Do you follow up a lousy golf shot with a string of excuses, remarks, angry antics, frustrated curses? Maybe an embarrassed laugh or turning away from the sight of that sad trajectory is your personal MO. Call me guilty. A post-shot routine is a way to maintain focus, reduce tension, and keep positive as we move to the next shot. It builds consistency throughout our round.
This season I’ve committed to working on my own end-of-shot routine, and here’s what I’ve discovered and humbly share.
A post-shot routine is a consistent procedure – a sequence of thoughts and movements – that a golfer performs after hitting a shot. Watch the pros, and you’ll see it again and again. It is personal to each golfer. Build your own sequence – and then repeat it shot to shot.
Here’s how a post-shot routine might go after a less-than-stellar shot:
- Watch it, and take a moment to feel fully disappointed, annoyed, etc.
- Take a deep breath and release those thoughts.
- Release the tension. Gently tap your club on your shoe, the ground. Or create your own tension-release move.
- Take a mental mulligan. Visualize the shot with a good result (enjoy!) and make a note of what you will do differently next time.
- Move on, that poor shot is history. Snap all attention to the present and get on with it. Try the 10-step rule – be DONE with that shot after walking 10 steps away.
Good shots are way more fun than bad ones.
- Congratulate yourself and enjoy the feeling.
- Maybe add a specific action – a little fist pump – to fasten the feeling and take ownership.
- Mentally replay the shot – swing, contact, trajectory, etc. Make a mental note of what went right.
- Give yourself a cue to end the mental play – “Good shot,” or a nod of the head.
The whole point of a post-shot routine is managing the mental – out with the bad, in with the awesome. That’s a golf attitude we all seek!
Our tee shot takes off with a soul-pleasing whack – but then, woe, at 100 yards it takes a hard right, sucking the distance right out of the drive. It bounces even further right when it lands. Welcome to Slice-land.
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With knowledge comes understanding … and maybe a straighter drive. Here are 5 simple things to know about ball flight and the slice.
- In an amateur’s perfect world, a ball is hit square on the club ace, sailing straight and long. It flies through the air with BACKSPIN..
- Once upon a time golf balls were smooth… until players noticed that battered balls traveled farther. Dimples are born – they create little pockets of suction that grab the air as the ball spins.
- “Grab the air” doesn’t sound good, but it is! As the ball spins BACKWARDS in flight, dimples grab air molecules on the top of the ball, propelling them backwards and speeding them up. Meanwhile on the underside, air molecules are slowed down. Now in physics we trust… low pressure is created on top in comparison to underneath and we get LIFT!
- So how about slice? When a clubface does not meet the ball “square” (see picture at right) ,the ball starts spinning sideways. All the physics – ball rotation, dimples, air pressure – work to create “lift”, but it’s SIDEWAYS.
- Picture this. Throw a tennis ball with horizontal spin. See how our arm moves from the outside to the inside. That’s exactly our club’s path when we slice. Fix that and things will be straight, long and true in our golf world.
There we were, side-by-side – me, and my (way) better, younger, blonder, professional golf “sister.” It was an eye-opening, awesome, absolutely instructive moment, and one that I can view to my heart’s content because it’s stored on my computer.
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Few of us yearn to see ourselves on video, but according to the National Golf Foundation, golfers learn 3 times faster that way! Time to get before the camera? Here are 5 reasons to give it a go.
- Power of the picture
65% of us are visual learners. We absorb and recall info best by seeing it, so for us video is a super-efficient teaching tool.
- Versatile video
With slow motion, stop action, overlays of lines and angles, videos are extremely good at explaining elements of a swing.
- Teacher aid
Video assists an instructor in diagnosing swing flaws and then working with a student to develop a plan to improve.
- Make the change, see the change, feel the change
A new move our instructor suggests may feel awkward and strange. Video confirms the feeling of a proper move and helps a student correlate a feel with positive results. Practice is much more productive and change happens faster.
- Take it with you
We can put our video on our smart phone and watch it before practice. It can live on our computers, an individualized teaching tool that lasts and lasts.
“Every picture tells a story don’t it” – and just maybe that story is all about golf game improvement!
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A Golf Instruction Gem Right Around the Corner
Did you know that Kendall Academy is home to 5 of Golf Digest’s top 15 golf instructors in Michigan? True! Paul Haase (5), Dave Kendall (8), Jeff Goble (13), Jack Seltzer (14) and Tom Harding (15) are the fab five. Kendall’s a golf instruction gem right in our own backyard.
