Pro Page – Getting Better Starts Before Your First Round

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By Nate Gray, Head Golf Professional at Fire Ridge Golf Club, Grafton, WI

     It’s early February by the time your reading this and I’m sure thoughts of long drives and epic putts are dancing in your head. But have you done anything this off season to ensure those amazing feats will happen?

     For most of you that answer is no. But don’t fear, it’s not too late to work on a few fundamentals this off-season that will allow your first tee shot to be straight and true and your initial putt to find nothing but the bottom of the cup. Below are a few drills that PGA Professional Nate Gray loves to have his students do while the weather is still inclement.

Every year we all want to play better than the year before. How do we make this happen? Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson says it best, “The separation is in the preparation.” To make the most out of the off season you can look at what you want to be better at. Is it your putting, your power, or maybe you want to make your golf swing more efficient? There is no better time to make this happen then when you don’t have to worry about results and just concentrate on the process.

The winter is probably the perfect time to make any changes to your swing. When you are worried about how the ball is flying and what kind of score you are producing it’s hard to commit to a change in technique. I encourage anyone who wants to achieve consistency in their ball striking to find a good pro and get your golf swing on video. I really believe that you have to see it to know you are making the changes you are looking for. Your golf coach can give you some drills to work on and you can find an indoor facility or some heated bays. With the help of a smart phone you can check out if you are doing what the coach is looking for.

If you want to score better there is no better place to start than working on putting. The easiest way to score better is to reduce the amount of putts you have per round. In 2018 the player with the lowest average on the PGA Tour was 27.8. The 186th player on the list was 29.95. How many times last year did you have less than 30 putts for 18 holes? While it is hard to work on distance control, you can improve your technique by using a drill like the one I am doing on the carpet in the pro shop. Just put a couple tees down to make a gate and a couple more to make stroke more consistent back and through. You want the putter to swing more up and down the line and not waggle inside or outside, which puts cut or hook spin on the ball. One of the big keys to good putting is to have an accelerating stroke. I put a tee behind the putter about 8 inches so the stroke doesn’t get to long and another about the same distance forward to get the putter to swing through the ball.

To hit the ball further you need to swing the club head faster. Certainly, an efficient swing limits any wasted motion and will help you hit the ball more solidly. This combination will maximize the power you already have. But if you can strengthen your core muscles, your legs, hips, etc, while becoming more mobile/flexible and improve your balance you will see the ball fly further, guaranteed. I always suggest seeing a great trainer who can assess your fitness and get you on the right program. Don’t be in a hurry, but if you start now you will be better by summer. One drill I have students work on is standing on balance disks (see first photo). Eventually your balance will get better and you will find your optimum posture. I have my students make back swings on them which gives them an awareness of their weight shift.

One last tip is to remember to make as many opposite side swings as you do on your normal side (see photo sequence). When you work out maybe put in a couple extra reps on the weaker side as well when doing unilateral exercises like a split squat. This will help limit the injuries that can occur from doing something so forcefully on one side of your body like the golf swing.

Nate Gray is the Head PGA Golf Professional at Fire Ridge Golf Club in Grafton, Wisconsin. Before Fire Ridge, Nate spent the previous seven years as a full-time golf instructor. Although he loves to help his students win championships, Nate hopes to resume a fuller schedule of competitive golf in the Wisconsin PGA Section events following his second shoulder surgery in the last three years. When Nate has free time his likes to spend it with his best pal Twigs. His lesson rates start at $40 per half for juniors and $50 per half hour for adults, plus he offers numerous lesson packages to customize your experience. He can be reached via email at ngray@fireridgecc.com or by phone at (262) 375-2252.

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About Author

Glen Turk is a Wisconsin native who has been the Senior Writer/Editor of Midwest Golfing Magazine since 2006. Besides being an avid golfer, Glen enjoys traveling, music, and cheering on the finest professional sports team of all-time, the Green Bay Packers. Glen’s ultimate golf goal is to play in all fifty states and currently he is more than half way there. His other dream, albeit far-fetched, it to record an ace in all seven states of our distribution area. Thanks to an ace in Illinois in 2015, and one in Michigan in 2016, he has three down, four to go!

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