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Got game?

Five instructors offer their best advice to help players improve their swings and lower their scores.

by John DunphyPublished: July, 2012

Many golfers leave the practice range and step to the first tee with too many swing thoughts bounding around in their brains.

That’s a sure recipe for a disastrous round, says Art Guevara, head teaching pro at Green River Golf Club in Corona.

“Why have multiple swing thoughts when the game is complicated enough with one swing thought?” he asks.

And it wouldn’t hurt to have a solid game plan before you launch that first drive in hopes of finding the fairway, says Eric Lohman, PGA pro at Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point.

Lohman and Guevara are among five Southland instructors interviewed for tips to improve your game.

Joining these pages for the first time is Pam Higgins, a three-time LPGA winner and instructor at Newport Beach Country Club.

Higgins will help you put some snap in your short game.

All of us have found bunkers in our play and dreaded trying to get out.

Scott Heyn, PGA pro at Black Gold Golf Club in Yorba Linda, has tips to get out of greenside and fairway bunkers.

Finally, fitness is becoming an essential part of the game.

Roy Khoury, founder of RFK Training in Newport Beach, will help with key movements to improve your swing.

Keys to hitting a good drive
By Eric Lohman, PGA

Ever see a cherry ’68 Corvette and wonder “What if?”? Your driver needs to evoke that same sort of emotion.

Take the time and invest the money to get properly fitted by an unbiased club-fitting expert at a place such as The Club Fix in Costa Mesa or Cool Clubs in Irvine. There you can try every driver until you find the one that not only catches your fancy but also tingles in your fingertips.

A good club-fitter will make sure your driver has the correct loft, set up (if adjustable), shaft flex and custom shaft combination to maximize your ball speed and launch angle while imparting the correct amount of back spin for your ball to fly true and far.

Finally, you have to pair that new driver with the correct golf ball. The correct combination of driver and ball can make the difference between clearing that dreaded creek and turning your ball into fish bait.

Optimum driver-launch angle varies depending on ball speed, but around 14 degrees of loft with 2,500 RPMs of back spin is ideal. So if your driver has 8.5 to 11 degrees of loft to begin with, you will have to create additional loft with your setup and swing.

Tips to make sure your missile launcher doesn’t turn into a scud:
• Tee your golf ball up just inside your forward foot and at least half a ball over the top of the club.
• Make sure your body alignment (feet, knees, hips, shoulders, sight line) is parallel to your target line.
• Make a swing where you feel you are hitting the ball up off the tee and not down on the ball like you would an iron on a par 3.
• On setup, it should feel like your spine is tilted away from your target with your right hip and shoulder lower than your left (for righties). Your stance should be shoulder-width; during your down swing, refrain from your center of gravity (head, sternum, spine) swaying into the ball, as this creates a steeper angle of approach and too much backspin.
• Try to bump your hips a littler forward to start your down swing and clear your hips before impact.
• Lastly, you have to have a good, sound game plan before pulling the trigger. You have to evaluate the hole layout and elements to make sure you have the correct aim point to result in the optimum final resting place. You must consider the wind, slope of the fairway, curvature of the hole and your regular ball flight to make sure whatever shot you play gives you the best chance to find the fairway.

Make your short game sizzle
By Pam Higgins

The scoring part of the game is played from 100 yards and in. Every aspiring golfer knows that, but the challenge is building a consistent ball flight to control those distances.

Go to the range with your sand wedge, gap wedge and pitching wedge.

Make a three-quarter-length back swing with a three-quarter-length follow through with each club; check your distances.

One of the first things you will notice is that the trajectory with each of those clubs will be quite different if they are struck correctly and in order to control 100-90-80-yard shots must be hit with the flight path of the ball in mind.

To help the execution, I would suggest setting the feet a little open at address, positioning the ball forward of center and trying to cock the wrists a little earlier in the back swing.

