USE THE RIGHT CLUB
Golf is hard, or so my grandfather told me when he was teaching me the game many, many years ago. I’ve lost my taste for chasing the little white ball, but the advice he gave me about the game has stayed with me. For starters, learn what you can do with each club by practicing on the driving range; it will improve your fairway play. And if you want to shake a few strokes off your game, go down a club and swing more slowly.
Golf ball technology has come a long way since my grandfather used to tear up the course at Springbrook in Morristown, NJ. The newest innovation concerns LDP — low drag performance, with a design that allows the ball to travel with less friction against the air, increasing the “sweet spot” on most every club.
GRIP IT AND RIP IT
For me there’s only one way to do it:
Grab it firmly with your left hand first, then your right, lacing the right pinky between the index and middle fingers of the left hand. Lefties reverse the procedure. And then feel the power.
KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN
It’s human nature to want to see just how far you smacked that ball off the tee, but if you don’t hit the ball before you scan the horizon, you’re not going to get a good shot off. My grandfather told me to tilt my head and watch the ball with my left eye, creating a split-second delay in the natural instinct to look up, just enough to see that the club actually strikes the ball.
Don’t be a wussy about it. Take a full backswing, with your weight on your back foot and keeping your left arm straight. If you’re worried about making good contact with the ball, swing a little slower.
As you swing, bring your weight from your back foot to your front, turning your hips into the motion, and follow through with the swing until your shoulders are squared, bringing the club around your back. If you’ve done everything else right, follow-through should be smooth, but a bad follow-through can reveal mistakes in grip, stance and motion.
When you’re chipping off the green, you want the shaft angled toward the hole at the point of impact. If you’re in the sand, you want it angled away from the hole.
ON THE GREEN
My grandfather used to say that a twoinch putt goes down on the scorecard the same as a 300-yard drive. “You drive for show, but you putt for dough,” was one of his platitudes. To that end, he taught me to putt in a pendulum motion, using my arms and shoulders instead of my wrists, and to keep my left hand in front of the ball at contact. He was a traditionalist — none of those belly-wedge jobs or fancy, misshaped heads for him. Just a simple, flat blade.
Golf is hard, and if you want to get good at it, you have to spend as much time at the driving range and the putting green as you do on the course. And don’t forget your short game, which is often neglected in practice. My grandfather used to spend afternoons in his backyard chipping practice balls into a cardboard box.
Remember: Golf is a game. It’s supposed to be fun. Bring a cigar. Have a couple beers at the halfway house. Talk trash with your friends and enjoy the sunshine. If you spend the day screaming at the ball and throwing your clubs into the pond, then you’re doing it wrong.