Weekly Golf Tips by Bruce Lewis

As the new golf Instructor at Highlands Golf Course, I am so excited to start my weekly golf tips. My background as a newspaper golf column writer (14 years), Fox TV weekly golf tips (4 years), monthly radio (12 years) and golf instructor for Pebble Beach and the Jim Flick/Jack Nicklaus Golf School (4 years), allows me to share my career of tips learned from many of the greats. If you have any specific golf tip requests, please let me know.

Holiday Golf Tip for Everybody!

Back in my 20’s, I loved to eat corn on the cob, but I never had two corn holders at a time. While burning the ends of my fingers, I noticed some golf tees on my kitchen table and stuck one in at the both ends of my ear of corn. Just a quick tip for how you can use your golf tees for home use or parties.

This is my last golf tip of the year and will be back with more tips next March. Don’t forget to stop by the pro shop for some great Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers.

Let Santa Help Your Golf Game  

Let Santa help your golf game. Tim, BJ, and Jess have a special connection with Santa, so leave your Gift List with them to make any special orders for Santa to pick up. Suggestions like a new Driver, putter, wedge, shoes, lessons, golf balls, and so much more. Gifting a wedge or putter fitting and a golf lesson is a good way to start off the year. The Pro Shop Holiday Sale will be Saturday and Sunday, November 20th and 21st, from 9am to 3:00pm with great discounts!

After Work Golf Lessons Available

Interested in golf lessons after work from 5:00pm to 8:00pm? I will be offering 45 minute golf lessons in the cooler later afternoon and evenings. If you would like a lesson after work or dinner, please e-mail me at bruce@thehighlandsgc.com.

Put Greenside Bunkers in Their Proper Perspective

Many golfers tell me that greenside bunkers and their golf balls must have some magnetic attraction to each other. “If there is a bunker, my ball will find it.” Try this different perspective on viewing bunkers the next time out on the course. Could you land your ball from 125 yards away onto a green as small as a bunker? Don’t let a small bunker distract you from landing on a much larger green. The truth is, greens are at least 10-20 times larger than the bunkers. If you are good enough to land your ball in a small bunker, surely you are good enough to land your ball on a much larger green. When we put bunkers in their proper perspective, we see that the fear of finding them was much larger than their actual size. For more help blocking out trouble and focusing on your true target, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you.

The Texas Wedge 

What is the number one choice for off-green short shots? The Texas Wedge, better known as your putter! Whenever possible, use your putter from off the green, because you will have more control and better distance judgement with your putter. Your putter is the club you use most often, so the odds in your favor using your putter for getting closest to the hole. There are three factors to help you determine if you can use your putter from off the green. First, your ball should have a good lie with nothing to impair your stroke. Next, the condition of the turf should be in good condition as well as cut smoothly and evenly. Finally, the distance between your ball and the edge of the green should not be too far as to hinder your judgement of ball speed. The rules for off-green shots are: whenever possible, putt. If you can’t putt, chip. If you can’t putt or chip, pitch. If you have very little room and the pin is close, use the flop shot. If you need help with off-green putts, chips, pitches, or flop shots, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you.

If The Shoe Fits….

If you and I were to have a 40-yard foot race, you would probably beat me. If on the second race, you had to wear Shaquille O’Neal’s size 23 shoes, you may still beat me, but you could not run at your best. Also, you would need to change your natural running stride and probably stumble a few times. The same is true with playing with misfit golf clubs as your missed shots would be more frequent and go much further off line. As you would lose speed with misfit shoes, you will lose distance with misfit golf clubs. You will have larger slices, more fat and thin shots, and play much more recovery golf. Now, having properly fitted shoes does not mean you will be running in the next Olympics, but you will run naturally to the best of your ability. Having properly fitted golf clubs does not mean you will be playing on the Tour next year. However, with properly fitted clubs, you will play to the best of your ability, have fewer miss hits, and your misses will not be as severe slices, thin, or fat shots. I am a Certified Club Fitter and if you would like to be properly fitted for the right size clubs for longer and straighter shots, come on up to Highlands Golf Course, I would love to help you.

