The past two weeks we’ve talked about how a sharp short game can help you break 100 and practicing your 100-yard shot and in can help you break 90. So if you score regularly in 80s, what can you do with your golf game to help you break 80?
Chances are you are chasing that single-digit handicap goal and would like to break 80 on a regular basis. You have practiced and perfected your short game and hit greens in regulation (all tips to break 100 and 90). Now it’s time to dial in all your clubs – including your driver – so you are consistent and give yourself scoring chances.
The first thing to do is to know how far you hit and carry distance for each club. You can easily accomplish this through a club fitting or lesson from a PGA or LPGA Professional who can help you determine how far the ball goes with each club. Many club fitters and golf professional use Trackman, a launch monitor device that measures trajectory and distance. If that’s not available, use a GPS or laser range finder to determine your distances. If you find two clubs go the same distance, ask your club fitter or Professional to test the loft to make sure they aren’t the same – this can sometimes happen when the clubs are made – so make sure each club is a different loft. As we discussed last week, generally the loft difference between your irons should be 4° which will give you 10 yards of difference between clubs.
Also have your driver checked to make sure it’s best suited for your swing. Many people use higher lofts on drivers (10° to 12°) to maximize the loft and roll to get additional distance. While most people taking golf lessons always want more distance, it’s better to be accurate from the tee to keep your ball in play and avoid trouble. That allows you to have a swing for your approach shot rather than trying to get yourself back into play from an adjacent fairway or rough.
Knowing your iron distances and controlling your driver will help you play smarter and manage the course better, which equals lower scores, hopefully in the 70s.
Are you stuck in the 90s? Meaning you consistently break 100 but can’t seem to get into the 80’s. Last week we talked about focusing on practicing the short game – so chances are you are good at chipping, pitching and putting but can’t seem to crack the 90 barrier.
Just as in committing to practice your short game, the same holds true for trying to score in the 80s on a regular basis. You need to commit time to practicing – which may include a series of lessons with a PGA or LPGA Professional who will assist you in accomplishing your goals.
An easy way to determine what part of your game needs work is to simply keep track of the number of greens you hit in regulation. Chances are you hit less than half the greens in regulation, which causes you to take an extra shot around the green – thus turning your par into bogey or your bogey into a double bogey.
The best way to overcome missing greens is to figure out your 100-yard club and practice enough to really be consistent with that club. The general rule of thumb is each club should have four degrees of loft difference which equates to 10 yards. So if your 7-iron is your 100-yard club, you should hit your 8-iron 90 yards and a 9-iron 80 yards, etc. (The loft of the 7 iron should be about 34°, the 8 iron 37° and the 9 iron 41° so each four degrees of loft equals 10 yards). Also get a feel for your distance with a pitching wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge (depending on how many wedges you carry). Then as you get closer to the green, determine which clubs travel 30 to 50-yards if you use a half-swing.
Feeling comfortable with your mid to short irons will help you reach greens in regulation and cut down on multiple approach shots from missing the green. Many golfers miss the green because they don’t take enough club, so by practicing from 100-yards and in, you will know which club to use to hit more greens and be on your way to posting some scores in the 80s.
Many golfers have a stretch goal of breaking a specific score for golf – maybe that’s breaking 100, 90 or 80. Over the next three weeks, we’ll explore hints to help you break your milestone score goal.
As we have discussed in the past, the best way to lower your score is to sharpen and own your short game. Take time to carve out practice time to focus on your short game. Perhaps that’s taking your wedge or putter and really practicing – not just hitting a few balls and hitting some lag putts – but spending 30 to 60-minutes practicing your short game. Get a bucket of balls and practice the fundamentals of a good chip or pitch shot. Doing this repetitive motion will help you develop a smooth, consistent chip or pitch shot. This easily transitions to the golf course as you will have increased confidence when faced with this shot.
The same holds true with your putter. If you struggle to break 100 on a regular basis, chances are you have more than 36 putts per round (meaning that nasty three-putt enters your game more than you’d like.) Since the majority of your shots are around the green, take time to really practice and work on that part of your game. Many of us have played with a golfer who doesn’t hit a long ball from the tee, but they still make par or bogey because they have a sharp short game and don’t take extra shots on or around the green.
