If this weekend you can spend just 10 minutes working on each of the following 10 drills, you will improve every aspect of your game.
1) SHORT GAME Work on distance control
Whether you are chipping or pitching the ball, the short game is all about how far you carry the ball on to the 'green.
Of course, its reaction once on the green will depend on the surface and the trajectory of shot you play. The secret is combining flight and roll to suit any given situation; when we look at a shot and try to analyse how the ball will react on the green, we are building a picture in our mind, but the critical thing is landing the ball on a chosen spot.
I work on my distance control every time I practise. For me, the key is to match the length of my backswing with the length of the follow-through. So, working on shots of 40,60 and 80 yards or so, the swing gradually gets longer. Imagine swinging within a clock face: to hit the ball 50 yards my hands might swing from 10-to-io; 70 yards would be nearer n-to-11, and all stops in between.
The real beauty of this method is that it encourages you to swing the clubhead with a smooth and even tempo, which helps you to control the spin you put on the ball, and thus its reaction on the green.
instead, learn to caress it
The 'one-hop-&-stop' shot
Experimenting with the ball position within your stance opens up a host of possibilities in the short game. So does tinkering with the amount of loft you set on the clubface, your alignment and weight distribution. There are no end of shots you can play with the wedge. This one, the spinner - the 'one hop and stop shot' - is a particular favourite.
The secret is to start from the impact position. Look at how my body is geared up for impact, the ball back in my stance, hands forward, weight forward. From here I sense that I rotate my arms as I make my backswing, and then 'hold off' the clubface through impact. That rotation is the key; if you simply pick the club up with the arms you get too steep and choppy on the ball.
Check the position of my right wrist at the
finish. See how I have maintained the angle at the back of the right wrist. It's this action that enables you to rip through the shot and knock the ball down low, with lots of spin. Try to feel that you squeeze the ball off the turf.
3) DRIVING Learn to free-wheel your right side
Whenever anyone asks me for a driving tip, I never hesitate to say: get your right side firing and finish with your right shoulder low, pointing at the target. There's no better swing thought than that.
One way to encourage the correct body motion that will have you swinging into this position is to practise swinging with your right hand only. Place your left hand on your right shoulder to help monitor the movement of your upper body, and then focus on swinging the club to a good position at the top - i.e. the clubshaft parallel with the ball-to-target line. Now the fun bit. As you unwind, you want to feel that your right forearm rotates as you swing the clubhead down and through impact. Sense the straightening of your right arm from the top and the powerful release of the club as you rotate all the way through impact.
Do this for a few minutes and you will train the right side of your body to unwind hard through impact, and thus have the makings of a full and powerful release of the club when you grip normally and practise your driving for real.
4) DRIVING Keep your legs solid as you unwind
'Drive the legs' I was told as a young player. Of course, in the 1970's that was all the rage.
But the trouble with driving the legs is that as a consequence of your lower body moving forwards in the direction of the target, your upper body hangs back and you end up trapped, with nowhere for the arms to go. So you either block the shot miles to the right, or flip at it with the hands and live in fear of the left side of the golf course. Neither is very pretty.
A fundamental lesson every golfer must learn is that the role of the legs is to support the rotary motion of the upper body. The stronger your leg-action the more it will enhance the rotary motion of the upper body, and the greater will be the efficiency of the recoil.
If you are prone to driving too hard with the legs, try hitting a few shots with your toes curled up inside your shoes. That will help to quieten even the most exaggerated leg-action.
5) LONG IRONS Wide back and through
There are a number of reasons why amateurs fear the long irons. Chief among them is the anxiety that comes from looking down at such a small, straight clubface. When we don't feel confident with a club we tend to want to get the shot over quickly, forget to make a good turn and swing too fast. So, working back in reverse, to solve the problem we have to focus on creating a good turn, swinging the clubhead with a better rhythm, and trusting the clubhead to take care of the ball.
