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My question is one for the low handicappers (single digit or better ) out there who used to be mid/ high handicappers.  What were some of the key things you learned about the game that enabled you to start scoring consistently in the 70’s or even 60’s.  I know the biggest factor has to be simply playing more & quality practice time.  But if you could be more specific on things you learned that changed your way of thinking, how you approach the game, swing, strike the ball, select clubs, hit into greens, anything really that helped you get out of the 80’s or 90’s to where you are today, I know I for one would be very interested in seeing what worked for other people and see if there are some things I could apply to my game to hopefully help me down a similar path.

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For me to get to single digits I focused a lot of my time on distance control and chipping/pitching.

I used to always either hit my approaches too long or too short, which meant trying to get up and down all the time.

I spent most of this summer working on feeling how hard I have to hit it for certain distances.

I also focused on my chipping and pitching - because as a high single digit, I do miss the green, so if I can get up and down for par, or even bogey in some cases - it's a lot better than chipping twice then 2 putting.

But by far the biggest thing for me was distance control no doubt.

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I don't think anything is better than playing with better players.  I started playing 4 years ago at the age of 25 and the people who started me playing were around 0-4 handicaps.  At the end of my second year I had broken par and was around 0-2 handicap.  I had back surgery my 3rd year and was out for most now I been chasing the different swing methods for a solid year trying to find something easier on the back and my handicap is all over the place right now but, slowly improving.  I played with a few guys that were on the mini-tour here in NC and that also helped alot watching them hit shots around the green and learning different ways to play short pitches and things.

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Kieran – I have heard practice drills like hitting different clubs to the same distances, i.e. a 9i, 8i &7i all to the 150 yard flag, to teach you how to hit different clubs to different points, is that what you mean?  Or are you referring more to learning your clubs such as if I hit my PW full it goes x yards, a 75% swing goes Y yards a 50% goes Z yards?   Also a bit of topic,  I see you are also from Calgary, have you found any good instructors around here? I tried lessons at the begging of the year but my instructor was terrible and I’m a bit jaded to them now although I do think with a good instructor they would help my game.

Poser – Thanks for your post!  That is too bad about your back and good luck with finding a swing that works for you.  I completely agree on playing with better players to improve.  I know that in the few rounds I’ve gotten to play with my boss (a single digit) this year I’ve been able to pick up a lot from him.  But my normal group of golfing buddies are all shooting in the 110’s or above.  It makes it hard to focus when you have such long waits between shots.  I really should try to meet some stronger golfers to play with.

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After 20 years playing golf, I was a 18.0 before I decided to try a single axis swing. I dipped to a personal low of 13.0 a few years later and then discovered Graves Golf and the Moe Norman swing -- the perfect single axis swing. Since then I've had a model to copy -- Moe. I've attended Graves Golf schools and used their online services. It has been a steady drop in handicap as I try and un-learn all that is not Moe and learn to trust the model and his simple swing. My current handicap is my personal low. So I guess I'm one of those high handicaps that has dropped to single digits. My point is not that you should choose Moe as your model. My point is having a model for the last five years has really helped me stay on track and make steady progress.

This year, my handicap has dropped to a new low of 6.1 as I try and control my distances with what feels like a shorter swing. I've got new clubs and I hit them a little shorter on purpose. And I have found that scoring low (for me so not yet in the 60's) is a habit. I play for GIR and scoring. I am happy going for the middle of many greens and thus avoiding trouble. I might have three rounds without being in a green-side bunker on my well-bunkered home course. I try to hit a lot more straight shots -- my desired ball flight -- rather than higher risk shaped shots at pins or around corners. I still try and hit a draw or fade where it makes sense and is LESS risk. I take a lot more of what the course, and the shot before me, are offering. I think I was often playing "golf shot" and not playing "golf." I used to love hitting great shots. This summer, I love avoiding bad shots and I love scoring in the 70's. For example, if I hit a bad drive, I think about what it will take from there to have a chance at par and minimize the chances of a double. In the past, I'd be trying a spectacular recovery shot that opened up lots of big number possibilities with the faint hope of a birdie putt. Now, I try and have a bad shot cost me one stroke at the most.

You mentioned another key for me this summer: "quality practice time." I try to practice with a purpose and have spent a lot of time on the range with fewer clubs. I might hit a large bucket of balls just working on 3-woods and drivers with the goal of creating a shape and flight that I will be able to trust on the tee. On another trip to the range, I might hit only wedges and work on leading with my hands for an hour. My practice seems better. I practice a lot more than many of my buddies who are not improving.

