Tips from the US PGA

Three ways to improve your game

Peter Pringle
Mon, 18 Aug 2003
Tips from the US PGA
Tips from the US PGA
Feel the distance, don’t watch


Most of us would be watching the action closely at the PGA Championships – to see who might be challenging at the top of the leaderboard but how many of us learned anything we can integrate into our own golf games?

I noticed at least three good ideas which recalled memories of comments from players I have spoken with in the past or have noted from interviews.

Feel, rather than watch, the distance with your putting practice, pick a spot on the ball from fairway bunkers and learn to belly your wedge from the fringe.

Feel the distance for long putts

With the course playing so difficult and the rough so thick it was tough finding the greens in regulation never mind getting close to the pins at Oak Hill.

The result was a lot of long putts which had to be coaxed up to the hole. Players were happy to two-putt and get out of there.

One tip that a rejuvenated Kenny Perry recommends when practising your putting before a round is to work on the speed of your putts.

"I see too many guys in pro-ams drop three balls on the practice green and hit a succession of putts from six feet before walking to the first tee," he says.

"How in the world are you going to get a feel for speed from there? Anyone can figure out how hard to hit them. It’s the long ones you have to practice to build a feel and sense for speed."

Another good tip is to hit putts without looking up and nominate the distance it travels in relation to the hole from the feel off the face.

I say to myself ‘that’s a foot short’ or ‘that’s just right’ before checking to discover where, in fact, it finished. I then make adjustments between my feel and reality."

Tips from the US PGA
Frank Nobilo – bunker tips.

Pick a spot from fairway traps

New Zealander Frank Nobilo was always a game for a laugh when it came to passing on knowledge – and once even dressed up with eye patch and pirate shirt – his ancestors were once buccaneering pirates in the Aegean Sea – to pass on some fascination golf instruction.

He is particularly adept out of bunkers and has his own swing thought from fairways traps.

"The key is to stay still and think of getting the ball early (before the sand). I focus on the exact spot on the ball I want to hit it and that gets the ball up quicker and over the lip," he told me.

"I also choke down on the club a little to allow for my feet being worked into the sand and concentrate on keeping my legs still with good balance. Swing easy not hard."

Belly your wedge from the fringe

With the rough at Oak Hill, thicker than you’d find in a field of cabbages and with the course so well manicured, inevitably balls finished against collars of grass surrounding the greens.

Using a putter is almost out of the question as the wide sole snags the rough on the backswing so many players used the ‘belly wedge’ approach.

This entails holding the handle of your sand-iron with a putting grip so the leading edge hovers level with the equator of the ball. You’re not trying to slide the face under the ball, merely to strike it halfway up with the leading edge, so it rolls with top spin towards the hole.

As the sand-iron is the heaviest club in the bag it’s easier to develop a pendulum swing and strike the ball consistently, especially when the hole is cut within 10-15 feet of the collar.

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