Put most of your time and energy into the short game; that is, shots played on and around the green. Whether novice or pro, the place to put your energy is in the putts, chips, pitches and sand shots.
Why? Because 65 percent of all golfer's strokes - yours, your best friend's, the state amateur champion and Tiger Woods' - are played with less than full swings from on and around the green. Good scores can be generated only through developing shot-making proficiency in close proximity to the green.
The putts and short shots are golf.
The target is clear. Your target orientation and interaction with the target is the single most important criteria for all golfers, regardless of their playing abilities.
The full swing, on the other hand can become an unfortunate task of its own, independent of playing golf (interaction with the target). Most of golf's rules and etiquette can be learned in the short game for you novices, but such preparation brings confidence to the " big game" for all players.
How? Go to the short game practice area at a golf course. Amazing how much less crowded it is than the driving range. Even your backyard, living room, etc. Putt and chip. Make it as much fun as possible. Play games, like one ball against another. Have a contest with your spouse, friend or your kids. Go and find out what all your clubs and all the different ways you can use them will produce for you. Use your imagination. Imagination is all that the short game is. It is all you need to develop a killer short game. The better you can dream up different ways to play the short game, the more fun you will have.
A game I played as a kid starting out was called 15. It goes like this: You and any number of others all putt toward a hole on the putting green. An ace is worth 3 points, 2 points if another aces the same hole. If no one aces, then the closest to the hole is worth 1 point. Then all putt out and if anyone misses that putt, a point is deducted from their score. The first one to reach 15 points is the winner. You can do the same thing starting from off the green at various distances. Have fun with it and watch your game become more proficient and more enjoyable.
In match play, a player is in a bunker and plays his shot. He played out of turn, however, and his opponent requires him to replay the stroke. Before he plays a second time, he rakes the bunker. Ruling?
Answer to last column's teaser:
Sometimes it is wise to take a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie. What are one's three different options? One: Two club lengths either side. Two: Go back as far as you want, keeping the line of the ball and the hole in line. Three: Go back to where you played the original shot from.
John Lucas is the golf professional at Sky Ridge Golf Course and can be reached at email@example.com.