Things I’m Going to Work on This Year to Lower My Scores
I’ve never done this before but, this year I’ve chosen 5 things that I am going to work on to lower my scores. Some are things I noticed I did last year that directly hurt my scoring and some are things I have always wanted to pay more attention to but never made a conscious decision to do so.
As I look at my list it’s interesting because it’s 100% composed of things I need to improve on because of mental mistakes I know I’m making on the golf course. I guess it’s a testament to how cerebral the game of golf is.
(1) Smarter Approach Shots
Jack Nicklaus always says that approach shots need to be played “from the middle of the green“. Jack’s point here is that approach shots need to be planned in a way so that you are very conscious of shaping the shot so your ball will land and run from the center of the green as opposed to firing at pins and missing greens short-side.
I’ve decided to stop working on drawing the ball with my longer irons, it just doesn’t work for me, so I’m going to be putting from the middle of the green more often when the pin is left. This was part of Jack’s “middle of the green” advice so I am going to take it.
Sean Foley stresses the idea of learning and isolating your miss. My typical miss the last couple of years has been a slight double-cross when playing a cut. I believe if I begin playing a cut set-up at the flag, with the pin left, my miss (slight draw when trying to cut) will actually work out quite well. It will definitely work better than what I have been doing, short-siding myself constantly.
(2) More Confident Putting with Less Thinking
Brad Faxon, arguably the greatest putter of all time, was asked why he was able to putt so well for such a long period of time. His answer was: “Because I’m not scared to miss“. This answer is so simple and so brilliant.
Dave Stockton’s Signature Putting Technique is grounded in the idea that your Signature is done sub-consciously and your Putting should be as well.
When I am reading greens this year I am going to visualize the entire putt from leaving the putter, to break, all the way to which side of the cup I think it will drop in. Napoleon Hill author of “Think and Grow Rich” says “Anything the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve” So, I am going to have more belief that putts will drop regardless of difficulty.
I’m going to try to do all the thinking while I’m lining the putt up and taking 2 practice strokes. I’m going to try not to think while I’m over the putt. That is going to be my routine this year and I am going to make a conscious effort to stick to this pre-shot routine on each and every putt.
(3) Taking Lay-up Shots as Seriously as Approach Shots
I can think of a few occasions last year where a good round was ruined on par 5’s. This just shouldn’t be the case, I can hit the ball pretty well and Par 5 holes should be a chance to make up some strokes.
When I thought about those awful 5 par holes later on, it was pretty easy to remember where the break-down was. I simply wasn’t giving the lay-up shots the attention that they deserve. This year I am going to give the shots where I’m laying up an inordinate amount of attention. I’m going to pick a definite line and distance on each lay-up shot.
(4) Striking the Match on Chip and Pitch Shots
This was part 2 of my par 5 problems last year. Whenever I was up around the green in two I would leave these little pitch or chip shots short. Granted a chip for Eagle is a little different than a chip to get up and down on a par 4, but is it? It shouldn’t be and I know better!
Nevertheless, this was an identifiable problem last year so I’m going to work on it.
Gary Player highlights a great analogy when it comes to these little shots. He says you need to think of these shots as striking a match. Player explains, if you drag a match head along the rough strip on the match box slowly it won’t light but, when you scrape it quickly it will.
I am going to make a conscious effort to take confident enough pitch and chip shots that the spin is taken fully into account. In the past I have found myself hitting these shots too lightly, trying to baby the shot up to the hole. Needless to say I found myself disappointed with very long leftover putts.
This year I am going to hit more confident little scoring shots knowing damn well that the spin will, in most cases slow it down significantly. This one will take practice time and it will vary a bit from course to course but the result will be worth it.
(5) Committing to Each Shot
I started doing this late last year and I’m going to make an effort to continue it this year. The people who have worked with Tiger Woods all say that they have never seen a more focused and committed player. By focused and committed they mean on a shot by shot basis. Obviously we all think we’re committed to shooting lower scores but are we really? I have been practicing this commitment to each shot thing, by playing rounds on the range.
I had a coach in high school that used to scream “Thought Process Guys, Thought Process!!!” whenever we would blow it. I don’t want to over think my golf game this year but I am committed to thinking through each and every shot to identify the risk and the reward.
Further, I want to get all of this thinking done before I step over the ball. This won’t be easy but I am fully committed to the idea of it.
- Weigh risk and reward
- Determine the shot type
- Visualize the shot
- Choose a line and landing spot
Then get over the shot and the only thought from there should be – smooth takeaway.
I’ve actually created a list that I am going to put in my golf bag and review each of these items before each round.
Those are the things I’m going to work on this year. Last year I practiced a lot and early practice this year has gone great, so I don’t plan on putting too much additional time into the swing.
What are you working on? Let us know!