Golf Pitching Tip: Learn Your Golf Pitching Technique From Luke Donald

Symptom: Your golf pitching technique is very poor.  Your golf pitch shots from 80 yards and in are no good.

“How can I hit it close from 150 yards with a full swing but can’t hit a golf pitch shot from 40 yards?” you ask yourself while shaking your head in disbelief.

Description: Limit your backswing on golf pitch shots.  This will force you to accelerate through impact to a high finish — higher than your backswing.

Luke Donald has a high finish for his pitch shots.
Luke Donald has a high finish for his pitch shots.

Why it works: To hit the golf pitch shot the proper distance with a limited backswing, you must accelerate through the golf ball.

By limiting your backswing, you will put lag into your downswing so you hit the ball before you hit the ground, and give you a high finish.

This visualization will prevent the “big backswing and decelerate” fault (remember, you don’t hit the ball on the backswing) that plagues so many golfers’ pitch shots.

Luke’s Golf Pitching Technique

Let’s have Luke Donald demonstrate this for us.  Luke is hitting this pitch shot about 40 yards in the air.  Note that Donald’s backswing goes only until his left arm is parallel to the ground (0:17), but his finish is high (0:27), with his club pointing to the sky and his belt buckle facing the target.  Let’s Look at Luke:

As an added bonus, watch the gentleman in the background hitting a chip shot (not a pitch shot) to the same green (I can’t tell who it is).  For this shorter shot (about ten yards in the air), he keeps his hands ahead of the ball through impact, which means he will not have a high finish.  So you see a demonstration of Luke Donald’s (longer) pitch shot and a (shorter) chip shot in the same video clip!

More generally, accelerating (not decelerating) through the ball on every shot is one of the most fundamental requirements for playing good golf, and is the basis of the no backswing golf swing drill.  A high finish is a good sign that you are indeed accelerating through the ball.

Do you think this tip will put you into pitch shot paradise?  Then please tell your friends!  Like, Share, Tweet, +1, or Email below!

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Golf Strategy: The Best Golf Warm Up Routine

Symptom: Your golf warm up routine is unstructured and scattered.

As a result, your round doesn’t really seem to get going until about the fifth hole, after you’ve dropped five shots and blown your chances of breaking 80 today.  Why can’t you just play 18 holes the way you know you can play them?  You wonder if perhaps you could have done a few golf warm up exercises, or somehow prepared for your round a bit better.

Description: Your golf warm up needs to be deliberate and structured.  You need to warm up your body and work on all phases of your game.  It does not take much extra time (though if you are really pressed for time check out this advice), it just takes a bit of discipline.

The Best Golf Warm Up Routine

All the pros follow a set golf warm up routine.  Here is Ricky Fowler’s routine.  Why does he do these things, in this order? Read on, fellow Occasional Golfer, and all will be revealed…

The purpose of your pre-round warm up is not to put a lot of new concepts into play.  You are not trying to “fix your swing”, or anything similarly radical.  Such things must be done in dedicated practice sessions at the driving range or practice facility.  As you warm up, you are just trying to get mentally and physically prepared to play golf.  You need to use the swing and feel you have, on this particular day.  You are looking for the swing thoughts and ideas, feel, and confidence, that work for you today.

Arrive Early

Get to the course about an hour before your tee time if you can.  Check in, pay greens fees, get your cart.  (Walking is better though — it keeps you loose and gives you a much better feel for the course you are playing).  With these chores out of the way, you can focus on preparation for your round.

As you prepare, it is important to start with the simpler drills, and then advance to the more difficult shots.  This builds your confidence, which is absolutely mandatory for a good round of golf.  If you are doubting yourself before a shot you are in big trouble.

Golf Warm Up Starts with Putting

You should start on the putting green.  Putting puts you in the proper frame of mind for golf.  It gets you focused on getting the ball into the hole.  Start close to the hole with the balls in a line putting drill, and the surround the cup putting drill.  Gradually move farther from the hole with these drills.  Once you feel comfortable with your stroke, hit lag putts and be sure to make every putt.  It doesn’t matter how many putts it takes.  You need to feel the sting of the three putt on the practice green.  Here you can quickly redeem yourself and correct your mistakes.  (On the course you will not get to hit another putt until you reach the next green, in 15 minutes.)  As you are putting, be sure to listen for the ball to drop, don’t let your golf ball line wobble, and make sure your putts all either go in or finish past the hole.  Breaking putts should be missing on the high side or going in the hole.

Chipping comes next.  Focus on feel, and always keep your hands ahead of the ball during the chip. Putt in every one of your chips, so you get the feel of getting up and down.  After a few chips, move on to the driving range.

Driving Range Golf Warm Up Routine

Rickie Fowler warming up for a round range balls alignment stick golf warm up golf warm up routine
Rickie Fowler hitting range balls with a short iron before his round, using an alignment stick.

On the driving range, focus on getting the feel of your swing and your tendencies for the day.  Again, you are not trying to invent new swing techniques, just trying to find what works for you today.  Be sure to use a club on the ground for aiming, and aim at a spot right in front of you on your target line, and always aim at something as you practice.  These setup-related points are crucial because they ensure you have a consistent and correct setup for each shot.  They will help you find your swing quickly as you prepare for your round.

