How to Play Better Golf Under Pressure

Golf Putting PracticeWhether you are gearing up for the high school golf season, prepping for an   upcoming Member-Member, or just getting ready for a big weekend round with your friends, you are undoubtedly worried that all those great shots you hit on the range won’t transfer to your next competitive round. A good golf game is not something that can just be turned on and off—it has to constantly be tuned and developed. In this article, I am going to give you a few suggestions as to how you can keep your game sharp and always bring your “A Game” to the course.If you want to be able to play well in your competitive rounds, all of your practices on the range and fun rounds have to be more about quality than quantity. It is nearly impossible to go from rapid firing balls on the range without a care in the world to needing to knock it close because your partner hit it in the woods. The more we can put ourselves in game-like situations, the better we will perform when it really counts.

There are several ways to go about doing this:

  1. Always pick a specific target on the range, and change that target often. I would recommend spending the first part of your time on the range working on whatever changes your PGA/LPGA Instructor has given you to make (while still focused on the those targets) and the second part playing pretend holes. Pick tricky holes that you have trouble with and play them on the range. Be sure to go through your routine on every shot, just as you would in a real round. Doing this type of practice on the range will keep you in each shot mentally and will make hitting it to a specific target on the course nothing out of the ordinary.
  2. Practice short game! Practice short game! Practice short game! No one ever seems to practice their short game, yet the majority of shots on the course are played from inside 60 yards. When you practice your short game, make it count. Try to get up and down with just one ball. Pretend like each shot or putt is to win something big. Don’t just pour a pile of balls and whack away. A good short game takes a lot of pressure off the long game.
  3. Don’t take gimmes or mulligans (or even that “well I won’t play this second ball, just let me see what I can do” shot). It’s not that I don’t believe that you can make that seven incher, it’s that not finishing each hole or hitting extra balls takes us out of a competitive mindset and causes us to lose track of how the round is actually going. Play only one ball, play it as it lies, and finish even the shortest of putts. This will give you closure on each hole and allow you to stay mentally sharp by letting you know where you really stand score wise.
  4. Always put pencil to paper. Keep score even if you’re playing alone. This adds pressure and keeps you in a game-like situation. Not only should you always be keeping score, but also you should be keeping it correctly. If you hit a shot out of bounds, proceed under the Rules of Golf, don’t just say “oh I’ll drop one up there”. Play and count every shot like you are in a tournament.
  5. Finally, develop a routine and stick to it. Whether it’s how many practice swings you take or how many times you inhale and exhale before a shot, make sure you do the same thing every single time. Focus on the routine, not on what the shot means. This will instantly alleviate the pressure.

Hopefully these tips will allow you to transfer those beautiful shots and incredible putts from the practice tee to the first tee of your next competitive round.

Enjoy the game and, remember, if you are interested in more tips visit my website or stop by the Kandi Comer Golf Academy located at Old Trail Golf Club in Crozet and just outside Charlottesville, VA.

3 Ways to Hit Your Irons Closer to the Flag

I hope everyone has been able practice and play golf now that the weather has finally gotten better after the very long winter. I have had a lot of students come to me this week who desperately wanted to improve their iron shots. Golfers are looking for more consistency in hitting greens, and, of course, would also like to hit it closer to the hole.

Hit closer to flagThere are three areas that I think are important when you are trying to hit your irons closer to the hole.
1. Grip: You must have a fairly neutral grip when you grip the golf club. This means for most golfers that you need to see 11/2 knuckles on your lead hand at address and then the V formed between your thumb and forefinger on your trail hand needs to point towards your trail shoulder at address. You also need to hold the golf club with a relaxed grip pressure.
2. Alignment: Always make sure your clubface is aimed at your target. This might sound like a simple suggestion but you would be amazed how many golfers aim their bodies at the target and therefore the clubface is aimed right (right handed golfers) of the target. Start with aiming the clubface at the target first and then set your feet, hips and shoulders parallel to the target line. Visualize railroad tracks. Your clubface is on the outside of the track and your body will be on the inside track.
3. Impact position: I feel the truth of the moment of any golf swing is what happens at impact. As a result if I have to give one tip without seeing the golfer swing and they want to hit the ball closer to the hole I will tell them they have to make sure that the back of their lead hand must face the target at impact. What that means if you wear a glove and when you are at impact the back of the glove must be facing the target and the shaft is leaning a little towards the target.

Go outside and take some practice swings with these tips in mind to see where the back of your lead hand or your glove hand is facing at impact. If it is not facing your target, then you will see why you have had trouble with your irons. Take slow motion swings, and I mean very slow swings, stopping at impact so your lead hand faces the target at impact. Once you get the feeling down in slow motion, then try hitting shots at real speed until you get the same feeling.

I know you will see results. Good luck. For more tips visit kandicomergolf.com or stop by our office at Old Trail Golf Club in Crozet.