Don’t Forget Your Driver

We need to practice our putting and short game, but don’t forget to practice your driver. Most bad scoring holes started with a bad drive. When you practice your drives at the range, have specific targets or create fairways between yardage signs and range flags. Your driver is usually used on 14 of 18 holes at most golf courses. The average golfer can have great scoring results if only he or she started with a drive in the fairway. Your short game can save you strokes, but just think how your putting and chipping can lower your scores if you are not in trouble off the tee. Practice your tee shots at the driving range with an emphasis on control by aiming at a specific target or lane on the range. Concentrate on direction control and solid contact rather than trying to hit the ball 300 yards. For help with your driver, come up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you.

Judging Distance for Long Putts

The one time distance is more important than direction is with putting. Very rarely are we more than a foot off-line, but it is very common to be 3 or 4 feet short or long with your putts. We like to read our putts from behind the ball looking towards the hole. This view is helpful for reading the break, but a side view is better for judging distance. For example, if I were to point a golf club directly at you and ask how long the club is, this would be more difficult than if I held the club sideways and ask you how long the club is. After reading your break, step to the side of your putt (the downhill side) to give you a better idea of the distance of your putt. You should also see more of the cup if you are on the downhill side. If you see less of the hole, try setting on the other side of your ball. If this view gives you more of the hole, you probably misread your putt. If you need more help with judging the distance on your long putts, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you.

Practice Swing Divots  

Does your practice swing feel better than your regular swing? This is a fairly common feeling, but not incurable. Next time you golf, look where your practice swing divot lines up with your stance. Many times the practice swing divot will show you the natural bottom of your swing. Try lining up even with your golf ball for your practice swing and see if your practice swing divot is even with the ball. If your divot is either behind or forward of your ball, make an address adjustment and set up accordingly on your next shot. If you need help finding the turn bottom of your swing, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you.

Fairway Woods

Although the fairway wood is good to use as a driver for most players, its number one function is from the fairway. For those needing to use their fairway wood for most of the par 4s, all of the par 5s, and some of the par 3s, make as much effort to find a good fairway wood as you did for your driver. Your fairway wood should be easy to swing, give good height to your shots, and give you the ability to hit the difficult lines. Control is more important than distance from your fairway wood. Be sure to check the sole of the fairway wood shaping to play through heavy grass. There are plenty of fairway woods to choose from with all kinds of playing features. For help choosing your next fairway wood, come on up to Highlands Golf Course and let us fit you for your perfect fairway wood. I would love to help you.

Easy as Shaking Hands 

Are you one of those golfers twisted like a pretzel during your swing? Having trouble keeping your balance? Well, the golf swing is as easy as shaking hands! On your backswing, simply turn like you are shaking hands with a person behind you. On your follow through, turn like you are shaking hands with a person in line with your target. It is really that natural for you to turn, keeping your balance, with a tension free swing.  Slowly practice swinging with an extra golf glove on the end of your club head to help give you the feeling of shaking hands. For more help with your hand shake to better golf, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you.

Elvis Sighted at Highlands Golf Course

Elvis would be proud of some of the moves our golfers are making on the driving range and golf course. Hips, knees, and arms have been seen flying in all directions as the golfers try to hit the ball further. The pros swing with effortless power and many amateurs swing with powerless effort.

Golfers need to keep in mind what parts need to make most of the moves. The club head travels 16 feet, our hands move 5 feet, and our body moves about 6 inches. With this in mind, we should concentrate our efforts to move the club head more and our bodies less.

Our body is to support our golf swing, rather than the golf club trying to keep up with our body. This is why the pros look like they are swinging so easy and hitting the ball so far.  If you need help with your swing, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you.

Bend at the Joints

Keeping our left arm straight (for right handed golfers) is one of the worst words of advice a golfer can receive. Your body should be bent at the joints and allow centrifugal force to straighten your arms at impact. You should have the ability to hinge at your wrist, elbows, hips, shoulders, and knees at your address position and throughout your swing. Just as a runner would never run with their knees locked, we should not swing with our elbows locked. Locked elbows will slow down your swing, cause you to lose distance, and bring on the slice. For more help with your address position, come up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you.

