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Senior Golfer - On The Green

Play consistent golf in the new year

The Putting Green

The end of one year and the beginning of another is a good time to reflect on the current state of your golf game.

This year, I'm really proud that my handicap dropped to 7.7 from 10. I can also point to several reasons for this drop. Specifically, I bought a new driver, made a significant change in my grips and made a change in the way I swing my driver.

The new driver has added distance to my golf game. I was playing with a Callaway FT-3 driver with 10.5-degree loft, and I switched to a Taylormade RocketBallz 9.5-degree driver. The switch added 10 to 20 yards to my drives, meaning that I was hitting one or two less clubs into par fours and getting much closer to the greens on par fives.

Two things to note about the switch: The first is that I went to Golfsmith in Schaumburg to be custom fit for my club, found a rep who was as passionate about the game as I am, tested various models on a golf simulator, and chose a club based on the facts. I can't tell you how important it is to get custom fit golf clubs!

The second thing to note is that the club is adjustable, so I tinkered with it to see if there were any differences when I changed lofts and lie angles to an open or closed club face. I found little difference in the changes I made, so I went with the setup from the golf simulator.

The second reason for my better golf was that I changed my grips at the recommendation of my clubfitter. I played with mid-size grips with two wraps. He suggested adding three more wraps to the area where my left hand grips the club and two more to where the right hand grips the club. I did this on one club, checked it out on the driving range and, more importantly, on the course, and found that I never felt the club slip in my hands.

The third thing I did was make a swing change with my driver. While my new driver added 10 to 20 yards more distance, accuracy was a problem. The longer distances did not help if I was hitting shots from the trees or deep rough.

In late September, I was playing in a golf tournament and found that I was not hitting the fairways. About the 15th hole, I needed to hit a long drive with a slight hook on a 440-yard dogleg left. I stood up straighter (a suggestion I got from reading a golf magazine article), raised my hands slightly higher, stood slightly farther from the ball, and took a swing focusing on extending through the hitting area with a good follow-through. Voila, a 250-yard drive over the corner of the dogleg.

I tried the same swing, though, on the next hole, and it worked again. Since making this swing change, I have been hitting 9-11 fairways per round and this is resulting in lower scores.

For this year, my goal is to improve my short game. Specifically, I want to know how I do with scrambling, when I miss a green in regulation. If I'm only getting up and down 30 percent of the time, I definitely need to improve.

I'm also very concerned about the distance from the pin with my scoring clubs-that is, 8-iron, 9-iron, pitching wedge, gap wedge and sand wedge. I can hit a drive 250 yards into the middle of the fairway and then hit a gap wedge on the green, but 25-30 feet from the pin. This may sound good, but I need to hit the second shot inside 20 feet, and this will improve my score.

I encourage you to play more consistent golf in 2013, but you have to work at it. You need to become more physically fit, gain more concentration and focus, and make better golfer swings. We'll discuss each of these areas and more in future columns.

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