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Improve Your Practice for Golf Chip Shots

  You’ve probably seen this guy on the practice green. He’s practicing his chipping and has 10-20 balls around the same hole. The more balls he hits the more the balls keep piling up. Now on the one hand, it’s good that he is practicing his short game. But on the other, more practical hand, he is not getting as much out of his practice as he should be. Here are 3 things you should be doing when practicing your short game that will make a difference on the golf course:

Pay Attention to Aim

  This should be a given, however most golfers don’t think twice about it when practicing. Aim is important in chipping for this reason: the ball will tend to go where your clubface is aimed. If the clubface is aimed left or right you'll have to make some kind of manipulating move in the swing. When practicing chipping put a club or alignment stick down on the ground. You can then place the ball next to the stick and get a good idea of what square is. Be sure to take the time to align the stick correctly to the target or this will be counterproductive. Hit 3-4 shots with the stick and then move to another shot. By practicing like this you will train your eyes to aim correctly and will find it much easier to take it to the course.

Rotate Around the Green for Different Shots

  On any given golf course you are going to face uphill, downhill, and side hill chip shots from a variety of different lies. A lot of golfers struggle with awkward shots because they’ve never quite seen or practiced a shot like the one they have. Better players have practiced almost all the shots. When you practice chipping think of the practice green as a clock and hit shots from at least 4 different spots on the clock. The more time you have the more locations you should chip from. Grad 4-5 balls and hit shots to different hole locations from the different spots. This way you’ll never hit the same shot twice. Another good thing about moving around the clock are the different grass conditions you may encounter. Hopefully you’re practice green has a few different lengths of grass as this will help you on the golf course.

Focus on Where the Ball Lands

  This is one of the biggest things medium handicap golfers overlook when chipping and pitching. They only focus on the ball and the hole and aren’t as concerned with how it gets there. Good chippers are always focused on where the ball lands. A good way to practice this is by laying a small towel on the green or picking a spot of visible grass. You can then hit shots without aiming for a hole. Your only focus should be flying the ball on the spot. You’ll quickly learn how hard you need to hit a shot to fly it certain distance. Once you become better at this on the practice green it will become easier to do on the golf course. You’ll find yourself picking and hitting your spots more regularly which will result in more up and downs.

It’s Not a Race

  Tiger Woods didn’t become the best player in the world because he hit the most balls. He did it because he practiced more efficient. There are no awards for the player who hits the most shots during a practice session. Basically this means take your time when you practice. Setup to each shot, watch where the balls ends up, pick up your balls, move around the green, and take a few breaks to keep your back fresh. Use these tips when you practice and you’ll see much better results on the golf course.  

Clay Hood is a PGA Golf Professional and Co-Founder/Marketing Director for Precision Pro Golf. Clay can be reached at clay@precisionprogolf.com.

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Want to Stop Chunking Chip Shots? Here’s How

  Does this sound familiar? After 2 good shots a par 5 you’re next to the green and looking good to make birdie. You then proceed to chunk your next shot and make bogey. So frustrating! It’s easy to have your golf game undone by poor shots around the green and in my opinion there is nothing worse than hitting a shot fat. In an effort to eliminate this let’s look at a few reasons you hit behind the ball and how to correct them.

Ball is too far back in your stance

  This is a common issue with middle handicap golfers and it usually arises from a misconception. Watching golf on TV we often hear commentators say that a player is playing a chip shot off their back foot. We then watch the player and it looks like the ball is off their back foot. It seems straightforward but is misleading for 2 reasons: The first is that the camera angle is not always good on TV. If the camera is not positioned directly facing the golfer, you’ll get a skewed perspective of where the ball is positioned. The second and most important reason is this. Imagine a player setup to a chip shot with a square stance and the ball positioned in the middle of his feet. Now imagine that player slightly opening his stance by turning his feet to the left (95% of good players do this). Without moving his body or ball (just the alignment of his feet) the golf ball now appears to be positioned even with his back foot. What happens now is middle handicap golfers take this “back foot” info and play their ball way back in their stance. This results in a very steep swing, the player chopping down on the ball, very low shots, and often times the leading edge hitting the ground before the ball. Even if you do make solid contact you will feel the club dig into the ground. A better way to think about ball position is in relation to your body. Use a reference point such as the zipper or belt buckle. This provides a center point of the body that will not move when you change your foot position. When you setup for a chip shot position the ball even with the zipper or belt buckle. By positioning the golf ball in the center of the body you will make contact slightly on the downswing and the club will be less inclined to dig. This leads to more consistent contact and better control.

Trying to hit down too much

  As golfers we’ve heard it over and over again: you have to hit down on the ball. This phrase on its own is not a bad thing as good chippers and pitchers do hit down on the golf ball. The place where this causes trouble for most golfers is they don’t know exactly what it means or they overdo it. When good golfers hit a chip or pitch shot they feel the bottom of their golf club scrape or thump the ground. You will rarely see a good player take a divot or dig their club into the ground on short shots. However, many middle handicap golfers, in an effort to “hit down” on the ball, dig their club into the ground. When this happens the margin for error is very low. Contact has to be almost perfect. If the leading edge of the club hits just behind the ball it will dig and shot will be chucked. A better way is to feel the bottom of the club thumping the ground. The goal is avoid taking a divot. If you do this and start feeling the ground your margin for error will be much higher. If fact, if you keep the club from digging you can hit slightly behind the ball and still hit a good shot. To recap, if you want to put an end to chunked short shots you have to put an end to digging. Make sure your ball position is centered and stop trying to hit down so much. You’ll see better results around the greens.  