You want to visualize a U-shaped swing where the club swings UP-DOWN-UP again with a finish that is balanced, hips turned fully to the target.

If you want a lower ball flight, position the ball right of center in your stance with a little more weight on your left foot.

Keep your hands ahead of the club head through impact, and the ball flight will be a bit lower. Remember, to change the ball flight, move the ball position in your stance. Practice these ideas, and I am sure the improvement will follow.

More tips for lower scoring:
• Make sure you are using the best ball for your needs.
• Replace your soft spikes every six to nine months.
• Be sure you have a great sand wedge in your bag.
• Try a new putter once or twice a year.
• Replace your old grips once every one to two years, putter too. Be sure the grips are the correct size for your hands.
• Have your equipment evaluated by a golf professional.

Greater flexibility equals better golf
By Roy Khoury

Golf requires a lot of coordination and skill to execute the right shot at the right time. Having the right fitness or movement ability is essential.

As I see it, there are three fundamental parts to the swing: Setup, pivot and swing path. If one or more of these points are missing, your swing will be inaccurate and maybe even painful.

Most average golfers know what they need to do in their swing but cannot physically execute it. As a golf fitness instructor, I see common areas where average golfers are lacking: hip mobility, hip stability and/or trunk mobility. We all know that golfers need good flexibility and good balance, but we need to be more specific in where we get our flexibility and balance.

Simple tests to assess your golf fitness:
• Setup position balance: This is a test for hip stability, which is needed in setup and pivot. To test your right hip, take your address position and lift your left leg off the ground. Test your ability to balance for one minute and then switch sides. This will give you a good idea of overall hip stability or balance.
• Hip drops: This is a great test for hip mobility, which is needed for pivot and swing path. To test your right hip, lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Drop both knees to the left; if you can touch your right knee to your left ankle you are in pretty good shape. Switch sides and test your left hip. This will give you an idea of your overall ability to pivot into your right or left hips, which make up your backswing and impact/finish positions.
• Open books: This is a great test of your rib cage and upper spine mobility, which is needed to maintain swing path without being too armsy or handsy. To test your ability to rotate right, lie on your left side with your knees and hips bent to 90 degrees. Maintaining a stacked hip position, try to touch your right hand and shoulder to the floor without the knees separating. Switch sides and test your ability to rotate left. This will give you a good idea of your ability to control your swing path by turning through your trunk versus moving arms or hands too much.

At the end of the day, it is best to be tested by a golf fitness professional to address all of your movement needs. The tests above are great for understanding where movement and balance should come from in your swing.

To see these movements in action, visit or check out our YouTube channel:

One swing thought
By Art Guevara, PGA

Most students I work with arrive to the lesson tee with the notion of multiple golf swings.

Why have multiple swing thoughts when the game is complicated enough with one swing thought? The solution is simple: Let your club dictate your swing.

When swinging a pitching wedge, for example, the hands and shaft of the pitching wedge are closer to the body, and we can expect a more upright back swing due to the clubs length and lie angle. The downswing will be on a steeper plane, and the lie angle of the club will dictate this steeper angle.

Using the same setup as the pitching wedge, the hybrid or fairway wood should feel the same in your hands as the pitching wedge.

The longer length and flatter lie angle of the hybrid or fairway wood will produce a flatter swing plane naturally.

The swing thought for the pitching wedge and hybrids is the same. However, a flatter backswing will occur due to the length and lie of the hybrid or fairway wood.

An incorrect swing path by the hybrid or fairway wood will result in either blocked shots or unwanted pulls depending on the club head position on impact. Let the natural path of the backswing dictate how you swing the club.

More tips for lower scoring:
• Make the game simple; focus on your set up with each club.
• Shorter clubs come through steeper at impact; longer clubs come through flatter through impact.
• Good setup creates a good golf swing

Top tips for successful bunker shots
By Scott Heyn, PGA

Playing in a bunker is no different than taking any other shot in the game. With proper setup and a few fundamental swing keys, anyone can be successful in a bunker.

