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Eight Golf GPS Tips - How To Avoid The Stenson Snowman!
by Mike Lloyd

The 2012 Masters had many talking points, one of which was Henrik Stenson's return to form. On Day One he was leading the tournament as he stood on the 18th hole. Unfortunately he pulled his tee shot into the trees and then compounded the problem with a poor shot choice, (see point 4) normally found in a high handicapper's game, culminating in what has now become known as a "Stenson Snowman", a big fat eight.

Using your GPS, the following eight tips will not only help to keep the snowman away but build consistency into your golf game, ultimately leading to lower scores.

1 - Target the Centre of the Green

I was partnering a 24 handicapper last week and we stood looking over his approach shot into a par 4. He had 142 yards to the centre of the green. The flag was 6 yards from the back edge with a drop off the back which would have left an almost impossible chip back. Knowing this, he still wanted to hit 7 iron as he hits his 8 iron 138 yards.

Playing for the centre of the green is one of the best tips I ever received especially as a higher handicapper. If you were to miss 10 yards in any direction from the centre of the green there's still a good chance you will be on the green.

This will definitely improve your scores as getting up and down for the higher handicapper is incredibly difficult. For now forget the front and back distances the GPS gives you. Instead, concentrate on the distance to the centre of the green.

2 - Know Your Distances

I agree with Richard Weeks who stresses the importance of knowing club distances in his Distance Measuring Device article on GolfToday.

Most GPS units have a practice facility that allows the user to hit balls and measure the distances the ball has travelled. Hit 10 shots with each club and measure the 5 that are closest together; this will give you an average distance for each club and is essential information to help improve your golf game.

For many years I taught golf and sold golf clubs; a question I always asked was "How far do you hit your 7 Iron?" The answers would range from "I've no idea" to distances Tiger would be proud of. It's essential that you know your distances. Higher handicappers tend to say "well, I never hit it the same anyway" which is incorrect, you do and knowing your distances eliminates the indecision of choosing the correct club whilst trying to keep a score going.

Whether its 120 yards or 150 yards for your 8 iron when the yardage appears on the GPS there should be no doubt which club to use.

3 - Check Your Distances Regularly

The higher handicapper will have changes in their swing more often than a low handicapper as they have more room for improvement. This will often result in them hitting the ball further which will subsequently change your club choice. So every 3 months, take your GPS onto the practice ground and spend some time going over the drill of distance measuring your clubs. You will almost certainly see a change over time in the numbers.

This is also essential if you decide to change your equipment as different shafts and different manufacturers clubs may affect the distances.

4 - Recovery Shots to Lay-Ups

I see so often, especially with the higher handicapper, a tee shot makes its way into the trees and without any thought the ball is chipped out to a random spot that is simply as far down the fairway as is possible. Often this leaves the tricky 40-50 yard approach that is a duffed heavy shot or a thin just waiting to happen.

Now that we know our distances (see 2) use the PTP feature (Point to Point Technology) on your GPS to give you a chip out yardage that will leave you your preferred approach shot. This is exactly what the Pro's would do with their caddie giving them the distance. You have the GPS to give you that distance, you need to replicate the process.

5 - Collect Stats off Your GPS and Use Them

Most GPS have the option of keeping your stats whilst playing; this is a proven way of improving your golf at whatever level you are at. Once you have collected stats from 3 rounds of competitive golf, print them and compare them. There are usually clear indicators of positives and negatives in your game. Now you know which part of your game to work on.

Below are some averages for different handicaps for comparison.

6 - Use Your Shots Wisely

I suggest we test the theory that many higher handicappers have quoted: "I could have hit two 6 Irons and reached the green", usually uttered when their tee shot has sailed out of bounds. As a higher handicapper you will have plenty of shots to use.

On the tougher holes try this; whilst at home load your desired course onto your GPS and look at the holes with 1-9 stroke index. Using the PTP function on your GPS check where hitting 6 iron off the tee leaves you. You should now know how far you hit all your clubs (See 2). If this is around 160-170 yards you may only need another 6 iron to the green or 3 of these to a par 5.

If you feel comfortable you can use a 5 iron or even a rescue club off the tee. But remember, most big scores are caused by poor tee shots that leave you in unplayable situations.

Using this strategy will create a more consistent pattern of scoring and keep you in the game. At worst leave you a short pitch to the green giving you the opportunity of a bogey net par or you may even sneak a gross par net birdie.

This disciplined approach will be tough to stick to as your playing partners may all be using driver but stick with the game plan and you will see the results.

7 - Course Management

Most of the better quality Golf GPS available come loaded with full graphical course maps. Before even going to the course load the chosen course onto the unit and hole by hole use the map to look at the hazards and trouble spots that may cause you problems.

Develop a game plan. Check distances to dog legs, hazards and lay ups and build a game plan of which clubs you will use on each tee. Stick to your chosen plan.

Each time you play a new course, use this strategy. As a result you will have a prepared plan to manage your golf game, which in turn will lower your scores.

8 - Make Sure you take your GPS with you Every time you Play

Don't just reserve your GPS for competitions and serious games. Always use your GPS! With it you will build your confidence. Most Golf GPS systems will allow you to measure any shot you play on the course. Use this feature to gather more distance information.

Compare your on course distances with your practice ground distances and refine them to make them more accurate. It can also indicate any improvement in your golf swing or show how new equipment is affecting your distances. So when playing on course measure as many normal shots as possible, even when playing friendlies.

As you improve, like in any sport, you will play more confidently. As a result you will reduce your handicap.

I hope you now feel confident that you can make better use of your Golf GPS on your road to a lower handicap. I wish you well in your game.

Mike Lloyd is Sales Manager at Shotmiser Golf GPS, a UK Golf GPS supplier

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