Why You Can’t... (and how you can)

...get out of trouble like Houdini
In the photo at left, you can see I’m stymied. Should I start the ball way left and slice it? Should I hit it over the tree? Can I fit it through the gap between the branches?

Here’s how to hit all three:
To slice it, take a less lofted club (this will help you curve it), weaken your grip slightly and aim safely to the left to get the ball started away from the trouble. Try to actually swing down from outside to inside the target line and make sure to hold the clubface open at impact. Here, the ball started left of the tree, and I curved it 30 yards.

To hit the high shot, play the ball a bit forward in your stance and keep your head well back of the ball at impact. Make sure you hit the turf and don’t flip your wrists at impact. In both photos, notice how low my right shoulder is. I’m definitely behind the ball, and that produces a high ballflight.


To punch the ball (here, through the gap between the rocks and the large branch), lean your weight slightly forward and commit to making a swing down into the turf to promote a low ballflight. Here I hit an 8-iron, played the ball slightly back in my stance and made sure the hands stayed in front of the clubhead as I struck the turf.


...lag it close from anywhere
Learning to lag putts close is a great way to save shots during your round. There’s a stat on Tour called “3 Putt Avoidance,” and trust me, nobody wants to be near the bottom of it.

If you’re going to be a good distance putter, I believe you need to do two things very well. First, you need to be a good green reader. As you approach the green and survey your putt, look for high and low points in the green complex. Imagine where water would flow if it were dumped on the green. Remember, all greens are built for drainage, so look for those spots, and they’ll tell you where your ball is going.

The second (and most crucial element), however, is distance control. It doesn’t matter how well you read your putt if you leave it 15 feet short. In the photo at left, I’m faced with an uphill putt over a small tier. It also appears as if the ball is going to move a little from left to right. To make sure I get the ball to the hole on this uphill putt, I visualize a pin 10 feet past the hole so I can make sure I hit my putt with enough pace.

...make it all day from 3 to 6 feet
The key to making tons of short putts is to develop a consistent putting stroke. In my opinion, the simplest type of stroke should give you the best chance to make those so-called 3-6 foot “knee knockers.”

Here you can see I’m working with a training aid made by Momentus called the “Inside Down the Line Putting Track” to help me groove a stroke. You can use either this type of aid or any other tracks that help you get the feeling of what a good putting stroke should feel like.

One thing to remember while practicing either with or without a training aid: Tour pros work incredibly hard on these putts, and while it’s not as much fun as hitting drivers on the practice range, the time you put in on the green will pay big dividends on the course.
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