Today we have a great question from Sam…several questions actually…
“The biggest challenge for me to breaking 90, is avoiding the doubles on the back nine. Either I’m looking ahead (not sure what for) or just lose focus and have a few bad swings … Like chunking wedges into the green from 100 yards or hooking a tee shot on a par 3. If I can get rid of the ‘blowup’ holes, I should consistently shoot in mid-to lower 80’s.
Of course, one wants to blame the clubs (me … After chili-dipping .. should I get some new wedges?) … But I’m convinced, it is the ‘focus’ or a mental thing. I’ve played these wedges for years, and they ‘work’ the majority of the time .. Just have to not lose confidence over some bad wedge shots.”
Great questions Sam…
Is it ONLY on the back nine that you are having this challenge? If so, it could be a physical conditioning issue. Chris has created several golf-specific fitness programs to avoid the “back nine fade.”
Check out “30 Yards or More in 30 Days or Less” and “Core to Score.”
I can personally relate to this question because I seem to have one or two bad holes per round that hike my scores into the low to mid 80s. I’ve broken 80 several times but I finally broke 80 at Club El Rodeo a few weeks ago.
My handicap dropped from 13 to 10 in a month. Perhaps sharing how I did it can help you drop the few strokes to help you consistently break 90.
Chris and Rich will not like this, but I hardly practiced at all. I actually love to practice. I’ve just been so busy with work I haven’t had much time for practice.
What I did do is play. I played A LOT – 2 or 3 times per week. I often teed off at 6am to get 18 holes in and still have a full day to work. No warm up. We took a “breakfast ball” off the first tee if we needed it.
Even though I did not practice much. I do constantly “grease the groove.” I have a wedge and a putter laying around and I’m constantly picking them up for GTG drills.
With the putter, I practice a smooth, rhythmic, tension-free putting stroke. With the wedge, I take it back to 9 o’clock and check the shaft and the club head to make sure they are in the correct position. Then to 3 o’clock to check those positions.
Even if you don’t have time to practice at the course, you always have a few minutes to “grease the groove”. That will help ingrain the proper feeling into your stroke and you can take that to the course.
Another thing to focus on is putting. You already know you take more strokes with the putter than with any other club. So reducing your putts goes a long way to reducing your score.
Up until a month ago I used a conventional putting grip. I was having a challenge keeping the putter face square at impact. I would tend to close the putter face a bit on right-to-left breaking putts and open the putter face a bit on left-to-right breaking putts.
It was as if I was trying to “help” the ball go right or left when all I needed to do was stroke a straight putt. Obviously I missed A LOT of putts just left or just right because of the putter face being slightly open or closed at impact.
It was very frustrating to say the least. I did a quick drill and figured out I am a left-hand dominant putter. That makes sense because although I am a right-handed golfer, I am predominantly a left-handed person.
The drill is simple. Find a fairly straight and flat putt of about 10 feet. Stroke 20 putts with only one hand on the putter: 10 putts with just your left hand and 10 putts with just your right hand.
Did you make more putts with one hand? Did the stroke feel more comfortable with one hand? If so, that is your dominant hand.
After discovering I am a left-hand dominant putter, I changed my putting grip to left-hand low. There was a period of adjustment – particularly for distance control.
Yet in a relatively short period of time, I started holing more putts. I’m now consistently stroking less then 30 putts per round. Dropping from 32 to 28 putts per round could easily shave the few strokes you need to consistently break 90 or 80.
During the month, I played a lot of golf with single-digit handicappers who have been playing this course for 10, 20, even 30 years. In doing so, I was able to see the strategy GOOD players use to attack each hole.
I saw where they were conservative off the tee to stay out of trouble and where they were aggressive off the tee. Following their lead, I’ve been able to shave additional strokes off my scores.
For example, the third hole is the #1 handicap hole at Club El Rodeo. It’s not particularly long. It’s a narrow dog leg right. And it’s very narrow at the dog leg with danger left (woods) and danger right (more woods and a tennis court).
I had been hitting driver on this hole. Sometimes it worked out fantastically. When I had just the right amount of fade, I’d have 100-yards to the hole.
However, with too much fade I’d be chipping out of the woods or even worse hitting 3 off the tee if my tee shot bounced off the trees and out of bounds into the tennis courts.
