GOLF DIGEST SCHOOLS

5 Starter Lessons

1  of  5

Lesson 1: Driving

video breakdown

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Everybody wants to hit their drives straight and far. If you shoot around 100 and want to get in the 80s, learning how to hit your drives solidly and keep them in play is a fast way to do it. In this video, Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Nick Clearwater says good driving starts with a few basics: setup, making solid contact and avoiding the big miss. Here, he offers his keys for hitting quality tee shots.

SWING THOUGHTS

When hitting driver, play the ball off your front heel
With the driver, move the club’s handle closer to your front heel so the shoulders tilt slightly away from the target
On the backswing, make a full shoulder turn for power
Going through the ball, start to bend your hips and shoulders backward at impact
To minimize a slice, turn your shoulders slightly to the right at address

DRILLS

Anti-Slice Drill

  • Place an obstacle a few inches to the right of where your ball is teed up.
  • Take a full swing and try not to hit the obstacle.
  • If you hit it on the downswing, your swing path is too out-to-in, which causes a slice.
  • Miss the obstacle seven out of 10 times, and you’re on your way to fixing your slice.
Lesson 2: Hitting Shots Off the Ground
2 Lesson 2: Hitting Shots Off the Ground
  • How to set up and swing
  • What changes for different clubs
  • Troubleshooting fat and thin shots
  • The keys to consistency
  • A guide for club selection

5 Starter Lessons

2  of  5

Lesson 2: Hitting Shots Off the Ground

video breakdown

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OVERVIEW

For a lot of golfers, the prospect of hitting an iron shot off a tight lie in the fairway is intimidating. Off a tee or from the first cut of rough, you feel like you have some margin for error. But on closely cropped fairway grass, you know that if you don’t strike the ball precisely, you might chunk or skull it. In this video, Nick Clearwater shares his best tips for making ball-first contact with your irons.

SWING THOUGHTS

On short irons, position the ball in the middle of your stance
When hitting long irons or hybrids, play the ball toward your front foot
On the backswing, as your hips turn, they should move slightly toward the target
Keep your hips forward at impact; no backing up
For center-face contact, stretch your arms straight through impact

DRILLS

Playing for the Back

  • At the range, get a good idea of how far you hit each club.
  • When you play, pick your club using the yardage to the back edge of the green.
  • Less-than-flush shots will still have a chance to land on the green.
Lesson 3: Putting
3 Lesson 3: Putting
  • What to do before you putt
  • Controlling distance
  • Learn to make pure strikes
  • The ultimate practice drill
  • How to pick the right putter

5 Starter Lessons

3  of  5

Lesson 3: Putting

video breakdown

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OVERVIEW

Launching big drives and hitting crisp iron shots can be exhilarating, but the good times can be short-lived if you get sloppy on the greens and make a bunch of three-putts. In this video, Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Nick Clearwater demonstrates how to become a fundamentally sound putter.

SWING THOUGHTS

When you putt, set your feet shoulder-width apart, the ball slightly forward of center
There’s no right or wrong grip when putting. Comfort is the key
Your putting grip shouldn’t feel tight or loose—somewhere in between is good
When you set up to a putt, push the grip forward so it’s just in front of the ball
Use the length of your backstroke to dictate how the ball goes
Match the length of your through-stroke to your backstroke

DRILLS

Center-Face Drill

  • Place two tees in the ground just outside the toe and heel of your putter.
  • Set up without a ball, and make practice strokes through the tees. Try not to hit either tee.
  • When you feel confident, place a ball between the tees and practice hitting putts.

The Pace Drill

  • Place a club lengthwise 15 feet from where you’re going to hit putts.
  • Grab six balls to putt with.
  • Try to roll the first ball just short of the club, then try to stop the second ball short of your first putt, and continue this with the remaining balls.
Lesson 4: Greenside Shots
4 Lesson 4: Greenside Shots
  • The one short-game shot you need
  • How to adjust to different lies
  • Fixing chunks and skulls
  • Developing good touch
  • Effective short-game practice

5 Starter Lessons

4  of  5

Lesson 4: Greenside Shots

video breakdown

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For beginners, some of the hardest shots come around the greens. To avoid chunking and blading your short-game shots, you need to develop a sound, repeatable chipping technique. Here, Nick Clearwater advocates learning just one type of shot to simplify things. You can use it from the rough, fringe or fairway to avoid wasted shots around the greens.