Can You Take Your Game to the Course

Golf Putting PracticeHow many times do we hear, “I can hit the shots when I practice, but I cannot do it on the golf course?”  I always have students that tell me they practice their golf game a lot, yet they never seem to improve.   I feel better practice habits are very important for the golfer to improve after a lesson, and then take what they’ve practiced to the course.

There are a couple ways to practice and I believe we need balance in our practice sessions to see results.  The first type of practice is called block practice. Block practice is used most often just after you have taken a lesson.  This is where you have a pile of balls and you are working on making changes in your swing or with your short game.  You hit each ball focused on the changes you are trying to make.  This is also the time you are working on the drills you received from your instructor during your lesson.

The second type of practice is random practice. Random practice is when you are working on the changes so they will transfer to the golf course.  You will hit different clubs to different targets with your focus on target and not technique. It is important to have good fundamentals throughout your golf game, but you also have to be able to transfer the changes to the golf course.  I encourage golfers to go through their routine on every shot during thisMasters Golf Course part of their practice session.  It is important to treat these shots as if you were playing on the golf course.  I even encourage the golfer to play some holes on the range hitting the clubs they would normally hit on each hole.  Make each shot mean something.

It is also important to practice all aspects of your game.  You need to focus on your full swing, chipping, pitching, bunker shots and putting.  There are too many golfers that just go to the range and hit balls.  During their range time they are just rapid firing balls instead of having a plan for their practice.

So the next time you go to practice try these steps:

  1. Write out a plan before you leave for the course and stick to your plan.  Your plan should include a couple different areas of practice (full swing and short game).
  2. Include some block practice and end with random practice.
  3. Play a few holes on the range before you leave.
  4. Make notes on your practice session before you leave.  For example, What you were working on and the results you were seeing.  What were you feeling?  etc.

I hope these practice suggestions will help you lower your scores.  For more tips and information sign up for our newsletter below, or come visit us at Kandi Comer Golf located at Old Trail Golf Club in Crozet, just west of Charlottesville, Virginia

 

What it Takes to Win the Masters

On the eve of the most thrilling four days in golf, a few people are frantically trying to finalize their pick for who will don the coveted green jacket on Sunday evening, the rest of us are simply excited for the electrifying competition that is sure to transpire.

Masters ThumbnailThere is no one key ingredient to guarantee a win at the Masters. Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, Augusta National architects, lived in an entirely different era of golf. One of the, if not the, most famous courses in the world was designed with art and aesthetics in mind. Painted like beautiful brush strokes, rather than a boring grid, the enchanting course in Georgia is unlike any other on the planet. Granted the course has undergone so many changes over the years that it would be false advertising to call it a Jones & MacKenzie course, there is no doubt that the spirit of the course has been upheld. Creativity, ingenuity, and pure skill are all required to be successful at Augusta National. None of the holes, especially the ones that make up the famed Amen Corner, allow a player to overpower them. Many modern courses are laid out so linearly that the long hitter always has a chance. Few courses across the country still protect themselves from the big bomber who need not even worry about accuracy, course management, or putting. This is not the case at never-rated, Georgia course. Put simply, one does not overpower Augusta National, one finesses it. And that is what makes the Masters so exciting. With the exception of Tiger Woods’ incredible performance in 1997, where he finished a staggering twelve shots ahead of the field, few players walk away with the green jacket unscathed. A close contest is practically guaranteed.

With that being said, I think that there are several players in the field who have the necessary ingenuity and skill needed to be successful at the Masters. Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Angel Cabrera, Rory McIlroy, and Adam Scott are among the many players to watch at the 78th playing of the Masters. Regardless of who is sitting in Butler Cabin Sunday evening, that person will excel in, what I believe are, the integral areas of the game required to succeed at Augusta National.

Those areas are:

1. Patience: This can be a very long week with very fast and slope ridden greens that require a lot of patience. Avoiding frustration is a must. Also, the pace of play tends to be slower than normal, which wears on the golfers.

2. Hot Putter: A hot putter can go a long ways at the Masters. The golfer that makes the most putts and putts consistently throughout the week usually comes out on top.

3. Drive the ball in the fairway: It certainly helps to keep the ball in play and on the correct side of the fairway to approach the greens. Hitting the fairway at Augusta is not enough, players must be certain to hit the “correct” side of the fairway in order to ensure a shot at the pin. Chipping and pitching is tricky at the Masters with the slippery slopes and thick grass. Players who avoid putting themselves in this difficult position by getting it in the fairway off the tee and then hitting the green are the most likely to succeed.

4. Good decision making: The practice rounds are very important in order to set up a good game plan and what clubs you want to carry for the week.  This is where the creativity comes into play. I heard Phil Mickelson say this morning that he has not had a shot from 90-130 yards in three years at Augusta, and as a result he is adding a 64 degree wedge to his bag to help around the greens. The players must set up a plan as to how they want to play the course and then stick to that plan. Golfers need to stay in the moment and not let results (good or bad) change that game plan.

