Golf is a hard game. Even with technologically advanced drivers, hybrids, irons and balls, many players struggle to break 90 consistently--if they ever do. If you're in that group, I know it can get discouraging sometimes, so I want to help.
You don't have to resign yourself to shooting 90-something forever, and you don't have to go through a major swing rebuild to make more pars and birdies. With simple tips for your full swing, bunker shots and putting, let's try to quickly take those troublesome six or eight shots off your scores.
All of these tips are straightforward things you can incorporate into your game right away, so you'll be ready to play your first round of the year. It would sound so much better to be able to call yourself an 80s-shooter, wouldn't it?
1. FIND YOUR SWING PLANE
Every golfer has an ideal swing plane. It's based on your physical characteristics and how you set up to the ball. Swing on that ideal plane, and you have the best chance to square the clubface, hit the ball in the center of the club, and catch the right amount of ground on iron shots.
To find your perfect plane, swing your driver off the ground, like a baseball bat. You'll feel the club moving around your body on a consistent plane. Then just bend forward from your hips to change the angle of the swing to one that would hit a ball from a tee. That's your plane.
2. TIGHTEN YOUR TURN
RIGHT: Turn your hips on the downswing, and let your upper body respond.
When you turn in the golf swing, it's critical that the hands and arms stay in front of the body. If your arms keep moving behind you after your upper body is finished turning back, you lose power and accuracy.
Make a centered turn around a stable axis--your spine--and keep a consistent bend at your hips. Even if your backswing feels shorter, you're making a tighter turn and building coil with resistance from your lower body. The lower body then leads the full unwinding of the upper body as you move through impact. You'll produce controlled power, and that's a great goal.
3. FINISH YOUR BUNKER SWING
Getting out and onto the green is your main objective from bunkers. To do that, hit the sand behind the ball and splash it--and the ball--out of the bunker. Sand provides a lot of resistance when you hit it, and many players don't create enough speed to do the job. Don't make that mistake.
Open the face slightly at address, so the leading edge of the wedge won't dig. Then, strike the sand with one thought: Swing all the way through. Finish on the toes of your back foot, with your belt buckle at the target. You'll slide the clubhead through the sand, and the ball will come out.
4. DON'T FIGHT THE PUTTER
The natural arc of any golf swing is to the inside on the backswing, along the target line at impact, then back to the inside on the through-swing. The putting stroke is just a miniature version. Players struggle when they try to manipulate the putterface. Some try to hold off the natural arcing of the stroke to control the face. Others try to close the face through impact.
As you swing back and through, let the putterhead move naturally in a motion similar to how you clap your hands. Nothing more. The face will take care of itself.
Golf Digest Teaching Professional Hank Haney owns the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy, Hilton Head Island.