Golf Instruction

Take Down The Hard Par 4s

How to score well and not let a lengthy hole overpower you.

Dom Furore/Golf Digest

Close your eyes and picture the longest, hardest par 4 at your home course. If you're a player who can't physically overpower it (and hey, that's most of us), a hole like that can mess with your entire process. It starts by over-swinging off the tee. Then, even if you hit a good drive, you're still left with a long—sometimes very long—shot into the green. If you don't get there, which you probably won't, you're looking at a less-than-full wedge shot, and those require touch and precision. And let's not forget, you still have to putt. I'll leave the putting technique to you, but if you're tired of getting bullied by the No. 1 handicap hole at your course, I'm going to give you tips for your driver, hybrid and wedge. These will help get that hole out of your head and let you start pencilling in a good score on the card. —With Matthew Rudy

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TEE SHOT
Take Your Time

On pro-am day, it's a lock that one of the ams will try to bomb it past me. Leaving aside that they're playing from shorter tees, most players who try to hit it longer end up short and crooked. They're so focused on creating more clubhead speed in the downswing, they don't finish the backswing—and a rushed transition leads to timing issues and poor contact. Getting the ball out there on a hard par 4 is important, so remember this advice: Slow down. Take your time and finish your backswing turn, then feel like your chest follows your hips in the downswing. The club comes last. Build swing speed like you're going from the on ramp to the highway—smooth acceleration. Don't slam the gas pedal.

‘THE BIGGEST MISTAKE IS TRYING TO DO TOO MUCH FROM SHOT TO SHOT. DON’T LET THE HOLE TAKE YOU OUT OF YOUR GAME.’

Dom Furore/Golf Digest

LONG APPROACH
Treat Your Hybrid Like A 7-Iron

Hybrids might help golfers shoot better scores more than any other technological advancement—provided they're used correctly. With a hybrid's longer shaft and less-lofted face than a middle or long iron, many players feel like they're going to have to do something extra to help get the ball in the air. This leads to wristy swings and topped or fat shots—and you can't afford that on a tough par 4. Instead, turn your hybrid into a long-range weapon by treating it just like your 7-iron. Make the same easy swing, with an emphasis on taking a divot after impact (above). The sole is designed to get through grass, and the club's loft will provide all the height you need for the shot.


Dom Furore/Golf Digest

WEDGE
Hit The Shot With Your Chest

It's more than likely you'll miss the green from long distance. We do, too. But if you pitch your third onto the green close enough, you'll save some pars. The mistake on a less-than-full wedge shot is to unplug your body as a power source and make an arms-only swing. You can't control distance that way. Instead, set up with your weight favoring your lead foot and the buttons on your shirt slightly in front of the ball. From there, swing your arms and chest away from the target, and then pivot toward the target finishing with your buttons facing the green (above). It should feel like your chest is carrying your arms and club to the end of the swing. If you can get good at this shot, no par 4 will seem too hard to take down.

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David Toms has won 13 PGA Tour events, including the 2001 PGA Championship. He plays on the PGA Tour Champions and runs the David Toms 265 Academy in Shreveport, La.


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