Fixing What's Broke
When I was a young golfer, my father's consistent words of wisdom about my golf game went something like, "There's nothing wrong that another 5,000 practice balls won't fix." I think that was his interpretation of Mr. Hogan's famous advice that "the secret is in the dirt, and you have to dig it out for yourself."

I didn't have to do it all alone, fortunately, as my father was a very good player who was most helpful, and we had a wonderful golf professional at our little 9-hole course who loved working with all of us kids. Carl "Swede" Gustafson was tough as nails when he needed to be, and gentle as a pony when that was called for. He nurtured our love of the game, taught us fundamentals and created drills for us to really learn how to execute various shots.

So, the point of all this is that as we enter another golf season, maybe we should reflect on what shots caused us the most grief this past year, and make those our focus for early season work. I know it is fun to head to the range and make lots of full swings, and pound drivers to see the ball rocket off into the distance. But is that what really caused your higher scores last year?

Or was it that your chipping wasn't as sharp as it could have been? Your pitch shots weren't ending up close enough to the hole? Bunker woes? Or you just weren't making enough putts? Maybe you didn't hit enough greens from short- and mid-iron approach range. But I assure you that if you really analyze your golf last season, you can isolate two or three things that could really improve your scoring in 2014.

And those are the pieces of your game that should get overtime practice duty early this year.

For me, it's my scoring game – chipping, bunker play, and putting. So that's where I'm going to focus my work sessions. Starting yesterday, I spent an hour around the practice green hitting short chips and pitch shots. With a dozen balls, I worked my way around the green to give me all kinds of looks and all kinds of shot options. I worked on tempo, rhythm, set up and posture, grip pressure — all the basics. To me, yes — it is kind of boring, as I love the range as much as anyone. But if this handicap is going to come down this year, it will be because I'm better around and on the greens.

And I'm taking this routine to my pre-round sessions. Instead of pounding a bag of balls, I'm going to stretch, swing a couple of clubs to warm up, hit 15-20 balls with full swings... then spend about 20 minutes around the practice green and bunker.

What are you going to fix first?
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[ comments ]
Torleif Sorenson says:
Two-part answer: When I was in high school, I received some very incompetent instruction from a math teacher about my grip, which later resulted in a consistent slice. 5,000 practice balls would have fixed nothing there; it was competent instruction from a PGA of America teaching professional that fixed that problem.
mjaber says:
@Tor... if it's consistent, it can be played. :)
Torleif Sorenson says:
Part Two of my answer: This year, it is mostly about getting out to play. Last year, a *very* late winter, a broken chariot all summer, and an empty wallet held me back. Having said that, when I *did* get out, I was in the practice bunker trying to make heads and tails of a balky set of short irons. Nothing got solved, but that 65-minute short game session was still entirely useful. My full swing is in reasonable shape; it is my short game that desperately needs help. (My Hogan Edge irons from ca.1989 are also proving to be inconsistent.)

Back in 2007, an aspiring PGA of America teaching apprentice (since deceased) gave me a five-minute lesson one day that was extremely helpful on two fronts with the full swing. I will always be grateful to Ben because his advice worked, and it *still* works.
jasonfish11 says:
The big thing for me a s chipping it closer, iron play (got a scor wedge yesterday to help lower ball flight I hope), and putting it in the fairway.

And stopping the yipps.

So everything.
GBogey says:
Fundamentally I need to be better off the tee, whether it be Driver or 3W. It's not just missed fairways, but the severity of the misses. The other issue is that mentally I find it tougher to stay upbeat when you keep missing tee shots.

Other than that, the problem is keeping all parts of the game in sync at the same time. For example, my most recent playing and range sessions my irons have been great, but my hybrids, which are the bedrock of my game have been a little shaky. Would be great for both to work at the same time.
Duke of Hazards says:
Same as you, wedge man.
DougE says:
I've said it before, golf sometimes reminds me of that "Kill the Mole" game at a carnival where the moles pop up from all over the board and you have to try to hit each with a hammer to knock them back down before another one pops up from somewhere else on the board. It is analogous to golf in that trying to keep all the bad areas of your game under control is an ongoing battle. If it's not one thing, it's another. If it's not one mole popping up from a hole front right, it's another popping up from a hole back left. Spend too much time working on one problem and something else starts to fail. I have my short game under control, but I have moles everywhere in other parts of my game.
onedollarwed says:
There are two major areas which, if improved, will help me enjoy the game more... and score better. Driver, full shots, chips and putts, fine. Decision making? Terrible. I can pull off risky shots, shape the ball, etc. but often miss very obvious things like: yardage adjustments, avoiding easy trouble, and playing my shots. I'm often just trying to make shots I don't need to make.
Otherwise, from 8-iron in I need to know my distances better. New Scor clubs will require some logging of distances. All the methods that have been mentioned here are not something I've been able to do: laser, launch monitors, on-course practice. At the local ranges, it's either windy, up or downhill, not lined up. How do I trust it? If anyone can chime in on a good method, go ahead.
joe jones says:
In chipping and putting I concentrate on distance control. Line is important but I usually trust my line. My practice routine. With putts I play a game called edges. From anywhere on the green I pick out a spot to putt to and try to come as close to the edge as possible.Again if its off line by 1 or 2 ft so what. With chipping I use one club ( any club you are comfortable with). I hit three types of shots. Low runner,get it on the green asap and let it run to the hole. A slightly higher shot with spin so it can check up. and a higher cut shot as though I am trying to hit over a hazard (trap) I can control each shot with ball position, hand position and opening or closing the face. I usually spend about one hour day twice a week. This system seems best for me.
Mr_X says:
My drive is my first area that needs real repair. Last year the driving range at my home course was closed. (The course installed new drainage tanks under the range.) Without a regular range to hit full swings and watch the ball flight my drives suffered.
mschad says:
Mine is a consistant/groved swing. My inconsistant swing creeps into all aspects of my game. When I swing correctly I make great contact and the ball goes basically where I intend it too. But many times I don't get the proper shoulder turn and get to armsy. Usually resulting in a fat or pulled shot. Need to ingrain, ingrain, ingrain the swing.
golfnpoker says:
putting ( keeping my stupid head down longer). chipping, more visualization on where I will land the ball, and at what trajectory. I got lazy lately and ended up with way more 5-6 footers and not enough leaners.
Gaddiel says:
Like most other high handicappers, the issue that costs me the most strokes is inconsistent ball-striking. Fat, thin, toe, shank, you name it. This leads to penalty strokes and loss of hair. It's back to basics for me...
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