Slicers: Pick up 20 yards on your drives

If you are a slicer and looking to pick up 20 more yards off the tee, help is just 10 feet away! Right handed slicers should tee off from the right side of the tee blocks and aim towards the left side of the fairway. When your slice lands on the fairway, it should roll towards the center of the fairway rather than sideways. If you are left handed, tee off from the left side of the tee blocks and aim towards the right side of the fairway.  You have always had that extra yardage on your tee shots, but the problem was the direction your ball rolled after landing. If your slice is so bad that you must aim out of bounds or towards the trees lining the fairway, it is time to come up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you.

Lost your Putting Stroke?

There are times we just lose our putting stroke completely. Nothing feels right, we jab, we jerk, we push, and we pull. The 3-step way to get your stroke back starts with no hole and no golf ball! We are so target oriented, we will do anything to get the ball in the hole. You should not work on your putting stroke and try to make putts at the same time. The first step is to practice stoking your putter without a ball or target AND with your eyes closed. Keep stroking your putter until you can feel the putter head and your tempo return. Now open your eyes and stroke some putts with your eyes open with a golf ball, but no target. Third, once you are stroking the ball on the sweet spot of your putter, add a target (cup) and stroke a few putts at the hole. You should have your stoke and tempo back and return to being the normal good putter that you are. For more help to find your stroke, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you.

Build your Stance from the Ball Back to You

The average golfer usually takes his or her stance and then reaches out to the ball with their club. This is a major problem as they don’t stand the proper distance from the ball on each shot. Start by placing your club behind the ball facing your target with the sole of your club flat on the ground.  Set up to your club and let the club show you where to stand. This works for every shot and you will see all the pros do this on Tour. If you take your stance first, many times you are too far from the ball and change your posture to reach the ball. If you are too close to the ball, you simply lean too far back from the ball. This will be a balance problem for you if you are too far or too close to the ball. Don’t blame your swing if your stance is off balance. For more help with your address position, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you.

Flamingo Drill 

One of the keys to good chipping is keeping your weight on your forward foot. Many golfers make the mistake of thinking their weight is forward, but when their head is behind the ball, their weight stays behind the ball as well. This can lead to those round-wrecking “fat” or “chili-dip” chip shots. To rid yourself of these frustrating wasted strokes, try the Flamingo Drill during your next practice time.

It’s very simple. Just practice chipping with all of your weight on your forward foot and keep your back foot in the air, giving you a flamingo stance. If you have trouble keeping your balance, start with your back foot toe on the ground. This drill will keep force you to keep your weight forward during your chips. This keeps body from swaying. It is important to keep your body “quiet” and allows your arms, shoulders, and a firm grip to do all the work.

For more help with your chipping, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you. You may e-mail me at bruce@thehighlandsgc.com.

You can be as Good as Jack Nicklaus! 

I worked 4 years with the Nicklaus/Flick Golf School when they were at Pebble Beach 4 – 6 times a year.  Jack Nicklaus would always say that all golfers can be as good as him before they start their swing, but very few are. Many times golfers would say their shots tend to go to the right or the left and wanted to know what was wrong with their swing. Most of the time the golfers were aiming to the left of the right of their target and blamed their swing without checking their address position. Golfers believing the problem is within their swing and not checking their address position, start changing their swings. This usually ends up with golfers trying to make two wrongs make a right. You also may be standing too far or too close to the ball causing problems for your shots. If you want to be as good as Jack Nicklaus before you start your swing, come up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you. You may e-mail me for a lesson at bruce@thehighlandsgc.com.

