Hours: 8am to 10pm

Develop a Strategy

 

We’ve talked about course management and how to approach getting out of trouble on the golf course. However, the assumption may have been made that you knew the golf course. What if you’re playing a course you don’t know? Does this change your strategy?

As I start the 2016-2017 golf season with my team, this typically comes up with the newcomers. School comes first for the ladies on the team, and this means they don’t always have time to play courses before we qualify on those courses. I aim to provide them with a strategy for managing golf courses, sight unseen.

Check at the pro shop for any yardage book or course guides they may have. Often golf courses even have hole by hole descriptions and pictures online. Even a map on a score card can be helpful. These will all help you know where water and hazards are that you may not see from the tee box and/or fairway.

No map or yardage book? If you’re riding, use the golf cart to your advantage and drive further up the hole so you can see what’s ahead. Walking? Use the terrain to your advantage. Seek a high point and walk to the top so you can see what’s awaiting you.

 

Every golf course has fairways and greens. The obvious advice is to hit both of those and you’ll score well! Realistically, you’re probably going to miss several of both. Before the round starts develop a game plan. Think back to previous rounds. Where do you typically loose strokes? Are you inaccurate off the tee with driver? Make your game plan to hit 3 wood or hybrid off the tee to ensure you stay in the fairway. Maybe you find yourself with several difficult chips because you missed the green on the same side as the pin location? Your game plan should be to play to the center of every green. This is a good game plan in general!

Another important factor to consider is the speed of the greens. Most people who play golf will spend more time on the range warming up compared to the practice putting green. However, the biggest variable between golf courses is the speed of the greens! Commit to spend more time learning the speed of the greens and you’re sure to eliminate a few strokes.

 

There are a few ways to hone in on green speed with your warm up. One of my favorites is to putt lag putts 25 feet and longer while looking at the hole. This helps develop a reactive feel for the green speed. Think of this as throwing a ball to another person. You don’t think about how hard to throw it, you simply look and make the toss. Another great drill is to putt to the fringe. The goal is to get the ball to nestle up as close to the edge of the fringe as possible without rolling through the green. Again, this is helping you zero in on the unique speed of the greens you’re about to play on the course.

These tips and strategies are also useful when you’re playing your home course too, especially learning green speed. Day to day weather conditions and mowing/rolling of the greens can change the speed of the greens overnight.

I hope your new strategy serves you well. Stick with it, even if it’s not working right away. Too often we are quick to judge if something works by a few swings, and then the moment we have a bad one we throw it out the window. Golf is a game of consistency. Develop a strategy, stick with it, and watch your scores plummet!

 

Fairways and Greens,

Coach Rachael

Golf Fitness

Picture courtesy of mytpi.com
Picture courtesy of mytpi.com

How long does it take you to get loose on the range? Have you ever been playing well, only to run out of energy on the last few holes? My best advice is to incorporate more intentional exercise into your daily routine. There are even golf specific fitness programs available.

If you’re just starting and a little intimidated about working out, start with a low intensity activity like walking or biking. You can make it more challenging by walking hills too. Ideally you want your pace fast enough to where it’s difficult to speak a full sentence without getting short of breath. Cardio-respiratory exercise, aka “cardio,” will help your endurance on the golf course, specifically, at the end of your round.

What about weight training? If I want to hit the ball further, I need to do weight training right? Well, that’s a complicated answer. Eventually, yes, you will need to incorporate weight training, but first you need to work on maximizing your body’s potential. If your golf professional is asking you to turn into your hip, and you don’t have the mobility to do so, it won’t matter how strong you are. Check out mytpi.com. There are drills and exercises designed to target specific swing flaws and physical limitations. If you’re really looking to take your game to the next level, use the “find an expert” link to locate a TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified instructor near you. He/she will put you through a series of tests to pin point your weakest areas among balance, flexibility, mobility, stability, and strength. An individualized fitness plan is typically generated for you to complete on your own in conjunction with golf lessons.

Yoga. If you do just one thing make it this. Yoga incorporates so many skills related to golf, I can’t recommend it enough! While practicing yoga you’ll be working on your core strength, upper body strength, lower body strength, balance, stability, mobility, flexibility, and proper breathing. Heed this warning: Yoga is more than just stretching and you’ll be shocked at how sore you are afterwards. Make sure to drink lots of water afterwards to help prevent excessive soreness.

