This series is designed as a self-help troubleshooting guide. By focusing on the fundamentals related to your handicap we will help you achieve the lowest score and not search fruitlessly for the perfect swing.
In conjunction with our ‘analysis matrix’, we hope to provide the tools for your improvement.
The ‘FUNDAMENTALS’ series includes:
FUNDAMENTALS FOR A HIGH HANDICAP – ABOVE 18
Poor technique in your short game means that you can rarely save yourself a shot around the greens and sometimes can leave you in a worse spot. Many high handicappers fear bunkers, they will avoid them at all costs. Let’s try and cover some of the basics that will help you escape bunkers time and time again.
The first fundamental is speed. Every bunker shot is hit ‘fat’ (the club will hit the sand before the ball) so a lot of extra speed is needed. Enjoy watching this video of some great bunker shots and notice how full their swings are so close to the hole.
A great drill to ensure you apply speed in the bunkers and take a consistent amount of sand is to make a line in the sand as in the picture below. Try and splash the sand the same way each time.
FUNDAMENTALS FOR A MID-HANDICAP – FROM 10-17
As a mid-handicap you might not have a lot of birdie putts throughout a round, but you will be close to the greens and have a lot of opportunity to chip it close for a par. Controlling the speed of your swing is key to distance control – any rapid acceleration or deceleration will end your chances at this. To make a smooth stroke you must let your chest rotation control the shot. In the picture below look how much Tiger turns his chest through the shot – there is no flip with the hands to lift the ball on to the green. A great drill to ensure that you are turning your chest is to place a tee or glove in your left armpit. If it comfortably remains there, you are doing great!
FUNDAMENTALS FOR A LOW HANDICAP – FROM 0 – 9
What can you do to take your game to the next level as a single figure handicapper? Some feel that they have reached their limit, their improvement has reached a plateau, and they cannot imagine sustaining a lower handicap. A better short game can help you take advantage of getting close to par 5’s in two. It can really help you on difficult holes or days when your swing is off, you choose a defensive strategy and rely on your short game. So lets tackle a big area of misunderstanding in the short game. Ball position towards the back foot, hands forward and a lot of lean on the shaft is very common advice and falls into the bracket of ‘keep your head down.’ This extreme downward angle of attack is only useful in certain situations and with a lofted wedge creates a very small margin of error when chipping.
In the picture above Adam Scott demonstrates a neutral setup, a wide backswing and an impact position very similar to his setup. This utilises the true loft of the club and creates a higher, softer landing shot ideal for firmer or faster greens. This shallow attack angle creates a lot of forgiveness in the quality of strike required to finish next to the pin. It allows the bounce angle (see the image below of the clubs sole) of the wedge to work effectively, creating good contact from all greenside lies, including bunkers.
Take a leaf out of Adam Scott, Steve Stricker, Jasan Dufner and Zach Johnson (to name a few) and employ this technique to lower your handicap!
FUNDAMENTALS FOR AN EXPERT – BETTER THAN SCRATCH
As an expert player, it could be that your short game is a strength, something you rely on to achieve your best scores. However, perfection is unachievable, what can you do to maintain your excellent form and continue to have productive practice. Many players simply love the short game for the variety and creativity that it provides. No two shots are ever the same and there are ten variations at least for every type of shot by tour players. In our article about different ways to practice it is clear that random creative practice is the most beneficial.
To test your creative skills to the limit why not experiment with very difficult shots. The games great short game proponents such as Seve, Tiger and Phil always seem to pull off the most exciting shots. Why not try them yourself and see what you can learn? Below is a slow motion video of Tiger hitting a very high shot off a downslope. Notice the stability in his lower body and the shallow angle of attack at impact. The second and third videos shows European Tour star Alex Noren demonstrate his sublime technique. Can you imitate his bunker shot – with a five iron?! Be creative and have fun with your golf!