills and they can easily become part of your personal arsenal that help you avoid bad decisions. There are tips on playing the game and on selecting the right equipment that is fitted to you and will bring better playing success.

Remember, the better player is not necessarily the best ball striker. Better players combine a number of disciplines that include proper equipment choices, right clubs for the right shots, course strategies that match one’s skill level and handle their own emotions and have an eye for deciding how they’ll play the holes during a round.

Visit our website often to pick up additional tips that will find their way to our pages.

I look forward to helping you with the proper training to get these improvements working for you and your game.

Tom Gees
PGA Teaching Professional

Advice On Putting
By Tom Gees

How many times have you heard it said, "Drive for show, putt for dough?" This is an age-old cliché among golfers and is especially noteworthy on both the LPGA and PGA tours. However, it is true among average players as well. One of the other old clichés in golf is that "function outweighs design." So, if your method works, don't mess with it!

When talking about putting, it is extremely important to remember that all you are trying to do is roll the ball from point A to point B. You can become an accomplished putter even by putting with a sand wedge. However, it is easier if the tool you use to roll the ball accommodates the method that you use. This is why there are so many putters on the market. Each putter has a different feel, and each will give a different result when striking the ball.

There are two types of putting methods which stand out among better players. One way is to keep the putter square to the target line for the entire stroke. The other method has the putter following an arc back and through, whereby the putter stays square to the arc.

Remember though, the ball does not know or care what type of stroke hits it, as long as it rolls in the direction of the hole.

Getting It Up And Down
By Tom Gees

The key to good scoring is getting the ball up and down around the greens. Not all of us hit as many greens in regulation as we would like. Therefore we need to learn how to hit several different shots to save strokes around the green. Club and shot selection are of utmost importance in getting the ball up and down. How far you are from the green, how far the pin is from the edge of the green and what type of terrain is in front of you determines what shot you must execute.

A golden rule around the greens is the more you can run the ball along the ground, the better the shot will be. Pitching the ball in the air leads to too much uncertainty regarding how far to carry it and what will happen when the ball hits. However, if you have to hit the ball over water, out of a bunker or high grass, you will need to use a pitch shot, choosing a lofted club to get the ball up and have it stop as quickly as possible.

For a low pitch-and-run shot use a less lofted club, keeping the ball out of the air and low to the ground. For this shot, you should read the chip just as you would a putt, taking into consideration speed, break and distance. Then just chip (or run) the ball up to the green.

Even if you have a favorite club with which you chip, it is best to use a variety of clubs to chip the ball. This will give you more options with your short shots and more confidence in your game.

Comfort First Is The Real Key To Successful Putting Results
By Tom Gees

FOR THE BEGINNER----Putting is like anything – function outweighs design. If it works, don't ask questions. You’re the only one who can control your nerves. You know what you can do, hopefully, and what is successful. Finding the right putting style for you is simply a matter of getting comfortable and watching results. If it works, use it.

It can also take a lot of experimenting to find the right putter. The first thing you need to do is see where your hands set. Do they set high, or low? You have to get a putter with the correct lie for the way you set your hands up. Do you have your hands even with the ball, ahead or behind? You have to get the correct offset to match your hands, too.

Do you have a tendency to yip? If you do, you need a heavier head so you can feel the club head more and get a little better control. But a lighter putter is also a precision tool that may be right for you if you can still feel and control the ball.

Club First, Feet Second
By Tom Gees

Once you have chosen the correct club for your shot, there are two things you must do before you strike the ball: Take aim and obtain a stance. Notice that the order is "aim" first, "stance" second. This is because a good player aims at the target by getting the club behind the ball before obtaining a stance. Whereas, the less experienced player will set the feet first, club second, which can lead to aiming the feet to the right and the club to the left potentially causing an errant shot.

In golf you stand to the side of the object you are trying to hit, thus your body should be aligned parallel to the line of flight of the golf ball. Don't aim your feet and shoulders at the target; aim them parallel to the left of it.

