Quick Tips

Five ways to play smarter golf

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Typically, early rounds of the season come with a few high numbers on the scorecard. While a lot of these "blow up" holes are due to a lack of practice, the good news is that minimizing the damage is pretty easy. We spoke with Golf Digest Best Young Teachers Greg DuCharme and Anders Mattson, who shared five essential skills to use the next time you play. Groove a better swing, make fewer mistakes and save your score with this quick list from DuCharme and Mattson.

A DRILL TO BOOST YOUR RHYTHM

It takes time to knock off the rust, especially with your full swing. However, DuCharme has an easy drill you can do before your round to sync up your swing: Place both feet together and hit full-swing shots at a target. Your tempo should start to even out, and the sequence of your swing will become more organized.

Losing your balance? DuCharme says that's probably because you're sliding in the backswing. To fix this, focus on turning your hips back and through as you swing. Proper hip rotation will promote a better weight transfer in your swing and, as a bonus, will also help you generate more power.

HAVE A GAME PLAN OFF THE TEE

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Having a strategy for your round can minimize penalty strokes and limit your mistakes. A simple tactic DuCharme suggests using when creating a game plan is hitting your tee shots to the widest part of the hole. He explains that the widest part of the hole is not only easier to hit and usually has the best angle into the green. This simple strategy keeps you from making risky decisions off the tee that usually lead to a wasted second shot. DuCharme's rule of thumb also allows you to be more aggressive with your approach shots, meaning more greens in regulation and birdie putts.

USE A CHECKLIST BEFORE EACH SHOT

Having a constant pre-shot routine throughout your round is crucial if you want to eliminate big numbers from the scorecard. In fact, Mattson teaches all of his students a four-step process: decide, commit, execute and analyze.

Deciding what shot and club to hit is more than just shooting the distance, you need to assess your skill and the conditions to make the smartest possible choice. Once you have figured out what to hit, Mattson's next step is simple, commit to the shot.

The third step in his checklist is to perform the shot and "trust that your abilities and training allow you to execute this shot."

Finally, Mattson's last step is to analyze the outcome. If it was a good shot, Mattson says to celebrate and move on. If the shot was undesirable, ask yourself what part of your process negatively affected your shot, the decision, commitment or execution? After you answer, quickly move on and try not to dwell on the bad shots.

Although it seems like a no-brainer, following this checklist will increase your confidence and eliminate poor decision-making when emotions are running high.

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ELIMINATE THE TWO-CHIP

A big mistake many amateurs make when it comes to the short game is attempting shots they haven't practiced or don't have in their skill set. According to DuCharme, a simple solution to this is adjusting your greenside strategy. He says to hit a low-running chip whenever you can because it's your best chance at getting it on the green and making an up-and-down.

Double-check your technique using DuCharme keys: high handle, toe down and choke down. He also recommends using your putting stroke to create a smooth and even tempo. This will give you more feel and help you make a controlled, consistent strike every time.

STOP THREE-PUTTING

Distance control is essential to good putting. One of the biggest mistakes DuCharme sees amateurs make on the green is how little they focus on speed. To fix this issue, he teaches all of his students to putt to a goalpost. Imagine the goal about a foot to two feet behind the hole and try to get your putt to stop there, DuCharme says. This trick will improve your feel on the greens and help you read putts more accurately. By having the right speed and line, you'll probably start making more of your first attempts. However, even if you don't make it, you've given it a good chance and left yourself a very makeable second putt.

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