If you’re struggling on the greens – whether you aren’t making enough or 3 -putting from long range – here are a few practice drills and key thoughts you should implement into your practice regimen.
I have stated this in a previous article, however, it’s worth repeating. Alignment is one of the most overlooked aspects of the setup, especially on the greens. And I’m not even referring to your feet. If your shoulders and putter face are aligned squarely to the target, you have a better chance of holing the putt if read correctly.
1. Buy a yard stick (flat, metal, with no grooves).
2. Place the yard stick on the line you wish to start the ball on (Pick a 6 – 10 footer to start).
3. Place the ball on the yard stick and setup squarely to your line.
4. Hit the putt with the objective being to keep the ball on the yard stick until it reaches the other end.
This drill will get you to pay attention more to your starting line, rather than thinking about the hole (which causes anxiety and a guided stroke, leading to mishit putts),
Here’s my first YouTube instructional video:
This video explains a drill I use, and have been using for a long time, concerning keeping your eyes quiet throughout the stroke. If you can do this drill, and picture the coin under the ball on the course, you will give yourself the best chance to hit a great putt.
These are just a couple drills to help you take your mind off of the hole when you’re out on the course. Focus on what you can control, not what is about to happen. Your setup, your starting line, and making a consistent stroke. If you can do those three things (be honest with yourself!), then you hit the best putt and there’s nothing you can do once the ball is gone.
Keep getting better at worrying about the things inside your control, and you will hit better putts, and shoot lower scores.
Michael Midgette, PGA
Golf Academy Tips
You’ve heard the phrase, “Aim small, Miss Small.” If not, it’s a very good way to approach golf course management. Aim for a leaf on the tree, not the entire tree; or, aim for a blade of grass or a spot the size of a dime when putting.
This can also be used when working on contact with your irons or fairway woods off the turf.
First, when working on contact, I definitely suggest you use face tape to really get an idea of where you are striking the golf ball.
Then, color in the top of a tee with a sharpie (black, red or blue preferably). Make sure you use enough ink so that it will come off on the face tape.
Place the tee on the ground with the top of the tee facing the club head first.
Make swings trying to make contact with the tee as best you can.
This is going to do two things:
1. Force you to make a downward blow to get the tee off the ground.
2. Show you where you are making contact.
Then, once you’ve done this enough times, hit some golf balls. You can even color in the back of the golf ball as well to see exactly where you are making contact.
While the Black is about distance, the Red is all about angles. With many doglegs, plenty of importance is not only placed on how well you hit your drives, but how well you place them. Nice looking drives that find the wrong side of a fairway can yield partially blocked approach shots due to overhanging trees. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a short course as it measures over 7,000 yards from the back tees (and 6,555 from the middle tees) which is pretty impressive for a par 70 course. The yardages noted below are from the tips which will be too much for many of you to handle. Unless you can average drives of 280+ yards, play from the white tees and enjoy the ride.
As with any Bethpage course, the pace of play is usually an issue here but it has gotten better in recent years. The conditions are usually very good and the value is great, especially for walkers.
13th Hole – Par 4 – 400 Yards
The 13th is a great par 4 where you will have to make a decision off the tee. Dead ahead you will find a cluster if large bunkers and deep fescue that bisect the fairway. If you go right of the bunkers you will have a shorter shot into the green, but you’ll have to contend with a greenside bunker that protects the front of the green. Those that go for the left fairway will be left with a better angle into the green and a slightly longer approach shot.
15th Hole – Par 4 – 482 Yards
With the exception of the 4th hole on the Black, this may be the best hole at Bethpage. This is a double dogleg half par hole where a par feels like a birdie. Like the 5th on the Black, the tee shot here calls for a power fade whereas the approach asks for a draw to an uphill green. It takes two very well struck shots to get your ball on the green but be careful as a big number here can easily ruin your scorecard late in the round. Aside from the 1st hole, this is the toughest hole on the course and probably the best hole, though the same could be said for the…
18th Hole – Par 4 – 463 Yards
There’s a reason that USGA officials considered using the 18th hole on the Red to “replace” the 18th hole on the Black for the US Open in 2009. This is a fantastic hole and the view from the elevated tee box is nothing short of amazing. There is a fantastic bunker which guards the right side of the fairway as well as bunkers surrounding your slightly uphill approach shot to the green. The green itself sits a bit of a natural amphitheatre and was one of the reasons tournament officials preferred this as the site of the 18th hole for the US Open. The is a fantastic closer to a fantastic course.
