Golf Digest

5 approach shots every golfer needs to master

By Michael Breed
Good golf is about playing as many par 3s as you can. What does that mean? In addition to the actual par 3s on the course, your goal should be to have a reasonable “par 3” to the green after your tee shot on par 4s (or second shot on par 5s). If you drive it in the water or out-of-bounds, you don’t get to play a par 3. But from 150 in the fairway, you should be thinking, I can make 3 from here. — With Peter Morrice
Driving is the first step in the process, but given at least a decent drive—assuming you’re playing the right set of tees—it’s really more about what you do next. Think about it: What’s the most important shot on a par 3? It’s the shot to the green—the approach shot—because that’s what determines if you’ll be scoring or scrambling.
Let’s look at five common situations you face after your tee shot. I’ll give you some playing tips and the swing keys for each one. Use my par-3 strategy, and you’ll play every hole better.
1) IN THE FAIRWAY FOCUS ON TEMPO AND SOLID CONTACT
If you don’t hit a lot of fairways, you probably feel oddly anxious when you do find one. First, don’t rush up to your ball and then have to wait. Stroll the last 50 yards or so. Hogan used to prepare for his rounds by driving to the course at half speed. Point is, let your mind and body slow down. Next, a good word to focus on is “complete.” Think about completing the backswing and getting to a full finish. That means turning your body back and through (top), letting the swing take some time. Nerves usually speed things up, with the hands and arms taking over. Smooth tempo and a full motion will help you hit the ball flush—and follow up that piped drive.
2) FROM THE ROUGH PREDICT THE QUALITY OF THE STRIKE
Shots in the rough test judgement as much as skill. Some lies allow any shot; others require caution. Here’s a system I use to read them: Imagine there’s a sock stretched over your club-head, and the thickness of the sock determines how crisply you strike the ball. A buried lie, where you get a lot of grass interference, is like hitting with a thick sock—a dead thud. Maybe you have to just pitch that one out. A medium lie is like a thin sock, so you might be able to play to the green. For most rough lies, you need a steeper angle of attack. Play the ball back and hinge your wrists sooner in the backswing (right). Also, open the clubface a little to help it slide through the grass. Don’t lift the ball out. Elevate the clubhead on the backswing, not on the through-swing.
“TO ESCAPE ROUGH, HINGE THE CLUB UP FOR A STEEPER ATTACK.”
3) FAIRWAY BUNKER SWING MORE WITH YOUR ARMS
The No. 1 key to playing out of fairway bunkers is hitting the ball first. Let’s assume you can easily clear the lip in front of you. Some of the swing keys from the rough work here, too, because you want to make a little steeper downswing. Positioning the ball slightly back from normal, opening the clubface, and hinging your wrists early are good points, but the shifty sand underfoot requires a couple more. Add flex in your lead knee—that will keep your weight forward and promote ball-first contact. Also, grip down on the club for control. Overall, think of the swing as more hands and arms and less body turn (left). Because you’re taking power out of the swing, it’s a good idea to use one more club, as long as the lip isn’t an issue.
SAFETY FIRST: NEVER RUN A RED LIGHT
One way to look at approach shots is to use a traffic-light analogy: red, yellow and green. Green means take dead aim. You like the lie, the distance, the shot. Red is a no-go situation usually requiring a punch-out or lay-up. Yellow is a judgment call, and these can turn to green when you’re feeling good or need to play aggressively—like when you’re down late in a match. But reds should never turn green, and this is where a lot of amateurs get into trouble. So hope for green lights, be cautious on yellows, and hit the brakes on the reds.
4) DOWNHILL LIE TILT YOUR BODY WITH THE SLOPE
Of all the uneven lies you get, downhillers are the toughest. The reason is, you feel like you really have to help the ball into the air—and that’s a killer. The first step is to widen your stance and flare your lead foot for balance. Then, grip down on the club to counteract the lowering action of getting into a wide stance. The big key is tilting your hips and shoulders more with the slope (left). You’ll never get them to match the angle of the hill, but that’s the feeling. A little more flex in your lead knee will help level your hips to the slope. What you shouldn’t do is play the ball back in your stance, like a lot of people think. That only makes you hit the ball lower—on a shot that’s already going to fly low. Instead, position the ball up in your stance and open the clubface to boost trajectory.
“GOING DOWNHILL, PLAY THE BALL FORWARD TO HIT IT HIGHER.”
5) FROM TROUBLE PLAN FOR THE NEXT SHOT
OK, this last one isn’t an approach shot, but I bring it up because many golfers try to turn it into one. When you hit a drive off the grid, have the discipline to just get back in play. Grab a wedge, and make a simple up-and-down swing. Three factors to consider: (1) You want a level lie in the fairway for your next shot. (2) Give yourself room for error on the recovery—don’t hit it into trouble on the other side. (3) If possible, play to a yardage you like. You probably want a full swing with one of your wedges, not something in between. As with all these shots, be smart and keep the technique simple.
MICHAEL BREED runs his golf academy at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, New York City.
Originally published by Golf Digest

