Shorten Up For Better Scoring
I've developed a near obsession with helping golfers score better.
For 25 years in this industry, I've read that the average handicap isn't going down. But with all the technology in drivers and balls, we're all hitting it further and presumably straighter than we would have ever dreamed possible. With soft spikes in our shoes and improved agronomy and putter technology, we should be making a much higher percentage of our putts (the sink rate on the PGA Tour for 7-8 foot putts in 2006 was almost the same as for 3 foot putts in the 1970s !).
So, why aren't scores going down for the average golfer ? From my observation, it's because most of you are still not improving your performance in scoring range - shots hit from 135 yards or less.
Analyze a few of your recent rounds of golf, and discount the drives on par 4 and 5 holes and all putts. You'll probably find that you typically play at least 60-70% of your remaining shots - approaches, pitches, and chips - from 135 yards or less. (If not, you might rethink the tees you choose to play from.) But in your bag, you have 2-3 fairway woods, a hybrid or two and all but 2-3 of your irons for shots outside that range, and only a couple of wedges and short irons that you can call on for all those "scoring" shots. That doesn't make sense, does it ?
To make matters worse, we're fed a constant stream of drivel from the golf magazines, television announcers, etc. that pound us with the idea that the key is to hit it further. Well, I contend that they are completely wrong, at least when it comes to your irons, specifically those from the 8-iron on down to the wedges. Please hear me out and think about this.
When you are in scoring range, it really doesn't matter what iron you hit...only where you hit it.
But because we are all being pounded with this distance talk, almost every golfer I meet is trying to hit their irons and wedges further than they should. Besides reducing your consistency of solid compact, a harder swing makes it more difficult to stay "ahead of the club" through impact, so the club head passes the hands, adding loft to the face. Even though it's traveling faster, this launches the ball much higher and your distance consistency just isn't there. Does that sound familiar ?
But think about all those occasions when you've tried to "just hit it smooth" with a short iron or wedge ? You'll often find that you make very solid contact, the ball leaves the club on a great (re: lower) trajectory and possibly even flies longer than you expected. Well, that "easy" swing is really what your "full" swings should be like with your scoring clubs !
When you put a wedge or short iron in your hand, your singular goal is to hit the ball the very precise distance it needs to travel to get close to the flag. These four or five clubs are for accuracy and scoring - you have a whole bag full of clubs for distance. So, the real secret to a good short iron and wedge game is the ability to hit each of these clubs a certain distance reliably - every time !
And a big part of that process is learning to hit the ball on the same trajectory each time with these scoring clubs. The more fluid and controlled swing you make, the easier it becomes to do just that.
Next time you go to the range or play a round of golf, try hitting "one more club" on all your approach shots. If you are 125 yards and you would normally reach for a 9-iron, pull the 8. Don't think about distance, but focus on making a comfortable 3/4 backswing and a nice smooth move down and through impact. Because you are not trying to hit it hard, you will naturally lighten your grip, your muscles will be more relaxed, and your consistency of impact will be much improved. I'll bet you a dollar to a donut that you'll see a lower ball flight, and much more consistent distance control.
Once you see that better shotmaking with your scoring clubs comes from this controlled shorter swing, you can re-adjust your thinking about what a "full" swing is with the scoring clubs, and you will hit many more greens with your wedges and short irons...and your scores will improve dramatically.
Again, thanks for letting me share my thoughts about scoring with you.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf
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