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Take a tip from me - 12 simple golf solutions

The game of golf is difficult enough without the burden of complicated swing thoughts bouncing around inside your head. So let me share with you a random collection of some of the ideas, practice tips and general points of strategy that I have relied upon throughout my career to keep things simple (and believe me, the emphasis here is on simple). This is not rocket science. This is about giving yourself the best opportunity to play your best golf, and I guarantee that taking a handful of these ideas to the course this weekend will save you valuable shots. Tony Johnstone

1. HEIGHTEN YOUR FOCUS TO BEAT FIRST TEE NERVES

The first tee shot of the day very often sets the tone for the round ahead, so you need to do everything you can to eliminate anxiety and get yourself properly focused as you set up to the ball. For my money, there's nothing easier than placing the ball on the tee so that the lettering faces the clubhead, and then focusing on a specific letter as you address it. Here,my eyes are burning the second ‘T' in Titleist. That's my target, and this one simple thought frees me up to make a positive swing. (On all other shots through the green, simply focus on a single dimple on the back of the ball to achieve the same effect.)

2. TRUST IN A FIRM-WRISTED WAGGLE

The majority of amateur players over-involve the hands and wrists in the swing – and it often starts with the waggle. Because they may have seen a certain tour player making an exaggerated loopy waggle, they believe they have to do the same. You don't. The purpose of a good waggle is simply to maintain a sense of motion so that you don't move from a static position. And you will prime the movement of the club, your hands, arms and body centre with a simple one-piece movement away from the ball.

3. KEEP THE FLEX IN THE RIGHT KNEE

Locking the right leg in the course of making the backswing is a common fault among amateurs (it's the old reverse-pivot scenario,where the weight hangs on the left side and the backswing gets too long –without a positive weight shift and the resistance of a braced left knee there is no effective coil). To replace this with a dynamic backswing movement and a positive weight shift, flex your right knee/thigh at the set-up and feel yourself turn into the right side and against that resistance as you wind up.Your backswing will be more dynamic, rhythmical and loaded with energy and much more power.

As you turn your upper body away from the target, feel your weight flow into the right side – but keep that right knee flexed!

4.DO A GARY PLAYER... AND REALLY COMPLETE YOUR FOLLOW THROUGH

Related to the above, falling off the shot in the through-swing is the inevitable consequence of the reverse-pivot. And when you finish your swing on the back foot with your chest facing well right of the target, that's generally where the ball ends up – well to the right of your target. To overcome that tendency (and I suggest you work on this exercise in conjunction with turning into the right side as illustrated above),make a few practice swings and commit yourself to actually walking after the shot in the manner of one Gary Player. Let your right shoulder freewheel through the ball and walk on after it. This will feel totally alien to begin with, but gradually you will get your right side firing all the way through the shot and the ball will fly towards your target.

Freewheel the clubhead, collecting the ball off the tee-peg...and then walk after the shot.

The key is that you finish with your right shoulder and chest facing the target – exactly where the ball is headed

5.A GENTLE SQUEEZE

Years ago, I remember reading a tip somewhere that equated the ideal grip pressure to that you would apply to a tube of toothpaste if you placed both hands on it and then squeezed gently to have it ooze out the end.

I love that imagery – and it's still a fantastic way of getting across the message.

I'm still waiting for my contract with Colgate to come through, but in the meantime, try this and get your grip pressure right.

 

 

6.TOSS OUT THE LONG IRONS

The fact that more and more tour players are ditching the long irons in favour of hybrids should tell you something. To all intents and purposes, the long iron is dead – I'm talking about the 2-, 3- and even 4-irons (the 1-iron became extinct years ago). This is not rocket science. Hybrids are easier to hit and they give you a higher and softer flight. A long iron is only good off a decent lie, whereas a hybrid is adaptable from virtually any type of lie. I was talking to a tour rep the other day and he told me that as many players on the main tour are making the switch as are on the Senior Tour. So do yourself a favour and get with the trend.

Adios: the advantage of the modern hybrid makes the long irons redundant – can you really afford not to change?

7.DON'T TEE THE BALL TOO HIGH ON A PAR-THREE

Tour players don't practice hitting iron shots off a tee on the range. That is why when they get to a par-three hole on the course they either tee the ball very low or do without apeg altogether and simply knockup a bit of turf. That way they guarantee a consistent strike in the lower part of the clubface. If you make the mistake of teeing the ball too high (left), you will be prone to striking the ball near the top of the clubface – with nothing but inconsistent results.

Perfect: leading edge flush with the bottom of the ball

8.HONE YOUR CHIPPING TECHNIQUE WITH THE LEFT HAND ONLY

Being too ‘handsy' in the short game is a killer and so here's another very simple idea that can help you to firm things up a bit. Practising chipping with the left hand helps you keep the left hand ahead of the clubhead and stop your ‘flipping' at the ball with the right hand. Take your wedge and simply experiment chipping with the left hand only. This immediately teaches you the value of working the club, hand and arm together for the slightly downward strike you are looking for. Repeat this for a few minutes then revert to a regular two-handed grip and you will be amazed at the improved feeling you have for these important shots.

9.FIVE MINUTES ON THE PUTTING GREEN

Whatever time you have to spend on the putting green before a round should be geared (1) towards getting a feel for the pace of the greens and (2) to build some confidence knocking in three footers.

As far as pace goes, the best way to do this is to stick three tee-pegs in the green at ten foot intervals and work between them. That way you don't get hole-conscious and you can focus on a repeating stroke and rhythm.Once you have a feel for the pace, switch your attention to the short ones. Decelerating the putter-head is a killer fault here, and can lead to a balding or greying head, as demonstrated here.

Panic not.

You can eliminate that problem with this easy drill: set up to a three-foot putt and without making a backswing, push the ball into the centre of the hole. Knock in 10 of these before you head to the 1st tee.

10. LANDING DISTANCE IS CRITICAL

Phil Mickelson was seen at Augusta this year practising chipping to a towel on the green. Like every great exponent of the art, Mickelson was fine-tuning his feel for landing distances – and that is the ultimate goal in this department. Switching between clubs then gives you the varying run-out distances that you can then use to access different pin positions.

11.SAND PLAY–LISTEN FOR THE DROP

Nine times out of 10 it's pure anxiety that causes a player to mess up a straightforward greenside sand shot. When I work with tour players I often ask them to play the shot and stay down to listen for the ball landing on the green. And you'd be surprised at how many players find this difficult at first. But with a little practise you'll learn to trust your technique.

Don't be anxious to see the result – keep your focus on the sand until you hear the ball land on the green

12. CLUB UP:80% EFFORT = 100% IMPROVEMENT

We all get caught in this type of situation many times during a round of golf: between yardages, is it an 8-iron or should I hit 7? The majority of amateurs I see in pro-ams invariably opt for the shorter club and end up screwing up the shot for the simple reason they are trying to hit the ball too hard. Trust me, if you take the longer club and make a smooth 80%swing you will be more successful every time.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine





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