Golf.com

Five of the most unusual golf course settings in the world

By Evan Rothman
Uummannaq
Greenland
It’s not pronounced “you maniac,” but maybe it should be. Nor is Uummannaq, a small island in Greenland, a traditional golf course; a “greens committee” would be oxymoronic, given there’s no grass, simply ice and snow, and you roll the rock on “whites” (yeah, that’s what they call the greens).
Royal Thimpu Golf Club
Thimpu, Bhutan
Talk about rare air. Overlooking the Tashichho Dzong Buddhist monastery and fortress, Royal Thimpu GC rests more than 7,700 feet above sea level and is believed to be the highest course in the world. Cows and dogs are not uncommon sights on the fairways and greens of this remarkably scenic nine-hole par-35.
Brickyard Crossing
Indianapolis, Ind.
Winning the Indy 500 at the “the Brickyard” (aka the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) is straightforward—go fast and make a lot of left turns. Navigating this Pete Dye layout, which features four holes inside the famous racing oval, offers somewhat more complex fare—and many thrills of its own.
Ile Aux Cerfs Golf Club
Mauritius
Island greens? Meh. An island course? That’s rare. Ile Aux Cerfs GC isn’t a course on an island—it essentially is the island. Reached by boat and composed of 18 holes of Bernhard Langer–designed golf, it sits in the largest lagoon off the island-nation of Mauritius.
Merapi Golf Course
Yogyakarta, Indonesia
If golf next to an active volcano brings to mind a pairing with Pat Perez after he three-putts, you haven’t seen Merapi GC throw a fit. The course is nestled in the shadow of Mt. Merapi, and when that last erupted, in 2013, dust and ash rocketed nearly a mile skyward. When these contents returned to terra firma, they blanketed the adjacent countryside, including the course. Lift, clean and place—or, better yet, just run for it.
Originally published by Golf.com

Pull yourself out of that rut and hole more putts By Cameron McCormick Was your performance in 2016 slightly less than satisfying? I know it’s not enough to hear it happens to everyone from time to time. You want to shake off the year of stubs, lip-outs and three-jacks before golf season rolls back around and you’re racking up missed putts again like a kid catching Pokémon. Well, if you really want to fix this flat-stick fiasco, you’re going to need a bit more than a 30-minute session rolling balls into those tiny golf cups. I recommend a full reboot. Here I’m going to give you four ways to pull yourself out of that putting rut. Sometimes only one of these will do the trick, but be prepared for the reality that you might need all four. Best get started. —With Ron Kaspriske1.) BENCH YOUR PUTTERIf you’re the kind of golfer who talks to a putter, gives it a good spanking when it isn’t performing, and even threatens to back the pickup truck over it in the parking lot, it’s time for the “we need to take a break from each other” conversation. Bench your putt-er for something different. Use a blade? Switch to a mallet. Always preferred heel-shafted putters? Try a centershaft. Everything from club length to grip circumference is up for consideration. Go get fitted (View: Your Ultimate Guide To Finding A Better Game). The big switch works for two reasons. First, there are no bad memories with a new putter. It’s a new day. Second, assuming the old one isn’t now residing in a scrap-metal yard, you’ll make it just jealous enough that it will perform its best when you rekindle your relationship. 2.) REALLY BENCH YOUR PUTTER“It’s not you, it’s me” won’t fly as a break-up excuse after the second Tinder date, but it’s probably true of your relationship with the putter. It showed up ready to bury every five-footer—but sometimes you didn’t. You need a refresher on mechanics. So I suggest you practice putting with your sand wedge. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. A good stroke is propelled by the shoulders and requires minimal hand or wrist action. To get the ball rolling with a wedge, you have to make that kind of stroke hitting the ball at its equator with the leading edge (above). This type of practice elicits precision and is good for the ol’ ego. You’re more apt to forgive yourself for a miss, which helps reduce those anxious feelings that turn you into a puddle of goo when the putts actually count. 3.) GRAB AND GOYou’ve held your putter the same way for so long the grip is starting to look like one of those training clubs that has grooved channels for your fingers. It’s time to switch it up, because what you’re doing, as they say here in Texas, is as pitiful as a three-legged dog. The easiest switch would be to flip hand positions so the higher one is lower. But I think you should take it a step further. Get crazy with it. Try the saw, the claw, the paintbrush, the non-anchored belly grip. Sometimes all you need is a dramatically different way of holding the club to reset your brain and start rolling the ball the way you used to. 4.) HIT SOME BOMBSOn the putting green you need to be more Picasso than Pythagoras. In other words, knowing the math behind a putt is important (speed, slope, etc.), but don’t let it squelch your right-brain artistry. You probably aren’t crunching numbers when you ball up a piece of paper and try tossing it into the garbage. You just use your feel. My suggestion? Go deep. Find the longest, craziest putts on a green and try to make them. Even putting from well off the green will help you get your feel back. You know you have to hit the ball hard, and you know it’s going to break, but when you try these long-distance putts, you become less concerned with the mechanics and tap back into the hand-eye coordination you thought you lost. Another benefit? It will free up your stroke. No more trying to steer them in. You’ll putt without fear of missing. Reboot complete. Cameron McCormick is Jordan Spieth’s instructor and teaches at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas. Source: golfdigest.com

