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Practicing With A Purpose
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Practicing With A Purpose

-It's hot, mid July afternoons often are. The scenario; your on the 17th hole, you have 4 skins riding on this hole and bragging rights for the week over your 2 best friends. Your tee shot didn't quite go as planned and your buddy John has just blasted his drive straight down the middle of the fairway. You are looking at a 145 yards to the green and your ball is in the 1st cut of the rough and you have a green side bunker between you and the pin. John is up ahead of you looking back and smiling. Your quite sure he will be able to land a soft wedge shot close to the pin from where he is laying. You notice the wind is picking up a little and blowing toward the green. Sweat is beginning to creep into your eyes and doubt is beginning to creep into your mind. "Did I take enough club?" "Am I going to be able to stop the ball fast enough from this lie?" "If I do leave it short, can I get up and down from the bunker?"-

If you play golf with any regularity, you have experienced this scene before. My experience has been, Go for it and leave it short in the bunker. Practicing shots like this is not easy to do at the local driving range. Typically, at a driving range, your practicing from a fairway lie and focused on the ball strike and flight path. How a ball reacts when being struck from awkward lies is not usually part of the 30 minutes spent at the range each week. I am here to tell you that it should be.

Getting from a handicap of 12 to 8 is a lot harder than you might think. Sure it's only 4 strokes on 18 holes but if your not focused on the right parts of your game, it's a brick wall.

Let's face it, as a 12 handicapper, your probably only going to hit an average of 4 fairways in regulation per round. This means your only going to get a chance to put what you have practiced into action 4 out of 14 times (not counting the par 3 holes). What about the 10 times your approach shot is a mid Iron from the rough? This is what can derail a good round in a hurry. If you have the time to practice these shots, I would highly recommend it. To put this into perspective, If you were able to increase your success from the rough by 40% (increasing 20% success rate to 60% for 2nd shots out of the rough) you would save 4 shots per round. That is the difference of shooting a 78 from 82.

Practice is great but, just banging balls out of a patch of tall grass isn't enough, you need to practice efficiently and productively. The are many good drills available on the web to help you do just that.

Question: Where can I find a driving range that will let me hit from the tall grass.

Answer: In most areas you can't. You can however, find large parks or fields, empty lots or even unfinished housing developments that can offer 100 - 200 yards of empty space and some tall grass. (I especially like the unfinished housing developments because it will also allow me to work on hitting from slopes and mid-irons from the sand as well.) Make a make shift pin out of a stick or wrapping paper tube and a brightly colored piece of cloth, place it 125-150 yards away from where you are hitting. Mark off a circle 15' around the pin. Next, hit 25 balls and see how many you were able to make inside the circle. Make note of how much distance you lose when hitting from this type of rough. Make your adjustments and hit 25 more balls. If you see any improvement here, you will see major improvement on the golf course. You can also use this drill for practicing awkward lies including the ball above or below your feet, hitting from a downward or upward slope as well.

Attempting to swing golf club better includes practicing from where the conditions are not perfect. Let's face it, not every shot will be from the fairway.

-You wind up taking a 7 Iron from your bag, pick your line over the right edge of the bunker. You take a deep breath to calm your nerves. In your mind, you tell yourself "I hit this shot from this lie 100 times this weekend, I know I have to hit it 170 yards fairway distance. I have this shot! Watch this John!). You confidently select your target 5' beyond the front fringe. You make a good swing with solid contact. The ball sails through the air exactly like you visualized it and the ball comes to rest 7' past the hole leaving a make-able slightly uphill putt for birdie. You look over at John with a confident smirk and notice that he is looking very nervous now.-

We all want to play better, Most of us will never play at the pro level but we still want to play at the best of our ability. With the right practice, we can compete.


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