Good luck in your golf fitness journey, and remember that doing something is better than nothing. Everyone started as a beginner at one point. Jump in and have fun with it!

Fairways and Greens,
Coach Rachael

Bump and Run

 

Jim Furyk explains the bump and run set-up.
Jim Furyk explains the bump and run set-up.

“I practice my short game too much!” said no golfer, ever.

It’s a personal mission of mine to tell everyone who asks for my golf advice to go to the driving range less. “Wait, so you’re telling me to practice less?” No, I’m not suggesting less practice. I am telling you that practicing your short game will have a greater impact on lowering your stroke average compared to hitting a large bucket of balls.

This week’s blog is going to focus on chipping. Specifically, the bump and run.

Too often I see men and women who play golf add 2 or 3 strokes to their score simply because of a bad chip or two. It’s usually a combination of poor set up and technique, club selection, and tempo.

Professional golfers and elite amateurs will often use one club, usually a 58 or 60 degree wedge, from everywhere around the green. However, it’s important to understand that they are manipulating the club, ball position, and angle of attack on the ball to meet the demands of the shot. So in a way, they are really using many different “clubs.” I would recommend that most amateur and recreational golfers use at least 3 different clubs around the green.

Let’s take a look at the general set up for a bump and run. This set up will help you generate over spin on the golf ball, much like a putt. You will use this set up when you have more green to cover than fringe.

  1. Ball is in the back of your stance (towards your right foot if you’re right handed)
  2. Hands are in front of the ball
  3. Stance is slightly open (left foot is behind right foot if you’re right handed)
  4. Weight favors your front foot

From this setup, you swing your arms much like a putt. There should be no wrist movement during the swing and accelerate through impact. The ball should come off the club low and get to the ground quickly. A general rule for a bump and run is one third carry, two thirds roll. The club you use will have an effect on how the ball reacts on the first bounce. If you use a higher lofted wedge, you can expect the ball to “check” and then release some, but if you use an 8 iron, the first bounce will be forward. I like to have players practice the same bump and run with 3 different clubs: sand wedge, gap wedge, and pitching wedge (or a lower iron, i.e. 8 or 9).  This helps you learn how the ball will react with each club and helps develop soft touch for around the greens.

Hitting bump and run chips with a pitching wedge or 8/9 iron is simpler. The set-up, combined with the design of the club, provides the best scenario for a good outcome for the average golfer. A high lofted sand wedge is designed to get the ball airborne. In the bump and run we don’t want this. When we de-loft a sand wedge to get the trajectory we desire, we expose the leading edge of the club. Without the proper amount of time practicing, this will likely lead to chunked and skulled chips. However, a pitching wedge and/or an 8/9 iron has a thicker sole and less prominent leading edge, lending to a more forgiving outcome in the event of a poorly hit chip.

Many golfers using a sand wedge around the green become frustrated because one time the ball will check up and then the next it will release. There are numerous factors effecting this, and for the average golfer, it’s simpler to eliminate the uncertainty by using a pitching wedge and/or 8/9 iron. Now you can predict the behavior of the golf ball once it hits the green, knowing it will release forward every time. Keep in mind this is for a flat bump and run. If the chip is up or down hill you will need to adjust your landing spot.

This leads to the next key aspect of hitting good chips: picking your landing spot. I’ll bet most of the time when you stand over your ball and glance back towards your target, your eyes end on the hole. This will likely result in hitting the chip too far. Let’s look at throwing a ball as an analogy. When you are playing catch, you look at the person intending to catch the ball, and then based on your visual judgement of the distance you apply a certain amount of force to throw the ball that distance. Typically, you make the correct distance judgement and the catch is made. Now, if we apply this to our chip, can you see why you may hit the chip too far if you look at the hole? Remember, for our bump and run we want one third carry and two thirds roll. Instead of looking at where you want the ball to end up, look at where you want the ball to land.

These simple adjustments will help you get your chips consistently closer to the hole, leading to more up and downs, and ultimately lower scores!

Check out this short video, and let Jim Furyk explain the bump and run to you!

Fairways and Greens,

Coach Rachael

Staying Hydrated

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 6.41.58 PM
5 day forecast according to Weather.com

Have you seen the forecast for this week?! We’re going to break into the 100s it looks like! Thinking about hitting the links in the heat? If so, make sure you take the proper steps to stay healthy.

