GolfWorld magazine had an equipment article recently in which they asked what would equipment be like if there were no rules restrictions. One of the rules is a limit of 14 clubs. Which additional clubs would pros carry if there were no limit?
A second driver, a second (stronger) 3-wood, a 5- or 6-hybrid for out of the rough, a second putter, you could figure this. But they also mentioned a chipper. This is a club intended solely for making greenside chips, where the ball lies just a few feet off the green. You know, the shot you hit with five different clubs, depending, and chili-dip with each one.
My brother-in-law gave me a Ray Cook chipper about five or six years ago and it’s sat in my basement the whole time. Sissy club. Real men chip with irons. But the article got me thinking. So took this chipper to the range and once I learned how to hit it, I had magic hands.
Time after time, right next to the hole. Three feet away was a miss. It hasn’t let me down on the course, either. Up and down is almost a given from the edge of the green now.
I took out my 21-degree hybrid to make room for it. I hit that club maybe twice a round, just to eat up yards. I hit the chipper five times a round to get pars. Good trade.
Bobby Jones played with 15 clubs in his bag (there was no limit back then). Guess what the fifteenth club was? A 30-degree run-up club, with about the loft of a 4-iron. Just a word to the wise.
Yogi Berra said you can observe a lot just by watching. It’s a funny comment, but there’s a heavy element of truth in it. You can learn a lot about the short game by watching the pros on TV, provided you know what to look for.
First, look at their setup. With the right setup, the shot is halfway hit. Where do they place the ball–up, center, back? Is the clubface open to any degree? Are they leaning toward the target a bit? Is the stance square or open? Where are the feet pointing? How much knee bend is there? Are their hands even with the ball or ahead of it?
Watch the backswing. Does the club stay low, or is it allowed to swing up? Do the wrists break or not? How much longer or shorter is the backswing than you might expect, given the distance between the ball and the hole?
Impact happens too fast see carefully, but the follow-through is telling. How much of a follow-through is there? Does the club stay low? Is there any wrist break?
Finally, watch the flight of the ball–distance in the air, distance on the ground, how quickly the ball stops. This tells you what the other things you noticed were trying to accomplish.
Before you leave home to play next time, spend three minutes watching this video clip over and over. Do it with the sound turned off so you can concentrate on the image. Absorb the feeling of ease and economy of movement turning into graceful, unforced power. Then go out with that feeling and play your best.
You might be confused about golf balls. I’ll clear it up for you. Golf balls are not created equal. There’s a right ball for you, regardless of your skill. The right ball will make the game easier and save you a stroke or two.
The first decision is price. A mid-range ball in the $25-30 per dozen price range will suit most recreational golfers. Look here first. Most premium balls are designed for players with much higher swing speeds than you have. The advantages it offers will not be available to you. Remember that no one cares what ball you play. They only pay attention to what score you shoot with it.
If performance around the greens is important, you want a Tour ball. A pro shop should let you take a sleeve of several brands to the practice green and try a few shots. When you find the one that gives you results that make your eyes light up, there’s your ball.
If distance is important, get a fitting in front of a launch monitor. The pro will give you several different brands to try so that you get optimal launch characteristics given your swing and the clubs you use, especially your driver.
Finally, don’t be influenced by brand preference. The ball that’s right for you might be made by a different manufacturer than you’re used to.
Of course you can play with any ball, but to get the most out of your game, get the right one.
Winter is over. Maybe you hit some balls in the last few months, maybe you took a few swings in the house. Unless you kept playing as often as you did last summer, I can pretty much promise that you won’t go right back to that same swing. That your putting will be a little bit off (and all it takes is a little bit for you to miss the ones you used to make). Short game? The part of the game based on feel and finesse? Gone.
So hitting the range is a good idea, and I’m sure you’re doing that. But think hard about having a few lessons to get you on the right track from the start. Why?
Because over a few months of little or no activity you’ve lost what the good swing you had feels like. You might think you’re swinging the same way, but odds are you’re not. You can’t figure out why, but the pro will spot it in a second.
Even if you are hitting the ball well, a lesson will remind of why. It will give you the means of correcting yourself when your swing goes south during the round.
Then there’s the part where you might learn something you didn’t know before, that will help you play better.
Get a lesson. Get several. One for your swing, one for chipping, one for putting. Lessons are the best investment you can make in your golf game.
Being a good green reader means entering into a partnership with the green. Instead of seeing the green as an adversary, an obstacle course that you have to navigate to get the ball into a tiny hole, look at the green as a helper that’s showing you exactly where and how firmly the ball should be sent off. Thinking outside yourself like this makes putting much less stressful. It will let you see clearly how to hit this putt.
So think not how am I going to sink this putt, but how are we going to sink this putt. You do your part, the green does its part. Your part is to start the putt with the right speed on the right line so the green can carry the ball to the hole. Give the green what it needs to work with so it can do its job.