Early Season Check-Up - How You Doin'?
OK, guys (and ladies!) . . . May is almost over and you've been chipping winter rust off your game for a few weeks or a couple of months, depending on where you live. The meat of the golf season is upon us, so how are you doing? Is your game coming around? Has your short game begun to show some sharpness? Is your ball striking getting more consistent? If not, don’t waste any more time struggling – let's get you fixed.

I played golf last Sunday with a different group than the blood-thirsty game I normally find myself in. I know all these guys from the grill room and back deck of the club, but I don’t play with them that often – something I fully intend to change. These guys range from high single-digit to 20+ handicap, and they play for fun!! Yes, there are a few bets on the action – group against group, and a bet within each group – but this is a different kind of golf than my other group plays. It’s about the friendships . . . being with your buddies on a Sunday afternoon. And it’s about a love of the game. Everyone wants to play well, not because their pocketbook depends on it, but because golf is just more fun that way.

But as I watch some of them struggle, it’s apparent to me they would have a lot more fun if they just hit the ball a little better . . . if they just made a few more putts . . . if their chips and pitches ended up just a little closer to the hole . . . and if they just eliminated some of those really awful shots that cost them dearly. Sound like your game in any way?

As we head into June, why not set yourself one or two “mini-goals” for the next month? Maybe it’s to eliminate that recurring slice or hook that gets you into trouble from the tee. Or that skulled or chunked chip or pitch that wastes a shot (or two) every time it rears its ugly head? Or being a better lag putter, or making more of the short ones. Rather than look at your golf game as a whole, look at the pieces that run up your scores. And then put those on a checklist for attack and remedy. To change your results, you have to change your approach. Here are some tips for how to isolate and improve in a few areas:
1. Fix the slice. The nemesis of the average player, but all is not lost. Lighten your right hand grip and swing the club more with your lead side. Feel like you are pulling the club through the impact zone with your left side, from the lower body, to the upper body, to the arm and hands. Forget the clubhead and path and pull the club through the impact zone. This will get it more inside and on plane, and will reduce your slice if not correct it altogether.

2. Stop the hook. Ironically, this can be corrected by much the same approach. You have too much right hand engagement and so you are rotating the clubhead through impact. Lighten up your right hand grip pressure, and make sure you have the club well down into your right fingers, rather than up toward the palm.

3. Improve your lag putting. Before you play, and if you have time for evening practice, go to the putting green with two balls and putt at holes from 25-50 feet. Use the first putt to gauge feel and see break, and the second to zero in on the range. The only way to become a better lag putter is to practice. And I’ll also offer that good lag putting requires a grip on the club so light that you feel like it almost will fall out of your hands.

4. Make more short putts. This is something you just have to drill on. Start with straight ones about 4’ in length. “Connect” your hands and arms and putter to the rotation of the upper chest and shoulders. Straight back and straight through – one simple motion. And repeat, repeat, repeat. If you have the time, space and money, one of these in-home putting track devices is a great investment so that you can hit more putts. A 5-10 minute practice session at home each night or morning will do wonders.

5. Chip and pitch better. Go back and read Tuesday's article, and all my others about short game technique. Develop a “quiet hands” approach to the short game and it will get better in a hurry. Don’t do it and you’ll struggle forever. You can learn this at home and refine it with a few dozen chips and pitches before every round. In my opinion, that’s more important that a bag of full swing shots to warm up.
So, there are five things to work on to make a leap forward in your golf game as we head into June. Let us all know if any of them help, and offer up your own tips for how to get the most out of your game this season.

photo source
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 ]
birdieXris says:
Well my check up reveals i'm NOWHERE near the 4 i want to be. actually been going in the opposite direction. Need more putting practice, but i think i'm finally zero-ing in on what's going on there. Too much work, not enough golf. Must remedy.
mjaber says:
I'm ahead of where I was at the same point last season, but behind where I ended last season. My short game is better than it was last year, but my driving and ball striking have been erratic. I haven't spent as much time at the range as I did last year, so I think a few trips are needed to find that rhythm again.
Bryan K says:
I'm playing better golf right now than I've ever played before. It doesn't seem like I'm playing all that well, but my scores are getting lower. I'm also gaining confidence. I've eliminated almost all mishits, I'm getting back into my pitching groove, and my irons are coming around. The areas I need to work at the most are the beginning of each hole and the end of each hole. Driving and putting are inconsistent, and if I had one frustration this year, it's that I'm consistently getting the ball within five feet on my first putt and not being able to drain it.
RIDuffer says:
Just about back to where I ended last season at. Getting a little more distance out of each club and my chipping has made some significant strides. All in all, I think I am where I want to be to reach my 3 yr goal that started last year, SCRATCH...
Banker85 says:
My ball striking has been great this year but i feel like i lost atleast one club in distance?? Off the tee has improved as well hitting about 15-20% more fairways this year. Chipping is improved (love the Eidolon Wedge!) wedge game is solid all around. Putting though is not improving. Missing 5 footers, not laggging putts where i want them to be, speed is off, and my putts after GIR is above 2 which hurts. It's just once i get to the course i am so eager to start i skip the putting green 97% of the time.
bplewis24 says:
I'm pretty happy with where my game is at, but it tends to be a week-to-week disposition for me. However, I got my first tip/lesson from a pro about 1.5 months ago, and I am just now getting comfortable with the ins and outs of the newish swing I have. And when I'm not comfortable, I leave driver in the bag and only hit irons/3woods off of the tee, and still do well.