The correct shot can be achieved only with proper alignment and aiming the club face at the target. To aim the club face, stand behind the ball and pick an intermediate spot close to the ball such as a clump of grass or an old tee---the intermediate spot---which is directly aligned with the target. Then aim the club face at that point. The key: club first, feet second, and just think target.

Work Your Round 1 Hole And 1 Shot At A Time
By Tom Gees

One good way to avoid inconsistency within a round is to try and measure
your progress slowly, hole by hole, and shot by shot. Don't project your round from say the 5th hole to the l6th hole. It takes time just to get past the first nine.

Concentrate on the holes on the back nine only when you get there. Mentally play the hole and shot that you are currently on.

To do this you must learn to play every shot as if it stands alone in time. Players need to realize that the shot you just hit poorly just as well could have been hit years earlier. It shouldn’t have any bearing on your next attempted shot, unless you let it. But many players talk themselves into future outcomes, based on prior results. This will only cause added pressure to your game.

If you go back to what your mental concept is and what you are trying to do on each shot, you won't let a bad shot affect your next one. Then, and only then will you be able to stay in the present and be able to play one hole and one shot at a time.

The Intentional Slice
By Tom Gees

So you say you want to slice the ball? Not many people really ever express this desire. However, there are times when the only thing that will get you  around that tree or out of trouble is to hit one of those big bananas to the right. Usually any time you intentionally try to hit a slice you end up pulling the ball to the left into further trouble or the other side of the fairway. It gets to be quite frustrating after awhile.

So, to hit the intentional slice or fade, as the professionals refer to it, you first need to change your address position. You should take your normal stance, but with the ball forward. Then aim your body lines to the left or open to the target line. Leave the clubface pointed directly at the target, which in effect, will be open to the address position. Then take your normal swing along the lines of the setup position. This will produce a left to right spin on the shot and that ever impressive intentional slice!

Don't Underclub Yourself
By Tom Gees

Isn’t it frustrating that some days you can hit your woods, but can’t hit a thing with your irons? Most amateurs relate a lot of their success on the course with how well they drive the ball. While this may be true, if you miss the green with a poorly played iron shot all is for naught.

If I see any fault that repeatedly is evident it is that players underclub themselves. Never, and I repeat never, use an iron that only if you hit your career shot with it would you get it close to the pin. Many players recall that one time when they hit a particular iron perfectly, but somehow forget the many more times they were unsuccessful trying to hit it in similar situations.

Play smart, take an iron you know you can make it with and hit it. Let's face it, pride has filled many an opponents pockets.

lmproving Short Game Makes Up For Poor Driving
Strive To Capitalize On Your Strengths

By Tom Gees

Even if you are a good player in other areas but you drive the ball poorly, it is going to catch up with you.

It's tough to spin the ball out of the rough, and if you can't spin the ball, it’s tough to get the ball close to the pin. And your putting will only hold up for so long. This is true for pros as well as club players, who aren't going to hit as many greens to begin with.

Remember, driving is the first thing you do on a hole. It's the beginning and can set the tone for the entire round. But if driving remains an obvious weakness in your game, you should work to make the other parts of your game stronger to make up for the weakness.

If you are a poor driver of the ball, and you know you're a poor driver and you're going to be wild, you're not going to hit a lot of greens. So you should work on your short game.

Conversely, if you are a good driver and you're going to hit a lot of greens, you need to work on your putting rather than your short game. Overcome your weaknesses by capitalizing on your strengths.

Chip Or Putt?
By Tom Gees

There’s an old saying that if you can putt it, putt it. If you can chip it, chip it. But the last thing you want to do is put the ball in the air.

lf the situation is right, you should try to keep a chip shot on the ground as much as possible so you can read it like a putt and the ball will react just like a putt. Anytime you put the ball in the air, a couple of things can happen. It can stop, you can carry the ball too far or you can carry it the right distance, but it still rolls too far.

Chipping the ball on the ground gives you a better feel for both direction and distance.

Warm-Up Is Very Important
By Tom Gees

Forget whatever anyone else says, golfers are athletes. They’re walking five miles a day, five days a week, usually stretching their muscles, working their bodies and the club.

