"TURNING PRACTICE ENERGY INTO LOWER SCORES" & PLAYING THE GAME
By: Jeffrey Severini
PGA Golf Professional
By: Stuart G. Blasius, PGA Golf Professional
Jeff is a golf professional who's been very successful. Contained here are many tips that, if followed, will improve your scores. My own game has become more controlled because of my alliance with Jeff. He has developed a fine mastery of the mechanics of the golf swing yet still communicates in simplified terms. Jeff has discussed the golf swing in detail with P.G.A. National Teacher of the Year and Master Professional Mike Hebron, six time New Jersey section teacher of the year, David Glenz, and P.G.A. Master Professional Bill Adams. Jeff has an ability to teach to students of all ages, sizes, and abilities. After your lesson take a moment to discuss the swing with Jeff. It will be worth more than the price of a half hour lesson.
P.G.A. Professional Stu Blasius has won several Assistant Pro tournaments over the last few years. He competes regularly in State Majors (the New Jersey state Open, etc.) and has arguably the finest golf swing in New Jersey .
Practice should begin even before you arrive at the range. During the ride over you can take care of the following preliminaries:
1. Decide what you want to work on during practice. Some typical examples of practice focuses are swing plane, grip pressure, chipping, sand, and putting. Note: 63% of your score is made up of less than full swing shots, so you'll want to work on these more.
2. Stretch. Although in a car your stretching is limited you can still stretch the insides of your forearms by pushing all five fingers back towards your elbow. If you are driving, you can put your fingers against your thigh to stretch.
Upon arriving at the range begin stretching your larger muscle groups, particularly those in the back. An unstretched back can be the culprit when you hit balls poorly. You may be slicing and diagnose the problem with, "I must not be rolling my hands over" or "I didn't keep my head down." These bad shots continue and worsen as you progress from short irons to driver. By this time you have a huge slice. You have tried everything to cure it, failing to realize that your unstretched back will not permit an adequate torso rotation, which is important for most golfers. To prevent this kind of frustration, stretch out your back well. One stretch you might try is this: extend your arm in front of you with fingers pointing skyward and take turns rotating your torso, first to the left and then to the right.
After stretching, start practice with the shortest club you plan to use. If you've decided to work on torso rotation and swing plane you should designate a number of balls for each trouble spot. If you've bought a large bucket of ninety-five balls, devote thirty-five to torso rotation, twenty-five to swing plane, and twenty to chipping. Leave fifteen for miscellaneous shots. Hit the ball high and low, hook it, slice it, etc. You'll be surprised to see how much easier it is to hit the ball straight once you've spent time intentionally hooking and slicing.
If you are practicing alone, try chipping to a specific ball on the range. Try to land your ball on top of a ball on the ground with a specific trajectory in mind. Narrowing your target down to something as small as a golf ball will greatly increase touch and precision. When you get to the golf course, you will be able to visualize a range ball right on the spot where you think you should land your ball. Hitting to target is a great focal point the morning before a match.
These are just a few of the many areas of golf to practice. Some other skills you'll want to work on are distance control, consistent grip pressure maintenance, long and short bunker play, posture. You do not need to practice every skill every time you go to the range, but always include chipping and putting, since these shots comprise forty percent of you score. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the line, "That putting green stinks!" I won't lie. I have said it myself. Although you can't practice long putts, you can easily go out there and knock in three, five, and seven footers. Hit the ball firm. Take the break out.
Here are a few other tips on practice. For one, try spicing up your practice. Play games with a friend. See who can hit the ball closer to a target and let the loser buy coffee or the next bucket. Invite pressure to your practice and get familiar with it. Learn to cope with it and be ready for it will surely come uninvited while you're on the course. Most of all, remember this: practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect!
Note: This information is for the person who feels that he or she should be shooting lower scores for the amount of time and effort put into the game.
Playing golf and practicing golf are as different as night and day. When the time comes to play golf, you must have no more than one swing thought while hitting the ball. More than one thought in your head will jeopardize solid contact and will tense up your body. Having no swing thoughts at all works too, for then you can focus on course management and, more importantly, target.
One of the hardest things for the ball beater/thinker/swing tinker to do while playing golf is to forget about what he or she was working on mechanically while on the driving range the day before. How many times have you hit the ball beautifully at practice only to have a horrible game the next day? Solve this problem by erasing yesterday's practice from your mind. Perhaps more importantly, hit the ball on the center of the club face, the sweet spot. So many people have hit so many balls on the range without striving for solid contact that they don't attempt solid contact on the course. Remember the first time that you picked up a golf club and hit a ball. The physical act of hitting the ball was pretty tough, but mentally it was just, "swing back and hit it." Have the same attitude now. Hit the ball squarely with the center of the club face and think nothing but "swing back and hit." Your mind will be clearer without the mental strain of remembering all of the thing you learned the day before. Ignorance is bliss on the golf course. That is, the less mechanically you think, the better your scores will be. Look at Fred Couples, Fred doesn't have a mechanical thought in his head while playing golf. He says, "I just swing back and hit it." His record stands for itself. So let your mind forget about what you learned at yesterday's practice. Your body will remember that for you, and your swing will have changed for the better if you've practiced correctly.
You might ask, "Why can't I think about the game like I did during practice?" Think about this. Imagine a racquetball player thinking about the angles of his arms at impact. He would get knocked right off his feet! In racquetball and tennis one reacts to the ball. In golf we react to the target.
Fighting off mechanical and negative thoughts during the course of a round is one of the most difficult aspects of the game. An average round takes between four and four and a half hours. The average golf swing takes 1.5 seconds. The time you spend actually swinging the club for a ninety shooter is just over two minutes! This leaves you with at least four hours of down time. It is how you spend these four hours mentally that determines whether or not you reach your potential. Another problem you encounter when you get to the course is that most of the conditions have changed. Your playing situation is less ideal than when you practiced. You no longer have the pleasure of hitting ball after ball from the same level lie, the mat. Furthermore, during a game you hit one shot every three to four minutes with the following shot almost always being with a different club, wheras on the range you used the same club, spending only fifteen to thirty seconds between shots; your tempo is thrown off on the course simply by the nature of the game. Lastly, your body chemistry is slightly different during a game. At the range you may have several cups of coffee in your system but on the course you might have only one or perhaps none at all. As a result of these factors your rhythm suffers. Do your best to keep an even mind for an even swing.
Golf is not an easy game but we tend to make it much more difficult than it really is. There are many roads to take to achieve a fundamentally sound golf swing. Unfortunately, we often take the long road. Quality of practice is more important than quantity. Many people on the driving range are reinforcing bad swing habits, making it even harder to improve. Find out what is wrong with your swing, then practice accordingly. Patience and perfect practice will guarantee consistently lower scores. Have fun learning the game we love so much.
Published 1996 - APA & Highlight Magazine.
Jeffrey J. Severini, PGA Golf Professional 973-207-8747