Pros' Tips


The “tips” in this column are provided by our Head Golf Professional, Gary Otto, as well as by our Teaching Professional, Jeff Picus.  These valuable “tips” are intended to help improve our golf game.


Grip Pressure !


Grip pressure can cause many problems such as loss of distance and direction.   If you are squeezing the grip too tight, you will add tension to your forearms as well as shoulders and back.  When this happens you will not be able to generate the club head speed you desire and will increase the odds for a missed shot.    Try holding the grip as Sam Snead used to say:  “like holding a baby bird”.   


Topping the Ball !


How many times will someone say “you looked up” !   While this may be the case at times, I would like you to start thinking about your target and swing “through” the ball to a proper finish facing the target and balanced.   Many times the top shot is caused from swinging “at” the ball and not “through” the ball.    Swing the club “through” the ball and this will prevent you from trying to lift the ball into the air.   Remember this is a game of opposites.  The more you try to hit up and lift the ball into the air the lower it will go!


Pitch & Chipping


If you have been inconsistent with your pitching and chipping, then perhaps a simple check of your stance and weight relationship may help.   Make sure you have your weight 60% to 70% toward your forward side.   Right handers should be more toward the left side and left handers toward their right side.   From a relaxed stance, this promotes a descending impact that will pop the ball up into the air.   Remember:  Have a tension free motion with hands relaxed!


Using a wood to chip with!


Chipping from a heavier (thicker) fringe near the putting surface !    You may try using a 3, 4, or 5 wood.  Trust your putting stroke and let the loft of the wood get the ball into the air.   Maintain your weight on your front foot and use your putting stroke.    This is called “putting with a lofted putter”.   The wood will cut through the thicker grass much easier than the iron.   Land the ball just on the putting surface and let it roll to the cup!

Saving your back!


There will always be some stress on your back and other muscles.   However, you can reduce the stress by checking your “finish” position!   Swing “through” the ball and finished in a balanced position facing the target just as if you were throwing a ball to someone.  Your right heel (right handed player) should be off the ground with the laces facing the target.  This allows you the freedom to turn to a balanced position.  It should feel like you could take a step forward and keep walking toward the target.   Remember Gary Player ??   If your right heel stays down you will put a tremendous pressure on your lower back.  

Pre-shot routine


For consistency in your game, work on your pre-shot routine!  Stand behind the ball and visualize the line to your target.  Also visualize the shot trajectory you wish to achieve on a line to the target.  Make sure  you have the proper club to accomplish the right results.  Approach the ball from behind and address with feet together and the ball in the center.  Separate the feet to shoulder width.  Get shoulders, hips, and toes in parallel alignment with your target line, making sure your clubface is square to the target line.  Trust yourself and just feel the swing.  The golf swing lasts about 2 seconds.  So just relax and trust your routine to build a positive overall feeling that will help you to be more consistent! 

Putting Drill


Having trouble making those short putts ?   Try practicing from a 2 foot range with three balls.  Start out by relaxing and using your shoulders in a rocking motion, allowing the putter motion to feel like a pendulum of a clock.  Again, rock the shoulders using the larger muscles and avoid using your smaller hand muscles.  Line the putt up, then simply look at the back of the cup and while keeping your eyes focused on the back of the cup, make the stroke, letting the ball dive through the front of the cup and hit the back.   Then try this with your eyes closed !  Feel the stroke and listen for the ball going into the cup.  This will develop tremendous feeling and touch while helping you to build confidence in your putting.


Putting improvement


Ever wonder why you continue to miss putts to the right or left?   It may be as simple as correcting your “eye alignment” over your target line!  When taking your stance over your putt, your eyes should be directly over the target line.  Depending on your weight distribution and ball position, each person may be a little bit different at set up.   If your eyes are inside the target line, you will most likely “push” the putt to the right of the hole (right hand golfers).  If you tend to bend too much from the waist or position your eyes too far over the line, then you will “pull” the putts.


Simple to check:  Place a small mirror on the floor or ground.  Take your stance with your putter and get to where you can see your eyes in the mirror when you grip the putter as if you were getting ready to putt.  Or, take your stance on the putting green and hold a ball directly below your eyes and drop it.  Watch to see where the ball lands.  If it lands on your target line, then you will improve your chances for rolling the ball on your target line and sink more putts !   

