How do You Play Golf?
It’s unlikely we’re going to answer this question here in one post. As a matter of fact we couldn’t get this cleared up in the next 1,000 posts if we dedicated all day, every day to the topic, for the next few years.
Bear in mind this is not going to be an article about ball position, or grip pressure, or even how to get more distance.
Why is that?
Frankly, those things have very little to do with “How to Really Play Golf”, they have to do with the golf swing, a great topic and one that I love, but we’re not going to talk about that today.
We’re not going to engage in the battle of what’s more important? A booming driver? or A magical putting stroke? They’re both important, by the way.
The two most important golf books you’ll ever read:
- Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf
- Unconscious Putting: Dave Stockton’s Guide to Unlocking Your Signature Stroke
Today I want to focus on How to Play Golf. I’m actually looking forward to your thoughts, I’m only going to share some of my experiences because an empty page would look kind of funny when you clicked on it.
How to Play Golf is more about how to get around a golf course and score, how to still score, even when your golf swing isn’t working for you on that particular day.
How to get around a course and still score, even when nothing is going right, you’re pulling your driver, the wind is gusting and you’re tired, just wishing you were at the 19th hole, as opposed to the 6th.
You can’t learn this stuff in one post, or a series, you can only learn these things with experience.
The hope is that YOU will share some of your experience and maybe, just maybe, a 26 handicap will stop by and learn a thing or two, again NOT FROM ME – FROM YOU.
I’m going to share a few things but, they’re only here to jog your memory, so you can share your most valuable tidbit of experience.
Here we go…
The Ball Always Kicks with the Wind
I worked at a driving range when I was young for a guy named Bob Molt, a very accomplished teaching pro, the Golf Coach at Holy Cross and coach to a few Tour Players. You can read more about him at my about page.
Bob Molt was also an assistant, then Director of Golf at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, MA for prominent PGA Tour Player Paul Harney. Harney played on the PGA Tour regularly from 1955 – 1962 and had 6 Top Ten Finishes in Majors, including 4 at the Masters, Paul also had 6 PGA Tour Victories. Pleasant Valley was the home of a regular PGA Tour event for over 25 years most notable the CVS Charity Classic.
I literally hit tens of thousands of balls at that range and the wind was always blowing one way or the other.
Bob said one day, “Hey, you ever notice the ball always kicks with the wind?” I hadn’t until then, but, still today I think about that observation and I put it in play all the time.
It doesn’t matter what your shot shape looks like, the ball almost always kicks in the direction of the wind.
The Bladed Wedge Chip Shot
Another one I learned from Bob Molt. This little shot is never used among amateurs. I believe that fear of looking even worse than you are, probably contributes to this.
This little shot will save your butt, if you play with it a bit. I see Tour Players use it all the time.
You’re up against the grass where the fringe and the rough meet. A smart player is thinking putter, but, the even smarter player is thinking bladed wedge.
Pull out a wedge and take a little shot that is very similar in mechanics to a putt. But, you blade the ball, you hit the bottom edge of the wedge directly on the equator of the ball and it will react very similar to a putt.
Your putter will get caught up in the rough behind the ball, but a sand wedge won’t, it’s brilliant.
By the way, if you’re worried about looking like you mistakenly bladed a chip shot, just call it!
Pitching with an Actual Pitching Wedge
Hopefully this doesn’t blow your mind but, You’re not on Tour!
Yes, tour players use their sand wedge to chip around the greens, they do a lot of things that you and I can’t do.
They are, in most cases playing greens that are far more hard and faster than our greens. Thus, they need to play a different brand of golf than most average players.
Learn to use your pitching wedge and your 9 iron around the greens. There is far more forgiveness on the ground than in the air, get it down, running on the green as quickly as possible.
It’s easier to judge the spin and it’s simply an easier shot to hit close.
FYI: the 7 iron acts very similar to a putter, in terms of length, when the same exact stroke is taken.
Let me ask you something. Why is it that Europeans are so damn good on tough courses? Because they have an incredible propensity keeping the ball down.
Shaping Shots with Your Set-Up not Your Hands
Bubba Watson is THE ONLY player on earth that can work the ball with consistency, by using his hands and not changing his set-up.
If you want to draw the ball, address the ball, and once you’re set, move that back foot two inches further away from the ball than your front foot.
If it doesn’t work, move it further back.
If you want to fade the ball, do the opposite, set up like you normally would and then pull the front foot back, away from the ball, to open your stance.
Altering your set-up is simple and effective.
There are so many reasons why a pre-shot routine is helpful, we can’t discuss them all here.