Let’s talk hydration. Golf is a social sport and is often paired with drinking alcohol for of age participants. With extreme heat in the forecast, it is not advisable to consume alcohol as it dehydrates you faster. If you’re looking to really improve your performance long term, keep the beer in the clubhouse, regardless of the temperature. Water is the gold standard for hydration. Pop (yes, I call it pop) is full of caffeine, which will also dehydrate you. Not to mention the excessive amounts of sugar. A low calorie sport drink is okay, but I would stick with just one per round of 18. After that, keep chugging the water.

There are two types of heat exhaustion, according to Webmd.com: water depletion and salt depletion. Symptoms include: confusion, dark-colored urine (dehydration), dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, muscle or abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pale skin, profuse sweating, and rapid heartbeat. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, a very serious medical condition. If you think you or a playing partner may be suffering from heat exhaustion, get out of the heat and take measures to cool your body down. Webmd.com recommends drinking plenty of fluids (mainly water), remove any tight or unnecessary clothing, take a cool shower/bath, and apply other cooling measures such as fans or ice towels.

Many of these recommendations are also good advice for preventing heat exhaustion. I can’t say it enough, keep drinking water! Also, seek shade when it’s not your turn to hit. It’s also helpful to keep a cool wet towel around your neck. Many golf carts have coolers on them, throw your towel in the ice and have easy access to a quick cool down.

Seek medical attention if your symptoms don’t improve or you are unsure of anything. It’s always better to be on the safe side. Remember to protect your skin too. Apply sunscreen before the round and at the turn. Wear a hat and sunglasses to further protect your face.

Here’s to career low rounds in record high heat this week! Cheers (with water of course)!!

Fairways and Greens,

Coach Rachael

Course Management 101

 

 

Did you hit the links a few times over the Fourth of July holiday weekend? You’d think with a career focused on golf I would get to play all the time. Sadly, I do not, and I’ll bet your local golf pro doesn’t either. However, I bet when he/she does get the chance to play they somehow manage to still score pretty well. “How is this!?” you ask puzzled. “I rarely see him/her on the range or putting green. How is he/she still so good?!”

The simple answer: course/game management.

(I’m also a firm believer that being around the game and teaching it makes you better as well.)

Seasoned players manage their games with a balance between conservative and aggressive play. An easy way to help make a sound decision on the golf course is to ask yourself “Can I hit this shot successfully 8 out of 10 times?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then go for it! However, if you hesitate, even for a second, you’re probably about to cause more trouble for yourself.

Let’s look at some scenarios to help paint this picture.

Poor course management:

You’ve just hit your drive right into trees on a moderate length par 4. You’re about 180 yards to the green. Annoyed, you rush over to find your ball, grabbing your 5 iron prepared to punch out towards the green. You take a couple of practice swings, glance at the hole, and then pull the trigger on the shot. CLANG!!! Uggghhh…. The familiar sound of the golf ball striking solid wood. Your eyes dart in all directions trying to see where the tree spit your ball, just as you see a streak of white. “Great,” you think to yourself, “I’m even further in the trees now.” At this point you decide to just take your medicine and chip out laterally. You grab a wedge and swing away. Only, you miss judged the distance and hit it through the fairway and into a bunker. Now you have a long fairway bunker shot. The shot from the bunker comes out a little heavy and ends up well short of the green. You’re laying 4. Then you knock it onto the green, but well past the pin, leaving a tricky downhill putt. You 3 putt and walk off the hole with a 7, triple bogey.

Whew that was exhausting. Let’s look at the same scenario, but using our check list from Dr. Mo.

Good course management:

You missed your drive into the right trees on a moderate length par 4. You find your ball and slowly approach it.  Without a club in hand you take a look at your options. You look in all directions to determine the best possible shot to put you back in position to score. You determine you have about 180 yards to the green. You have a lot of confidence in your wedges and tell yourself, “Just try and get it inside 120.” You don’t have much of an opening directly at the green, but you can still advance it forward keeping it low. You decide a 5 iron is the right club. As you’re taking practice swings you check what is through and long of your target line. There’s a bunker that you need to make sure you stay short of with your punch shot. Then as you stand behind the ball, you pick a specific target/landing area and zero in on it as you walk into the shot. You glace back to that landing area two more times before you hit. You hear the sound of your club striking the ball, and that’s the only clang you hear as the ball skims the ground avoiding all the tree branches coming to rest in the fairway. You’re bummed you couldn’t pull off the hero shot to get to the green but know you can put it on the green from here and have a putt for 4. You’ve left yourself a good distance, hit the shot on the green, and roll a good putt, just missing the hole. You tap in for a 5.

