I wish there was a single tip I could give that would instantly make everyone reading this a better golfer. But each player has their own swing, their own mental approach, their own vision of a perfect golf shot. However, these seven tips are the most universal ones I’ve found, the ones that help almost every one of my students.
I suggest you try each one at least once — but not all at the same time! Pick one that you think will click and put it into practice. If it works, give it a few rounds to really integrate it into your game, then move on to the next one.
Tip #1: The Wind Is Your Friend
Windy days are often considered the bane of golfers. While it’s true that high winds generally drive scores up, you can overcome this and wow your golf buddies with a simple change in approach. This tip is primarily mental: accepting the fact that you can use the wind to your advantage. So how do you make the wind your friend instead of your foe?
Simple: swing easy and focus on making solid contact. It’s tempting to swing out of your shoes whether you’re facing a tough headwind or trying to take advantage of being downwind. However, in both cases you’re better off swinging smoothly and just making good contact.
An overly aggressive swing will increase the backspin applied to the ball. Into the wind, the added backspin will cause the ball to balloon and fall far short of your target. Downwind, the extra backspin will fight the helping wind and not fly as far as it should. In both circumstances, you’ll come up short. So remember: on a windy day, swing easy.
Tip #2: Dustin Johnson’s Rhythm Secret
The swing trigger is a subtle but effective way to make sure you make every swing with good rhythm. “But Dustin Johnson is a freak of nature, I don’t have his physical gifts — what can I learn from him?” you may ask. You may not have his flexibility or strength, but you can copy his rhythm. And the key to that rhythm is his simple swing trigger. At the start of every swing or putting stroke, he presses his hands just a tiny bit forward.
Incorporating a swing trigger like this into your pre-shot routine helps prevent herky-jerky yippy movements and promotes a smooth swing every time on the golf course.
Tip #3: Pick the Right Club for Your Chip Shot
I see a lot of amateurs automatically grabbing a lob wedge for any and all shots around the green. Here’s the thing: the lob wedge is one of the toughest clubs to hit chip shots with! I always suggest using the club with the least loft possible when hitting a chip shot. Sure, if you need to hit a high shot that stops quickly, that will be the lob wedge. But most of the time, you should be grabbing an 8- or 9-iron to hit a short chip that will roll out to the hole.
Place the ball off your back foot and your hands well ahead of the ball. Make a short, simple stroke from your shoulders and watch as the ball hops onto the green and rolls out to the hole. Spend 5 minutes hitting chips with each club from 8-iron (including your forgiving irons) through lob wedge to get a sense of how far the ball will go with each one. You’ll find yourself getting up and down much more often.
Tip #4: Use Your Body For Power
The secret to hitting the ball a long way isn’t in arm and hand strength. These will help, but the true source of power in the golf swing is the core of the body. The biggest thing to remember here is that your lower body should start your downswing. Your focus on your backswing should be making a big shoulder turn.
When you get to the top of your backswing, your focus should be turning your hips to get your belt buckle facing the target. Your arms and hands will just come along for the ride.
Tip #5: Aim Above and Below
It’s all too easy to get flag-focused, aiming at tucked pins and winding up with impossible, short-sided bunker shots. Instead of looking at the flag at all, pick a spot on the horizon for your aiming point. Usually this will be a treetop, a building, or possibly a bit of the sky if there’s no surrounding landscape.
Picking a horizon target will free up your swing and allow you to hit smarter shots. Most of the time, you’re best off aiming towards the middle of the green. And by “aim below”, I mean pick a spot close to your ball that’s between your ball and the target. This could be a leaf on the ground or a particular divot or blade of grass. Picking a close target will help your alignment, and picking a horizon target will free your mind.
Tip # 6: Putt Like Tiger Woods
In 2013, Steve Stricker gave Tiger Woods a putting lesson before the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Tiger promptly won the tournament, needing only 100 putts over four rounds. So what was the tip?
Stricker fixed Tiger’s slightly open alignment to make his feet square to the target line. This got the ball rolling along the right line. Then, he had Tiger slightly weaken his left hand grip to help him square the clubface and smooth out the stroke.
If you find yourself missing putts to the right, try rotating your lead hand toward the target slightly (aka “weakening” your grip), and then hit a few putts with just that hand on the club (left hand for right-handed players, vice versa for lefties). Add your right hand back on for stability, but let your left hand lead the stroke. This will remove the “hit” and produce a smoother, straighter roll.
Tip # 7: Laugh It Off
No one hits every shot perfectly. Ben Hogan famously said, “a good round of golf is if you can hit about three shots that turnout exactly as you planned them.” And he might be the best ballstriker of all time! So it confuses me that amateurs will get angry and beat themselves up mentally all day long, leaving the course angry about everything that went wrong over the course of the round.
Far too few golfers focus on the good shots, the camaraderie of enjoying golf with your friends, and the beauty of the surroundings. But if you relax and have more fun, you’ll find your scores get better too! So if you hit a bad shot, accept it, laugh it off, and relish the challenge of hitting the next one.
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