Fired, Divorced, and Alone

Have you ever listened to how some golfers talk to themselves on the golf course? If you talked that way to your co-workers, spouse, and friends, you would be Fired, Divorced, and Alone! After hitting a bad shot, many golfers will tell themselves what an idiot they are and how they will probably continue to hit bad shots for the rest of their round. Can you believe after talking that way to themselves for 200 yards, they are surprised when they hit the next shot poorly? We need to be our own best friend and personal cheerleader on the golf course. You really did not come out to the golf course and pay money to yell at yourself. Please come out and have a great time and allow the others playing with you to enjoy their round of golf as well. Golf is just a game… let’s have some fun with it.

Downhill Chips

One of the toughest chips in golf is from a downhill lie. Most players try to “scoop” their chip thinking they are helping lift the ball. Scooping is the worst thing you can do on downhill chips. First, you must realize the ball will fly lower and with less backspin than your normal chip. Just plan to land the ball further from the hole to allow for the added roll. As you address the ball, keep your weight on your forward foot. Try to stand parallel to the hill as possible with your shoulders level to the ground. Use a steep angle of attack striking the ball first, then the grass. This is a great time to use your Sand Wedge or 60 degree Lob Wedge for added loft. If you need more help with your downhill chips, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you. You may e-mail me for a lesson at bruce@thehighlandsgc.com.

Have you tried a Yellow Golf Ball?

I attended a TaylorMade Custom Fitting and Product Seminar recently at Lake Merced Golf and Country Club. One of the interesting things I learned is why golfers are playing more yellow golf balls than ever. The reason is that yellow is the only color easier to see than white. This is why you see so many yellow softballs and tennis balls in sports. If you are having trouble following your ball flight or finding your ball, try using a yellow ball and see if it helps you.

What are the Effects of Groove Wear on Performance?

Titleist tested used wedges for 125 rounds, 75 rounds, and a new wedge with fresh grooves.

After 125 rounds : 24 feet of roll out, after 75 rounds : 18 feet of roll out, and Fresh grooves : 10 feet of roll out. This means you cannot blame our Superintendent if your wedge shots don’t hold of the greens like they used to. If you have over 125 rounds and normal practice, it is time to consider replacing your wedges or continually adjusting your wedge shots. For more help with your new wedge, come on up to Highlands Golf Course. I would love to help you.

The Driving Tip for More Distance that Golfers Hate to Hear. 

Golfers are always looking for more distance with their drives. You can swing as hard as you like—as long as you make solid contact with the ball, your clubface is square to your target, you strike the center of your clubface, and you maintain your balance throughout your swing.  If you swing harder, you may pick up 5-7 more yards. If you are just ½ inch off the center of your driver’s clubface, you will lose at least 7% of your distance. This means you are losing 7 yards of distance for every 100 yards off your drives, or 17 yards off of your 250 yard drive! If you need help finding how you can hit longer drives, come on up to Highlands Golf Course. I would love to help you. You may e-mail me for a lesson at bruce@thehighlandsgc.com.

¾ and ½ Wedge Shots  

One of the most frustrating shots is the ½ to ¾ wedge shots. Many golfers try to take a full swing, then decelerate when the club is about to hit the ball. This can result in a “fat shot” or if you do not decelerate, you may find that you fly the green. Another fatal attempt is the “wrist swing” in which you hinge your wrist for the ½ wedge shot, but never move your arms. This results many times as a skull or fat shot. Use an arm swing where your hands go waist high for the ½ shot or your hands go shoulder high for the ¾ shot. Practice this shot on the range and you will learn your distances fairy quickly. If you need help with your ½ and ¾ wedge shots, come on up to Highlands golf Course for a lesson. You may e-mail me for a lesson at bruce@thehighlandsgc.com.  I would love to help you.

Are you too proud to learn?   

Struggling golfers often prolong their agony by avoiding professional instruction and continue to try and figure it out on their own. Listen to what some of the greatest golfers have said regarding lessons: “Don’t be too proud to take a lesson, I’m not.” – Jack Nicklaus.  “What you might learn in 6 months of practice, your pro can teach you in 30 minutes.” – Ben Hogan. “If you play poorly one day, forget it. If you play poorly the next time out, review your fundamentals. If you play poorly for the third time in a row, see your golf professional.” – Harvey Penick. “No one becomes a champion without help.” –  Johnny Miller. If you are in need of instruction, you may e-mail me for a lesson at bruce@thehighlandsgc.com. I would love to help you.

