teaching the golf position

Friends, it’s almost over. 2020 will be in our rearview mirror in a few days. Sometime soon, we may see college football games, and behind the ropes at Augusta could be filled with fans again. I hope that we soon may be able to shake hands with new acquaintances and old friends without fear. I hope that high school and college graduates may enjoy their special day of celebration shoulder-to-shoulder rather than 6 feet apart. I have grown weary of masks and distancing.

I watch a lot of golf on television, both PGA Tour and the LPGA. A simple way to improve is to pay attention to what better players do. For mere mortals, I have to say that the LPGA is more relative, from tee-to-green, to how the game should be played; rather than the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour has become more and more about distance versus accuracy and shot-making. 

The ladies, who hit clubs a more similar distance to most golfers, play the game with more strategy in mind. I hope that the USGA will soon address this issue and roll the ball and equipment back so that these professional golfers are forced to play the golf courses as designed by the architects. Until the USGA gains the nerve, let’s consider what the ladies do play the angles.

All good golfers should have a plan in how best to play to any particular hole before hitting the tee shot. Willow Point, prints a daily hole location sheet. Considering where the pin is located on the green, a golfer should play to strengths off of the tee. 

If a particular golfer normally hits a fade, and the pin is in the middle of the green favoring the left side, it may be best for you to play to the right side of the fairway, off of the tee to reveal more of the green for the approach shot. Playing more right side will benefit the player whether they are hitting a wedge or a 3-wood into the green. Please understand, that when I say “the right side of the fairway,” I’m talking about the right-center-not the rough edge. 

Always remember – bogeys beat double bogeys. Boy, what a brilliant statement. One of the best ways to avoid double bogeys or worse is to play the best shot and not rely on the perfect shot. 

Say a golfer's approach shot is short-sided with a downhill pitch to a tight flag and the ball is in heavy rough. I wish I had a nickel for every time I have seen a player try to hit the perfect shot with a flop 60-degree wedge and come up woefully short of the green. In this situation, play the right shot (take your medicine) get the ball on the green. Chances of saving par or only making a bogey are greater with a 25-foot putt. 

I have to think that the term, “take your medicine,” must have originated from someone who had to take a tablespoon or two of castor oil. The medicine may help in the long run, but it tastes awful. 

After hitting an errant shot, it’s difficult to concede to better judgment. Pitch out sideways to get the ball back in play? Pitch the ball past the hole? Attempt hitting that one-in-a-million miracle shot that usually leads to disaster? 

The thing is, recovery is possible from a bogey with only one birdie, where double, triple bogeys, or worse, may lead to disastrous rounds of golf. 

I want to share some things that I do with my Central Alabama Community College golf team, that could improve a player's game. One of the best things I’ve done in coaching the boys over the years has been in making them compete in practice more often. Not only do internal competition rounds qualify for tournaments, but also the boys compete in practice regularly. 

I suggest finding a golf partner who loves to compete and head to the practice putting green, chipping green, and sand bunker. 

In recent years, I have not seen people compete on the practice green as much as I used to. Play up and down games over 18 holes in the practice area. Get in the bunker and alternate who gets to choose the shot and to what target. The golf team does this at least once a week in team practice. 

I put an alignment stick in a spot on the chipping green and tell the boys what kind of lie and stance the balls must be hit from. I choose a different target and lie for every new shot. It's called the bunker game. Play to three points. The closest shot earns a good point. The furthest on the green gets a bad or negative point. If a player leaves the ball in the bunker or fails to get the ball onto the green or over it, the player automatically loses a point. 

We have nine golfers on the team. The first one to have a negative three points must carry the golf bag of the winner back up to the parking lot after practice. They hate to carry that extra bag, so they grind over these shots. 

Do something similar. Compete for a drink, dinner or lunch. Play 18 holes of match play. 

Another great way to practice with a partner is to pick out two or three different targets on the range of 60-100 yards; then, alternate who has honors and alternate between the various yardage shots. A few of these sessions will help in hitting wedge shots closer to the hole on the course and create more birdie opportunities.

Having a practice partner makes better players. With only 1 hour of sunlight left in the day, get the practice buddy and head to the putting green. Make up games but compete. 

As 2020 is left behind, pray that 2021 brings global and national healing. 

I sincerely hope that you and your family enjoy a very Merry Christmas this year. Thank you all for your continued support of our CACC Trojan Golf Team and for being so kind and thoughtful to me.

~Dave Jennings is the men's golf coach at Central Alabama Community College.