The Recreational Golfer’s Video Tips

If you’ve been to my web site,, you might have browsed the Tips Index page and noticed the video tips I have posted. These videos explain in pictures what would be difficult to make clear in words.

You may receive notice of new video tips when it is posted by registering. It’s just a matter so sending me e-mail and you’ll be in the list.

My book, Better Recreational Golf, explained things in pictures where possible, but having a moving picture makes it even easier to see what to do and learn how to do it.

Please join the growing group of recreational golfers who are learning how to play the game better and have more fun.

My Move To a New Level in Golf

It recently became clear to me that for the past three years I have been on a plateau, improving in only the smallest steps, having reached the limit of my ability to improve based on my own work and having a lesson every now and then to patch up a hole.

My conception of golf had become used up. There was nowhere I could go because I didn’t know where there was to go, much less how to get there. I told my pro this. He said, I’ll take care of it.

Five weeks ago I had the first of a series of lessons that will change the way I play golf. The first two lessons were swing lessons, on two themes. First, visualize the shot and direct that visualization from the target back to the execution. This is the reverse of deciding the execution and projecting that forward to the target, the way most golfers play.

The second theme, related to the first and a way of realizing the first, is to work on the nine-shots drill: high draw, high straight, high fade; medium draw, medium straight, medium fade; low draw, low straight, low fade. I already hit some of these shots well. Others I couldn’t hit on a bet. But I worked on all of them, with every club in the bag. The only swing advice the pro gave me were hints on how to hit those shots, but he mainly let me figure it out myself.

Here’s what I learned. Some of these shots are easier to hit with short irons, and some are easier with long irons. The adjustments you have to make to turn the ball one way or the other are tiny–a matter of a few degrees. They are minute variations of the shot in the center, the medium straight shot.

What has happened after about a thousand balls is that my overall ball-striking has improved dramatically, and I can hit each of the nine shots on command most of the time. My sense of the visualization feeding back into my swing is starting to develop–this is a hard one–and at times it seems that to see it is to hit. Seeing the shot infuses into my body the means to hit it.

This is a distinct difference from the way I used to play, which was hit the ball and see what happens.

One more thing. The pro said he didn’t want me to play until this series of lessons was over. For five weeks I’ve just been hitting balls, developing my ball-striking skills and my mental imagery in tandem. I’ll keep you posted and let you know how things go my first time out.

One more thing, this time for sure. He also said that when I let loose of such a mechanical approach to the swing, I will start hitting the ball a lot farther. Two days ago I was hitting 8-irons. My normal carry distance is 132 yards with that club. These were landing beyond the 145-yard flag–cold balls that spent the night in sub-40s temperatures.  Oh, boy.


How to Hit a Controlled Fade

A fade is golf’s control shot. The ball rises up high, curves gracefully to the right, and falls gently down to the ground in the fairway or on the green. A draw gets you more distance, but it can easily get out of control and turn into a nasty hook. To keep the ball in play, hit a fade. Here are four ways to do it.

If you set up square and strike the ball squarely, the result will be a straight shot. To make the ball curve intentionally, you have to change something. To set up left-to-right spin, the clubface has to come into the ball ever so slightly open to the path of the club. For example, if the club is traveling from 3 o’clock to 9, the clubface, instead of facing 9, must be facing between 9 and 10.

1. The classic way to hit a fade is to change your setup. Aim yourself slightly to the left of the target and twirl the club in your hands so the clubface aces halfway between your aim point and the target. You have pre-set the club open to the swing path, so if you just make a square swing along your body line, the clubface will sweep into the ball open, and the left-to-right spin will be imparted.

2. Another way of hitting a fade is to set up completely square, and take the club away outside of your normal swing path. If you swing the club back down on this path, outside-to-in, the clubface will be facing directly at the target, but the club path will be to the left of that. The ball will start out left and come back in to the right.

3. A third way of hitting a fade is to set up to the left of the target, clubface square, and swing back on your normal swing path. The change happens as the club is on its way up. Over-rotate your left forearm clockwise as you swing back. This will open the clubface. Keep this rotation as long as you can on the way back down. The clubface will close again, there’s no preventing it, but there will not be enough time for the face to close all the way back to square. It remains open and left-to-right spin is once again imparted.

4. A fourth way is subtle, and is perhaps only for advanced players. Hold the club tighter than normal with the last three fingers of the left hand. Hold it very tightly, but not so much that your left forearm gets rigid. This will tend to lock your left wrist, preventing the club from closing at impact. The open clubface will give you the fade you’re looking for.

See also Curving the Ball to the Left or Right


Practice Making Pars

Up North, it’s getting wet already. Not much fun to play in a liquid atmosphere with squishy lies. Keep playing, though, and use the opportunity to improve.

Shun the regulation course and find an executive layout. Make sure you go out as a single, because you are going to be hitting a lot of mulligans. What you are going to do is par every hole before you move on to the next one.

First off, this method is for short game practice. You don’t get do-overs for tee shots and approach shots. Practice those on the range. So, after you have gotten the ball within 100 yards of the hole, drop a ball and hit it again if (a) your pitch doesn’t land and stop on the green, or (b) your chip doesn’t end up within 3 feet of the hole, (c) your bunker shot doesn’t get out, (d) your approach putt doesn’t finish within 2 feet of the hole, of (e) your second putt doesn’t go in. If you make all those corrections, you should end up scoring a par on every hole.

What you accomplished: You learned how to get a par and how to hit the shots you need to hit in order to do it. Those will be the short shots and putts. Now when you take you game to the big courses starting in March, you will have the skill and confidence it takes to play well around the greens and shoot the scores you deserve.


Odds and Ends

› One course you play on all the time you shoot your handicap consistently. Another course you play on from time to time you shoot five to ten strokes over your handicap. Guess which course you should be playing on if you want to improve?

› Play one round where you give up distance in order to hit shots that keep the ball constantly in play, for all 18 holes. You’ll have to hit something other than your driver on most holes, and play short of the green a number of times. You’ll have more fun and shoot a lower score, I promise you. The test is, will you play this way the next time out, or go back to your usual game?

› How to practice the mental game: Put a ball on the mat in front of you and take ten identical practice swings while you look at the ball, but without hitting it. After the tenth swing, step up to the ball without hesitation and hit it. Was that swing the same as the ten swings before? If not, practice this exercise until you’ve learned to stop letting the presence of a ball control your mind.

› Setup is grip, stance, alignment, posture, and ball position. If you aren’t pleased with the way you hit the ball, fix your setup before you start tinkering with your swing. If you hit the ball well but inconsistently it’s because your setup is inconsistent. Spend as much time practicing your setup as you do your swing. It’s that important.

› Those tips you read in the golf magazines? The ones that promise you more distance, cure your slice, fix your swing problem? They’re pure entertainment. Pay no attention to them. If your swing needs fixing, get a lesson.