Correct alignment of your feet, hips, and shoulders!


Many times we are not careful enough with simple alignment so we can swing “freely” to our target and “through” the ball.   Slicing is the most common result with a loss of distance and poor direction.


On the practice tee, please have a target in mind with each swing and shot.  You generally will have an extra club with you and use it as a “visual aid” to help you line up properly to your target line.  Pick your target out and place your second club on the ground to represent your toe line, hip alignment, and shoulder alignment that will run parallel to your target line.


Remember, if it is parallel to the target line (like visualizing a railroad track), then the line across your toes, hips, and shoulders will be parallel left of the target.  Note: most right hand players will line up to the right of the target that causes them to change swing paths and cut across the ball sending it spinning to the right.  This creates a reverse weight shift that may cause poor contact, loss of distance and direction.


Try practicing with the visual aid on the ground and you will soon find yourself in a much better setup, promoting a better ball pattern around your target !


Relaxed tension at address – “waggle” the club


I was watching some golfers recently and realized many of us can improve very quickly by just relaxing the tension at address.   Too many times we don’t realize just how tight we squeeze the grip, or tighten up our forearms and shoulders because of the tight grip.  


I have talked about light grip pressure in the past, but the tension you put in your arms and shoulders at address can really impact your results. 


Something simple to try is picking the club up just off the ground and “waggle” it or create some motion to start your swing. Too many times a player will rest the club on the ground for a long period of time and this encourages tightness or a stiffness.  Sam Snead told me he used to sing a waltz to himself to help promote a rhythmic swing !  


So let’s see everyone showing a bit more motion to start the golfswing…  perhaps the “Tennessee Waltz” next time out !!


Mini-Swing to warm up with!


Start your practice session with some easy swings!  We like to call them “mini-swings” that should be from hip level on the backswing to hip level on the forward swing.  Use a 7 iron or 8 iron to start with and work toward a target about 50 yards away. 


Relax the tension in the hands and arms and work on good balance.   Make sure your club is in a “toe up” position half way back and also in a “toe up” position at hip level on the forward swing.   Remember, you must crawl before you run and by starting with a shorter swing you will be able to simply increase the length of your swing keeping the same pace.   Build positive thoughts with the short swing first !  

Equipment check!


Are your grips ready for replacement or just a good cleaning?  Many times, our grips become dirty and simply need a good cleaning with soap and water.  If the club grip has become slick, then try cleaning with soap and water.  


If they are still slick after the cleaning, then perhaps it is time for new ones.  We will be glad to evaluate your equipment at the golf shop should you have any questions.  Keeping your grips clean may save you some strokes next time out.

Putting – Rock the Shoulders


Many times we find ourselves slapping at putts or letting our wrists break at impact causing the put to wander anywhere but toward the target or cup.  To help with your consistency, let’s eliminate the small muscles of the hands and use the larger muscles of the shoulders and create a pendulum action with the stroke. 


The best way to achieve the pendulum act is to simply rock your shoulders back and forth keeping any wristy or arm movements out of the stroke altogether.   Remember to keep the “pace” the same as most of the time poor putts happen due to the deceleration of the stroke.    You must rock your shoulders and allow the pendulum action to happen naturally.   Start with short putts about one foot away then gradually back up a foot at a time.  Rock the shoulders and create the pendulum action and you will become a much better putter!

Hitting the ball “fat”


I have had a few questions lately about hitting the ball “fat” or behind the ball.  

Depending on the golfer, this may relate to several things in the swing.  However, there are a couple of things you may easily check that may help eliminate this problem.


Check your ball position first and make sure you are not playing it too far forward in your stance.    


In most cases, the player on their “down swing” simply has not moved their feet and turned through to a balanced finish position.  By leaving your right heel down (right hand player), you will impact the ground short of the ball hitting it “heavy or fat” as they call it.  This type of swing will also produce a “top shot” at times.    So, continue to relax and turn “through” to a balanced and relaxed finish.


“Pace of Play” Helpful Tips

I thought it would be nice to review some helpful Pace of Play tips!   By keeping a few simple ones in mind, you will be surprised how much time you can save during a round of golf.