Before you get set to make the swing, you decide whether you are trying to blast the ball out of a greenside bunker or knock it on from the fairway bunker.

After you have figured out which kind of shot you are trying to play, the most basic part of a bunker shot is that you are trying to hit the sand behind the ball for a blast shot or hit the ball first for a fairway shot.

More tips for lower scoring:
Remember we are trying to make the club enter the sand behind the ball, so most of the following tips make sense in relation to that.

Greenside bunkers:
• Play the ball more forward in your stance than you would on a normal shot.
• Widen and open your stance in relation to the target line.
• Set your weight closer to your trailing side than you would for a full swing.
• Lower your hand position at address to create more wrist action and a steeper angle of attack to the sand.
• Make a more upright and outside-to-in swing to allow the club to penetrate the sand and get under the ball.

Fairway bunkers:
• Play the ball slightly further back than on a normal swing.
• Narrow your stance to allow for a full shoulder turn with less leg action.
• Set your weight closer to your front foot to promote the club’s strike into the back of the ball.
• Raise your hand position at address to quiet your wrist action.
• Make a flatter and more round swing to shallow out the angle of attack so the club can strike the ball before the sand.

As you can see, the only thing that a fairway bunker shot and a greenside bunker shot have in common is the sand you are standing on. So in a bunker remember that golf is a game of opposites, and what works in one situation may be the opposite in another.

59 great golf tips throughout history

‘Concentration comes out of a combination of confidence and hunger.’
—Arnold Palmer

‘We create success or failure on the course primarily by our thoughts.’
—Gary Player

‘Golf is a thinking man’s game. You can have all the shots in the bag, but if you don’t know what to do with them, you’ve got troubles.’
—Chi-Chi Rodriguez

‘If you drink, don’t drive. Don’t even putt.’
—Dean Martin

‘The right way to play golf is to go up and hit the bloody thing.’
—George Duncan

‘Golf tips are like aspirin. One may do you good, but if you swallow the whole bottle you will be lucky to survive.’
—Harvey Penick

‘You can’t birdie all 18 holes if you don’t birdie the first three.’
—Nick Faldo

‘Never break your putter and your driver in the same round or you’re dead.’
—Tommy Bolt

‘Be decisive. A wrong decision is generally less disastrous than indecision.’
—Bernhard Langer

‘It is good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.’
—Mark Twain

‘Golf is not a game of good shots. It’s a game of bad shots.’
—Ben Hogan

‘Golf is like a chain. You always have to work on the weakest links.’
—George Archer

‘It’s a game of constant adjustments, and the guy that adjusts the best is the best player.’
—Gene Littler

‘This is a game. That’s all it is. It’s not war.’
—Jack Nicklaus

‘Try to think where you want to put the ball not where you don’t want it to go.’
—Billy Casper

‘You can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.’
—Lee Trevino

‘You know the old rule: He who has the fastest cart never has to play a bad lie.’
—Mickey Mantle

‘There is no secret to taking your game to the next level. I did it by getting back to basics.’
—Ernie Els

‘No matter how good you get, you can always get better, and that’s the exciting part.’
—Tiger Woods

‘Too much ambition is a bad thing to have in a bunker.’
—Bobby Jones

‘Ninety percent of putts that are short don’t go in.’
—Yogi Berra

‘When it’s breezy, hit it easy.’
—Davis Love Jr.

