So you are out on the golf course and playing with the best player in the club. They seem to make mistakes like you do, however you have noticed that they seem to make many more birdies when playing to recover their score and still shoot a good total.
Why do you not make as many birdies and how do you make more? Well this tip is designed to help you to create many more birdie chances, to then capitalize on them, and hole the putts.
Fault - You do not have to hit a driver 300 yards straight down the middle of the fairway to make birdies, you just have to hit the iron shot into the green closer than ever before. Birdies can happen if you slice your tee shot into the rough on the side and birdies can happen if you have only hit the golf ball 200 yards off the tee. Creating more chances comes from being able to hit your iron shots into the greens with distance control and precision.
Fix - Knowing your distances from 150 yards and in is crucial when looking at making more birdie chances. Firstly, do you know you distances accurately enough? Can you quickly and without hesitation pick the correct golf club for each distance you have out on the golf course? If not, this is where you will make huge improvements when attacking the flags.
Creating a distance chart - Creating a distance chart is an easy way to take out the guess work from your iron play. You can accurately choose a club on the golf course from any distance from your maximum yardage and in so that you can hit precise distance shots at the flag. The best way to create a distance chart is to use a flat practice ground without any wind factors that will affect the golf ball's flight. Hit each club you have in your set 10 times with a comfortable full golf swing. Take an average of the 10 shots with each club to work out the distance either by pacing the shots out or by using a measuring device with each club.
This will provide you with an extensive distance chart for all distances that you can note down and carry around with you when you are out on the golf course.
How to Make More Birdies – Working on Distance Control
Every golfer would love to make more birdies – that much should go without saying. Making a birdie is one of the best-possible results in the game for any given hole that you play, and putting a few birdies on your card during the course of a round is going to almost ensure a good total score. Of course, as you know, making birdies is easier said than done. A pro golfer is usually happy with making four birdies in a round, so the average player is often thrilled with making just one before the day is over. Sure there is something to be said for the consistency of making par after par throughout most of your round, but there is nothing like a birdie or two to really give your score a boost.
There is a lot that goes into making the average birdie. You can't (usually) hit just one great shot in order to play a hole in one-under-par. Most of the time, you are going to have to string together at least a couple of good shots, and you will have to top off those shots with a quality putt. For example, imagine you are playing a par four of average length. In order to walk off with a birdie, you will need to hit a quality drive, an accurate iron shot, and a good putt. If any one of those three things does not occur, your hopes of a birdie will most likely disappear. This is a big part of what makes birdies so elusive – it is not that you have to make a great swing, but rather the fact that you have to string those great shots together all on the same hole.
One of the keys to making plenty of birdies is controlling the distance of your ball properly. You are only going to make a lot of birdies when you are able to set up short birdie putts, and that obviously happens only when you hit accurate approach shots. You might think first about having to get the ball on line when hitting approach shots, but distance control is just as important to your success. Without proper distance control, it isn't going to matter how well you manage to hit the target line – you will still be too far away from the hole for a reasonable birdie effort. Professional golfers are great at controlling the distance of their shots, which is one of the reasons they make so many birdies. Work on your ability to dial in distances with a variety of clubs and you are sure to post better scores in the near future.
While distance control is important throughout your bag, it is really the short clubs that you need to be able to dial in perfectly. The range of clubs from your eight iron on down to your shortest wedge are the 'scoring clubs', and these are the ones that are going to set up the majority of your birdie chances. You might make the occasional birdie with a longer club in your hands, but most of the time it is swings with these short clubs that need to pay off in the form of a good birdie chance. Since it is relatively easy to get your shots on line with shorter irons, the make-or-break factor on these shots is usually your ability to control distance.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Foundation of Distance Control
If you are going to control your distance successfully throughout the course of a given round, you are going to have to do one main thing well – make solid contact with the golf ball. Sure, there are other issues at play that we will address later in this article, but making clean contact is the base on which everything else is built. Simply put, if you aren't able to strike the ball cleanly at impact, you aren't going to control your distance properly.
So, before getting into any other topics related to distance control, the first thing you need to do is make sure you have the fundamentals in place in your swing to strike the ball as solidly as possible. No one hits the ball cleanly every time – this is a very hard game, after all – but working on the points below can improve the frequency with which you hit a solid shot.
