2 March 2005

Time to thaw out that golf swing

Spring has arrived and it's time to polish off those rust spots that have formed on your clubs. That's relatively easy to do, but what about your golf game? A long break from the game can provide a valuable opportunity to replace bad habits with good ones.

The first to go after a prolonged absence from playing is touch and feel on and around the green. Luckily, you can address this before you hit the course by creating a solid pre-round "short game" routine. This will reap benefits throughout the entire season.

This drill helps put the "feel" back into your putting. Place two tees about a putter's length apart in the green. Pace off five full strides (about five yards), and place one tee in the green; repeat this and put another at the ten-yard point in the green. If space and time allows, include a tee at fifteen paces as well.

Starting from the five-yard point, stand facing the two tees and toss a ball underhanded towards them. The goal is to have the ball stop between the two tees while not worrying about the target, just "feeling" the distance. Repeat this until you begin to get the balls to stop consistently near the imaginary line between the two tees.

Now switch to your putter and putt with your regular stance until you get the same feel for the distance. Once you've got a grasp on that distance, move back to the ten-yard tee and begin again.

Note: You can also do this from around the green if the course allows chipping practice. The important thing is that you regain your feel and touch for distance.
- Chi Chi Rodriguez.

So should you, but you should practice it until you love it. This is a crucial distance that can make or break your score and is often left out of golfers' warm-up routines. The first drill may be less exciting than others, but it will give you an edge over your buddies and possibly translate into money?or at least low scores?for you.

Place six balls in a circle around the cup at the three-foot distance (about the length of your putter, plus a bit). Simply begin putting them in one after another until you sink them all. If one doesn't drop, set them up and start again until they do.

Both these drills are simple and will help melt the frost off your short game.

The most important lesson that a lengthy break from playing golf teaches us is that having no expectations actually enhances our game. Nobody expects to split the fairway with his or her first shot of the year, so you are free to swing at the ball without any "swing thoughtsh getting in the way.

A free, uninhibited swing usually allows for improved impact and an all-round better shot. You've probably heard someone say: "Wow, maybe I shouldn't practice, I play better this way!h Although the phenomenon is usually short-lived, it is the product of playing without grand expectations on every shot.

If you do have a specific swing thought, I recommend you keep it simple?one per day, making sure it's positive and clear in your mind before you address the ball. Layering swing thought upon swing thought is a sure recipe for disaster. Trying to process data from the top of your back swing into your down swing simply doesn't work.

Bennett Galloway, 2 March 2005

Previous Columns
  • Golf made easy

  • About Bennett
    Bennett is a long time resident of Japan and the Director of Golf for Gotemba Golf Club and Belle View Nagao G.C., in Shizuoka near Mt. Fuji. Member of the Golf Writers Association of America and a teaching professional, providing lessons for all ages and abilities, in English or Japanese. He also specializes in in-bound golf tours to Japan with Golf Shizuoka and Golf Hakone.

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