Posted: 11 April 2013
by Bob Warters
The Masters is a great event to watch and learn.
Very few of us will ever get the chance to play the Augusta National course but remember that this is the place where even the pros get nervous and have to grind out a score.
Note how they cope by retaining their rhythm and their focus on every shot, as well as their lightness of touch with the putter.
Here are five things for you to look out for at Augusta and try yourself over the weekend...
1. Pitching with purpose
I had the privilege of writing a diary at the Masters with American Jeff Maggert in 1994, the year he became the first and subsequently only player score an albatross two at the par-5 13th.
In 2003 he led the Masters after three rounds with a combination of straight driving, solid iron play and consistent putting but finally lost out to Mike Weir.
Maggert told me how he likes to practice his short game by setting up for a 30-yard pitch and hitting 15 balls to the target, then he’ll move back ten yards and hit 15 more.
“It’s all about grooving your swing for those shots and building some muscle memory,” he says. “Maybe that doesn’t sound easy when you’ve got limited time to play but it’s the only way.”
He says one key with the partial shots is not to decelerate.
“Control the length of the shot with the length of your backswing and follow through. No matter what, you have to accelerate that club through the impact area.”
2. The eyes have it
It’s an old tip but still one of the best. Masters winners are great putters able to strike the ball consistently out of the same spot on the clubface.
Taking your natural stance and drop a ball from between your eyebrows onto the putting surface. Mark the spot where it lands, place a coin behind it and concentrate on the imaginary coin every time you putt. It will help you make a positive up stroke.
3. Hard pan; firm wrists
Chipping from a firm, bare lie - known as hard pan - is one of the trickiest shots in golf for amateurs. It’s a shot unlikely to be played at Augusta but inevitable on the UK’s fast-drying courses after a wet winter.
Opt for a 9- or 8-iron, grip it like a putter and position the ball back in your stance. Keep the head still and make a firm, brisk stroke that collects the ball and throws it on to the green with a low trajectory. Don’t let the clubhead overtake the hands and keep your wrist action firm and unbroken. When you thin the ball it’s because there’s too much hand action.
Treat it like a putt with the heel of the club just off the ground; it makes it easier to find the sweet spot.
4. Judging the wind
Don’t wait until the last minute to check the wind direction.
Top players and their caddies will know from the range which direction it’s blowing then mark each hole on their course planner accordingly.
As part of their pre-shot preparation they will know which way it’s direction without having to make last minute adjustments.
On tree-lined courses at this time of year where the wind can swirl, advance knowledge can be a real help.
5. Focus on the positives
Most amateurs stand on the tee and think: ‘I don’t want to go there or there.’ Professionals consider ‘where do I need to hit it?’
There’s a positive difference. Focus on where you want your tee shot to finish to leave you the best approach, rather than where to avoid. You’ll get far better results.
Let us know how you get on in the forum, or you can tweet us on @Golfmagic