‘A professional will tell you the amount of flex you need in the shaft of your club. The more the flex, the more strength you will need to break the thing over your knees.’
—Stephen Baker

‘Golf is a spiritual game. It’s like zen. You have to let your mind take over.’
—Amy Alcott

‘When you’re prepared, you’re more confident. When you have a strategy, you’re more comfortable.’
—Fred Couples

‘The most valuable time to practice is right after your round, when your mistakes are fresh in your mind.’
—Tom Watson

‘While, on the whole, playing through the green is the part most trying to the temper, putting is that most trying to the nerves.’
—Arthur James

‘The most advanced medical brains in the universe have yet to discover a way for a man to relax himself, and looking at a golf ball is not the cure.’
—Milton Gross

‘Excessive golfing dwarfs the intellect. And this is to be wondered at when we consider that the more fatuously vacant the mind is, the better for play. It has been observed that absolute idiots play the steadiest.’
—Sir Walter Simpson

‘Serenity is knowing that your worst shot is still pretty good.’
—Johnny Miller

‘Golf is a plague invented by the Calvinistic Scots as a punishment for man’s sins. As Gen. Eisenhower discovered, it is easier to end the Cold War or stamp out poverty than to master this devilish pastime.’
—James Reston

‘Golf is twenty percent mechanics and technique. The other eighty percent is philosophy, humor, tragedy, romance, melodrama, companionship, camaraderie, cussedness and conversation.’
—Grantland Rice

‘They say golf is like life, but don’t believe them. Golf is more complicated than that. ‘
—Gardner Dickinson

‘My favorite shots are the practice swing and the conceded putt. The rest can never be mastered.’
—Lord Robertson

‘Golf combines two favorite American pastimes: taking long walks and hitting things with a stick.‘
—P.J. O’Rourke

‘Everybody has two swings: a beautiful practice swing and the choked-up one with which they hit the ball. So it wouldn’t do either of us a bit of good to look at your practice swing.’
—Ed Furgol

‘Always keep in mind that if God didn’t want a man to have mulligans, golf balls wouldn’t come three to a sleeve.’
—Dan Jenkins

‘It’s nothing new or original to say that golf is played one stroke at a time. But it took me many years to realize it.’
—Bobby Jones

‘Golf appeals to the idiot in us and the child. Just how childlike golf players become is proven by their frequent inability to count past five.’
—John Updike

‘Nobody ever looked up and saw a good shot.’
—Don Herold

‘Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad.’
—A.A. Milne

‘Golf, like the measles, should be caught young, for, if postponed to riper years, the results may be serious.’
—P.G. Wodehouse

‘Golf is like a love affair. If you don’t take it seriously, it’s no fun; if you do take it seriously, it breaks your heart.’
—Arthur Daley

‘No one remembers who came in second.’
—Walter Hagen

‘If there is any larceny in a man, golf will bring it out.’
—Paul Gallico

‘Man blames fate for other accidents but feels personally responsible for a hole in one.’
—Martha Beckman

‘Practice puts brains in your muscles.’
—Sam Snead

‘If you wish to hide your character, do not play golf.’
—Percey Boomer

‘If you think it’s hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball.’
—Jack Lemmon

‘Golf requires goofy pants and a fat ass.’
—Happy Gilmore

‘If profanity had an influence on the flight of the ball, the game of golf would be played far better than it is.’
—Horace G. Hutchinson

‘Golf is a game in which you yell fore, shoot six, and write down five.’
—Paul Harvey

‘The reason the pro tells you to keep your head down is so you can’t see him laughing.’
—Phyllis Diller

‘Golf is the cruelest of sports. Like life, it’s unfair. It’s a harlot. A trollop. It leads you on. It plays with men. And runs off with the butcher.’
—Jim Murray

‘Golf is an open exhibition of overweening ambition, courage deflated by stupidity, skill soured by a whiff of arrogance.’
—Alistair Cooke

‘Golf has done much for health and at the same time has ruined people by robbing them of their peace of mind. Look at me; I’m the healthiest idiot in the world.’
—Bob Hope

‘Golf is a wonderful exercise. You can stand on your two feet for hours watching somebody else putt.’
—Will Rogers

‘Playing golf is like raising children: You keep thinking you’ll do better next time.’
—Roy McKie

‘You create your own luck by the way you play.’
—Greg Norman


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Readers Feedback:

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