And a straight tee shot (without the fade I wanted) would go through the fairway into the trees on the left where I had no shot at the green.
I noticed the GOOD players hit 4-irons and hybrids off the tee. They were just aiming for the safe spot where they had a shot at the green. It might be a bit longer shot. Yet it was only 150 – 160 yards so still a relatively short iron.
This reinforced what Ben Hogan said. To paraphrase, it’s something like golf is not a game of making great shots, it’s a game of staying out of trouble. He who makes the fewest mistakes wins!
Hitting hybrid of the tee on this particular hole takes most of the trouble out of play and gives you a shot at hitting the green in regulation.
The first time I played this hole with hybrid off the tee, I hit the fairway. Then hit the green with a 9-iron and holed a 15-foot putt for birdie.
It’s AMAZING how good things happen when you play smart. And it’s not so surprising how you score double bogey or worse when you try to make the “hero shot.”
Finally, let’s address your question about wedges from 100-yards and hooking tee shots on par 3s. I can personally relate to these challenges.
This is not rocket science but what has worked for me is taking a smoother swing with one more club.
Let me give you an example. The fifth hole at Club El Rodeo is one where the GOOD players are aggressive. It’s a dogleg right with water at the dog leg. Yet with a good drive over trees, you can easily clear the water and leave yourself about 100 yards to the green.
I did that and had about 105 yards to the green. That is about the upper limit on my 60-degree wedge. Yet I took a smoother swing with a 56-degree wedge and holed it for EAGLE!!!
Out of curiosity I took another shot with my 60-degree wedge. I hit it a little fat and it ended up on the fringe just short of the green. I’ve experienced similar results on other holes by hitting one more club with a smoother swing – not holing the shot! Hitting the green in regulation is good too.
A smoother swing with one less club should also help you with hooking your tee shots on par 3s. Just because you can hit an 8-iron say 175-yards doesn’t mean that is the club you should hit off the tee.
Remember, that is probably a perfectly struck 8-iron. And as double-digit handicappers how often do we strike the ball perfectly? Not nearly as often as we’d like!!
The tendency is to take an aggressive swing and probably be a bit quick or fast. That can cause the wrists the close the club face before impact. And that’s what makes the ball go left with a draw that can turn into an ugly hook.
Try taking a smoother swing with one more club – even if you have to choke up a little on the club. You’ll probably find yourself hitting straighter shots.
That’s the long answer, the short answer is…
1. Fitness: If you’re problems are specifically on the back 9, then it’s probably a fitness issue. I recommend you check out one of Chris’ golf-specifc fitness programs like “30 Yards or More in 30 Days or Less” and “Core to Score”…
2. Focused Practice: Work on turning your weaknesses into strengths through focused practice (I admit I did not practice much. However, when I had time I focused on chipping and putting. And the results show I reduced my putts, my scores, and my handicap.)
3. Constantly “Grease the Groove”: Have a wedge and a putter at your home or office where you can “grease the groove” and check your positions for a few minutes several times per day. You can ingrain the proper feeling and positions with just a little time each day and take this to the course.
4. Putting: Figure out if you have a dominant putting hand. You may or may not. If you do, consider changing your putting grip. In any event, practice the putting drills in “How to Consistently Break 90” with the goal of eliminating 3-putts and reducing your putts per round to under 30.
5. Develop a Smart Strategy for each hole: Remember, golf is not a game of constantly making great shots. You’ll score better by playing smart and consistently putting yourself in the best position to post the lowest score on a particular hole. This will help eliminate – or at least reduce – the dreaded “blow up” holes. Play with single-digit handicappers and take note of the strategy they use to play each hole.
6. Hit one less club with a smoother swing: Get rid of the male testosterone and play the smart shot. When trying to hit an iron your maximum distance, you have a tendency to overswing, get quick, and hit the ball with a closed club face which causes a draw or hook. Take a smoother swing with one more club. Remember, it’s not what club you hit that counts. It’s the result of the shot that counts!!
That’s all for now. Thanks for the questions. Please let me know if you have any follow-up questions.
Happy New Year! Let’s shoot lower scores in 2016!
Dedicated to Lower Scores and More Fun on the Course,
“How to Consistently Break 90 in 42 Days or Less”