Much like he did last summer, Francesco Molinari snuck up on everybody on Sunday at Bay Hill. Trailing by five strokes entering the final round, the reigning Open Champion shot an eight-under 64 to capture the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his third career PGA Tour title, all of which have come in his last 12 starts.

Molinari, who teed off 10 groups ahead of the leaders, got off to a hot start, making three birdies and no bogeys on his first seven holes. Just as it looked like he’d cool off at the par-4 eighth, where he badly missed the green with his approach, Molinari played a deft chip that found the bottom of the cup for another birdie. He made four more on the back nine, including a 43-foot bomb at the 72nd hole that wound up ultimately giving him a two-stroke win over Matthew Fitzpatrick, who shot a final-round 71.

“I don’t know, I’m just super glad,” said a shocked Molinari, who just put new clubs in the bag this week. “First week as a Callaway player, so happy to see that the switch I made wasn’t as crazy as some people thought. The clubs are good for me and I showed it this week.

“It’s great, to do it here, to get it done here at this place knowing that my wife and the kids were watching back home, it’s just a special, special one.”

By far the best club in the bag was Molinari’s putter, which he used to hole 146 feet of putts on Sunday, the most in his career. The 36-year-old from Italy called it his “best putting round ever,” a bold statement with the way putted on Sunday at Carnoustie to win his first major. While Arnie’s event isn’t a major, it felt just as good as one for Molinari.

“Incredible, it’s high up there with the best wins I’ve had. He [Arnold Palmer] was a special player but most of all a special person and a global icon for the game. For someone like me coming from Italy, he and Jack [Nicklaus] were up there as gods, so to win here is truly special.”

Fitzpatrick wasn’t able to close out his first PGA Tour victory, but he did finish alone in second. Sungjae Im, Tommy Fleetwood and Rafa Cabrera Bello tied for third. As for Rory McIlroy, it was another final-round dud. The Northern Irishman shot an even-par 72 to finish in a tied for sixth.

Source: golfdigest.com

An Update From Tri Cities Golf Club:

Tri Cities Golf Club is excited to announce Eddie Brown as our new General Manager/PGA Head Golf Professional!

Eddie has over thirty years of experience in the golf industry. He earned his PGA Membership in 1993 and became Head Professional at several different courses in the Myrtle Beach area that his management company had acquired. He joined the Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach as an instructor in 2005 where he was the Associate Director and Lead Instructor for all golf operations academic classes. He comes to us with a wealth of knowledge and experience in all areas of golf operations and we know he will be an asset to our team.  We are excited about the 2019 season and we encourage everyone to come out to the course, introduce yourself, and get to know Eddie!  

Golf fans and media alike had a lot to say about the early leader board this week at the Honda Classic. Most of the complaints were because of the lack of star power, which was to be expected with Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and others skipping the event with Bay Hill and the Players lurking on the schedule. Naturally, the final round of the Honda proved to be the most exciting Sunday of the year.