With the long irons, my thoughts are centred on creating width with the right arm in the backswing and then releasing the right arm fully in the downswing. I like to think in terms of building momentum slowly (a sense of swinging in slow motion is great with these clubs) and let the clubhead collect the ball. That's a good mental key. Don't hit at the ball, simply let it get in the way of the clubhead as you unwind all the way to a full and balanced finish.
Remember, in a good golf swing, the speed and momentum of the clubhead is seen to build gradually and peak at the moment of impact. To achieve this you must first wind the spring in the backswing, and then unwind in sync on the way down so that you maximise the recoil effect. Get your left shoulder under your chin as you complete your backswing, and then settle your weight back towards the target in the transition. A solid leg-action contains this movement, whereupon the right side of your body is free to explode through the ball.
6) PUTTING Narrow your focus
Confidence is all about winning over your mind. In putting, it stands to reason that if you practise putting to a small target you narrow your focus and sharpen your sense of aim.
If you putt to a tee for a few minutes before you play, the hole will appear enormous when you reach for the putter on the first green. I often do this before a tournament.
A small target helps you to hone your alignment and follow-through. Hit a few putts with your regular stroke, then try looking at the tee as you make the putt.
Feel the way that your right hand finds the target and glides the putter through the ball.
7) PUTTING Feel distance with your right hand
Long putts are all about pace, rolling the ball close. A safe two-putt. One way to tune yourself in to the speed of the greens is to spend the first few minutes of your practice session putting with just your right hand. This gives you a nice feel for the pace of the greens and helps you to set in motion a free-flowing, rhythmical stroke.
As you do this you also want to feel the 'lag' in the right wrist as you change direction. This gives your stroke a nice fluency and paves the way for a smooth acceleration into the ball. When you then work on your stroke with both hands on the club that feeling will help you to create a good momentum with the putter and roll the ball with a heightened sense of control and pace.
Placing your left hand on the right shoulder helps to keep the shoulders working nicely in line as you run the putter back and forth and roll the ball towards the hole.
8) SAND PLAY Lead with the heel, 'hear the shot
I can tell a good bunker shot without seeing it being played. The sound of a good sand shot is a dead giveaway. When the club is delivered with a positive thump you get a dynamic swoosh, not a dull thud.
Take a club and practice splashing out divots of sand with your right hand until you can make this distinction. Open the clubface a few degrees before making your grip, and simply thump the back of the flange through the sand.
Here's another good tip. As you go through the sand you want to feel the heel of the the club leads the toe - that way the clubface remains open and you get the benefit of bounce.
9) THE CHIP-PUTT A simple stroke with a host of variations
I know this is hardly original, but the chip-putt is a great shot to have around the edge of the green, and one you can learn in a very short space of time. With virtually any club you like (depending on how far you want to carry and roll the ball), stand to the ball with your feet close together and your weight on your left side.
Play the ball back in your stance, opposite your right toe, and use your regular putting grip. From here, you make a simple 'one-two' stroke to produce the easiest of chip-and-run shots. This is such a versatile little shot you can use anything from a 3- or 4-iron right through to the sand-iron.
Play it when your ball lies up to a yard or so off the edge of the green and aim to get the ball running at the hole like a putt.
10) ON THE COURSE
Make it all routine
The easiest way to ensure that you cover the basics on every shot is to count - yourself in with a simple routine. For me, it would go something like this:
1 place the clubface behind the ball;
2 place left foot in position and establish ball position relative to it;
3 bring in the right foot, and generally shake my body into a good posture;
4 check that my feet, knees, hips and shoulders agree as far as alignment goes and
5 waggle the clubhead once or twice, then off I go.
Chip Koehlke, the head coach at my Institute of Golf in Orlando, has had me working on this pre-shot drill lately - what he calls a 'full swing waggle'. From address, I wind up the backswing in one go, drop back to the ball, then go.
This gives me a sense of returning squarely to the ball and reminds me to turn my upper body and shift to my right side properly, which sometimes I neglect.
Don't make that mistake yourself.