Clay Hood is a PGA Golf Professional and Co-Founder/Marketing Director for Precision Pro Golf. Clay can be reached at clay@precisionprogolf.com.

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Mistakes Costing You Strokes on the Golf Course

  We all know that golf is the toughest game around. We’re expected to hit a 1.68” ball into a 4.25” hole in 4 strokes from 450 yards. Add in the fact that any given hole is riddled with obstacles along the way and it should be clear that this wasn’t designed to be easy. Despite the fact that golf is difficult, it’s also a lot of fun. And it tends to be more fun the better we play. The problem most golfers have is that they do things that make it even more difficult. They probably don’t realize they make these mistakes and just chalk it up to “part of the game”. Let’s look at 3 simple things you may be doing incorrectly and how to improve them:

Failing to Warm Up

  This has happened to everyone at one point or another. In fact at the 2012 Ryder Cup Rory McIlroy lost track of time and showed up 5 minutes before his singles match (he did go on to win as he was the #1 player in the world at the time). However for the average golfer this seems to be the norm instead of the exception. The problem with not warming up is that it usually takes 15 full swings to get your muscles loose. That can be 5 holes worth! You could be playing over 25% of your round not warmed up. The other problem the average golfer faces is that their swing doesn’t work the same way every day. One day you may hit a draw and the next you may hit a push cut. Having some range time lets you see what kind ball flight you can expect during the round. Do yourself a favor and leave the house a few minutes early. Getting there at least 20 minutes early will make a big difference. Hit 15-20 balls on the range and then take 5 minutes to putt. Playing better on those early holes will build momentum and keep you engaged throughout the round.

Not Paying Attention to the Hole Location

  If you watch golf on TV you often hear the commentators discussing the hole location, where the player is aiming, and whether they will actually hit to the hole. The reason for this is that professionals know where to miss and where not to miss their shots. The average golfer usually does not pay attention to this. The hole could be cut it the middle of a lake and they would hit directly at it. It’s not because of being “super aggressive”, it’s because their perspective is a little off. They think the quickest way from point A to B is a straight line. It doesn’t always work like that it golf. Think about how many times you make birdie in a round and how many times you make bogey. You’re not going to make that many more birdies, but if you could cut back on the bogeys you would see better scores. Then think about what’s an easier place to make par from: a 30 foot birdie putt, or a bunker shot or short sided chip. The next time you are approaching a green, notice the flag. If it’s hard against the right, aim 20 feet left. If there is a bunker on the front left of the green and the flag is behind it, favor the middle right of the green. You’ll start to see the number of bogeys gradually go down.

Getting too Aggressive from Trouble

  Unless you play at “Utopian National Golf Club” which is wide open, perfectly flat, and has no hazards, you will eventually have to hit shots from trouble. Even when I shoot a round under par, I’ll have 2-3 shots from the trees or a fairway bunker. And that’s a good round! Most golfer’s minds are programmed to think “the closer I can get to the green, the better I will be”. This often leads to a shot that hits the tree in front of you, goes into the trees on the other side, or results on a total mishit. When you’re trying to escape from trouble, your mindset should be “bogey is not bad; anything worse is”. Chipping the ball out to 100 yards is never a bad play. The upside isn’t great because the chances of saving par are low. However, if you get over aggressive and play a poor shot you could be looking at 7 or 8 very easily. Remember; “bogey isn’t bad; anything worse is”. The next time you play golf think about these 3 things. Get to the course at least 20 minutes early, pay attention to the hole locations, and get out of trouble and back into play.  

Clay Hood is a PGA Golf Professional and Co-Founder/Marketing Director for Precision Pro Golf. Clay can be reached at clay@precisionprogolf.com.

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Learn to Keep Your Golf Ball Out of the Wind

  One of the great things about golf is that we have no control over the environment and it’s never the same. Other sports are played pretty much on the same field or court from place to place. The wind is one of these factors we have to pay attention to every time we play golf. Depending on where you live and play it may be subtle or it may be intense. Whatever the case you have to know how the wind affects your shots and how to compensate for it. Here’s a look at three different situations, what they do to your golf ball, and how to best navigate each situation:

Into the Wind

  This is the situation you mostly think of when talking about playing in the wind. You’re sitting at the 150 marker, and the breeze is directly in your face. What should you do? The main thing to remember in this situation is that the higher you hit the shot, the more the wind will affect it. This seems obvious but many players don’t factor it in. The other thing to remember here is that the harder you hit a shot, the higher it will typically go. Use this method when hitting into the wind. Take 1-2 more clubs than normal, position the ball in the middle of your stance, make a ¾ sized backswing, and make a ¾ sized follow through. Taking more club will ensure a lower ball flight, the ball centered in the stance will do the same, and the smaller swing will ensure the swing stays under control. One thing to avoid when hitting into the wind is taking your normal club and swinging harder. This becomes difficult to control.