SWING THOUGHTS

On greenside shots, narrow your stance, open the clubface and play the ball slightly forward
For short greenside shots, take a short backswing; for longer shots, add length and wrist hinge
When chipping, let swing length determine how far you hit the shot
On chips and pitches, turn your torso and hips back and through
From buried greenside lies, add power by swinging longer and turning more
To fix chunks and skulls around the greens, keep your hips forward and don’t raise up

DRILLS

Landing-Spot Drill

  • On the practice green, stick a tee a few yards onto the putting surface.
  • Practice chipping and landing your shots as close to the tee as possible.
  • Once you start hitting it close, move the tee around and try different landing spots.
Lesson 5: Bunker Play
5 Lesson 5: Bunker Play
  • Making sand shots simple
  • Effective club and shot selection
  • How to feel a good bunker shot
  • Overcoming fear in the sand
  • Easy hacks for bunker play

5 Starter Lessons

5  of  5

Lesson 5: Bunker Play

video breakdown

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A lot of beginners fear the bunker shot more than any other. Chances are, some even play away from bunkers to avoid them at any cost. But as Nick Clearwater explains in this video, bunker shots aren’t really that difficult if you know the basics of the setup and swing. Here, he offers a step-by-step tutorial on how to hit quality sand shots and conquer your fear.

SWING THOUGHTS

From greenside bunkers, play the ball forward so you hit the sand first
In the sand, widen your stance and dig in your feet slightly for stability
Use a sand wedge from bunkers, and open the face to add loft and utilize the club’s bounce
On a standard greenside bunker shot, make almost a full backswing
As you swing through the sand, rehinge the club back toward you to maintain loft and bounce

DRILLS

Splash the Sand

  • Place a ball in the sand, and use your club to draw a long straight line about two inches behind it.
  • Take some practice swings next to the ball, and try to hit that line, splashing the sand.
  • Finally, practice a shot by hitting the line and seeing how the sand splashes the ball out and onto the green.

5 Starter Lessons

Lesson
1 / 5
Lesson 1: Driving
2 / 5
Lesson 2: Hitting Shots Off the Ground
3 / 5
Lesson 3: Putting
4 / 5
Lesson 4: Greenside Shots
5 / 5
Lesson 5: Bunker Play
5 Starter Lessons INDEX
Lesson 1: Driving
1/5
Lesson 1: Driving
  • The basics of the setup
  • Learn to make solid contact
  • Maximize body turn for power
  • Finish like a tour player
  • Avoiding the dreaded slice
  • The basics of the setup
  • Learn to make solid contact
  • Maximize body turn for power
  • Finish like a tour player
  • Avoiding the dreaded slice
Lesson 2: Hitting Shots Off the Ground
2/5
Lesson 2: Hitting Shots Off the Ground
  • How to set up and swing
  • What changes for different clubs
  • Troubleshooting fat and thin shots
  • The keys to consistency
  • A guide for club selection
  • How to set up and swing
  • What changes for different clubs
  • Troubleshooting fat and thin shots
  • The keys to consistency
  • A guide for club selection
Lesson 3: Putting
3/5
Lesson 3: Putting
  • What to do before you putt
  • Controlling distance
  • Learn to make pure strikes
  • The ultimate practice drill
  • How to pick the right putter
  • What to do before you putt
  • Controlling distance
  • Learn to make pure strikes
  • The ultimate practice drill
  • How to pick the right putter
Lesson 4: Greenside Shots
4/5
Lesson 4: Greenside Shots
  • The one short-game shot you need
  • How to adjust to different lies
  • Fixing chunks and skulls
  • Developing good touch
  • Effective short-game practice
  • The one short-game shot you need
  • How to adjust to different lies
  • Fixing chunks and skulls
  • Developing good touch
  • Effective short-game practice
Lesson 5: Bunker Play
5/5
Lesson 5: Bunker Play
  • Making sand shots simple
  • Effective club and shot selection
  • How to feel a good bunker shot
  • Overcoming fear in the sand
  • Easy hacks for bunker play
  • Making sand shots simple
  • Effective club and shot selection
  • How to feel a good bunker shot
  • Overcoming fear in the sand
  • Easy hacks for bunker play