What do you have in common with the pros? The need to practice. That’s right. Professional golfers practice a lot. And I mean a lot. They know it’s how you improve your game. So if you’re serious about slashing strokes from your golf handicap, you’ll practice as much as you can. It’s the best way to improve.
But just because the pros practice a lot doesn’t mean they’re good at the same things. Some are good chippers. Others are good putters. Then there are those who are good with their irons. Nor does it mean that the pros do everything the same. Each pro golfer has his or her little “tricks” that help them play better.
Below are five pro golf tips that can elevate your game. Not all of them will work for you, but you should at least try all of them. You never know when you’ll find one that will help you cut your scores and reduce your golf handicap:
1) Boost accuracy off the tee: Dustin Johnson is among the best in the world off the tee. He’s long and accurate—a nice combination. His ideal shot is a draw, which he hits consistently well. His secret: He sticks an alignment stick in the ground about 10 yards in front of the ball when practicing. Then he works at hitting the ball just to the right of it. Alignment sticks encourage control of ball flight. You can’t do that using ball flight alone.
2) Nail your approaches: Hitting on target approach shots cuts strokes from your golf handicap. It’s a fundamental I continually emphasize during golf lessons. Sang-Mon Bae uses a “sit down” move to hit accurate approaches. It lets his arms swing unimpeded and on plane through impact. It also lets him maintain his spine angle from start to finish.
To make this move, he pushes his butt and pelvis slightly away from the ball, as if he were backing up to a barstool. Try this move in slow motion. Keep your knees flexed as you do it. If you feel your weight on your thighs, you’re doing it correctly.
3) Hit pinpoint wedges: We all know the benefits of hitting pinpoint wedges. Easier putts. More pars. Lower scores. Chris Kirk ranked sixth in proximity to the hole from 50 to 125 yards in 2013 (15’11”). The key: He uses a hands-restricted swing that’s more sweeping than steep. That, in turn, produces more spin than a steeper swing.
To practice this type of swing, take your usual setup, but shift a bit more weight over your front foot. Take your right hand off the grip and hit shots with only your left hand. That gives you the feel of a shallower swing.
4) Make more saves: Even good approaches sometimes find a bunker. When that happens, you must escape in one to save par. Justin Rose is a master at that. How does he do it? It’s simple. He uses a standard bunker setup. But he cups his left wrist so the clubface points up when hitting the shot.
Cupping your left wrist exposes the bounce on your wedge. That lets your clubface slide through the sand. A good drill to ingrain this move is to take your normal bunker stance. Place some sand on your clubface. Then cup your left wrist as you take your club back so your expose the clubface to the sun. If you do it right, the sand won’t drop until you reach the top of your swing.
5) Drain more putts: To sink more putts, you must use a shoulder-dominated putting stroke, like Fred Jacobsen does. This putting method quiets active hands. When your hands get too active, they tend to jerk the putter off-line. Active hands also tend to rotate the clubface open or closed thru impact. Both errors cause misses.
With a shoulder-dominated stroke, you rock your shoulders to power the club. It’s the easiest, tightest putting stroke you can make. Just remember to keep your shoulders under control. A good exercise to ingrain this move, one I use in golf instruction sessions, is the towel drill. Put a golf towel under each armpit when putting. If either drops, your arms and hands are too active.
Practice the drills a few times until you have a good feel for them. Ingrain the ones that work for you. They can help take your game to another level. That, in turn, can help you break 80 and reduce your golf handicap.