Keep track of your putts on your scorecard when you play. Assuming you will two-putt every hole, only write down the one-putts and three-putts. Try to have fewer than 36 putts per round.
Make sure you are reviewing the basics of a good putting stroke when practicing. Your eyes should be right over the ball and your stroke should be a smooth back and through motion, creating a consistent stroke. My favorite putting drill is to practice making 10 putts from one putter length away (usually your putter is 33” to 36” inches long) so this is an easy three foot distance putt to practice. If you miss a putt, you have to start over until you can make seven, eight, nine or ten putts in a row. Once you do that you move to two putter lengths (or roughly six feet away) and try to make another seven, eight, nine or ten putts in a row from that distance. If you miss a putt, go back to the three foot putt until you hole consecutive putts from that range, before moving back to the six foot range. You will be amazed at how much confidence you have in making a three-foot putt after practicing this drill.
If your goal is to two-putt every green, you now have the confidence to stroke your first putt within a three foot circle of the hole, knowing you can make that three foot putt. Of course, the goal with chipping or pitching is to hit that ball within that same three foot circle, to set yourself up for some one-putt greens.
Practicing your short game with solid chips and putts will have you on your way to breaking 100.
Most golfers are used to playing stroke play – where you play your own ball and count your strokes. An alternative format is Match Play – where you are playing head-to-head with another golfer, rather than playing stroke play against an entire field. While both formats require the same skills, Match Play offers a unique type of strategy since the Rules are slightly different from stroke play.
The most common differences are the ability to concede putts thereby allowing your opponent to not have to hole out every putt. Other unique Rules in stoke play have a one or two stroke penalty whereas Match Play the penalty is loss of hole (since the format of play that is scored in a hole-by-hole competition.)
The following are some strategies you may elect to use when playing Match Play against an opponent or you and a partner may use if playing a team Match Play event:
Be first on the tee – the obvious reason of playing first from the tee means you have the honor for having won the previous hole. Secondly, by playing first, you set the tone for the hole and have a slight advantage – if you hit a booming tee shot, your opponent will feel the pressure to “keep up.”
Get off to a fast start – set the tone for the match by trying to play well right away at the first hole. If you are successful and win multiple holes early in the match, you may close out your opponent early and not have to play all 18 holes.
Play your game by maintaining your usual pace of play. If you like to play quickly, don’t let a slower player bother you and get you out of your comfort zone. If the opposite is true and you are playing with someone much faster than you like to play, go with your normal routine so you don’t feel rushed (but still be cognizant of keeping pace.)
Play smart and play to your strengths. During an important match is not the time to try to carry the 40-yard water hazard from 200 yards away. Know your shot strengths and always think ahead – play the shot to layup short of the hazard, hit the next shot on the green and think two-putts for par or bogey. If your opponent hits in the water, you now have an advantage by playing smart and knowing the strengths of your game.
Watch your opponent. If she changes her pre-shot routine, chances are she is feeling some pressure. Since match play involves mental toughness, watch for any changes that allow you to have an advantage.
Utilize your partner. If you are playing in a team event with a partner, take advantage of each other. If one of you has a bad hole, pick up the ball and move to the next hole. You may help each other read putts and talk about your strategy. It may help you feel calmer by having a partner to talk with rather than having very little conversation with an opponent.
Be cautious conceding putts – one nice element of the match play format is the ability to concede putts. As a player, go into your match planning to hole every putt. With that mindset, you will be pleased when your opponent offers a conceded putt. Be careful when giving your opponent a conceded putt. If you continually give putts (especially early in the round), the opponent may expect that you will continue to concede putts. A great strategy is to give a few putts early in the round, then make the opponent hole all putts as the round continues. A missed putt could make a difference in the outcome of the match so keep that in mind when conceding putts.
By knowing some simple match play strategies and trying them during your next match, you may be able to win your match.
