Breaking 90March 6, 2013

Identifying Your Ideal Swing Speed

If I asked you to sign your name very fast, would it still be legible? I bet it would deteriorate the faster and faster you went. The golf swing works the same way: Players tend to make a practice swing at a certain speed, then increase the speed when it's for real. You haven't rehearsed at that speed, so you get out of sync. The bad shot that comes isn't a technique mistake; it's a speed mistake.

Make a practice swing before every shot at the range, and grade your speed on a scale of 1 to 5. Then hit a shot trying to copy the speed of your practice swing, and note on a card if you were successful (above). When you pre-determine your swing speed, you're committing to the shot you want to hit, and you have a better chance of success. Think of easing up on the accelerator, and you'll develop a feel for finesse, off-speed shots.

ON THE COURSE

EXPERIMENT WITH ONE MORE CLUB

This idea is related to the one above. Most players pick a club for an approach shot based on hitting it a career distance. Then when they hit a "regular" shot, they end up short. That causes them to feel as if they need to swing harder the next time, and they mess up that one, too. It's an ugly cycle.

Over your next few rounds, make your usual club selection for every approach shot, then add one more club. If you have a hybrid to the green, switch to the 5-wood. You'll find that making the occasional mistake on the long side when you hit a career shot is much easier to deal with than consistently coming up five or 10 yards short. I bet you won't hit more than one shot in 20 over the green the first month you try this tip. Best of all, your swing speed and rhythm will improve dramatically, which will lead to better contact.

MENTAL NOTES

Getting a good round in the house usually means saving a few pars--or bogeys--after you miss the green. Success depends partly on your mind-set. You have to relish--yes, relish--the challenge of getting up and down. Practice chipping and putting until you stop worrying about missing greens.

--Dr. Bob Rotella