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With that in mind, 4 of us are planning a 3-day golf “get-away” – all the way to Kendall Academy on Carpenter Road! Why go any farther? Jim Yuhaz, Director of Instruction, will be our intrepid teacher. We’re headed to Kendall because it’s:
- Custom-designed just for us – and our schedules
- Flexible – instruction can adapt to our “unique” games
- Inclusive – we four have different levels of golf experience
- An awesome social outing for us!
- Local. When it’s over, we know where to find Jim for a follow-up!
The founder and president of Kendall Academy, is the ever-affable, approachable Dave Kendall. “Golf’s a social thing,” he says. “Being with friends and having fun is a large part of it.” Right you are, Dave. We’ll see you over there next week!
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How often does this happen? You’ve hit your ball into a bunker and now you stand over it, uncertain of what exactly to do. You take a swing. The ball goes a few feet and lodges close to the lip of the trap. Now the lie is worse, your confidence is gone, and your mental game has unraveled. It’s the bunker blues.
If you hit a bunker ball without commitment and/or wrong technique, things can get worse fast. Here’s a practice routine and tips to conquer bunkers. Practice builds consistency, and consistency builds confidence and commitment. No one practices sand play enough!
In a typical bunker shot we’re just moving sand. We’re not even making contact with the ball. So let’s practice that, and practice it a lot.
- Forget about the ball. Really. This drill begins with NO ball. Just you and your sand wedge.
- Make a line in the sand, maybe 6’ long and straddle it, positioning it slightly forward in your stance. Practice hitting the line. Work your way down the line, splashing sand out of the bunker.
- Now focus on your divots. Smooth out the sand and make a new line. Try to make dollar bill sized divots that start on the line and extend forward. Keep splashing sand out of the bunker.
- A bad divot is one that starts too far behind the line. The club takes too much sand, the shot loses energy, and the ball stays in the bunker.
- Now introduce a ball. Make a new line. Place several balls just on the front of it and practice making that same divot you’ve been practicing. You never actually make contact with the ball. Just splash the sand and the ball will follow!
SETUP AND SWING TIPS
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- Open up club face (the face will be more UP)
- Think of 3 lefts
- Lean left with 60% of weight on left foot
- Aim left of target
- Position ball left of center
- Use pitch-chip or full pitch swing (see Sandy’s Cheat Sheet for specifics)
MAKE A NOTE
In your golf journal, keep track of what works and what challenges you in the bunker.
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BE CONNECTED TO COMMITMENT
Treat every bunker the same. The sand may be different, conditions may be different — simply commit to your shot. You’ve practiced the fundamentals of the bunker shot, now go with it. Splash it out and leave the bunker behind!
Sandy’s Suggestions for Lag Putting
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There are two things to concentrate on when putting – distance and direction. While most players can putt in the direction of the hole, they often end up 10 feet short or 10 feet past it. A 2-putt becomes a 3-putt and the score grows. Controlling distance – lag putting – is essential for success on the green.
- The key to lag putting is the size of your stroke. Think about making your backswing the same size as your follow-through swing. If you swing the putter back 10″, try to follow through the same distance. Think of a pendulum.
- Putt with a consistent pace, one that you are comfortable with. With a constant pace, a steady tempo in back swing and follow-through, you simply control the distance by the length of your swing.
- Don’t try to control distance by the force of your putting stroke, ie. “how hard or softly you hit the ball.” Many players mistakenly try to hit a putt really slowly on short putts and really hard if they have a 30 footer.
- Take the little muscles out of the equation. Don’t use your wrists. It’s an arm-shoulder-trunk muscle movement you’re after.
- A consistent method of putting with solid contact makes it easier to adjust to variables such as moisture, grass conditions and, yes, wind.
- Practice, practice, practice. Putts are a good 1/3 of your game. They deserve 20 minutes of your one-hour practice!
A good lag putt positions the golfer for a simple and easily makeable follow-up putt. Kiss those 3-putts goodbye.
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The next time you have a shot inside 30 yards of the green, ask yourself if you need loft or not. The rule of thumb is “when you don’t need loft, don’t use loft”. The chip shot, also called the bump and run, goes low and rolls a lot – it’s an easy and essential way to lower your score. Let’s take a look at the thinking and the mechanics of the chip shot.
