Golf Tips: tips for the new season

As the pros prepare for The Masters next month, here is part one of a special edition of our tips service to mark the start of the club season

Bob Warters
Fri, 8 Mar 2013

Golf Tips: tips for the new season

With the world's top players sharpening their game in preparation for The Masters at Augusta next month, here are our top ten tips to work on to freshen up your golf ahead of the unofficial start of the UK season.

1. Practice with purpose

Don't hit balls on the range for the sake of it.  If you don't feel like it on a particular day, chances are it probably won't do you any good if you're not in the mood. 

But if you are up for it, practice with a purpose and concentrate on building a rhythm from the wedges through to the mid-irons rather than lashing away with your driver.

2. Develop your rhythm

When most of us return to the game after a winter break there's a tendency to try to hit the ball hard from the get-go to re-discover the distances we had last autumn.

Instead, build up your rhythm slowly. Think smooth, swing smooth.

3. Build your confidence

The reason for many of us hitting our pitches badly at the start of the season is lack of confidence. We tend to ease up on the downswing and inadvertently try to scoop the ball into the air, often flipping with our right hand (if right-handed).

Accelerating through the shot even on short shots and develop more confidence by using the same club and merely adjusting the loft with you hand and ball position.

4. Eyes on the prize

Sort out your best putting position by taking your natural stance and dropping 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 position of that coin (rather than the ball) every time you putt. It will help you make a positive up stroke.

5. Try Texas pride

Though Luke Donald in his Masterclass makes it look easy to chip with loft around the green, never be too proud to use your putter from the fringe or even from short fairway grass.

Just because the pros play exquisite chips it's not easy - after all they spend hours a day practising - but a well struck distance putt can be equally effective.

A bad putt is better than a bad chip, so even a slightly miss-timed putt from off the green will get you closer to the hole than flubbed chip, so until you've built some confidence as the season progresses, go for the 'Texas wedge' and perfect the skill of using your putter from off the green.

6. Firm wrists off hard pan

It's inevitable after a winter of well-worn courses that you'll come across some bare firm lies around the green. 

Chipping from a firm, bare, hard pan lie is one of the trickiest shots in golf and though it's unlikely to be played at Augusta, you need to know how to handle it.

The secret is to position the ball back in your stance, keep the head still and make a firm, brisk stroke with your arms and firm wrists that collects the ball and throws it on to the green.

Don't let the clubhead overtake the hands but keep your wrist action firm and unbroken. When you thin the ball it's because there's too much hand action.

Similarly with lob shots; keep you hands up and the toe down to slide the leading edge under the ball.

7. Short side; bad side

So many of us are drawn to hazards close to a green whether, it's sand, water, bushes or thick rough. No matter how many times we convince ourselves we're not going there, we end up in it.

However, if you're hitting lofted irons on the range, your dispersal pattern is maybe only 30-40 feet, wide enough to accommodate most greens. Some shots would finish close to the imaginary pin, others several yards away but at least you'd be left with a putt.

If the flagstick errs towards a bunker, aim away from it to the middle of the green. Don't 'short side' yourself.

8. The judgement of wind

It's a fickle wind that blows thought those Augusta National pines, but no different to any parkland course. So on the range make a mental note of its direction and plan your shots accordingly.

Top players check out on the wind ahead of their round then mark each hole on their course planner with a wind direction arrow, accordingly. As part of their pre-shot preparation they will immediately know which way it's blowing in advance without having to make last minute adjustments.

On tree-lined courses at this time of year where the wind can swirl, add it to your game plan - advance knowledge can be a real help.

9. Think positive on the tee

Most amateurs will stand on the tee and consider the parts of the hole where they don't want to go. That's fine but like the pro at Augusta, better to concentrate where you do want to put the ball in play.  

If more club golfers could focus on a specific tree or even branch on their aiming point - or a chimney or window as opposed to a house - they will get better results. Make your targets specific and positive.

10. Watch and learn

The Masters is a great event to pick up great tips to take into your own game. Less than 0.01% of golfers ever get to play Augusta National but remember that this is the place where even the pros get nervous and they are forever trying to gain a tiny advantage through confidence.

Watch how they cope with pressure by retaining their rhythm, their focus on every shot, their lightness of touch when putting. Even the multi major winners will take a big intake of breath and concentrate on one shot at a time.

Want more?

Head to our Golf Tips index. Remember to let us know how you get on and share your own tips with us in the forum and on our Facebook page. You can also tweet us @Golfmagic.