Anyway, I started working on my short game a bit more and it's helped a lot around the greens. I can now hit a semi-decent bump n run to go along with the pitch/flop shots I'm more comfortable with, and my putting has been pretty good lately. If I can just continue to hit fairways and greens at the rate I've been improving on lately, I'll reach my 2010 goal of getting into the single digit handicaps.

oobscott2 says:
my goal is to win an amateur tournament and get my handicap to 0 or better. right now im at a 2. its hard, because even if i shoot a decent score (74 for example) my HD at my home couse (for the round) is 3. I need to shoot par or better 10 out of 20 times, and I have only been able to do it 4 times this year. If i shoot a few 78-80s, my under par scores will drop off. I just need to be more consistent, getting at least 1 out of every 4 at par or better.
dottomm says:
It's starting to come around for me. I'm hitting the ball the best I ever have. I've been trying to break 90 since November 2007. Came pretty close w/ a 91 two weeks back and didn't really play that well. Just made a lot of putts. Still hitting great, just not putting well. I'm certain I'll see 80something this year. I'd better anyway!
Panerai111 says:
I'm doing worse. My best score this year was my first round. :(
ejohnson84 says:
So far this year I have averaged at least 10-15 strokes less than where i was at the end of last year. Ive always been a good putter but now it seems i can't miss. My major slice i had is now almost non-existant. Never broke 100 but now im getting 80's and 90's.
Kurt the Knife says:
Can't hit the ball straight when my instructor isn't around. Don't putt worth poo.
Still losing 2-3 balls per round. Trying my darndest at the range 2-3 days/wk since last summer. 103-106. If i can get under a hundred it will be a good day.
just hafta keep tryin'.

Or go back to soaring...i was getting pretty good at that.
Clint24 says:
I haven't seriously practiced in just over a month, since our high school county tournament. I had a hard time trying to motivate myself to practice, cause I didnt have another tournament for almost two months. So now, I can hit the ball alright about 3-10 times, but something just doesn't feel right. I'm getting my instructor to take a look the next day we can.
legitimatebeef says:
I have been playing better than ever this year. Haven't shot a personal best yet but my bad rounds are getting better and more consistent scorewise. What I need to address are bunker shots- i have airmailed a few greens this year, and also I have been popping up the three wood off the tee.
ksu_FAN says:
The entire spring it seems like my game has stayed the same. My scores are slightly worse than the end of last year, but that's due to eliminating mulligans from my rounds. From the list, my biggest issue is fixing the slice with my driver. This is the only club that I slice, but the slice is consistent. Sometimes I get my swing decent and hit true fades, but most of the time its a significant left to right slice. Otherwise I pretty much play like the bogey golfer that I am; it seems some days I can play one part of my game really well while another part falls apart.
rxman says:
I went to a swing coach and he sent me to a psychologist
Brutus says:
I wish that I could say something positive about my game.... My best scores this year were my first week back - 81, 83, 82. Last year I was mid to upper 70s every round. Now I can't even get to the low 80s. Shot 92 today. Every swing feels different. Ball striking and putting are poor. Driver is pushing right. I hit the range with purpose and do well, but it isn't translating to the course. I know that I will "click" again, but the pressure of finding my swing is just holding me back. I need your psychologist rxman.
siggy22 says:
Well I shot a 42 earlier this year during a match on the back nine of my home course; I had never broken even 45 before. After a while I lost my swing, but now I've regained it and practice almost everyday for 2 hours up to even 5 hours. I was hitting very well at the range today, so I'm excited for this Summer.
Pranav says:
I guess my game has been rising. I shot 96, 89, and then surprised everone with a 37(9 holes)
Apparntely according to oob, I'm hitting 100% of fairways, and using 1.5 putts per hole. My GIR is terrible though- something like 11.1%
mjaber says:
Well, after my Memorial Day round, it seems I have turned a corner. My misses weren't nearly as bad as they had been in previous rounds. My short game continues to improve, and my iron play was better than it has been since last year. I've even gotten the flop shot down (after discovering it by accident at the range). I hit a beauty on a par 3 yesterday. I was about 15 yards from the green, with a bunker between me and the green, and short sided. I hit the flop, and it went up and came almost straight down about 5 feet from the pin.
Virtuaframax says:
After struggling at the beginning of the season with a couple of 100s, I finally feel much more comfortable off the tee. My driving distance has improved drastically and I've averaging in the past couple of rounds 260-270 yds.
Short game has improved as well, especially chipping. now if i could only putt and avoid so many 3 putss/round with the occasional 4 putt...
ball striking with the irons is much more consistent and finding the sweet spot regularly.
I'm so looking forward this season!
Owens84777 says:
Hey WG,
First post and as a relative newcomer to playing the game I thoroughly enjoy your insight. I would like to spread your knowledge to some of my other young friends. Ever thought about/asked to have your blog linked to social sites like Facebook or Twitter? I know many friends who benefit from my research and ability to quickly link quality info.
Thanks again for your time on this blog!
[ post comment ]
Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

Click here to learn more about Terry.
Click here to for Terry's blogroll.
    Golf Talk
Most Popular: