Ten rules for revamping your golf game

By Charlie Blanchard

Many of you may be struggling with your golf game. Maybe you had several bad turns, not scoring like you usually do, thinking “what’s wrong with me?” Golf has its ups and downs with inevitable crashes. Here are my 10 rules to get you out of this mess.

The first rule is to identify your “opportunities for growth”. Just look at your whole game with a critical eye and find your weak spots. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Find yours. Go work specifically on what is really causing your problem. Conduct? Quick game? Nerves? You will not lose your strength. But turn these problem areas into new strengths.

The second rule is to practice your putt between 5 and 9 feet. If you can make almost all of those putts in that zone, your score will be good and the other problems will seem to evaporate.

Next, for rule three, consider upgrading your gear. Are you handicapping yourself by not playing the latest and greatest golf clubs? If you’re using clubs over five years old, you’re late because things have changed. I see the pace of change every year at the PGA Golf Show.

My rule four is practicing on the golf course. It will keep you focused and boost your confidence more than a bucket of shooting balls. A good idea for getting out of a scoring funk is to modify your pre-swing routine (without extending it) on a practice round.

Along with this advice (rule five), play an individual two- or three-ball scramble. In other words, hit two or three shots from the same spot and note which one is better. If it’s good enough, then you’ve got it. If none of the three are good, you don’t have the shot and you need another one. Maybe take a different club and practice more at that distance.

Rule Six came from a baseball player friend who reminded me that when baseball clubs go back to spring training, they always go back to basics. Our basics include grip, stance, posture, ball position, tempo, alignment and balance. The basics also include ball flight, trajectory, contact and acceleration. Check that you’re rehearsing a good swing, then look at the basics of chipping and pitching, bunker shots and lag putting. Pay special attention to the fundamentals.

Coming back to technology, my rule seven for getting your game back where you want it is to take advantage of the latest measuring devices. Gone are the days of having to find a sprinkler head to locate the middle of the green. GPS devices and laser range finders are quite affordable these days, so use them.

I have observed for many years that when people struggle with their game, they often make poor decisions on the golf course. Every shot or putt involves a decision, even if it’s just where to aim. Good course management (rule eight) is both about eliminating mistakes and making brilliant plays. If you’re hitting shots that continually put you in places you don’t want to be, check your course planning and visualization. Chances are you’re not playing for position, and it costs you shots. Choosing the right club for the shot – a decision – is essential.

Rule 9 is about lengthening the tee, especially for golfers over 60. If you want to play better, you very often have to hit farther than you currently do. Twenty yards from the tee is the holy grail of golf for middle-aged and older players. If you think you’re hitting hard but lacking distance, check the dozen possible “power leaks” in your swing.

My rule of ten – and you knew it was coming – takes a few lessons. Have a teaching professional review your swing, as well as your chipping and putting, to give you feedback. You will get two or three keys that you can work on and strengthen your swing and improve your score. Teaching legend Butch Harmon says “feeling and reality are never the same thing”, which means what you think you’re doing with your swing and what you’re actually doing are very different.

Michael C. Ford