The second scenario saved you 2 shots. Who wouldn’t like to save 2 shots per round, let alone on just 1 hole!?

Course management is more than just getting out of trouble. It’s putting yourself in the best possible position to score. Here are some of the more overlooked situations in my opinion:

  1. Tee shot placement. Know the direction of the hole before you tee off. Does the fairway slope one direction? Does being on one side of the fairway provide a better angle to the green? Is it a short hole, if so, is driver necessary?
  2. Check the pin location before you hit your approach shot. If the pin is in the back of the green, you don’t need to fly it all the way to the hole. Missing long would be an unforced error in this case. Same is true for a left/right pin. Missing on the same side as the pin leaves you with a tough up and down. Pick targets that will leave you in a spot you know you can two putt or get up and down from every time.
  3. Know your true carry distances. We all like to think we hit the ball farther than we do. Knowing exactly how far you carry each club will help you make better club selections. Get really good with knowing your touch yardages too.
  4. Power of two putting. A bogey turns into a double bogey very fast with a careless first putt. The statistics for making putts dramatically decrease the further you get from the hole. Make sure you’re setting yourself up for an easy second putt. You’ll be much happier with a brush in bogey versus a double, simply because you got a little greedy trying to make a long par putt.

I hope you find a tip or two helpful and save a few shots on your next round!

Fairways and Greens,

Coach Rachael

 

 

Slow Down to Save Shots

Hello, men, women, and children who play golf! Welcome to West Grand Golf’s blog. I am the head women’s golf coach at Drake University and am excited to share my thoughts and ideas with you about this great game. Topics will include, course management, practice strategies, mental skills, fitness, and nutrition. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about please leave a comment, and share share share this blog! Thank you! I hope you find this blog helpful.

 

Summer is officially here, and you’ve probably knocked most of the dust off your golf game and are in mid-season form. But as we know, golf is a game of misses, and it’s the management of those misses that will determine your score at the end of 18.

How many times have you had a good round going only to make a double bogey or worse? Think back to the bad hole. What could you have done differently? Did you get upset after finding yourself behind a tree and try to make a hero shot only to be behind another tree? It’s mistakes like this that tack on 2, 3, or more strokes to a round. A simple course management strategy can help you shave these strokes immediately. No crazy swing changes, gadgets to buy, or drills to do. All you have to do is THINK!

 

Dr. Mo Pickens, sports psychologist, breaks it down into 5 steps. His approach is the simplest and most effective way to manage your game when you get into trouble.

  1. SLOW DOWN—Too often when we find ourselves off the fairway, we rush through our routine (or skip it all together). This leads to poor decision making and likely more trouble.
  2. APPROACH YOUR BALL WITHOUT A CLUB IN HAND—Walking to your ball with your 5 iron in hand limits your ability to think about any other club. You’ve set yourself up to be biased towards that 5 iron being the club for the shot. Again, you’ve clouded your mind, possibly leading to a poor decision.
  3. LOOK IN ALL DIRECTIONS—Our first instinct is to look forward and up when in trouble. However, the best play may in fact be backwards. This is especially true if up against the lip of a bunker.
  4. LOOK THROUGH AND LONG—Make sure you know what is on the other side of the green and/or where you’re punching out. No reason to add penalty strokes just because you didn’t realize there was a hazard behind the green, or on the other side of the fairway. This is a mental error that is easily avoided.
  5. PICK A SPECIFIC TARGET— Many times we look in the general shot direction, punch the ball, and then hope for the best. Being intentional with your recovery shot is vital. Determine your direction of play, choose the club to use, pick a specific target, and know the distance of the shot. This will save you from having to punch out AGAIN because you hit it too far or not far enough.

A little thinking, and following this 5 step check list, you can easily save 2-5 shots per round. Memorize this check list, or better yet, copy it to a note card and keep it in your golf bag!

 

Fairways and Greens,

Rachael Pruett

Head Women’s Golf Coach

Drake University