Learning The Game
I have to start today’s column with a commentary on the Masters. That one tournament always promises to boil down to the back nine on Sunday, but I don’t ever remember that many players having a chance to win the last two hours or so of the tournament. Wow. What drama and great viewing entertainment.

It was hard to watch Rory’s collapse, but the kid handled it with class and grace, and I’m sure he’ll be a star. There’s just something to be said for character. Same kudos to Luke Donald and others who came close but didn’t quite get there, but showed grace and character in coming up short. Can’t say the same for the former #1 player in the world. He needs his mouth washed out with soap, and an intense study of the grace, class and character of champions who’ve come before him. And until then, I’d just as soon he not be on the TV, or even the tour. Just my $.02 worth.

Now on to what Tuesdays’ columns are all about – helping you play better golf and giving away an EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge. And today’s topic is about learning (or re-learning) the game. It was stimulated by a question from Gary M., who asked:
“I’ve been playing most of my adult life, but have been stuck in the 90s-100s for most of it. I am fed up, and willing to “start over” if I have to, but should I? How can this game be so hard?” Help!”
Well, Gary, don’t give up . . . but your idea of starting over isn’t really a bad one. It’s like remodeling an old house. As you start to tear into it, sometimes you find that just starting over is the easier and faster/cheaper route to what you want.

I’m a firm believer that starting to learn golf, or starting over, should be done from the hole backwards. Learn to roll the ball on the green with sound, fundamentally solid stroke mechanics – good grip, light touch, slow pace, minimal hand action, rotation of the shoulders . . .

Once you get the feel for how the club interacts with the ball and how the body makes it function reliably, you can advance to the edge of the green, exchange the putter for an 8- or 9-iron and expand the putting stroke to a chipping mini-swing. This evolution will allow a little hinging of the wrists and movement in the lower body, in addition to the shoulder/torso rotation. Because the chipping swing is short and slow, it gives you the ability to study your own swing and be precise in its movements. You can learn how the left side leads, the path of the hands through impact and other basic fundamentals much easier when you are only making mini-swings at slow speeds.

From the chipping swing, it’s just another small step to lengthen that into a half-way-back and through pitching swing – use your gap wedge to start. Same mechanics, same slow tempo/rhythm, increasing the engagement of the torso and legs and keeping the hands low and quiet through the impact area. The benefit of learning basic impact fundamentals on these shorter shots is that they are slower and more deliberate. This allows the slow-motion learning process of analysis and review, action and correction. And this part of the game can be learned anywhere – it doesn’t require a driving range.

Once you have learned a sound putting stroke, increased that to a solid chipping mini-swing, then expanded that to a half-wedge pitching swing, you have the foundation for continuing the growth to a full wedge shot, irons, etc. And the slow, deliberate tempo and rhythm you learned in the short game will make your long game powerful and accurate.

That’s a lot to get into in one article, but I really believe that if we taught golf to beginners from the hole backward, the dang game wouldn’t prove so hard, and anyone could be an 80s shooter in short order.

What’s your take, guys and gals?
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
Scott Shields says:
I couldn't agree more. It wasn't until I made a concerted effort on my short game did I improve. But it wasn't just getting better around the greens, it was the insights I was able to gleen from a short steady chip stroke, I quickly realized that I was taking the club away to the inside was to much relative to up. Having said that ... when I'm struggling with hooks / pulls / pushes or whatever, I go back to the chipping green and start over with my chips and pitches. I find then when I settle down my time and tempo, I can take a full swing and hit those straighter shots that we all love.
billbadaz says:
what is the saying, Drive for show, putt for dough. More than half of the shots we play on the golf course are with the putter or a wedge or short iron. This is the most important part of the game. look at Phil, he hits it all over the course, but has a hell of a short game. I practice hitting pitches and chips almost everyday in my yard. I will hit some high, some low, some with no wrist hinge, some really wristy hook chips, and the 25 yard shot with a full follow thru. The big difference is you have to practice. As Allen Iverson said, "we talking bout practice. We ain't talking bout the game, we talking bout practice"

So, I guess what it comes down to is I agree 100%.
larrynjr says:
I took a group lesson, with my wife over 4 weeks, 1.5 hours each lesson and that is the way the pro taught us. Started with the putter, chipping, kinda skipped wedges, but irons then driver last. The only part I didn't like some much with her approach was because it was a group lesson, she didn't really take any time individually. I've struggled with my timing and overrotating on the backswing and the only comment she had was, that I was swinging out of my underwear. Perhaps I should have realized that meant I was swinging too hard / fast whatever but I'm finally getting it and my scores are coming down.

So once again, spot on article Terry.
Torleif Sorenson says:
Ditto - I wish I could have learned from the green backward. Still, a few tips here-and-there have straightened me out. Now I just need time and $$ to go play.
id3st says:
just started over a year ago today and will try these simple but honestly sound exercises. i really have nothing to lose since i haven't really gain anything other than a bunch of 2+ bogeys. haha!
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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