I'm tracking my rounds with the Golf Digest challenge website. http://www.golfdigestchallenge.com/user_sessions/new According to their analysis of my game, I should work more on my short game -- and I am. My putting stats were so bad that I revamped my putting style which directly help me shave a few strokes of the index this month. I may not have acted if I had not tracked my stats.

Good luck.

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Originally Posted by spidermanning

Kieran – I have heard practice drills like hitting different clubs to the same distances, i.e. a 9i, 8i &7i all to the 150 yard flag, to teach you how to hit different clubs to different points, is that what you mean?  Or are you referring more to learning your clubs such as if I hit my PW full it goes x yards, a 75% swing goes Y yards a 50% goes Z yards?   Also a bit of topic,  I see you are also from Calgary, have you found any good instructors around here? I tried lessons at the begging of the year but my instructor was terrible and I’m a bit jaded to them now although I do think with a good instructor they would help my game.

I mean figuring out how far a 75% swing with each scoring iron goes. I worked a lot with my 7-GW on hitting them 50%-100% and getting the feel of how to make my GW go 100 yards etc

As for instructors...well, I went for a lesson with a guy but didn't really take anything useful away ( NGA Golf Dome ). He had me bringing the club up so vertical it felt terrible and I tried it for a couple weeks but it never worked right...and that's the only instruction I have had/tried. I don't have the money to keep testing them out, so I probably won't ever go for a lesson unless I get a good referral from someone.

When I hit a plateau I might go in for one, but right now I am still improving so we'll see!

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Rustyredcab – Thank you so much for your post.  I really take a lot out of it.  I haven’t picked Moe’s swing but I do have a model that I have just begun studying (two weeks now).  So I’m encouraged to hear this worked for you and I will continue on with this.  Unlearning really being the key for me, replacing old habits with new ones is a struggle but I enjoy it!

Congratulations on reaching 6.1 on your cap, that’s quite the accomplishment!  If you don’t mind me asking what did you used to play before the Mizuno JPX-800, and what changes have you seen since you switched from an equipment perspective?

I had to laugh at the comment you made about trying to hit great shots versus avoiding hitting bad shots.  On the weekend I lost at least 3 strokes from trying to save myself from a bad drive and hitting the ball to OB once and into the long grass and losing the ball twice.  If I would have just taken an easy chip out to the fairway and made a good 3 rd shot I could have had a chance at par or at worst a well-played bogey.  I think me realizing this and changing my approach to these situation will take a few strokes off my rounds.

I don’t know my stats but putting for me easily kills my score some days, if I was a stronger putter I know that alone would have me breaking 80 from time to time.  1 putts seldom happen, 2 putts mostly, but 3 putts happen more frequently then I’d like to admit.

Thanks again!

Kieran – I had the same experience at the RCGA down south, he had me change to a very vertical swing with a lot of separation from my body.  I tried it for a couple of months but I hated the feel of the swing.  I’m playing much better since I quit seeing him and started working on it by myself.

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TitleistWI – I’m curious on your posture if there are any specific changes you made that helped you?  Mechanics I’m working on and am slowly improving, and as my swing improves so does my game.  Alignment and aiming are also coming along it’s currently a big point of interest for me.  I just picked up a couple alignment sticks and have started practicing with them, and am starting to understand how to aim properly with different clubs, this was a huge gap of mine.  But posture I haven’t changed much at all, I’m trying to keep my chin up and back straight, make sure my feet aren’t too wide or narrow on different types of shots, but other than that I haven’t spent much time on that part of my game.

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Alignment sticks are a plus, i just go to the hardware store and buy a few dowels, they are so much cheaper.

I improve through practice and playing. When i am at the range i tend to focus on working on 1 thing only. If its the swing plane i really just work on that the whole time. Really hit home on one thing. Right now i am working on my grip more, to get it repative.

But what helps out a ton, putting, minimize three putting is a must.

I would say, aim for the center of the green period. only when your confident start to pin seak

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I am working on getting into the mid single digits now that I reached the single digits and for me that is going to come from adding some more distance as I am fairly short off the tee, average around 220 yards with the driver. I am not looking to get up to 300 yards but I am young and flexible enough I know that I can get up to being around 250-260 on average which is what I would be quite happy with. Long par 4's give me trouble because I am still a ways out so that extra 30 to 40 yards would obviously help a lot. Of course I am still working on my short game as that is always a work in progress though my putting is fairly solid, average 29 putts per round. Never thought I would say it but my focus now is distance..lol.

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Originally Posted by spidermanning

Rustyredcab – ...   If you don’t mind me asking what did you used to play before the Mizuno JPX-800, and what changes have you seen since you switched from an equipment perspective? ...