Ø When you finish a hole, please record your scores at the next tee.  This will also take you out of danger from errant shots from the group behind you.

Ø When approaching our greens, please pull your cart up to where you see the white line on the path before you exit to the green.

Ø Play “Ready Golf” !  You may not be the furthest from the hole, but if your playing partners are not ready, please play away if it is safe to do so.

Ø Be ready to putt when it is your turn. 

Ø If you need to walk some distance from your cart to the ball, please bring at least 3 additional clubs with you so you don’t have to walk back to get another.

If each group followed these simple tips you will cut 2 to 3 minutes per hole or more than 30 minutes per round !


Ball Position relative to the stance


This question comes up a lot and, in general, it is best to keep it simple and try to be consistent with your ball position for all normal shots.  As instructors, we need to see the individual on the practice tee making the best judgment for each player as flexibility and physical ability differ with each player.


For the most part, try to position each shot ahead of the center of the stance and inside the forward heel.  The driver, or longest club, should be no further than the forward heel.  A ball position too far forward can cause your shoulders to open too much which will cause inconsistent shots.

In general, your stance may be a bit wider for the longer clubs and simply narrow your stance slightly as your clubs get shorter.   We want to be consistent with your hands and arms in the set-up relative to your body (generally a position just inside your forward leg.)  

On the practice tee, please use a couple of extra clubs on the ground as visual aids to check your ball position.  One club is your “toe line” that runs parallel to your target line.  The other club position at a 90-degree angle pointing to the ball where you can step up and position your feet properly.  You will know immediately if you have been too far back or forward with your ball position.


The Grip

Sometimes swing speed is limited and we see many players with tight, constricted wrists during the swing.  You may have the club too much in the palm of your left hand (right hand player).

You need to develop a consistent routine that repeats allowing you to grip the club more in the base of the fingers rather than the palm.

Begin by always holding the club off the ground (arms relaxed and hanging) with your right hand and lay the club securely in the base (crook) of the fingers on your left hand.  This would be the opposite for left-hand players.

Too many players make the mistake of gripping the club while it is resting on the ground.   For one, you are promoting the grip in the palm, which is exactly what you don’t want to do.

Wrap your last three fingers around the grip then slide your right hand down into position.  Take your full grip and tilt from the waist allowing the club to go to the ground.

This will increase the speed in your swing just by gripping the club properly.   If you are wearing out the "heel” area of your glove, you are probably gripping too much in the palm of your hand.


Following is some wisdom from Jeff


"If we held a knife and fork the same as we held the grip of a golf club we would starve to death"      -Sam Snead

Realize that for the best players of this great game we all love, "it is letting go and reacting to the natural forces being applied to the golf head/club rather than our own brute strength or force that will ingrain consistency and tempo."  Feel the club go up into position at the top of the backswing...feel gravity take over until the bottom of the swing when you "react" to release the club and maintain perfect tempo and balance in your finish.   -Jeff Picus, PGA

We now know from this phenomenal field called quantum physics that the supercomputer (mind) is about all that really exists; that the spaceship (body) is just an infinitesimal and minute part of the equation. What this means is that every golf shot first and foremost exists in the brain. What it also means is that there never is enough practice or action in the Universe to offset the tension that comes from a skeptical, pessimistic, disbelieving mind.



Uphill and Downhill Lies

Not all shots are played from level lies !    Know what to do when you are faced with uphill and downhill lies.

Uphill lies:

In most cases, know that the ball flight will generally travel to the left of the target for right hand golfers so you must aim a bit to the right of your target.  The ball will also travel higher so usually not as far.   Position the ball close to the center of your stance and your shoulders should be set up on the same angle as the slope (right shoulder lower than the left) that will allow you to swing “with” the slope and not into it.

Downhill lies:

You will generally see the ball come off lower and move to the right of the target (right hand player).   Set up with the ball position from the center of the stance or back in your stance depending on the angle of the slope.   Your shoulders will also be set at the same angle as the slope.  Aim to the left of your target and swing again “with” the slope.  Your knees must remain flexed during the entire swing.

*A key thought for both shots is to keep a great pace, tempo, and balance to execute.