Do you Top, Skull, or Thin shots, especially Chip Shots?  

The obvious answer, especially for beginners, is you looked up before hitting your shot. I have found it is more common with experienced golfers to be looking at the top of the ball during their swing. You should be looking at the back of the ball, not the top of the ball. You eye/hand coordination is better than you think. If you look at the top of the ball, you probably will hit the top of the ball. Most golfers don’t know what part of the ball they are looking at because they have been told to just look at the ball. Try looking at the back of the ball, where you want to hit the ball on all your shots, except your bunker shots. This should help you hit more solid shots. If you need more help hitting the ball more solidly, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson. I would love to help you. You may e-mail me for a lesson at bruce@thehighlandsgc.com.

Under or 6 Feet Under

One of the key differences between good rounds and bad rounds of golf is your putting. The good players are very good putters 6 feet from the hole. The golfers crying in their beers at the clubhouse can’t make a 6 foot putt if their $500 driver depended on it! We must keep our putting skills sharp. Good putting is not like riding a bike; we must practice regularly. Practice your putting by starting at 1 foot from the hole and work your way back, one foot at a time, until you are comfortable making putts from 6 feet. This improvement in your putting takes so much pressure off of your chipping and long putts. Good putting can make up for bad shots, but bad putting will destroy a round of good shots.

Putting Tip Helps Your Tee Shots

Most golfers know to line up the name on the golf ball or use a line on your golf ball in the direction you want to putt. This tip not only keeps your putter face on line, but also encourages you to stroke through the line. This tip is also good for all of your tee shots! When you tee up your ball, use the same line or name on the ball to point in the direction you want to hit your tee shot. To see if this tip will help your tee shots, try it out on the driving range using the stripe on the range balls and swing through the stripe. The stripe also will give you a good guide line for your clubface and body set up. For more help hitting your drives as straight as your putts, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson, or call us at 208-773-3673.

Which is the best club for your chips?

Given there are no obstacles like bunkers or split level greens, you should have one club to use on most of your chips.  To find the best club for you, set up a 30 to 40 foot putt just on the practice green. Stroke several putts from this location to know how large a stroke you need from that distance. Now, place a couple of balls just off the practice green at the same distance from the hole. Start with your 7 iron and use the same size swing as your putter to see how close you come to the hole. If you are long, switch clubs down to your 8 iron. If you are short, switch to your 6 iron. Continue switching clubs until your chipping iron matches your putter distance. The added bonus is every time you practice your long putts, you are practicing your distance control with your chipping. Likewise, practicing your chipping will help your distance control on your long putts. For more help finding the best chipping club for you, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson, or call us at 208-773-3673.

Death Grip and the Slice

Do you have the “Death Grip” on your clubs? If so, you are probably squeezing your way to a wicked slice. It’s a simple formula: the harder you squeeze, the more you lock your wrists. The wrists cannot hinge if they are locked from squeezing. When you lighten your grip, your wrists will hinge more naturally and the slice will straighten out. If you lighten your grip even more, you just might hit a hook! A softer grip allows you to feel the position of your club head throughout your swing. Try holding a club with a soft grip and notice how you can feel the club. Now hold the club with a tight grip, and you’ll notice that all you can feel is the grip. If you are having trouble with your grip pressure, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson, or call us at 208-773-3673.

The One Dollar Tip

The most common problem with bunker shots is the golf club not swinging all the way through the sand. Many golfers have a tendency to “jab” or “chop” at the ball rather than taking a smooth, complete swing that takes their club head all the way through the sand.

Next time you are at the practice bunker, place a dollar bill on the sand. Draw a long line at each end of the bill in the sand. Now practice swinging with your sand wedge entering the sand at the first line and coming out at the second line. After you have mastered this drill, place a ball in the middle of the two lines and hit the best sand shot of your life! If you still need help with your bunker shots, come on up to Highlands Golf Course for a lesson, or call us at 208-773-3673.