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Cut strokes by reading the green effectively

Putting is a huge part of anyone’s game, but that doesn’t mean you have to put up huge numbers on the green. A lot of amateur golfers have trouble getting the ball rolling in the right direction with the proper speed. Reading the green is vital to putting success.

Breaking down a putt into 3 separate pieces can help. Speed, Distance, and direction. It sounds simple but you can use these tricks to help you dial in your putting.

  1. Speed – take a look at your putt from a few different angles. By walking near your ball path to the hole, you should be able to feel the contours of the green beneath your feet. This can give you a better idea of the slope of the green and whether you’ll need to hit it harder or softer than a flat putt.
  2. Distance – once you have an idea of the slope, take a look at how far your putt has to actually travel. Factor that into what you’ve discovered from the speed to predict how hard you have to hit the putt. Practice the rule of 10%. For every 10 feet you are away from the hole, you want to be within 10% of that on your next putt; if you’re 30 feet away, try and get your ball within 3 feet of the hole. For a 60 footer, get yourself inside of 6 feet and you’re doing great.
  3. Direction – much like what you did in step 1 with speed, you can use your feet to tell you a lot about the contour of the greens. Which foot is higher or lower than the other when standing near your line. What do you feel? This should give you a good idea as to which way the putt is breaking. On slightly longer putts, it’s helpful to break the path into 3 sections. The first third, second, and last third of the putt. Putts don’t necessarily break all the way to the hole and there may be flat spots or even double benders. Taking a look at the putt from the opposite side of the hole and perpendicular to your line will also help assess the direction you need to start the ball on its way to the hole.

No one knows your game better than you do. When practicing sound course management, keeping realistic expectations in-mind is ideal to shoot your best scores and avoid the big numbers. Of course if you’re playing in the US Open or club championship and need to take some risks to gain some strokes, that’s another story, but realizing the risk is half of the battle. Execution is the rest.

  1. To lay up or not to lay up – while each and every layup is situational, think about the risk/reward of making it over or dunking one in the hazard. If you’re laying pretty on a par 5 but you have 220 to carry the drink, think about whether or not you have that shot in your bag. If you need to hit a hybrid or fairway wood, what’s the green look like? Are they holding that day? Is the green deep? Can you get enough trajectory on the ball to stop the ball on the green? If not, what’s the area behind the green look like? If you barely clear the drink, is there room for you to hit an easy chip up? What’s your number – if you’re great from 100 yards, perhaps you’d be better off laying up to hit your most solid wedge. If all goes moderately okay for the rest of the hole, you should have a fairly easy par – but even better yet, you might have a good look at birdie. If you go for it and put one in the drink, you’re scrambling to make par.
  2. The driveable par 4 – much like laying it up, assess the situation. Many short par 4’s are designed to tempt you into making a mistake! There may be a lurking swamp or bunker that could cause you some trouble. Look at the card or ask a local member if you’re not familiar with the hole. A laser rangefinder might really help answer some of those questions and determine whether or not you can even get there. If your driver isn’t your most solid club, perhaps you’d have better luck hitting a 5 iron or hybrid into the fairway (or not in the water or bunker at least) and give you a great look at the hole from a fairly short distance. Ups and downs from a nice fairway are typically easier than the bunker.
  3. Play to your strengths – assessing each and every shot is important. We know. It’s a lot of thinking and processing to do out there and it’s a lot more work that just gripping it and ripping it. Assess the hole from the tee. Take a look at the yardage. That alone should tell you a lot about how you’re going to attack the hole effectively and efficiently. Next, look at where trouble can come into play. If the card can’t tell you that, just look. Sometimes you may need a little help figuring out distances to threats or how a certain hole might play. What’s the wind doing? Can that potentially help you or hurt you? And finally, make a decision. Perhaps your driver is on and regardless of how far you are from the hole, it won’t make or break your round.

Execution is the final step of the process. A lot of these tips and thoughts might not help you if you’re not executing. Regardless, even if you aren’t piecing together a great round, it can save you a stroke here or there. Constantly assessing the risk and situation is what course management is all about.

4 simple tips to increase power and distance off the tee

  1. Strengthen your grip – for a right handed golfer, that means taking your lower hand and turning it slightly counter clockwise on your grip. This will allow for more release of the clubhead, increasing swing speed. If your grip is already strong or too strong, you may notice too much hand action and inconsistent drives. To add subtle power, strengthen your grip.
  2. Shift your weight – To increase swing speed and power, try shifting more weight to your back foot during your takeaway. When starting your attack down to the ball, shift your weight back to your front foot and release. Try and do so without swaying too much, but a little lower body movement is important for a powerful swing.
  3. It’s all about attack angle – if you can’t visualize it, draw a dot on a dimple on your ball. Tee your ball up and point the dimple in the opposite direction of where you’re hitting (where your clubface connects with the ball). Now rotate that dimple about 15% downward. When you swing through your shot, you are trying to hit that dimple with the center of your club face. Rather than hit the equator of your ball, you should try and hit up on the ball through impact rather than flat or, for most golfers, with a negative attack angle. Hitting the ball with a positive attack angle will give you a proper launch for optimized carry and distance.
  4. Keep a long extension through impact – In order to maintain clubhead speed through the ball, keep your hands and arms extended out after you make contact with the ball. The reason? The clubhead will be moving at its fastest speed the further it is away from your core. Stiff, extended arms through impact will increase power tremendously and ensure you’re hitting the ball as far as possible by generating clubhead speed.

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Joe's Expert Advice

beginners’ tip:


We've all been there - the first tee in a big event, or maybe with a new group of guys you've never played with before or even an old group of buddies busting you chops. The first tee jitters are real! Practice these techniques if you suffer from the first tee jitters. 1 - Hit the range before your tee time. If the course you're playing has a range, try and hit a few balls before your round. This can help loosen you up. Plus if you have a few good drives under your belt, you can take that confidence to the first tee. 2 - Take your normal practice routine. Don't take extra practice swings, overthink and overplay your shot. 3 - Just before your tee shot, before at address, take a deep breath. Feel your stomach push out and back in as you exhale. Try and relax. 4 - Pick a target. Rather than get up and smack the ball, really focus on your target and not as much on your technique/mechanics. 5 - Don't grip the club too tight. Keep your grip pressure light and relaxed allowing your hands to release through impact.