Four shots that will save you eight strokes

All players like to pull out the driver and hit it hard, but it’s not a great way to lower your scores, particularly if you tend to slice. Instead, try choosing your 3-wood and teeing the ball down a bit. The greater loft will help you keep the ball in play.

I call it The New Math, but you can think of it as a simple way to cut strokes from your scorecard quickly and easily._Ê As an instructor, I like to teach my students the basic premise that by adding to their technical repertoire and eliminating incorrect moves, they can effectively lower their handicaps. In other words, I believe that a good instructor subtracts as much, if not more, than they add. By eliminating inefficient and wasted motion and streamlining your technique, you’ll be making a giant first step toward improving your swing and your scores.

Not everything in the add and subtract method is highly technical. In fact, many of the techniques are relatively basic but are elements that players often overlook or simply don’t understand. From course management to club selection to putting performance, every element of the game can be simplified to make it easier. Pay close attention to the drills I recommend, as well as the techniques I demonstrate for short-game performance. Take my advice and learn to add and subtract properly, and your scores will go down in no time.

Save 2 Strokes, Avoid Hazards With Your 3-Wood

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When there’s trouble up the right side of the fairway, leave the driver in the bag and choose your 3-wood instead. Tee the ball on the right side of the tee box and aim away from the trouble, and even if you do hit a slice, your ball will avoid the hazard.

The first weapon I suggest adding to your arsenal that I guarantee will save you strokes immediately is a simple course-management strategy. Most recreational golfers share one common fault and that’s the tendency to slice, particularly off the tee with a driver. This is no surprise considering that the driver is the lowest-lofted and longest club in the bag, making it the most difficult to square through impact. I know today’s drivers are better than ever, featuring higher MOI and COR, as well as extremely large clubfaces. However, I strongly suggest playing the 3-wood (or your longest fairway wood) on just about any driving hole that features trouble on the right side of the fairway. The added loft of a 3-wood helps create more backspin, which effectively counteracts the sidespin that typically causes a slice. In addition, the significantly shorter length (most drivers are about 45 inches in length, while 3-woods are typically closer to 43.5 inches) makes it much easier to make a balanced swing and more solid contact. Avoid penalty strokes and get the ball in play more often, and you’ll probably save a lot more than two strokes per round.

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A great way to cut strokes from your score is to become deadly with your favorite wedge. Pick a specific distance and learn to make consistent, ball-first contact, and soon enough, you’ll find you have a shot you can rely on regularly.

Save 2 Strokes, Develop Deadly Distance

The second shot you need to learn is what I like to call the deadly distance shot. To begin, simply choose your favorite wedge (sand, gap or pitching) and learn to make solid, ball-first contact on a consistent basis, or what I call the squash. This is what occurs to the ball when you strike it with a proper, descending blow and compress it between the clubhead and the ground. To learn this type of contact, use the Board of Correction (seen at left and below). Place the golf ball an inch or two in front of the board’s edge, in the middle of the slot, and start hitting balls. Swing too shallow and you’ll hit the board, swing too steep and you’ll hit the ground before the ball. Once you’re able to squash the ball every time, find a dependable yardage marker (or GPS unit) and find out exactly how far you hit it.

Save 2 Strokes, Learn To Putt With Your Hybrid
As we all know, most strokes in golf are lost within 100 yards of the green. Of those strokes, more are wasted around and on the green than anywhere else. A great method of saving a good number of these shots is to learn what I call the hybrid putt. Next time your ball comes to rest on any type of tight lie around the green, take your hybrid and set up to the ball with your putting grip. Don’t hesitate to choke down a bit on the club, as they’re quite a bit longer than the standard wedge. Once you feel comfortable, simply visualize your target on the green (these shots will travel like low chips that release quickly) and make a normal putting stroke with a medium tempo.

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The design of a hybrid club makes it perfect for short shots around the green. The sole is much wider than that of an iron, which helps prevent chili-dips and skulled shots. Also, the CG of a hybrid is fairly low and deep, which promotes overspin.

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Penny on the putter: The importance of good rhythm to the full swing is well known, but it’s equally important in putting, even on short ones. To help develop a smoother, more consistent stroke, try my penny on the putter drill. To begin, simply place a penny on the flange of your putter and begin making some smooth strokes. Don’t be surprised if the penny falls off the first few times, but be sure to continue until you can keep the penny on the putter every time. Try making a bunch of three-footers in a row using this method until you feel your rhythm is good. The Twin Towers are simply two tees that are taped to the face of your putter. Space the tees so only the sweet spot is left open, without getting too close to the hosel. Learn to hit this spot consistently, and you’ll drop a number of strokes quickly.

Save 2 Strokes, Make The Short Ones
After just about any round of golf, I’m willing to bet most players, with the exception of Tour pros, look back and think, If I had just made a few of those knee-knockers, I would have really scored well. It’s true, learning to make the short ones is without question the quickest way to improve your scores. Probably the most important and overlooked aspect of short putting is making solid contact with the ball in the center of the putterface. This is the only way to create consistent speed and direction, both of which are obviously key to good putting. To improve your ballstriking, try my Twin Towers drill. Tape two tees to the face of your putter so only the sweet spot is exposed. Practice draining short putts without hitting the tees and your stroke, along with your confidence, should improve dramatically.

Tim Brown, PGA, is a Teacher of the Year recipient and the Head Pro at Timberlane C.C. in Gretna, La.

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