Start With Lofted Clubs

When you warm up, begin with your sand or lob wedge.  Hit pitch shots of 20 yards, then 30 yards, 40 yards, and so on.  Only make a full swing after about ten shots.  Be sure to accelerate through the ball and have a high finish on your pitch shots.  Finally, hit some full sand wedges.  Then move to your longer irons — nine iron, seven iron, five iron.

It is important to start with the more lofted clubs because they are easier to hit than your long irons.  This will give you more confidence as you groove your swing for the day.  Don’t move to a longer club until you’ve hit several good shots with the shorter club.  This is important, because if you find that you are struggling with, say, your five iron, you can use your nine iron swing.  The nine iron swing just worked, so you use it on your five iron.

Phil Mickelson progresses from short to long clubs in his warmup routine, have a look:

Unless the grass on the driving range is truly immaculate (seldom the case, but it is at Augusta in the video above!), you should put the ball on a tee for these initial iron shots, especially for the longer irons.  Finally, hit a few three woods, longer irons, and a few drivers.

Simulate Your Round on the Range

Finally, rehearse how you will hit the clubs as you play the course.  For example, if the first hole is a par four, hit a driver (or three wood), then a seven iron off the grass, but aiming at a flag that is not directly in front of you — choose one at an angle that forces you to line up your shot carefully.  If hole #2 is a par three, hit a six iron off a tee.  If hole #3 is a par 5, hit driver, three wood, then a 60-yard sand wedge.  And so on until you are satisfied with your ability to hit your clubs the proper distance.  And at your intended target.

If you follow this routine, you will have both a short and long game that your can trust on the golf course.  This will lead to lower scores and a much more enjoyable round for you and your playing partners.

Enjoy your round!

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Golf Swing Tip: Straight Left Arm? Bent Left Elbow? Read This!

Symptom: You are obsessing about your left arm – is my left arm straight?  Do I have a bent left elbow?  All the while you are getting more and more tension in your arm and shoulder.

You have heard about your bent left elbow so often that you have come to believe that your key to golfing bliss is to keep that left arm straighter still.  Now your swing looks robotic and rigid and the ball still isn’t going where you aim it…

Description: Swing so that your left elbow stays relatively straight, especially at impact and during the takeaway.

Why it works: “Keep your left arm straight” is perhaps the most famous (infamous?) golf tip on the planet.  The tip must be understood in context.  In a properly-executed swing, the left arm will stay fairly straight, and this is desirable.  A bent left arm robs power from the shot, and will return the clubface to the ball inconsistently.  But if you focus on keeping your elbow straight, you will introduce tension that restricts your turn and inhibits a powerful release of the club.  If you are swinging and your left arm is bent, then forcibly keeping your left arm straight is unlikely to fix your problems — you have much bigger problems that are best fixed by different drills, such as the underhand stick toss drill or the two ball drill.

What “Left Arm Straight” Really Means

I much prefer to phrase the “left arm straight” tip as “swing so that your left arm stays relatively straight throughout the swing” — especially at the takeaway and at impact.  This phrasing emphasizes the turn, the release, the lag, and so on, rather than focusing on your left elbow.  Who wants to focus on the elbow anyway?  You need to focus on the ball — that’s what you’re trying to hit!

Perry, Cabrera, Spieth, Watson Bend Their Left Arm

To prove that you don’t need a straight left arm throughout your swing to hit great shots, let’s watch Kenny Perry.  Run the video to 0:17 and look at his left arm:

Let’s also have a look at Angel Cabrera, a long hitter and great ball striker.

Run this video to 0:05 and have a look at his left elbow.  You will see it is bent even a bit more than Kenny’s!

Jordan Spieth has a beautiful, rhythmic golf swing, and some fairly significant left elbow bend at the top.  Jordan’s is a swing that the Occasional Golfer can imitate with success.  He initiates the swing with a nice starter move, maintains excellent balance throughout, and his left elbow stays supple enough that it does not unduly strain his lower back as he initiates the downswing.

Actually “saving your back” might be the best reason of all to keep a little give in your left elbow.

Have a look at Jordan as he starts his downswing:

Finally, have a look at the great Tom Watson.  He has been a premier ball striker for decades, perhaps one of the best ball strikers ever to play the game.  In the video below, notice how his left arm is quite straight during the takeaway and throughout much of the backswing, but not at the top (0:14).  The left elbow is quite bent at the top, and stays so until just before impact.  Have a look:

golf left arm straight bent left elbow kenny perry angel cabrera tom watson
Perry, Cabrera, and Watson all bend their left arm on the backswing.

Your Swing, Your Left Arm

So, please remember that a left arm that is fairly straight, especially on the takeaway, and when you strike the ball, is a good thing.  But this is a result of an otherwise good swing, not a primary swing thought for you to be focusing on as you swing.  Indeed, keeping the left elbow rigid throughout the swing is not necessary to hit great golf shots and may in fact be hurting you a lot more than it is helping.