Bethpage Red is an all out great course that offers a stern test and yet allows you to put up a low number if you stay out of trouble. The Black is like Jack Nicklaus and the Red is like Arnold Palmer…the Black may be better, but you may like the Red more.
When it comes to sports, passionate New Yorkers have plenty of options. Yankees/Mets, Rangers/Islanders, Knicks/Nets, Giants/Jets, etc. Want golfing options? Well, look no further than Bethpage State Park where you have 5 courses to choose from. While the Black course gets all the accolades, today’s focus is going to be on the friendlier, yet stern, Red Course. While the Red Course may play the role of little brother to the Black, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a Giants vs Jets comparison as the two are much more evenly matched than that. (Bethpage Yellow, on a bad day, can represent the Jets in this analogy!).
The Black is longer and tougher and more suited to test the pros. However, it’s probably too brutal for the average golfer to play on a daily basis and not that fun as you are just trying to hang on for dear life on that back nine. As for the Red, it’s still a true test of your abilities while allowing you some better scoring opportunities along the way. There have been times where I have played both courses on back to back days and scored worse on the Red. However, my best round on the Red is 8 strokes better than my best round on the Black and I think that’s fairly indicative of how the courses can play.
Your round will start off with the daunting 1st and end with the showstopping 18th with a lot of thrills in between. Here is a closer look at some of the holes to note.
1st Hole – Par 4 – 471 Yards
Right off the bat, you are put to the test. Your first drive of the day will have to be long, and straight, to give yourself a glimmer of hope of reaching this green in two. If that’s not daunting enough, you’re surrounded by an antsy gallery who will judge every facet of your swing since they will be playing behind you for the next 5 hours. Whatever advantage you get from the downhill tee shot will be taken away with the long and uphill approach shot. The good news is that there are no bunkers around this green so do your best to get the ball up to the top of the hill. If you can manage a 4 here to start your day, take it and run!
4th Hole – Par 3 – 181 Yards
The 4th is a fabulous par 3 with a slightly angled skyline green that drops off to the back and to the left. An intimidating bunker guards most of this green and the hole begs for a draw if you have that in your bag. This is truly a hole where one swing can determine if you walk away with a birdie or a double-bogey. Club selection is key.
5th Hole – Par 5 – 528 Yards
The only par 5 on the front will certainly grab your attention after what appears to be a rather mundane hole from the tee. Be sure to keep your drive left in order to give yourself the best angle for your second shot on this three shot hole. Any drives pushed out to the right will need a 2nd shot to be shaped around a cluster of trees and find a sliver of fairway that narrows as you approach the green that sits on top of the hill. Two well-placed bunkers pinch the fairway 100 yards short of the green and these will have to be carefully navigated on your approach. The green is well protected as well, and the uphill approach will make it difficult for you to gauge your distance. Like many holes on the Red, well-placed shots can make this an easy par but one little mistake can turn this hole into a disaster!
9th Hole – Par 4 – 466 Yards
The long par 4 9th hole usually plays into the wind which basically makes it a half par hole. The hole gently doglegs left around a myriad of bunkers and in order to give yourself the shortest approach shot, you will have to challenge these bunkers.
Remember that last swing thought you had before the winter that really seemed to work on most shots? Or if you’re like most golfers, the last 10 swing thoughts that worked…
To get back into the season, these are my 3 keys to get the most out of your game early in the season (without taking a lesson):
1. Keep it simple!
Dumb it down a little or in some cases, a lot. Use your most valuable swing thoughts (collect 2-4), and alternate swings thinking about 1-2 (max) swing thoughts per swing. Odds are your swing is a little quick to hit from the top, or you have lost your tempo. Work with a metronome (around 40-50 bpm is a good swing tempo) and smooth out your swing.