But, having that routine as a “go to” prior to each shot is priceless, it creates the appearance you know what you’re doing as well!
When you’re under an abnormal amount of pressure, the pre-shot routine will settle you down and normalize things immensely.
You want to have one for all your swings, tee box, fairway and pitch and chip shots.
Having a great pre-putt routine will yield results almost immediately.
Develop a good routine now and figure out what’s comfortable, then put it into play soon!
Teach yourself to have the same thoughts, during your routine, this way you’ll remember to actually do the things, you want to remember to do on each shot.
I finally, after 20 years of playing golf, learned how to read a putting green last year.
Never read a green from behind the ball. Good course designers are good course designers because they know how to undulate a putting green in such a way that:
1. Water will drain quickly and effectively
2. They can create visual illusions designed specifically to confuse you
Use the first design element to your advantage!
Try to find the low side of the putt, the area that your putt will break towards.
Then, while standing at the low side, find the highest point on the putting green.
Imagine an Olympic sized pool worth of water was dumped on the green at the highest point.
Then visualize that water draining off the green.
How will it drain? What is the overall slope? Where are the secondary slopes?
What direction would the water be draining as it went by the area between your ball and the cup?
Break the putt into three segments, put the most attention into the last third, the break right before the ball goes in the cup.
By determining these things, you will discover the break and the intensity of the break. It Works!
Since I started utilizing this method, my putting has improved dramatically.
Using Alignment Sticks Periodically
How often have you hit what felt like a great shot but, it didn’t go where you wanted it to?
You most likely were set up aimed at the place where the ball landed.
Using a set of alignment sticks on the range will teach you quite a bit about your alignment and set-up.
Pull out the sticks every time you go to the range or at the very least, every other.
There is so much talk about this topic:
“When you try to swing nice and easy, you hit great shots.”
When you try to baby the ball up on the green with an easy swing you tend to hit “at the ball” and not “through the ball”.
And the only way to hit a good golf shot is by HITTING THROUGH THE BALL.
I’m not suggesting you swing as hard as you can but, good shots are always struck with the club-head accelerating through the ball.
When you try to guide it and hit at it, you are slowing down at impact and this doesn’t work.
To hit a shorter shot, grip down on the shaft a little, which creates a shorter swing circle and less speed but, you’re still accelerating through.
And/or shorten your back swing and still come through the ball while accelerating.
Speed It Up
I played with a beginner the other day and he summed this one up for me. He said:
“Hey, I’m Kevin, I just started playing last year. I may suck but, I suck fast, so I won’t slow anybody down.”
He actually wasn’t bad!
But, the moral of the story is, you don’t have to be good to play fast!
Play Your Shot
Some natural swings have a tendency to cut the ball and some have a tendency to pull the ball.
Don’t try to change this!
Just go with it and if you tend to fade the ball 15 feet to the right, just aim 15 feet left of the pin.
Just Because It’s Called a Driving Range
Doesn’t mean you can only hit drivers!
Get the feeling of every different club in your bag on the range, half shots, three quarter shots, full swings with as many different clubs as you can.
AND NEVER, please never, stand on the range and hit the same club over and over and over.
You could eventually hit a 2 x 4 straight this way.
Choose a new club for every shot and pick a new target on every shot. This is how you practice effectively, hitting driver after driver, 30 – 40 in a row is play, it’s not practice.
Grass Tee Etiquette (this sign sums it up):
The Slip Hook
Another one I learned from Bob Molt.
You aren’t very good at hooking the ball from right to left, but, you’re behind a tree and if you could just hit a hook shaped shot, you could get up near the green.
Here’s what you do.
Set up with the hook stance we discussed earlier, back foot slightly further from the ball than your front foot.
Take your normal back swing and on the down swing, let your back foot slip backward. (which it wants to do anyway, this is why we use spikes)
That ball will hook to the left every time your back foot slips. The more you allow it to slip, the more it will hook.
It may sound strange until you try it.
BTW, don’t hurt yourself!
On the 18th Green
As you are finishing your round, remove your hat and shake the hands of everyone in your group.
This won’t lower your scores, it will just show some respect, this is what playing golf is all about.
Obviously we could go on all day with little “How to Play Golf” tidbits.
These little pieces of information will eventually all be second nature, sometimes you’ll forget them but, eventually you will develop your own set of rules that you follow that help you learn How to Play Golf.
Enough from me! Please do share your little bits of advice (in the “Comments” box below) that you feel will help future readers.
Don’t be shy, let’s hear them. You do have something to add here and if you don’t share you’re being selfish!
If you’re embarrassed, give us a fake name, whatever, just share, this is how people learn! Thanks!