Time to put knowledge into practice

It looks like summer is finally here. Yes it’s true, the summer that we have been anxiously awaiting for the past couple of years.

It looks like summer is finally here.

Yes it’s true, the summer that we have been anxiously awaiting for the past couple of years. Don’t stare a gift horse in the face is something that I have been told since I have been knee high to a grass hopper. Enjoy the great weather while it lasts as the one thing that is guaranteed is winter is coming.

Over the past three months, I’ve written about many key components to playing better golf.

Some of these areas include swing fundamentals, the swing motion, various swing flaws and sand play.

Each article included key fundamentals necessary to executing the shot properly and therefore creating more consistency and ultimately lowering your score.

Once you have armed yourself with the information needed to improve your technique in each of the above mentioned areas, you need to take that knowledge and put it into practice.

That’s where the driving range (be it hitting balls or practising your putting and chipping skills) comes into play. For if you do not practice these new techniques and practice them properly, you will never improve your overall game and therefore lower your score.

Golfers are a very unique breed of athletes. They tend to spend many hours educating themselves on the various techniques to improve their game. This is done by taking lessons, watching the golf channel, reading articles and sharing ideas with their golfing buddies. What we tend to forget, and therefore frustrates us as golfers, is that, “golf is not a game of perfect”. As a result all of us are guaranteed to hit poor shots throughout a round of golf.

It’s not that you hit a poor shot that matters, it’s how you recover from that shot that will ultimately determine how well you play. Some of the trouble shots that I shall discuss include: hitting from the deep rough, chipping out and laying up.

Deep Rough

The best players in the world (ladies and men’s PGA tour) average fairway hit percentage is only approximately 60 per cent. What this means is that in a round of golf, on average, they will hit only 10 out of 14 fairways. That means they’ll be faced with hitting at least four shots from the deep rough. In most cases, the best players in the world make it look fairly easy but I can assure you that it’s not.

When your ball gets into the deep rough you’ll generally get two types of lies. The ball will either nestle down deep into the grass or come to rest on top of the grass. This is important because when struck, the ball will fly out differently.

It’s more difficult to hit a ball that nestles down into the grass because you need strength and speed to advance the ball forward. A ball that sits up on the grass has the tendency to travel further when hit. This is called a flyer lie.

Club selection is imperative.

The best way to hit a flyer lie is to choose one more club than normal for the distance that you are faced with. Take a three-quarter backswing and swing smooth to your finish position. This will assist in solid contact and the ball not jumping out and past your intended target.

To hit a ball that is nestled down deep in the rough you must apply a few basic fundamentals.

The first is too grip down on the handle of the club slightly. This will ensure that you do not hit too deep into the ground. The next step is to grip the club tighter than normal. Doing so will resist the club from spinning once it hits the long grass.

Be careful not to grip the club so tight that it does not release through impact. Increase you grip pressure with your top hand only.

The next step is to move the ball to the middle of your stance. This will assist you in making contact with the ball first, not the grass.

Finally be sure to use a club that will get the ball out of the deep rough (use a lofted club).

Too many players will attempt to use the club they need to get the ball to the green. This is great if they’re faced with a good lie, but in most cases they’re not.

Chipping Out

Making the proper choice throughout a round when faced with an obstacle in your way is critical to a lower score. We have all hit a bad shot where the ball will come to rest with a tree or a group of trees directly in your way.

Now you’re faced with a choice. You can either take your lumps and chip the ball out onto the fairway, back into play or you can hit a low percentage shot and attempt to hit the ball through a small opening, that if executed properly, will put you on the green.

The later of the two is the one I see more often than not and is the choice that will generally increase your score.

“Minimize the damage”.

The best choice in most situations is to chip the shot back into play and then hit your next to the green. If you choose the hero shot, more times that not you’ll have the same shot as you just had increasing your score.

Laying up

Finally, knowing your own limitations is a critical component to lowering your score. Players are often faced with situations where they have to hit over water. This is a fact with most golf courses. The problem is not hitting over the water, but attempting to hit the ball over water from a distance that you’re uncomfortable with.

Imagine you’re faced with a 200 yard shot. The last 50 yards you have to carry the ball over a water hazard. On a good day your best shot will carry exactly 200 yards. The choice you’re faced with is to either lay it up in front of the water and then hit your next shot onto the green or go for it. Most players would go for it and typically fail. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and playing the percentages will assist you in lowering your scores and increase your overall enjoyment of the game. Enjoy the sunshine this week by getting outdoors on the golf course.

Scott Bergdahl is the head professional at the Lakewood Golf Resort near Sylvan Lake. His column appears each Tuesday in the Advocate.