We all live busy lives, and the time that most of us have available to practice our golf is limited, so it is vitally important that this time is used wisely. Unfortunately, the majority of golfers that I see come through our driving range are not doing this. Almost every player that I see on the range, is doing nothing more than performing a warm up routine. Hitting a few wedges, then some mid irons, before having a crack with the driver, is not effectice golf practice! Although practicing in this way is better than not practicing at all, it has very little effect on improving your golf game. Golf is a sport made up of several different disciplines, and your golf handicap is only the average of your ability at each of these seperate disciplines. For example, if you have a 10 handicap, it is very unlikely than any of the disciplines within your game are of a 10 handicap level. You may find that your driving is of a 5 handicap level, your mid iron approaches 8, but your putting on a relative scale is poor and at an 18 handicap. It is the combination of these seperate disciplines, that determines what you awarded as a playing handicap, some disciplines have more effect on your scores & some less. The only way you can asses your game correctly, is to start recording statistics, all the top players do it, and this let’s them know what to work on when they practice. You cannot guess this information, although many players I speak with seem adamant that they know what are the weak areas of their games, yet they still turn up and go through the same “warm up routine” as practice. Once you have recorded your statistics for a few rounds, it is then possible to evaluate these stats, and identify the weak areas, which are very often not what you thought they would be. Practice plans can then be developed around your weaknesses, with targets being set and each practice session should be recorded, so that you can track improvement. Put simply, to improve your golf, you must work on the weak areas of your game that have the largest effect on score, and every golf ball you ever hit, must have the same amount of focus put on it.
Below is a practice plan that I have developed which is target orientated and will really help with your approach play.
Firstly take a few minutes to warm up, stretching and making practice swings, then select a wedge and 2 irons, I would suggest the irons are at least 3 clubs apart. i.e. 5 iron & 8 iron. This plan is based upon a basket of 50 balls.
- 7 balls – Using your wedge hit these balls towards a target to complete your warm up.
- 18 balls – Using the shorter of your selected irons, pick a target at that clubs landing distance. You are now going to play a round of golf. For every shot that lands right on your target, award yourself a birdie. For every ball landing within an acceptable distance award a par and every ball landing further away will be a bogey. Keep a track of your score for the 18 holes, then note down the score and the club you used as a target for future sessions.
- 18 balls – Now repeat the game and play another 18 holes with your longer iron. Again note your score for future sessions.
- 7 balls – Using your wedge hit these balls towards a target to warm down.
This is a great session for helping you focus on target and will really help improve your approach play. Go through your pre shot routine for each shot and give every ball 100% concentration.
Over the next few weeks I will address some of the most common myths about the golf swing. Today I will start with the old favourite….. Stay behind the ball. This saying is a really bad one and something that you should never do unless you are hitting a driver. Every club in your bag other than the driver should be struck with a downward angle of attack, in other words the club head should still be moving downwards when it strikes the ball and should not reach the low point of the swing until after the ball. Therefore because you start your swing with the clubhead resting on the ground slightly behind the ball, if you then stay behind the ball as you swing down, your clubhead will impact the ground before it hits the ball leading to both heavy or thin strikes. From the top of the backswing it is important that you really try to transfer your weight onto your front foot, so that your entire body at impact will be a good 2-3 inches further forward than it was at address. This will help to move the low point of your swing after the ball and allow you to strike the ball before the turf.
The first step to hitting the golf ball in the direction you desire is to learn how to aim your body in the same direction. If you don’t aim in the direction you want to play then it will be luck rather than good judgement if your ball finishes there. One of the most common remarks I hear from pupils at the start of a coaching session is that they feel their alignment is poor. Unfortunately it is impossible to know whether your alignment is correct when you address the ball as you are unable to see down your target line and you have to rely on your minds perceived direction. When alignment is adjusted it will feel as if you are aiming offline as your mind will have become accustomed to your previous alignment even though it was wrong.
From now on, every time you practice make sure that you lay clubs on the ground aiming parallel to your target. Two clubs should be laid either side of you ball parallel to one another and about 6 inches apart (slightly wider for higher handicaps). The third club is for your feet alignment and should also be parallel to the other two shafts. By practicing in this way your mind will become accustomed to the feeling of correct alignment and this will then help your eye’s perception when you stand over the ball.
The days of annual membership being the only option at a golf club are in my opinion numbered. Society has changed and the modern man/ woman has less leisure time available to play golf whether it be through work or family commitments and as such there are a reducing number of golfers who play enough golf in a season to justify the cost of annual membership. Unlike many other sports, a game of golf cannot be played in an hour, you are looking at around 4 hours (a sizeable chunk of time, and on this note please search for powerplay golf, a new shortened version of golf as twenty 20 cricket is to test cricket. Power Play is looking to offer a shortened version of golf to encourage more play in a shorter time format).
Now back to my membership chat. If golf clubs do not change then membership levels will continue on their current trend and thousands of golfers will be lost from membership based competitive players to nomadic 2 for 1 greenfee players, or worse still, stop playing the game altogether. This does not have to be the case, as I believe there is a large number of golfers who would love to gain/retain a handicap, play competitive golf and feel part of a club, but this needs to be at a fair price based on the number of rounds that they play. The current system of membership in most clubs is based around a single annual membership rate, let’s say in our example club that is £500 and that a single round greenfee costs £25.
Member A plays 50 times per year, therefore his cost per round will be £10.
Player B plays only 12 times per year, therefore his cost per round will be £41.67.
I think we would all agree that player A is getting good value for money when compared against greenfee prices plus he is getting all the benefits that membership brings.
Member B on the other hand (and there are many of these in every club) is not, and it is this member who will be deliberating whether or not to renew his membership, as he is paying considerably more per round than a walk in visitor would pay (this looks even worse if your club accepts 2 for 1 vouchers). Member B also knows that most clubs don’t have waiting lists or charge joining fees, so if he decides not to rejoin this year, he knows he can get back in next year when he “might” have more time.
Unfortunately once players cease being members of a club, many are unlikely to re-join a club again, so we must offer various membership options to help retain these players and encourage new players to join.
De Vere hotels launched a new membership scheme early 2010, which I think is a fantastic model and one which with a little tweaking would work well for smaller member run clubs. The scheme is based around buying points, De Vere charge £295, which buys you 100 points, which can be redeemed against rounds of golf which cost varying numbers of points depending on what day & time you play i.e. a weekend round might cost 10 points, whereas midweek or twilight round might cost 7 points (De Vere signed up 2700 members on this scheme during first 9 months split between their 11 venues – 245 per venue!)
The amounts you charge and how many points you offer would vary for each club based upon you annual fee and your daily greenfee price. For my example club, £200 would give you 100 points and rounds would be charged at 10 for weekends and 7 for midweek & twilight. Points can be topped up at any time and the higher a price you buy in at then the more points you will get for your money.
If we now look at this example, with members A & B, you will see a different outcome.
Member A – If he played two thirds at weekends and one third midweek, he would pay £898 or £17.96 per round. This is considerably more and he should definitely remain an annual member.
Member B – if he played two thirds of his rounds at weekends and one third midweek, then his membership would now cost him £216 for the year or an average of £18 per round. This is more than annual member A’s £10 but much better value than the £41.67 in the first example. It is also a good saving against the greenfee price of £25. This I believe is a fair price.
There will be many members who would benefit from this type of scheme but there would be a tipping point where annual membership would become better value (this comes around the 25-30 rounds per year mark).
I believe that golf clubs need to introduce this type of membership alongside their annual fee, and then we may see both participation levels and membership numbers begin to grow.
Please let me know your thoughts on this as I am really keen to get some feedback.