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Opt For The Chip Whenever You Can
Rolling a ball is easier and the consequences of a less-than-perfect roll are less dire than a high wedge shot gone wrong.
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A Chip is a Cousin to the Putt
They both roll, but the in the chip shot the club has a little bit of loft on the face of the club. The putter has essentially no loft. That really is the only difference.
Select Your Club
You can use any club in your bag and yes that includes your hybrid! Try it – it could be your favorite short game shot. To select a club, look at your lie, the distance to the pin, and any obstacles between you and the green. You want a low trajectory that gets the ball to the predictable surface of green as quickly as possible.
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Practice Makes Perfect – Or Nearly So
You will want to practice with your clubs to see what each of them will do for you from the different distances but it will be time well spent. Having confidence in your chip will shave points from your score.
Chip Shot Mechanics
From my Instructional Cheat Sheet For Golfers
- Position the ball near your right foot if you have a less lofted club and want more roll or in the middle of your stance if you have a more lofted club and want less roll.
- Your body weight is more on your left leg and leaning towards the target to create a slightly lower ball flight and more roll.
- Your left arm and shaft of club will form a straight line on our backswing and follow thru.
- AT IMPACT (the moment of truth) – your left arm and shaft of club HAS TO FORM A STRAIGHT LINE!!!
- You have to hit the bottom of the ball to make it go in the air. You can’t hit the middle or top of the ball and have it go in the air!
- The swing length is the same on both sides of your swing and no more than waist high on both sides. Hold your finish on follow thru to see if your left arm and shaft are straight. Be your own instructor and learn to evaluate your finish.
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Take a good look at your last round of golf. Maybe you struggled a bit with the driver or approaches. Tally up the strokes though, and it’s obvious — it’s the short game that matters most. The biggest part of the game is played inside 100 yards.
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If you are looking to lower your score – and who isn’t? — practice your pitch, chip and putt. You’ll build confidence and consistency, and melt strokes off your score this summer. Over the next few weeks we’ll look at the three short game shots.
THE PITCH SHOT
Let’s start with high-flyer, the pitch shot.
When to Pitch
The pitch has high trajectory and little roll. It takes you over obstacles like bunkers and creeks and is usually in the 45 – 65 yard range. A pitch lands softly on the green and stays there – a thing of beauty.
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The Clubs – Wedges
Most players carry 2-3 wedges, a PW (pitching wedge) and a SW (sand wedge). The third club is a GW, the gap wedge. If PW has 48 degrees of loft on its face and SW has 56, the GW has 52. It fills the distance gap between the PW and SW. At a full swing, PW might go 80 yards, GW 70 yards, and SW 60 yards. In a pitch shot, the distance might be: PW: 40-50, GW: 30-40, SW 20-30. If you carry 3 wedges, you’ll have your distances covered inside 100 yards.
A Word about the Sand Wedge
Just because it says “Sand Wedge” doesn’t mean it’s only for sand! Not at all. The SW is your highest lofted club – so use it! When you don’t have much green to work with, a high, soft shot with SW will save the day.
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The key to hitting a pitch is to hinge your wrist on the backswing. “Hinge for Height” is my motto!
- Position ball in middle of stance. This produces a higher ball flight.
- Use your higher lofted clubs – PW, GW, SW
- Hinge your wrists (HINGE FOR HEIGHT) on backswing to form an “L” between club and your left arm.
- AT IMPACT (the moment of truth) – your left arm and shaft of club SHOULD FORM A STRAIGHT LINE!!!!!
- You must hit the bottom of the ball to make it go in the air. Hitting the middle or top won’t work!
- To generate more distance, rotate the clubface as the club gets near the ball. This gives the club head more energy/speed and makes the ball go farther.
- On Follow Through – your right arm and shaft will form an “L” and our right arm will be roughly parallel to the ground.
- Make sure your right palm faces the ground on your follow through to ensure that you rotated the club face as stated above.
- Use your legs to help hit the shot! This is the strongest muscle group you have! Your belt buckle will face target on follow through – meaning as you start your downswing, your weight will shift towards the target.
- Hold your finish on follow through! Be your own instructor and learn to evaluate your finish!
The above 10 steps to pitching comes from my “Instructional Cheat Sheet for Golfers” that’s posted on the web. Take a look!