Most of the excitement was due to Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka getting into a tie at eight under in the clubhouse, with Vijay Singh and Wyndham Clark still in reach out on the course. But it was Keith Mitchell, a 27-year-old playing in just his second full season on the PGA Tour, who wound up claiming his first career victory. The University of Georgia alum carded a three-under 67 that featured birdies on four of his final seven holes, including a 15-foot conversion at the 72nd hole, yielding a fiery fist pump.

“Everybody dreams about having that putt on the 18th hole to win a tournament,” Mitchell said afterwards, adding, “and I had it today, and fortunately I was able to capitalize, and it feels awesome.”

Had Mitchell’s putt not dropped, he would have been in a three-way playoff with Koepka and Fowler, two players with their fair share of victories. But Mitchell spoiled the party, impressively bouncing back after a poor drive at the par-5 18th that found a fairway bunker. He was forced to lay up, and then hit a 129-yard wedge shot 15 feet below the hole and buried the putt.

“It was awesome. I wish I could come up with a better word than that,” said Mitchell. “But just having a chance to play — coming down the stretch against Rickie Fowler and Brooks, those guys are the best in the world, and they’ve been out here proving themselves. I’m just pleased that I could prove myself against guys like that in such a great field and a great tournament, the Honda Classic.”

Prior to this week Mitchell had four career top 10s (all coming last year), including a solo second at the 2018 Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. He showed plenty of potential as a rookie, reaching the third leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but has struggled a bit in his sophomore season. Safe to say he’s had a successful year now, as this victory will give him nearly $1.5 million in total earnings in just 10 starts, almost eclipsing his total earnings all of last season.

Singh’s effort in pulling off the unthinkable was a valiant one, and on the 17th tee he still had a legitimate chance to win the golf tournament. But the 56-year-old badly hit his tee shot left and short of the green, and it bounced back into the water. He finished with an even-par 70, which earned him a solo sixth finish. Ryan Palmer and Lucas Glover finished one stroke ahead of Singh, tying for fourth.

The fix for golf’s worst shot
By Keely Levins
We know, we know. You don’t even want to talk about the shanks for fear bringing the subject up will cause you to catch them. But like it or not, you might find yourself in a situation where you’re going to want to know a solution. Though awful, the plague of the shanks is curable.
First thing you have to do is take a break from the course. You need some alone time to sort this out on the range. Start by checking in on a few basics. Make sure you’re standing tall with your chest up during the swing, don’t hold the club too tightly, and make sure your weight isn’t sneaking up towards your toes. David Leadbetter told us that not tending to all of these little things could be the root of your struggles.
He also gave us a drill that will cure your shanking woes.
Set up like you’re going to hit it, and then put a tee in the ground just outside the toe of the club. While you’re swinging, think about keeping the grip end of the club near your body. “Miss the tee at impact, and you’ll hit the ball in the center of the face,” says Leadbetter.

As expected, Tiger Woods will not play in all of the PGA Tour’s upcoming Florida Swing events. Shortly before his opening round on Thursday at the WGC-Mexico Championship, Woods announced he would be skipping next week’s Honda Classic, while officially adding the following two weeks’ events, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players, to his schedule.

The decision to not play the Honda Classic is a bit of a surprise when you factor in the proximity of PGA National to Woods’ home in Jupiter, Fla. However, having already played at last week’s Genesis Open, an event that benefits Woods’ foundation, adding Honda to these other events would have meant Woods playing at least five consecutive weeks. Also, Woods’ record at Bay Hill, where he’s won eight times, was certainly a factor. Tiger has never won in four starts as a pro at the Honda.

Following his comeback campaign in 2018, an “exhausted” Woods said he planned on playing a more limited schedule. Not too surprising considering he’s a 43-year-old golfer with a fused back.

Woods didn’t specify if he would play in the Valspar Championship, which is the week following the Players. However, it seems unlikely he would play at Innisbrook despite nearly winning in his debut there last year because with the WGC-Match Play the following week, that would likely mean four consecutive starts.

Woods isn’t the first high-profile player to struggle with making his schedule under the new, more compact slate that features the Players back in March from May and the PGA Championship moved up to May from August. Phil Mickelson didn’t play in his hometown event at Torrey Pines for the first time in 29 years and recently hinted he might not tee it up at the Players, the PGA Tour’s flagship event.

Woods, who is coming off a T-15 at Riviera in his second start of 2019, is playing alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Abraham Ancer in the first two rounds of the WGC-Mexico Championship beginning Thursday. Although, technically, he’s a seven-time winner of the event, it’s the first time he’s playing competitively in Mexico.