In a few weeks, the eight EWGA Cup Regional Qualifiers will take place at six venues nationwide in the month of September. Four teams from each Regional Qualifier will advance to the EWGA Cup Finals at the Westin Mission Hills Resort on November 11-12 in Rancho Mirage, California. As you are getting ready for the Regional Qualifiers, here are some important Match Play Rules to remember as you prepare for competition.
Match Play: Match Play is a format of play that is scored in a hole-by-hole competition. The side that holes its ball in fewer strokes than its opponent wins that particular hole. In a handicap competition, the side with the lowest net score wins the hole.
Winning: The side that wins the most holes, wins the match. When a side has won more holes than there are holes remaining, the match has been won. Therefore a match can be won before all 18 holes have been played. For example, if you win the first 10 holes, you’ve won the match because there are only 8 holes left to play.
In The EWGA Cup, each winning match is awarded 1 point toward the team total and halved matches are awarded ½ a point.
Format: Team event comprised of 18 holes of Four-Ball on Day 1 and 18 holes of Singles on Day 2. 100% Handicaps will be used to determine the number of strokes a player gives or receives for a match.
Match Play Terms:
Status of a Match: The status of a match is expressed relationally. Match play scoring does not indicate the number of holes won by a player, but rather how many more holes than his opponent a golfer has won.
Scores: "Up" indicates that a side is winning by a number of holes and "down" indicates that a side is losing by a number of holes.
If the final score is “1-up” it means the match went the full 18 holes with the winner finishing with one more hole won that the opponent.
If the score is 3 and 2, it means the winner was determined before reaching the 18th hole. It means the winner was three holes ahead with two holes to play (so the match ended on hole #16).
If the score is “2-up” it means the match went dormie with one hole to play – the leader was 1-up with one hole to play and the leader of the match won the 18 hole to end “2-up.”
If the score is “4 and 2” it means the winner took the match dormie with 3 holes to play, (3 up with 3 holes to play) then won the next hole for a final score of 4 and 2.
Halved Hole: A halved hole occurs when opponents score the same on a specific hole. The opponents are said to have "halved" the hole and the status of the match remains the same.
Dormie: A match is said to be dormie when a side has won as many holes as the number of holes remaining to be played, i.e. 3 up with 3 to play. The worst the leading team can do at this point is tie (by losing all the remaining holes).
All Square: A scoring term that indicates a match that is tied.
Conceded Putts: In match play, conceded putts are allowed. Your opponent may concede a putt at any time, whether it’s close to the hole or not. Conceded putts should only be offered, not requested.
Fellow-Competitor vs. Opponent: When playing in stroke play, the people in your group are your “fellow-competitors” while in match play, the golfer you are playing against is your “opponent.”
Loss of Hole: Many penalties in stroke play are two stroke penalties, however, in match play the penalty is usually loss of hole.
Next week we’ll look at some Rules specific to Match Play and some strategies.
Back in 2009, the International Olympic Committee voted to re-introduce golf as an Olympic sport back into 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympic games. The 2016 Summer Olympics are being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the first time in 116 years for the women and 112 years for the men.
A total of 60 players from 41 nations qualified for the men’s and women’s events based on International Golf Federation rankings. While some male players who qualified elected not to attend and compete, many female players are excited to participate to help generate more interest in women’s golf. Team USA for the women will be represented by Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller with most of the Top 10 World Ranking females also participating, including #1 Lydia Ko, #2 Brooke Henderson and #3 Inbee Park.
The women will compete Wednesday, August 17 through Saturday, August 20. Follow coverage on Golf Channel at 6:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday through Friday and at 6 a.m. EDT on Saturday.
The event takes place at the Olympic Golf Course at the Reserva de Marapendi in the Barra da Tijuca zone, designed by golf course designer Gil Hanse, with assistance from World Golf Hall of Famer Amy Alcott. The format will be a 72-hole individual stroke play competition. Since it’s an individual rather than a team competition, in the event of a tie for first, second or third place, there will be a play-off to determine the gold, silver and bronze medal winner.
The men played last week and the gold, silver and bronze medals went to Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar. Team USA was represented on the men’s side by bronze medal winner Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed. Other notables in the field included Sergio Garcia and 2016 Masters Champion Danny Willett.