But the average player doesn’t do that much normally. All of a sudden he/she goes out to play golf and tries to move their body and it doesn’t bend or twist as far as the pros.

That’s where hitting balls can help. Gradually you can stretch your muscles out and become more flexible, which will help you hit the ball better.

But it all takes time. You can’t expect to do it the first time out after a layoff. Your muscles will just be too short.

Want to change putters?
By Tom Gees

I don't believe in the theory that a player should change putters all the time. The stories you hear about professionals changing putters every day are not the norm. But if you want to change, there are some considerations that you may want to take into account when looking for a different putter. First, a player needs to find a putter that fits correctly in terms of the lie and length. Also, determine if an offset or non-offset model is better for you. Is a face balanced or toe balanced putter a better match for your stroke? Do you want a light putter or heavy one? These are some of the important decisions to make regarding putter selection. But in the end how the putter feels and even looks to your eye can greatly influence your ability to strike putts well.

Many times the change is mentally refreshing. Lets face it, if you think
you can putt better with a different putter, your stroke will be more relaxed and you no doubt will putt better.

Putter Can Help Off The Green
By Tom Gees

Most players feel they must be on the green to use a putter. But there are times when the putter is the best club from off the green. There is an old saying that sometimes your worst putt will be better than your best chip.

First, look how far you have to get to the green, what the contour and the soil are like and how far it is from the edge of the green to the flag. If it's a long shot, don’t use your putter. If the grass is long or wet, it might grab the ball and a wedge becomes a better choice. But if the shot is short and the ground smooth with shorter grass a putter might give you better control.

Avoid Golfing Patterns To Improve Overall Game
By Tom Gees

One of the more important strategies for playing well is to break yourself of creating a “playing pattern”. I write about this a lot, hoping to steer my students away from pigeon-holing themselves, and then going on to achieving all the bad images they develop for themselves.

Play one hole at a time. It takes awhile to learn how to do this. Be patient with yourself. It’s particularly difficult to apply this discipline at a resort or public course, but if you can do it at a private course, try playing the holes out of order, out of sequence, as shown on the scorecard. In other words, start on No. 4, then Play No. 5, then move over to No. 11, then play 16, then 3, then 18. Hopscotch all around the golf course. You will find that since there is no order, you have to play the holes one at a time. You can play great golf.

Round Review Can Remedy Trouble Spots
By Tom Gees

When a good player suddenly shoots a bad round, it is important to remember that one round does not constitute a pattern. If you shoot around 80 most of the time and you shoot a 92, something has obviously happened. What you need to do is sit down and calmly review the round.

You might find that you three-putted eight times, so you just didn't putt well today. Or you hit three balls out of bounds off the tee and you were playing with the club champion who hits the ball 30 yards farther than you. Did that have an adverse effect on your driving?

It's usually pretty easy for a good player to isolate a single problem and correct it once he/she breaks the round down and reviews it.

Perfect Practice, Not Just Practice
By Tom Gees

How many times have you heard it said, "The more your practice, the better the results." This is especially true with golf, but only when that practice is perfect practice. What does perfect practice mean? It requires much more than standing there hitting ball after ball. Learning how to practice is an art. You must acquire patience and concentrate on what you are doing and with time, you will see progress.

Most people have, at one time or another, worked on their game at the driving range. They have found it to be either very rewarding, or very discouraging.

When practicing on the range, always work with a purpose, whether it is just to loosen up before playing, or to work on an aspect of your swing which might be giving you problems. It is not the number of balls you hit that is important, but the way you hit the balls. Careless hitting without concentration does nothing but tire you out. It may even set up some bad habits. Jack Nicklaus once said that he has yet to hit a careless practice shot.

Shots hit on the range without thought lead to shots hit on the course in the same manner.

Perfect practice is not only physical exercise, but mental as well. It is better to hit only 30 shots and think about what you are doing than to hit several buckets of balls aimlessly. So, the next time you go to the practice tee to work on your game, remember---perfect practice, not just practice is what will improve your golfing skills.