John’s Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for a Better Golf Game in 2011

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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It is that time of year again. Hard to believe another year has passed us by. Did your handicap go up or down in 2010? If your scores have been going up, perhaps you are working on the wrong things or just practicing inefficiently. Below are 10 keys to making 2011 a banner year for your golf game.

1) 45 minutes and then break:
The Wall Street Journal published a golf specific article a few years back. One of the topics in the article related to time spent practicing. The conclusion was that most humans lose focus after 45 minutes. My advice – get rid of the all day practice sessions. Work on your full swing for 45 minutes, take a break for 15 and then practice your short game for another 45 minutes. This will allow you to make more use of your valuable time. You also will improve rapidly.

2) Play the correct set of tees: I see it at TPC all the time: Higher handicappers playing from the tips because that is where the pros play. Take some advice from me, play the middle or forward tees. You will score better and have more fun doing so.

3) Stop taking golf advice from friends:
I would never take banking advice from a dentist. Why would you take advice from your friends when it comes to your golf game?  The answer is you shouldn’t. Attempting to implement the wrong fundamentals will do more harm than not trying to implement anything. Come see me or your local PGA professional for help.

4) Practice your pre shot routine from the practice tee:
I am willing to bet the majority of you have never practiced a very precise down to the second pre shot routine from the practice tee. Ever wonder why you are a super star on the driving range and then a disaster on the golf course? Working on perfecting your routine is just as important as perfecting your golf swing.

5) Hydrate before you play and avoid drinking alcohol. I have a strange suspicion that Olympic athletes don’t get bombed the night before an event. If you are serious about playing this game well, you need to stay hydrated and avoid alcohol the night before and during your next big game.

6) Practice your short game: Statistically 75% of all shots occur from 100 yards and in.  When you do get a chance to practice, I would recommend working on your short game, at the very least, half the time. I know for a fact most amateurs are not doing this.

7) Stretch: The only thing that you are inviting is injury if you don’t stretch properly before a round or a practice session. Pick up a book on stretching or go on line. This will change your life.

8) Draw a line on your ball when you putt: I was having a conversation with Kirk Triplett out here a few months ago. Kirk is a veteran on the PGA TOUR and a past champion. I asked him how many of the Tour players draw a line on their ball. He told me that 99% either use the logo to help with aim or physically draw a line using a template.

9) Putt when you can, chip when you can’t putt and pitch as a last option: This is a very simple motto and will allow you to save many valuable strokes around the green.

10) Take golf lessons: Many of you have taken a golf lesson that has made you worse.  You should improve after a lesson, not get worse. If you don’t progress you are working on the wrong stuff… period. Find a qualified professional who knows what they are talking about and spend 5 to 10 hours with them over the course of a few months. You will improve, I promise.

Let’s make 2011 a memorable year for shooting lower scores on the golf course. Follow the above resolutions and I am confident you will be well on your way.

John Stahlschmidt is the PGA head instructor for the TOUR Academy TPC Scottsdale.
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