"Learning to play golf," someone said, "is like learning to play the violin. It's not difficult to do, but it's very painful to everyone around you."Here's the secret to making it less painful:Learn golf "backwards" -- that is, from green to tee. From short game to long game. From ground to air. From short club to long.Most golfers do the opposite. They start -- and often end -- with full shots. Our approach eases novices into the shots they find hardest. What's the thing that most amateurs struggle with? Getting the ball in the air. So, master the shots along the ground first and "takeoff" won't be such an obstacle. It will come naturally.This progression also takes you from the shortest club in your bag to the longest (unless you use a long putter). Why? Because the shorter the club the easier it is to control. So why would you start golf by picking up the club that is hardest to manage? You wouldn't.One more reason it works. Good players get more aggressive as they get closer to the green. Think of the Red Zone on a football field -- the 20 yards leading to the end zone and the yards farthest from one's own goal. This is where teams feel they can be most daring. Golf is like that too. But poor players tend to do just the opposite. You want to get very good at short shots so that you can be more aggressive.Take the pain out of learning. Learn from green to tee. Here are eight tips to get you started ... in the right direction.-- Bob Carney*Excerpted from "Golf: Play the Golf Digest Way"ORDER Golf: Play the Golf Digest Way
How to grip the putterIf you don't worry about anything else in your putting stroke, lock down these two fundamentals. First, make sure the putter grip is in line with your right forearm, not hanging below it. This helps the putter swing easily on the correct swing plane. Second, set your hands so the grip runs through the lifelines of your palms and you're holding the handle mostly with your fingertips. If you were tossing a penny, you wouldn't set it in your palm. You'd hold it in your fingertips. That's the feeling you want when you're putting.
Setup: Create a solid left sideWhen I chip, I place my left hand on my left thigh before taking my grip. This tells me that my weight is on my left side and that my center of gravity is slightly in front of the ball, two keys to making crisp contact. If I set up with a strong left side, my contact is much better.
Ingrain the right action by practicing with one handHitting wedge shots with my right hand only really ingrains the feeling of release you need for good pitching. Essentially, it turns my pitch shots into little full swings. The right-hand only drill forces you to release the clubhead as you would with a 7-iron.
How to hit the basic greenside bunker shotTo get out safely, open the clubface so the club can bounce off the sand instead of dig. You want to hit behind the ball to splash it out on a patch of sand, so play the ball forward in your stance, up by your left foot. The big key during the swing is to follow through and turn your body toward the target. Commit to turning to a full finish and you'll get the ball out every time.
Build a powerful platform to swing fromSo many golfers would get better by simply improving their address posture. The guys I teach on tour set up in different ways, but one common denominator is that they feel the ground under their feet. They get into a position where their legs are like shock absorbers and they're poised to use the ground to create force. To get a feel for this, try making some swings in your bare feet. Pay attention to your footing as you swing. Unless you're properly grounded, it's tough to control a swing with any power.
Sweep your fairway woods off the deckI always went for par 5s in two because I knew I could hit crisp fairway woods. The secret is simple: Keep the clubhead low to the ground in the takeaway and after impact. This ensures a full release where the clubface strikes the ball below its equator, launching it high in the air.
Rule No. 1, position the ballWith the driver, most golfers play the ball too far forward and stand too far away from it. This sets some bad things in motion. Here's how to make sure your ball position is correct. Tee it up in line with the logo on your shirt, or just inside your left heel. As for distance from the ball, the butt of the grip at address should be about six inches from your body. Check this by setting up and then taking your right hand off the grip, moving it about a foot to your right. You shouldn't feel like you have to reach to put it back on the club.
THE NEXT STEP
Warm-up goal: Hit it solidOn the practice tee at a British PGA Championship in the late 1970s, I asked Gene Littler what he worked on before he went out to play. He told me his only goal was hitting the ball in the center of the clubface. Off-line shots didn't concern him as long as they were solid, because he could always adjust for accuracy. Mis-hitting shots was more worrisome to him. Littler's tempo is legendary, and probably stemmed from his desire to hit the ball flush. Concentrate on solid contact before your round and it'll set up a great day.