KNOW YOUR YARDAGES
When I was playing professionally (1991-96), it was just pre-Tiger. The best players at that time were Greg Norman, Freddie Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Paul Azinger, Payne Stewart, Corey Pavin, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Nick Price and Tom Kite among others.
Kite made it to # 1 in the world briefly, after wining the 1992 US Open at Pebble Beach. While he was not my favorite player, I was amazed at his short game accuracy. I believe there is a stat that in 1992 from within 100 yards, he was UP and IN 80% of the time. Remarkable. It’s important to note that he was NOT A BIG HITTER, not long at all. This appealed to me as I was also not the longest player off the tee. It’s interesting, at my size and length people thought I was long but I have short, abbreviated swing. Control was more my forte.
He wrote an article about his approach, and ever since that time my short game has been very sharp. But it takes work, time and patience.
Here’s how the yardage grid works
NOTE: There are 4 separate yardages in this grid PER CLUB. Kite only had 3 yardages. I added a 4th (known as “Shoulder”) simply because that shot (a 3/4 length shot) was easy for me. For the average player even 2 yardages per club is great. Advanced players should have 3 yardages.
- FULL: the easiest to understand. How far do I hit a club when I swing FULLY?
- SHOULDER: as noted above, this is a full shot but at 3/4 power.
- BELT: this is when I take the club back BELT HIGH. I do NOT swing my hands past belt high
- 730: the toughest shot. Basically on a clock, the swing only goes to 730. Roughly a 1/4 length swing. Hands are roughly KNEE HIGH on the back swing.
IMPORTANT, VERY IMPORTANT
Numbers 1-4 above are all VARIABLES, based on the length and feel of your swing. There is 1 critical CONSTANT that must be executed. No matter which swing you choose, the FINISH MUST BE FULL. So whether you are hitting a FULL SHOT or a 730 quarter-length shot, YOU MUST FINISH THE SWING with a full finish, a full turn. Think of it this way: if someone snapped a picture of you at the end of your FULL swing and also at the end of any of the other yardages, you could not tell what shot you just hit. All shots are identical at the finish.
Here is how you identify YOUR YARDAGES. (NOTE-this exercise is much easier and more accurate with someone helping you. This other person can be very accurate in how far each shot carries)
Start with your shortest club, it might be your 60 degree wedge or your sand wedge (56)
- Assuming you have a range finder, shoot the shortest flag on the range (ideally around 50-75 yards)
- Hit 10-15 shots FULLY at that flag.
- Watch closely how far the ball carries–IE: WHERE DOES IT LAND? (this is where the 2nd set of eyes is valuable)
- There generally should be a grouping, where the bulk of the shots landed. I’m throwing 72 yards out there as an example
- This is yardage # 1. WRITE IT DOWN. 60 degree wedge–FULL–72
NOTE: This exercise will save shots BUT if you are shooting 95 or higher on average (BE HONEST!!), your ball striking is quite likely where your time and effort should be. For good to very good players-players who are low 80’s and into the 70’s or lower-this exercise is a game changer. Think about it. If you are rock solid in the 80-90 yard range for example, par 5’s all become birdie holes and errant tee shots into the woods or with bad lies become less onerous. You will still make par a BUNCH with these sharper skills. NOTE: This putting drill is REQUIRED. Finish off that great approach shot and knock in the 3′, 4′, 5′ putt.
Now let’s get a 2nd yardage for that 60 degree wedge. I personally think a 3/4 shot is easy to explain, visualize and execute. Let’s identify how far your 60 degree wedge goes with a 3/4 swing.
- IF POSSIBLE, either move closer to that same flag OR again IF POSSIBLE, drop some pretty big towels 10 yards in front of that flag and 20 yards in front of that flag. I LOVE THE TOWELS–it’s unique, they are YOUR YARDAGES and this drill works.
- Assuming you can use the towels and the actual flag is 75 yards out, the towels will now be at 65 and 55 yards respectively.
- Understand what 3/4 means. It’s a full shot, a full swing but the swing speed is 3/4. I like the phase “driving range power”. You are hitting the ball solidly but only at 3/4 speed.
- Hit the same 10-15 shots and identify this next yardage. I’m saying it’s a carry of 60 yards.
- Your 60 degree wedge now can be hit 72 yards FULLY or 60 yards with a 3/4 swing. WRITE IT DOWN
Getting a 3rd yardage for each club is only recommended for players who regularly shoot in the 70’s. The half shots (BELT in my parlance) and 1/4 length shot (730 in my parlance) are VERY DIFFICULT SHOTS. They require dozens and dozens and dozens of practice shots. You are purposefully shortening-abbreviating your swing which is not natural. I will say when I understood how to hit these shots, I stiffed more 30 and 40 and 50 yard shots than I ever did before.
Now on to the next club and the one after that and the one after that
- Assuming the next club is your SW, or 56 degree wedge, follow the exact same routine above. After a real commitment to the effort (not a cursory effort, you must be invested if you’re serious about improving), you will have 2 more yardages. WRITE THEM DOWN.
- When I was playing and was serious about improvement, I would try to get 1 yardage down pat in a practice session. If the course was full or I wasn’t going to play, I MIGHT try to get 2 yardages. You are really trying to be PRECISE about this effort. If you are, it will pay off. DON’T RUSH IT.
- Again for very good to excellent players, you can actually SEE the benefit of this approach in terms of club and shot selection. For example, if I have 94 yards, I could hit a 60 degree SHOULDER with a little more than 3/4 swing. I could take something off of SHOULDER SW. I could even hit a BELT 52 in there. Given the conditions (Windy, or I have to keep it low under a limb, etc), these choices are REALLY VALUABLE.
- I do lessons occasionally, again this is of most benefit to good to very good players. 616 402-1600