5. Fitness: I think fitness and conditioning will come into play as Augusta is a very hilly golf course and tough to walk. The golfer that is in the best shape coming down the stretch will give themselves the best chance at winning. A player cannot be huffing and puffing, and they must have their legs in order to continue to make good golf swings.

I believe that the golfer who has those five items in check all week has the best chance of coming out on top at Augusta National. So sit back, relax, and get ready watch the greatest tournament at the greatest venue in golf.

Tiger out with Bad Back

Tiger Woods, world number 1, made one of the toughest phone calls he has ever had to make yesterday. He had to call Arnold Palmer to inform him that his back is not ready to play this week at Bay Hill.  He went on to mention that it is way to early to make a decision about the Masters’s, but he did say that he is listening to his doctors and taking it one day at a time. Calling Palmer to withdraw from a tournament he has won 8 times and acknowledging that the Master’s, the tournament he holds dearest, may not be an option this year really puts into perspective how bad his back is. tiger woods back pain

Having had both a hip and a knee replacement, and having battled a bad back since my junior year in college, I know how tough golf can be on the body and how significant those types of injures can have on a career.  We have known about Tiger’s knee issues long before he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 on practically one leg (undergoing surgery the following week). In fact, one of the reasons many analysts believe he had to change his swing this last time was to protect his knee. The back issue seems to be a new beast for him, and only time will tell what kind of effect it has on his career. There is no doubt that Tiger is currently the hardest working player on tour, and has always worked very hard on his game his entire life.  Golf has been Tiger’s sport since he could walk and one has to wonder has this repetitive motion of a golf swing taken it’s toll on his body.

Tiger has a rigorous work out schedule, and many have said that it might be too much- arguing that it adds even more of a toll to his body, but people need to understand that this intense regimen is crucial for him to continue his career.  He has to keep his abs and glutes strong to protect his back, he has to keep his quads, hamstrings etc. strong to protect his knee. But will this be enough to keep him on the course?

We all know Tiger has been one of the greatest players to play the game and now we only have to wonder if injuries will end his career. He has been so good for the game of golf over the years. Now we are left to wonder if there will ever be another dominant player like Tiger. Is there another young player coming up through the ranks that will bring the excitement to the game like Tiger? Tiger had the game, the charisma, and the passion to get fans excited about golf (TV ratings alone are a testament to that).

I am certainly not ready for his career to end on this note, and I think many people would agree.  Love him or hate him, he is a thrill to watch.

St. Patrick’s Day Golf News and Golf Tip

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I only wish it was not a white one. Enjoy the newsletter from the Kandi Comer Golf Academy and I only hope spring will arrive soon for everyone to get back on the golf course.

Click here to view the St. Patricks Day Newsletter that includes upcoming events and the latest golf tip.

I Promise Spring is Coming

winter golf programsAs I sit here in my office on yet another snowy morning I am trying to convince myself that spring will be here soon.  It seems that we are having more snow shoveling time during February and March than we have had golf time.  But I promise you spring will come so let’s start preparing now for the golf season.

Here are a few tips that all golfers should do before they make that first trip to the golf course for the new season.

  • Check your golf equipment. Are your grips split or slick? Having good grips is very important as we get into warmer weather.  We do not want any reason for our hands to slip in the middle of our swing.  Do your wedges have plenty of grooves left on the club face?  We want to make sure the ball will spin some with adequate grooves once it hits the green.
  • Clean out your golf bag.  You might be amazed or surprised what you will find in your bag from last year.  Stock your bag with tees, balls, gloves, divot repair tools, band aids, sunscreen etc.  Make sure your range finder has new batteries for the year.  Make sure you have a good glove not one that has gotten hard and slick during the winter months.
  • Clean your shoes and check your soft spikes.  Start the year off with good traction by replacing your soft spikes.  The spring is always wet and this will give you added traction to prevent slipping during a swing.   Make sure your shoes are still waterproof and have not exceeded their guarantee.
  • Do you have a rain suit and umbrella in case you get caught on the course in the rain? If so make sure the rain suit is in your bag and the umbrella is on the bag.
  • As I mentioned above spring golf is generally wet and make sure you have a clean towel on your bag and an extra towel inside the bag.  For those cold spring mornings throw a couple hand warmers in your bag and a warm stocking cap.

golf practiceNow that you have everything ready to go all we need is some warm weather.  I encourage golfers to start the season off by getting a tune up lesson or signing up for a refresher golf school/clinic to make sure you have all your fundamentals in check and it will create a lot less frustration in those early rounds.  Check to see if the PGA or LPGA professional near you has an indoor teaching facility as we have at my facility and this will really give you a jump start to the season.

Wishing everyone a great 2014 golf season and if you are near the Charlottesville, VA area please feel free to stop by to see me at the Kandi Comer Golf Academy located at Old Trail Golf Club in Crozet, VA.