The course will become a public facility after the games and the hope is it will be used to welcome new golfers to the game in Brazil and grow the game in South America.
Good luck to Team USA – bring home some medals!
We are nearly half way through the 15 EWGA Semi-Finals, with eight more scheduled to take place this month. Winners from all flights in all 15 Semi-Finals will advance to the EWGA Championship Finals at Lansdowne Resort on October 14-15 in Leesburg, Virginia. Whether you are gearing up for the EWGA District Semi-Final or the EWGA Championship, here are some important things to keep in mind as your prepare for competition.
· Play a practice round, especially if it’s a new course for you. You will get a feel for any trouble on the course, can check out hazard locations and determine clubs for yardages on the par 3’s. Be sure to take notes on a spare scorecard – and make sure the notes are in your golf bag on the day of competition.
· Practice with your driver and putter. It’s great to have confidence going into a competition and the best way to maintain your confidence is to practice and feel comfortable with your driver and short game. You are likely to use the driver 12-14 times in a round so feeling good about your tee shot is important. Likewise, if you two putt every green, you use your putter for 36 (plus or minus) shots of your score. Confidence in your putter is a must.
· Plan your arrival time for the day of competition. Plan to be on the first tee 10-minutes prior to your tee time. Now work your schedule back from that tee time – allow 30-45 minutes for warm-up, allow 10-15 minutes to check-in, then allow travel time to the course (take traffic into consideration) and finally, allow time to eat prior to leaving for the course.
· Use warm-up time well. The warm-up time at the practice facility is just that – to help you warm-up. This is not the time to try something new with your swing, grip, stance, etc. Many players will warm-up with four or five clubs and only hit 5-10 balls with each club. Divide your practice balls into four or five piles – using one pile per club. Begin with a wedge or your shortest iron to loosen up, then hit some mid or long irons, some hybrids or fairway woods then finish with the driver. Some golfers like to end the warm-up session hitting the clubs they might use on the first hole (i.e. driver, 7 iron, wedge, etc.) Be sure to end with a good shot…this will help you take great confidence to the first tee.
· Short game warm-up. On the practice putting green, begin by trying to make five to ten 3’ putts. This will help build your confidence with making 3’ putts once you are on the course. You may hit a few lag putts (20’ – 30’) to get a feel for the speed on the greens – but remember some practice greens do not putt like the actual greens on the course. You may also hit some pitch shots and/or bunker shots, if a pitching green is available. Some courses do not allow golfers to pitch/chip to the practice putting green.
· Nerves and the pre-shot routine. It’s natural to be nervous on the first tee or even during the first few holes of a tournament. Relax by taking deep breaths and concentrating on your pre-shot routine. Keeping things the same with your swing and pre-shot routine will help calm you down and settle into your round. Don’t let a pre-shot routine slow your round down – be ready when it’s your turn and play “ready golf” if allowed.
· Eat well and stay hydrated. Be sure to start your round properly fueled – eat a good meal (don’t skip breakfast or lunch). Maintain your blood sugar by eating simple carbs, small snacks like nuts, fruit or other healthful snacks. Avoid complex carbs and sugar snacks. A general rule is to drink 16 oz. of water per hour and to begin by drinking water before playing. Avoid alcohol, soda, sports’ drinks and fruit juices.
· Be a good competitor. Know the rules and conditions of the competition. Compliment others on good shots, chips and putts. Be friendly and willing to help look for a lost golf ball, if needed. Talk and have fun as it will help the entire group relax.
· If you are a first time competitor. You will probably be nervous but relax and enjoy yourself. Stay focused and try to play your own game. Concentrate on your round and don’t let the elements of the day bother you. It’s an opportunity for you to play the game you love in a competitive format.
· It’s just a game. Regardless of how you play or what score you shoot, remember it’s just a game. Like everyone else, you want to get the ball in the hole in the fewest number of strokes. Some days this is easy, other days golf becomes hard work. While we all want to play our best, remember golf is a game. Days, weeks and months later, no one will remember your score. Play golf to have fun and you will continue to love this great game – regardless of the outcome!