Source: www.golfdigest.com

By Brian Wacker

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Two days after playing 30 holes, Tiger Woods went another 28 on Sunday at Riviera Country Club. It proved a cold reminder that he is, after all, a fused-together 43 years old.

“Yeah, I got tired,” Woods said following a final-round one-over 72 to end his week at the Genesis Open at six under and tied for 15th. “I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I definitely felt it.”

He wasn’t. But Tiger was the only one playing to have undergone four back surgeries. Still, for a while he put on a show.

Woods’ day began at 6:45 a.m.—or at 1:30 a.m., the time he said he woke up to get ready for the resumption of the third round. And after getting up and down from just short of the green to save par at the 17th when play resumed, he added an eagle at the par-5 first for his second eagle of the round.

It brought him within five of the lead with a lot of golf still to be played as he closed out a third-round 65.

Teeing off in the final round 40 minutes later, he kept the momentum going with three birdies in his first seven holes on Riviera’s back nine to climb into a tie for fifth.

The bad news was that he was still eight strokes off the lead. The worse news was that he followed with four bogeys in a six-hole span to quickly fade.

It didn’t help any that the temperature dipped and the wind picked up throughout the afternoon, making the course as difficult as it had played the entire week.

Neither did some of the places Woods hit it. Or how he putted it.

On the par-4 second, Woods badly pulled his second shot from the right rough, going long and left of the green and leaving an awkward shot from a downhill lie that he wasn’t able to get up and down from.

Then came a long three-putt from 60 feet on the third and another from 30 feet on the fifth. Sayonara.

Woods called this one of the worst putting weeks he has had, which was true given he had round that included four three-putts (his opening round), and just 50 feet, 6 inches of putts made in the final round.

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” Woods said. “Those clubs aren’t coming out of the travel case.”

It won’t be long, though. Woods will head to Mexico City on Monday for next week’s WGC-Mexico Championship and his third start of the year.

Source: golfdigest.com

By Michael Breed
If winter for you meant no golf, I know you’re itching to get back out there. First, we need to do a little prep work. I’ve learned from all my years in New York that spring lies—those muddy ones with no cushion under the ball—are prime territory for fat shots. And when you hit a few of those, you can lose it fast. Let’s talk.
Golfers who are afraid of hitting the ball fat tend to bend over too much, with their weight on their toes. They feel more in control if they’re closer to the ball. But your body will find its balance as you swing, so you’ll pull up and dump the club behind the ball (fat) or hit it thin. To stay in the shot, set your weight in the arches of your feet. Next: ball position. With an iron, play the ball in line with a spot on your body between the buttons on your shirt and your chest logo (short irons in line with the buttons, longer irons farther forward). I’ve got a 6-iron here (see below).
Now I’m going to give you just one swing key to think about: Drive your left shoulder closer to your left hip as you start the downswing (far right). That’s probably a strange concept for you, so let’s break it down. I want you to shift toward the target and feel like your upper body is leaning that way, your spine tilting left—we call that side bend. That will shift the low point of your swing in front of the ball so you hit the ball, then the ground. You’ll love that crisp impact, and your confidence will soar because you won’t be worrying about the next iffy lie.
That move—left shoulder toward left hip—also causes your upper body to turn open slightly. Perfect, because that brings your arms and the club back in front of your body, which is another key to avoiding fat shots. Golfers blame fat contact on a steep, choppy swing, but a shallow swing will often skim the ground before impact—and that’s fat, too. The common denominator is, the club hits the ground too soon. Driving your left shoulder forward will prevent that and add compression to your strikes.
So get the ball in the right spot, set your weight in your arches, and focus on that left shoulder. You’ll have the pieces in place to hit it solid—and beat those muddy lies. Come on, spring!
BUTTONS TO THE BALL
Focus on two positions at address: (1) Weight in the arches of your feet, never on your toes; (2) Ball just ahead of your shirt buttons (for a middle iron).
TURN INTO YOUR RIGHT SIDE
Let your weight shift to the heel of your right foot, and be ready to drive forward. What you do next will determine how solidly you strike the ball.
LEFT SHOULDER TO LEFT HIP
This is the key move for solid contact: Drive your left shoulder toward your left hip to start down. When you feel like your spine is tilting left, you’ve got it.
Michael Breed is Golf Digest’s Chief Digital Instructor.