SAVE SIX SHOTS
Whether it’s taking fewer putts, sharpening your touch around the greens, improving your accuracy with your irons or finding more fairways, there are several key parts of the game where you can easily shave six shots off your scores. Let me give you a tip for each aspect of the game – something simple to focus on the next time you play.
1. UP-AND-DOWN CHALLENGE – MY ‘PAR 18’ GAME
This is a game I use when I’m practising my short game. It’s great fun and also a way to challenge my short game skills in a competitive manner. It's called Par 18 because I play 9 holes, and try to go around in level par – i.e. a chip and a putt per hole. I take all three wedges with me, my 50-, 56- and 60 degree, and I pick 9 different starting points around the green, either randomly by throwing the golf balls up in the air, or deliberately picking certain lies I want to practice from. The aim of the game is to get up and down from every position. I always keep my score. My best effort is level par for 9 holes, but that did include a dropped shot and a chip in!
2. THE CONFIDENT LOB SHOT
The reason I’ve picked this shot is because it’s the one that I see club golfers, particularly higher handicap ladies, struggle with the most. The reason they mess it up because they lack the commitment to making the confident swing needed to play the lob shot and end up quitting on the shot.
To be successful you need to hit a lob shot positively. I don’t get too technical with the set-up. All I do is open up my wedge so that it sits flat and then I grip down to the bottom of the grip and make sure that it is in line with my sternum (centre of my chest). From here I simply make a confident, committed swing and the loft on the club does the work.
I vary the length of my swing to control the distance. I play these shots very instinctively by looking at the hole and visualising where I want the ball to land on the green so that it runs out down to the hole. I always walk up and take a look and make sure I have the precise landing point in mind. With a bit of practice and trust you can learn to play a lob shot easily.
3. SHAPE YOUR TEE SHOT TO SUIT THE HOLE
Most golfers struggle to find fairways because they are completely one-dimensional and can only hit one shape of shot. Whether it is a draw or a fade they inevitably come unstuck on a hole that sets up to suit the opposite to what comes naturally to them.
Growing up as a small girl I learned to shape the ball in all different directions by experimenting and I had a lot of fun on the practice ground playing the ‘which shape shot’ game. Now, even though a draw with my driver is the shot that comes naturally to me I can hit any shape tee shot I need to.
I choose the shape of shot to suit the direction of the hole and also to play away from any trouble. For a draw I will always tee the ball up on the left hand side of the tee so that I can start the ball out to the right side of the fairway and bring it back in and for a fade the opposite.
This gives me the whole width of the hole to play with and a greater margin for error. For a straight drive I’ll simply tee up in the centre of the tee box and play straight down the middle.
Technically there’s not a whole lot I change to play the two shape shots, as I’m very much a feel player who can do it naturally. For a fade I swing a fraction more out-to-in and for a draw I just stay behind it a little bit more.
4. GET A ROUTINE... AND STICK WITH IT
I always do the same thing before hitting every shot, which is why I think I’m very consistent.
I think a repeatable pre-shot routine really gets you into the habit of aiming correctly and gets you focused on visualising and playing the shot you want to hit.
For a tee shot I’ll tee the ball up, using the same type of wooden tee (Bees Tees) every time to ensure I get the same height.
Then I step back behind the ball and visualise the shot I want to play. I make a practice swing and rehearse that shot, making sure that I hold my finish and try to visualise the shot going down the fairway.
Then I hold the club out in front of me and trace an imaginary line to the target and pick a point out in front of the ball on the ground in line with my target to aim at.
From here I step in and address the ball with my right hand positioning the club accurately to that target spot on the ground before I complete my grip. One more look at the target and then I’m ready to pull the trigger. My final thought is to make sure I hold my finish for a few seconds after I’ve completed my swing with good balance.
5. PRECISION PITCHING – THE FOLLOW-THROUGH HOLDS THE KEY
Since going out onto the LET the one thing I’ve observed is how precise the top lady golfers are when they practice their pitching.
Instead of practising to target flags they practice to target distances and place cones out at regular intervals on the practice ground – 30, 40, 50, or 35, 45, 55 yards, etc. It was something my dad watched the Korean players doing for hours and observed how they were getting the ball to land at that distance without spinning back, instead stopping dead.
I’ve been working on the same skill for the past few months and all golfers will benefit from learning this technique. I grip down and move the ball slightly closer to me, then I use three different length backswings, half, three-quarter and full, to control the distance the ball flies.
This is very much a body swing, I focus on turning my hips through, which leads to a very flatfooted finish. I use no wrist hinge but have ‘dead’ wrists and simply turn my upper body back and through. This is the key to preventing the excess backspin on the ball and getting it to stop on the spot it lands.
6. BE CONFIDENT FROM THE SAND
I’ve always enjoyed bunker shots but I honestly do not know how I play them! My coach Lee tells me that I have great hands; by that he’s talking about my natural feel and flair for sand shots that I don’t even have to think about how to play the shot, I can just feel it.
All I know is that I open up my sand wedge and hover it above the sand and then play the shot! While I’m fortunate to be gifted from sand I see a lot of ladies who aren’t and they nearly always fail because they don’t use a confident swing. I think this applies to every shot in golf but particularly bunker shots. Hit into the sand as hard as you can and don’t let the club get stuck, always finish your swing.
Do so and – like me – you’ll soon learn to love and look forward to these shots.