I've been an enthusiastic poster about my Mizuno JPX-800 Pros. I played 2005 Callaway Fusions. The short answer to what changed is that I really like hitting the sweet spot on the Mizunos and I swing easier in order to try and make that happen. I hit them high but not as high as I used to hit my Fusions. I hit them straighter. I think I can play with more feel. They are awesome for shots inside 150 yards and they let me hit more kinds of shots -- high, low, with spin, without as much spin -- with more clubs -- from 125 I can hit a PW, 9-iron, or 8-iron depending on the flight I think gives me the best chance.

Here's one of several good thread that includes my post updating two months with the new irons. http://thesandtrap.com/t/47003/adams-cb2-vs-mizuno-jpx-800-pro/18

Here's my review: http://thesandtrap.com/products/mizuno-jpx-800-pro-iron-set/reviews/4022

I also have gotten a new driver and 3-wood. My fitting lowered my ball flight and spin which has made my former longest drives closer (not yet close but closer) to my average drive and tightened my dispersion pattern.

One more big suggestion: use video to work on your swing and compare to your model. I am always amazed at how what I feel I am doing is not really what I an doing. For example, my half-swing is much closer to my desired full swing than I ever would feel.

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Saevel – Great idea with the dowels, I don’t know if I’ve been working on too many things lately, but I try to minimize the amount of clubs I focus on and right now I’m working on Grip, Alignment & Ball position.  I’m not sure if that is too much at once but I am making progress.

Awmgolfer – I’m impressed that you have reached a single digit cap with a 220 drive, you will be insane once you get your distance up.

Rustyredcab – I have watched some review for the Mizuno JPX-800 Pros & Mizuno JPX-800’s yerterday and both of them look like great clubs, though I think I’d rather go for the pros as I continue to work hard to improve I think they will last me longer.  I’ll give your posts and review a look through, thanks!  I’ve been told that I should start using video a lot more, I actually downloaded an app on my phone that will film me, play it back in slow motion and let me compare my swing to a lot of different pros.  I haven’t used it too much yet, but it’s a good idea, because I’m sure like you I’ll be surprised at what I find.

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I am shooting in the 70s now after 4 years of beating my head against the wall. The most important thing I have done this year is practice in my yard with a plastic practice ball. I know that sounds crazy, but I practice hitting the plastic ball as straight as I can and it really translates to good shots on the course. The best thing is practicing in the yard on my swing and then forgetting about mechanics and just concentrate on a target on the course. (Golf is not a perfect game concept..... a must read in my opinion).

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1. I play Get the Ball In the Fairway. That means my driver doesn't get used that often.

2. I work real hard at making good contact with my irons. Ball first, ground second. If I do that, straight follows.

3. My short game goal is to get the ball on the green and reasonably close to the hole. I don't get cute.

4. I practice approach putting a lot - reduces 3-putt greens.

5. I always feel good about the shot I'm about to hit, especially around the green. If I don't, I'll pick another shot or a different club.

6. I have found that I can still make par even with a mediocre shot or two, or even one bad one - never give up on a hole.

7. I've gotten real good at letting go of the past and not getting ahead of myself.

8. I don't think about the score until the round is over.

9. I don't rush to judgement about which shot I am going to hit, or to where, or with which club. I'm better at taking a few extra seconds to find the right option.

10. If there's a hole in my game, I get a lesson to get it fixed.

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Spidermanning - My thoughts exactly, I do get an every now and then 250 yard driver but I am more around 220 consistently. I tend to swing my driver a bit differently for some reason so I'm working on that part as I basically hit my 3 wood about the same..lol. My home course is very short, a little over 5,700 yards but it is very, very tight. Most single digit handicaps that come to the course really struggle because there are not many holes you can really play aggressive. I shoot really well when I travel but if the course obviously gets longer it kills me. Which is why I know that I need to get that distance up with the driver to really get to that next level.

What has helped me a lot is I have one of those little flip scorecard holders you can get off of Amazon but inside I keep a chart. It has the distances marked out for all of my wedges and the different sized swings. All I do is figure out my yardage/flight needed and consult the chart and I have my club. It has made a world of difference.

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Swalker – I purchased those little yellow balls, and have been using them, but I have a small backyard and I’ve been hitting them over the hosue and into the neighbors yards, so I’ve had to keep it to small chip shots, good idea though!

The Recreational Golfer – Thanks for your top 10!  They all seem very logical and more importantly useful for me and my game.  I’ll spend some time memorizing this and hopefully some of it will sink in for me next time I’m on the course!

Awmgolfer – great idea with the book, and I think you echo a bit from what others have said in terms of learning how to hit your scoring clubs to different distances.  I think I’m going to book some time on Saturday and just take my wedges out to the range and hit my clubs to different points for an hour or two.  Try to ingrain the different swings into myself.

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