- Balance throughout the swing. There is nothing more important than balance when it comes to solid ball striking. If you are well-balanced throughout your swing, you will have a great chance to hit the ball cleanly – even if you make some other mistakes along the way. Balance is something that most amateur golfers overlook, yet most professionals pay close attention to as they practice. Take your lead from the pros and work on your balance during each and every practice session. The best way to check to make sure you are well-balanced is to simply attempt to hold your finish position for a few seconds after your swing is complete. If you can hold your position without a problem, your balance is under control. If not, you have work to do on this crucial fundamental.
- A smooth transition. Most amateur players are in a hurry to hit the ball when they reach the top of the swing. Even though the ball isn't going anywhere, many players feel the need to rush down toward the ball in an effort to simply 'get the shot over with' as quickly as possible. Needless to say, this is a problem. If you rush your transition, your body won't be able to get into position and you will likely miss-hit more than your fair share of shots. To correct this problem, you simply need to relax and take your time as the swing transitions from backswing to downswing. It might even be helpful to feel like you are pausing slightly at the top. Your swing won't actually come to a stop, but the feeling of a slight pause is a great way to keep yourself in rhythm.
- Watch the ball. It is hard to hit something that you can't see. As you are swinging down, keep your eyes focused on a specific spot on the golf ball and don't look away until the ball is gone. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, for basic hand-eye coordination benefits, it will be easier to hit the ball if you can see it. Also, by keeping your eyes down, you are likely going to keep your head and shoulders down into the shot as well, which means you will stand a much better chance to make solid contact. It takes discipline to keep your eyes on the ball when you are nervous about the outcome of a shot, so work specifically on this fundamental on the range to make it a natural part of your swing.
You don't have to have a perfect golf swing in order to make clean contact, but you do need to at least have your fundamentals under control. Work on each of the three points listed above during upcoming practice sessions to move your game in the right direction with regard to the quality of your ball striking.
Club Selection Keys
A big part of controlling your distances is simply picking the right club for each shot that you face. Club selection is a skill that needs to be developed like any other skill, yet most golfers don't give it much thought throughout the course of a round. If you are like most other amateur players, you probably just get a yardage, grab the club that you think will travel that yardage, and swing away. That plan might work sometimes, but it isn't going to be consistent enough for you to succeed with regularity. To really dial in your distance control in a way that allows you to set up plenty of birdie chances, you need to think more carefully about picking the right club.
The first key to picking the right club is always making sure that you have enough club in your hands to reach the target comfortably. This is a key point that the majority of amateur golfers get completely wrong. The average player will pick a club to use for an approach shot that can only reach the target if they hit it absolutely perfectly – which isn't going to happen on most of your shots. Only a small percentage of your shots will fly their maximum distance, and the rest are going to fall somewhat short of that mark. So, as a rule of thumb, you should be picking a club that will actually fly a few yards past the target if you hit it perfectly. This kind of planning gives you some margin for error, and takes pressure off of your swing since you don't have to nail the sweet spot to be successful. The only exception to this rule is when there is a hazard lurking just beyond the target – in that case, you will want to use less club to keep your ball out of trouble.
Of course, if you are going to pick the right club for an approach shot – the club that has the potential to go just beyond the target – you are going to need to know how far you hit the ball with each of your clubs in the first place. To determine those numbers, you need to completely ignore what you see on the driving range. The balls that you hit on the driving range are different from normal golf balls, and they will almost never fly as far as a ball that you would use out on the course. The driving range is useful for a lot of things related to improving your game, but it will be of no help when trying to learn your yardages.
To get a better handle on how far you can hit the ball, the best option is simply to record the actual yardage for each shot that you hit over a period of a few rounds. Put a small notebook in your golf bag and jot down your actual yardages while other players are hitting their shots. Be as accurate as possible, and record only carry distance (rather than carry plus roll). It won't take long before you are able to get a clear picture of how far you can hit all of your clubs, and that information is going to be extremely valuable moving forward.
Naturally, when picking clubs on the course for your approach shots, you need to think about the conditions that you are facing in addition to your own normal yardages. For instance, cold weather is going to cause the ball to fly shorter, while warm temperatures will add yards to your shots. Playing at elevation will cause the ball to go farther as well, and playing on firm and fast turf conditions means you need to allow for some extra bounce and roll. Only when you think about all of these various factors as part of your equation will you be able to hit well-controlled shots time after time.
