By Andy Podolak, Head Golf Professional at Fire Ridge GC, Grafton, WI
Lowering your handicap from a mid-single digital to scratch is like erosion on a beach. It takes a long time to notice the subtlest of changes. And if you don’t know what to work on, you’re left with being trapped in old habits that may be holding you back. 2017 is all about turning your good rounds into great rounds and we are pleased to have our resident pro, Andy Podolak, back in the saddle to assist us with this arduous task. In our first of a four-part series we discover a few swing and mental thoughts sure to shave stokes off your score!
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of playing many rounds with high level players. For me, the biggest thing that stands out with the better player is how solid they hit the ball mixed with the ball flight control. But even a great player has off days and stretches in a round of golf where they’re struggling. The question is how does the better player get out of dodge with a par or a bogey rather than that potential high number?
Along with having the ability to hit great shots on demand, they also know their limits. What they can and can’t do, if you will. It starts with reading the lie. The better player reads the lie and plays the percentages. For example, on a par-4 or par-5 a player’s tee ball goes off line into the longer rough and now he/she is faced with a very poor lie. The shot to green the is now 210-240 yards with a forced carry of water in front of the green. From that poor lie, the better player is thinking it’s going to be a challenge to make clean contact to carry the water or hit and hold the green. If they choose a long iron, hybrid, or fairway wood, out of 10 shots hit from that lie one or two might clear the water safely or hit the green. The other eight or nine shots would probably go into the water or go severely off line. The smarter play is to take an 8or 9-iron (a club with loft is easier to keep in play) and position themselves now with a short iron or wedge into the green. This still gives him/her a chance to save par with a good wedge shot and a putt. Worse case you make bogey and move on to the next hole. Saving yourself from making that higher number by being patient, taking a shorter club, and keeping the ball in play is always a great decision.
The same idea applies when the ball goes into the woods. All I see when I play in a Pro-Am is my amateur partners making a full swing with a hybrid or fairway wood towards the green hoping their ball doesn’t hit a tree. What happens every time? Their ball hits a tree dropping straight down; now, they have the same shot again or they lose the ball because it ricocheted off the tree, and no one saw it. The wise play is simply take a lofted club and chip back out to the fairway. Put the ball back in play regardless if you’re close to or far from the green. I have never regretted chipping out and getting the ball back in play. Minimize your mistakes before you make them. This is not a situation to be aggressive.
I also want to touch on how to curve the ball on demand. Not only is it going to give you a better understanding of your golf swing but it will help you have more control of your ball flight. I never see golfers hit different shots on the range. Hitting 30 seven irons in a row at a target isn’t real golf. Go to the range and learn how to curve the ball left to right and right to left, high and low. To curve the ball, you must first start with a clean lie. The ball will be much harder to curve if it’s sitting down. For right-handed golfers in order to curve the ball from right to left (hitting a draw), the ball must start to the right of the target, so we need to aim to the right. Now that you’re aiming right of your intended target mak sure the ball curves from right to left meaning the clubface must be closed coming through impact. The club needs to release (right forearm rolling over the left) making your follow through look flatter or more around the body. The opposite needs to happen for curving the ball left to right. Start by aiming left of your intended target and the clubface must be open coming through impact. The “not releasing the club” will make the shaft stand up in the follow through (see main picture for the different follow-throughs).
These are a couple small steps in the right direction to lowering your overall scores. Getting out of trouble in one shot is always a good thing. Remember to play the percentages and good golf doesn’t always have to look pretty.
Andy Podolak is the Head PGA Golf Professional at Fire Ridge Golf Club in Grafton, Wisconsin. Andy is currently in his 10th year and before his days at Fire Ridge he played professionally on NGA/Hooters, Various Mini Tours and many Nationwide/ PGA Tour qualifiers. Andy’s lesson rates start at $45 per half hour or $75 per hour session. Various lesson packages are also available and he can be reached at Fire Ridge GC by calling 262-375-2252 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit Andy’s facebook page at Podolak Golf Instruction.