Downwind

  Hitting downwind is the easiest of the situations but can have its issues as well. It’s great to stand up on the tee box and hit a drive downwind as it usually produces you're longest drives. However, it becomes difficult when trying to hit and iron shot into a green and judge the distance correctly. When hitting downwind you need to remember that the wind still affects the flight of the ball. This is why it is still better to play a lower shot when hitting downwind. It will much easier to control your distance. Use the same technique to hit the ball lower as you would playing into the wind. The only change will be your club selection. Instead of taking 1-2 more clubs you can usually get away with using your normal club for that situation with a smaller swing as the wind will add a little distance.

Crosswind

  Hitting golf shots with crosswinds can be the toughest of all the situations. If you’re a left to right player and you have a left to right wind, you could see a lot of movement on your shot. The same is true in a right to left situation. The big thing to take into account for crosswinds is what kind of shot you normally play and what the situation is in the landing area. If you always slice the golf ball with the driver and you step up to the tee and there is water right and a left to right wind, you have an issue. Instead of taking your normal swing and watching the shot land in the water, aim well further to the left, or even better club down to a three wood or hybrid which will curve less. The same is true from the fairway. If you’re fighting a hook and you’ve got 160 with a deep bunker left, club down from a seven to six iron and aim a little further right. Taking less club will produce a lower shot which will be less affected by the wind. The wind can be frustrating but it is manageable. Use these tips and you’ll find it much easier to determine where your golf ball ends up.  

Clay Hood is a PGA Golf Professional and Co-Founder/Marketing Director for Precision Pro Golf. Clay can be reached at clay@precisionprogolf.com.

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Learn to Hit Your Chip Shots Solid from Tight Lies

  There aren’t too many shots in golf that get even the best players a little nervous. Maybe the long bunker shot. Maybe the island green 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. But the chip shot off of tight grass is one that falls in that category. It doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult but even the slightest mishit can result in disaster. You know the feeling when the ball is sitting down on tight grass. You’re trying to figure out how to get the club under the ball and what usually happens is you dig the club into the ground and chunk the shot, or catch the ball thin and watch it shoot across the green. The issue is that there just isn’t much room for error. With the ball sitting in the rough or even on slightly taller fairway grass, it’s easy to get the ball in the air. When we set the club down behind the ball on tight grass, we’re just not sure what to do. The good news is that it can be done and it’s actually not as tough as you would think. You just need to change the way you approach the shot. Here are some tips to make quick work of tight lies around the greens:

Keep the Club from Digging

  The problem most golfers have with tight lies around the green is that they tend to dig the club into the turf. When the club digs it usually hits behind the ball and leads to a chunked shot. The reason golfers dig the club into the turf comes from years of being told to “hit down on the ball”. You’ve heard it from good players, teachers, and announcers on TV. “The tighter the lie, the more you need to hit down to make solid contact”. However, if you watch a professional golfer hit a chip or pitch from tight grass you won’t see a violent downward strike with a divot being taken. You’ll see a smooth, neutral swing where the club brushes the grass and makes solid contact with the ball. So the key is to keep the club from digging. Let’s look at a few things you can do to keep from digging:

Setup Neutral

  If you adjust the setup to be more neutral, you will reduce the tendency to dig. This means having the ball positioned even with the center of your body. A ball positioned too far back can cause digging. This also means only setting your hands slightly ahead of the golf ball. A lot of golfers want to use a big forward press. This causes the club to dig as well. A neutral setup equals a neutral swing.

Less Wrist Hinge

  This is a big part of avoiding the dig. The more you hinge your wrists on the backswing the steeper the swing becomes. The steeper the swing becomes the more the club wants to dig in the turf. As we know the more the club digs the better chance we have of mishitting the shot. Practice making chip shot swings using less wrist action. Instead of feeling like the hands and wrists move the club away, feel like the shoulder and arms move the club away with the hands being more neutral. The reduced wrist hinge you get from this technique will keep the club from digging.

Use the Bounce

  Bounce is a mystery to a lot of golfers. Basically it’s how much the trailing edge of the sole of a wedge sits below the leading edge. Almost every wedge has some degree of bounce (if yours has zero, get a new wedge). The purpose of the bounce is to keep the club from digging. The problem is when you hit down too much and lean the shaft forward, the bounce is neutralized and the leading edge hit and digs into the ground first. To avoid this take some swings and feel the bottom of the wedge bumping or scraping the turf. If you do it correctly you’ll feel the club hit the turf and then bounce off. If you lean the shaft forward too much you’ll feel the leading wedge dig into the turf. The great thing about using the bounce is that it makes the club more forgiving. You can actually hit behind the golf ball and still hit a good shot because the club doesn’t dig. Shots from tight grass around the greens don’t have to be that tough. If you can keep the club from digging you’ll have much more success.   Clay Hood is a PGA Golf Professional and Co-Founder/Marketing Director for Precision Pro Golf. Clay can be reached at clay@precisionprogolf.com.
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