Bring It Down
If you get a chance to watch any professional golf – whether in person or on TV – one of the things you will notice is just how high professional golfers are able to hit the ball. Thanks to impressive swing speeds and the ability to hit down through impact (with their irons), pro golfers can launch the ball incredibly high in the air. This high trajectory means they can carry the ball amazing distances, and they can also bring the ball down softly so it doesn't roll very far after it lands. Make no mistake – hitting the ball high is a huge advantage, and those who can hit it highest tend to be some of the best players in the world.
However, watching pro golf will reveal something else about these high trajectories – they really aren't used on shorter approach shots. Once a pro golfer gets down to around an eight or nine iron (and on down through the wedges), he or she will usually go away from the high trajectory in favor of a more-controlled flight. Why? To control distance as accurately as possible. Simply put, it is hard to control your distance when you are sending the ball way up into the sky.
When you hit an approach shot with one of your wedges or short irons, that shot should have plenty of spin on it when it lands on the green. Thanks to that high spin rate, the ball is going to stop relatively quickly – even if it doesn't come in from high in the sky. That means you can afford to bring the ball in lower while still getting it to stop on the putting surface. This plan won't work so well from long range, but with short approach shots it is definitely the way to go.
By intentionally bringing the ball down on your shorter approach shots, you will largely take the wind out of the equation. Even a fairly strong breeze won't do much to a shot that is flying low with a high spin rate. Also, low shots tend to be more repeatable, meaning you can produce the same kind of distance over and over again, which is not something that is usually said of higher shots. Sure, it is possible to hit the ball close with a high wedge shot, but you are more likely to be successful when the ball stays lower to the ground.
So, how can you adjust your swing to hit the ball lower? The first thing you should do is move the ball slightly back in your stance. This adjustment is going to cause the ball to come out lower, as you won't be using the full loft of the club. Also, you should open your stance slightly to the target line, as moving the ball back toward your right foot will usually lead to a shot that is pushed a bit to the right. By opening your stance, you can counteract that push and wind up with a ball that is on target.
The other main adjustment that you want to make is a generally softer swing overall. Rather than swinging as hard as possible at each shot, dial it back a little bit and control your swing in order to take a little spin off the ball. A high rate of backspin is going to cause your ball to climb higher and higher, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid. With a softer swing and less speed at the bottom, your spin rate will come down and your control over the shot will improve.
As you would likely guess, these changes are going to need to be practiced before you can succeed with them on the course. During your next practice session, work on hitting at least a few shots lower than normal to get a feel for how this kind of shot is played. With consistent practice, you should soon feel confident in your ability to pull off a low approach shot in order to set up a short birdie putt.
Making the Conversion
Having the ability to control the distance of your approach shots is a great thing, and it is certainly going to set you up with more birdie opportunities. However, those opportunities are going to be wasted if you can't convert them into birdies. There is a big difference between simply having a lot of makeable birdie putts over the course of a day and actually knocking some of them in the hole. In other words, you need to make sure you don't forget about your putting while you are focused on improving your distance control.
Ironically, it is distance control again that is going to be the key element to your ability to make birdie putts. Just as you need to control your distance from back in the fairway, you also need to control how hard you hit your putts if you are going to see a good percentage of them drop in. Not only will putts left short never have a chance to go in, but putts hit too hard aren't going to go in either. During your putting practice sessions, make sure to work hard on learning how to control the speed of your putts from the 15' – 30' range. If you can consistently roll the ball just a foot or two past the cup, you will be giving yourself the best possible chance to make birdies without three putting in the process.
Before you head out to start any round, make sure you stop by the practice putting green to get a feel for the speed of the greens on that day. Even if you play a course regularly, you still need to prepare before each round because green speeds are constantly changing. From weather conditions to maintenance practices and more, there are numerous variables involved in the speed that you will face on the putting surfaces on a given day. Only by preparing before each round can you expect to control your speeds on those all-important birdie putts.
Distance control is a huge part of the game of golf. If you fail to control your distances properly – whether with your full swing or with your putter – you are going to have trouble shooting low scores. It is easy to get caught up in the challenge of hitting your ball on line, but dialing in the right distance is just as key to your success. Work on this skill with the help of the tips included above and there will hopefully be more birdies landing on your scorecard in the near future.