On the Green: Bring some fireworks to your golf game

It’s time to celebrate the fourth of July with barbecues, fireworks and a better golf game. So, here’s four tips to get some fireworks back into your golf game.

Tip one: Start using statistics to improve your game. I am the first person to admit that I am not a big fan of statistics when it comes to playing golf. That said, I was chided by one of my golf buddies for being old-fashioned, stubborn and a curmudgeon (a term that no one uses except my golfing buddies). I took their criticisms to heart and am now convinced that statistics play a big role in improving our golf games.

Over the years, I have been telling myself that the key to my golf game is drives in the fairway. Well, I found out that this is just not true. Over the last month, I have been averaging nine out of 14 drives in the fairway, but my average score is 86. A more telling statistic is the number of times I missed the greens from those fairways and failed to get up and down. In this regard, my average is two out of 10.

Before moving on, please note the underlying information from this telling statistic. Did I only get the ball up and down out of the greenside rough two times out of 10 because of poor chipping or poor putting? A closer analysis of this statistic revealed that I only got the ball inside five feet from the hole two times out of 10. In addition, I never made a putt longer than five feet. This clearly indicates that I need to spend more time on my pitching and putting than on my driving.

Tip two: Take a lesson from a pro you trust. One of my best buddies is Larry, who is 79 years old, has a 10 handicap, and this year shot his age five times. Is there a reason for this success? Yes! He took a lesson from a trusted pro and found that his alignment was way off, and this was the main reason he was hitting his shots right of the target.

Now, Larry didn’t just get a lesson from a teaching pro. He also got some alignment sticks and now spends 15 minutes before each round using those alignment sticks to correct his aim. I would add that his pro also urged him to get some new irons. He did, and the results are spectacular. In addition to shooting his age, he also increased the number of par threes he has hit in regulation from one out of four to three out of four. I know this because we play $1 skins on par threes, and Larry has been taking $3 from me every round.

Tip three: Don’t ever stop believing that you can’t improve your golf game. There is no doubt in my mind that golf is a difficult game, a challenging game. On the other hand, it is a game that keeps you wondering why you can’t repeat good shot after good shot. Let me explain using my own game as an example.

I recently played the Ravines course at Cog Hill and shot a 46 on the front nine. I approached the back nine with a goal of breaking 40.

I hit my drive very well on No. 10, but it ended up behind a tree. My only choice was to pitch out to the fairway and hit an approach shot from about 100 yards. I did both and had a 12-foot putt for a par. It ended up inches short, but I felt comfortable. To make a long story short, I had one birdie, three pars, and five bogeys, for a 40.

Although I didn’t break 40 for the last nine, I came away from the game feeling that I can shoot around 80, if I can relax, work on tempo, and concentrate on reading greens.

Tip four: Practice your putting. Your putter is the one club you use most during a round of golf, but for most of us, it is the one club we least practice with. Learn to read greens. Learn to lag putts from long distances. Most of all, learn how to make those three- to five-foot putts. Improve your putting and your golf game will be so much more enjoyable!

Jerry Koncel is an avid golfer who has been playing golf courses around Chicago for more than five decades. He appreciates your comments and questions, as well as suggestions for future column topics. Send him an email at: jakoncelsr@gmail.com.

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