DAN SUTTON, for many years one of the area's top amateur players on the Metro Golf Association circuit, is now the head professional at Eagle's Landing in Oregon. The subject for his “pro tip” is properly preparing for a round of golf.
Whenever I hear people complaining about their golf game and scores, I ask how much they've been practicing. Usually the answer is, “I don't have time.” It's an old saying, but practice does make perfect, especially immediately before you head to the first tee.
If I had my way, every golfer would hit a bucket of range balls before each round. I know that isn't always practical, so let's cover several pre-round routines that should help your performance on the course.
w First, whether you're starting on the range or heading from the parking lot right to the first tee, save enough time to properly stretch. It is so important to prepare the body to play. Try to spend five to eight minutes doing a variety of simple stretches to warm up your hands, arms, shoulders, back and legs. The body will respond better when you hit your first shot. Think of how many times have you played poorly on the first couple holes and said, “I'll be fine when I get loose.” Take the time to get loose first and you can skip the apologies.
w On the range, develop a good routine. Hitting 10 shots with the driver is not a routine. Hit a number of clubs, starting with the shortest of irons, either a sand wedge or pitching wedge. Hit six to eight shots, then jump up two clubs to an 8-iron. Hit six to eight shots, then jump two clubs to a 6-iron, and so on. Work on developing a slow and smooth tempo with the short irons, then remain consistent with that tempo as you work through the bag so your swing will repeat that tempo on the course.
w After hitting irons, continue through your fairway woods, making the driver the final club you hit. Be consistent with the tempo you developed with the short irons, and don't overswing. With the driver in your hand and just a few balls left, begin envisioning your first tee shot as you wrap up your work on the range.
w If you don't have time to hit a full bucket, at least try to get in 10 minutes hitting chip shots at the practice green. This will help you warm up and get some feel and touch. Hit between six and 10 short chips (20-30 feet), then double the length. Concentrate on your grip - think soft hands, not a death grip - and targets. Your two targets should be where you want to land the ball and the 3-to-5 foot circle around the hole where you want it to end up.
w If you have time for nothing else, a pre-round routine should include five or 10 minutes on the practice putting green. Start two or three feet from the cup - remember, missing or making a few short ones can be the difference between shooting 88 or 92. After making several short putts, stretch your putts to six or eight feet. You'll be surprised how many you make after having started with shorter putts. As you move back to the 12-foot range you'll see the only difference is the length of the stroke. Don't worry about making or missing from this length, simply work on your distance control and getting a good feel for the speed of the greens. Finally, hit around five long putts and get a feel for some good lag putting that will pay off during your round.
Remember, arriving 30 minutes before your tee time should give you time to stretch and then work through a routine on the range and practice green that results in a more enjoyable round and a lower score.