Did you like this Tip? Feel liberated from the “keep your left arm straight” police?  Spread the Word!  Then don’t keep it a secret, tell your friends!  Like, Tweet, Share, +1, or Email below!



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Golf Putting Tip: Improve Your Putting Aim by Aligning Your Ball’s Line

Symptom: Your putting aim is not very good.  You don’t align the line on your ball to your intended putting line.

You read your putts pretty well but somehow can’t seem to roll the ball where you are aiming.  “It’s straight in,” you think.  “Can’t possibly miss this one.”  But indeed you can…

Description. Draw a straight line around the equator of your golf ball with a permanent marker.  After you mark your golf ball on the green, replace it on the green by aligning the golf ball line to your intended putting line.

Why it works: Since the rules of golf allow you to mark and clean the golf ball on the putting green, take advantage of the opportunity to aim the golf ball on your line.

Brad Faxon aligns his line on the intended line of the putt Improve Your Putting Aim by Aligning Your Ball's Line
Brad Faxon aligns the line on his ball to the target line before addressing the ball.

The Rules of Golf Allow You to Align Your Line

The visual aid of the golf ball line makes it easier to hit your putts on your intended line, and avoid a swiping or hooking motion that puts sidespin on your ball.  Your putter surely has some sort of alignment aid on it, like a line, or some white circles that represent balls, or something similar, right?  Why not extend this concept to the golf ball?

Aligning your line is the “align” in the Aim -> Align -> Execute method.  Once you are well aligned you can move on to executing your putt with confidence.

Let’s have Brad Faxon demonstrate this for us.  Faxon was one of the best putters on the PGA Tour during his career.  See how Brad meticulously lines up the line on his ball with the target line of this straight putt, looking back and forth between the ball and the cup multiple times  (0:00 to 0:07)  to make sure it’s just right?

As you watch the pros on TV, you will see that almost all pros align their line, each and every time.  Some of them are quite obsessive about it, in fact.  I guess if I were playing golf for a living I might be too.

Anyway, the whole idea of drawing a line on the ball is to aid in your aiming and setup, and to give you confidence as you execute your stroke.  When you hit the putt, be sure you don’t let the line wobble, and please make sure your ball finishes past the hole (or in the hole of course, like Faxon’s).

Will you line up your ball next time you are on the course?  Then tell your friends — Like, Share, Tweet, or Email below!

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Golf Putting Tip:  Improve Your Putting Aim by Aligning Your Ball's Line

Golf Bunker Lesson: The Golf Bunker Shot is Really a Golf Sand Shot

The day was bright and fine. Salt had been away from the course in the morning, but was back on the range in the afternoon.

His mission today was to help people with their golf sand shot.  He knew that most beginners had a lot of trouble with the golf bunker shot and wanted to help.

Then he noticed a woman across the way, hitting sand shots out of the practice bunker.

He walked over to see how it was going.

“Hello Ma’am,” said Salt.

“Oh, Hello. You must be Salt. I’ve heard of you,” she said. “My name is Jane.”

“Hello Jane. How’s the sand game treating you today?”

“Not very well. I hit a good shot once in a while, but then I go and leave the ball in the bunker. It’s very frustrating.”

“I’m sure,” said Salt. “Mind if I have a look?”.

“Would you? Thank you so much,” said Jane.

Salt watched Jane hit a few shots. The lip of the bunker was fairly high. About half of her shots did not make it over the lip.

“What do you think Salt? Is my grip OK? Maybe I’m not setting my hands right? Would you check my grip pressure?”

Salt paused for a moment.

“Jane, would you try something for me please?”

“Sure.”

Golf Sand Shot Means Put Sand On the Green

Henrik Stenson puts sand on the green out of the greenside bunker golf bunker shot golf sand shot bunker golf
Henrik Stenson puts both sand and the ball on the green with his golf bunker shot.

“Jane, I want you to put sand on the green with each and every shot.”

“What? I want the ball on the green, not the sand.”

“Yes, of course. But if you put sand on the green, I’m pretty sure that your ball will be on the green too. Just take a few practice swings without the ball to try it out.”

Jane remembered watching a PGA tour event in person.  The pros spent a lot of time in the bunkers around the green.  By early afternoon there was more sand out of the bunkers than in them.  She recalled watching Henrik Stenson practice his greenside bunker golf sand shots.

Hit the Sand Hard for Good Bunker Golf

Her first swings were too timid, without the needed acceleration and high finish to make it through the sand and launch the ball where it needed to go. But she eventually got the idea, and was putting sand on the green every time.

“Perfect. Now hit a ball. Or rather, the sand behind the ball.  Remember, you are trying to move the sand.”

Jane did. To her amazement the ball came out high and soft, landing on the green. It was probably the best bunker shot she had ever hit, she thought.

“Wow, did you see that? Salt, it worked! Let me try this again…”

Salt waved to her as he walked back to the range. “Keep after it Jane,” he said.

Salt had seen a long long hitter on the range that had piqued his curiosity and was ambling off to see if he was a serious player or not…

Did you like this Lesson?  Think it is the key to escape from the bunker blues?  Tell your friends!  Like, Tweet, +1, Email, or Share below.

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