2. Get rid of the moving parts!
Stabilize your lower body, turn your upper body, and minimize your wrist hinge in the backswing to start. Then little by little, add some lag (cocking of the wrists in the downswing/maintaining the angle between your left wrist and the club shaft for as long as possible). Find a happy medium or what seems to work best concerning the amount of lag.
3. Work on your SHORT GAME!
Working on the short game (chipping, pitching, and putting) is the fastest, and easiest way to improve your game. It is also the first thing to go after a little time off from the game, that is, your touch and feel on and around the greens. So during your first couple rounds of the year, drop some balls around the greens (if you have time) and work on hitting certain targets, putts from 3-10 feet around the hole, or even chipping balls on the tee boxes.
Use these three tips, and I can almost guarantee you’ll improve and see your scores drop quicker!
Look out for my YouTube Lesson Series coming this Summer!
If you’ve played this game long enough, or have even been paired up with some avid golfers, you have definitely heard the phrase, “Drive for show, Putt for dough.’ Well, whether if you have heard it or not, it’s really not that true. Yes, of course, putting does get the ball in the hole, however, if you are not in the fairway, setting up your approach shot properly, odds are you’ll be putting for par or bogey more times than you’d like.
In fact, while watching a PGA Tour event recently, they were reading statistics that players in the rough averaged almost half a stroke higher on a given hole, than players who were hitting the fairways. That’s equivalent to almost 9 shots a round!
I’m almost sure you’ve heard the phrase, “250 in the fairway is better than 300 in the rough.” This phrase definitely holds more truth than the previous one.
The importance of tee shots being in good position to set up an approach is extremely important, and here’s a great example:
This week, during the Shell Houston Open, I watched Player A, on a 368 yard hole, pull his hybrid out, knock it down the fairway, while his playing partner, Player B, who was known as a long hitter, pulled out driver and hit it about 40 yards from the green… in the right rough (and the rough wasn’t too penal). Player A knocked his approach on the green 20 feet below a back-right hole location, while Player B had a delicate shot to a flag with a big slope carrying golf balls away from the hole about 10 feet behind it. Player B actually hit a great shot, but because he was in the rough (lie was not bad at all), he was unable to spin the ball enough to get it to stop on the green, and subsequently the ball found the slope and rolled about 30 yards over the green.
Here are a few suggestions on driving the ball:
You don’t have to always pull out the driver. If there is trouble you can reach, such as a fairway bunker or trees through the fairway on a dogleg, take out a shorter club.
There are a couple of reasons:
If you’re aware of the trouble, and know there’s a possibility of reaching it, you will subconsciously end up steering the ball off the tee, causing a mishit, or ending up in the trouble after all.
When you have a club in your hand that you know won’t put you into trouble, you will make a better, more aggressive swing, causing better contact and ultimately putting yourself in better position to play the hole.
Keep your stats!
Unsure of how many fairways and greens your hitting? Keep track of that on your scorecard. “But Mike, we use the scorecard for our foursome, there won’t be enough room.” I have an idea, grab your own scorecard for this purpose.
Mark it like this:
You could even write down an R or L (Right or Left) on your missed fairways to keep track of where your misses are and to give you an idea of what you need to work on while you practice (Tip: you can do this for Greens in Regulation, too).
Keep a consistent routine and a consistent swing thought process.
Consistency in your golf game doesn’t come from hitting thousands of golf balls. Consistency comes from hitting golf balls THINKING about the same thing. During your next round, I challenge you to think about one thing that works for you, WITHOUT ABANDONING IT because of a couple bad shots.
If you’re not sure what to think about, here’s a few that might work and I encourage you to try on the range:
Keep an even tempo.
Make a full swing and hold your finish until the ball lands.
Don’t try to kill the ball; make a smooth, accelerating swing THROUGH the ball, not AT the ball (try to feel like the fastest part of the golf swing is just after impact).
Feel like you’re only trying to hit the ball half as far as you normally do. This will encourage better contact and you’ll find the ball goes just as far.
Loose arms and grip (AS LOOSE AS POSSIBLE), stable lower body (feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart), and use your upper body (shoulders and torso) as much as possible to swing the club.
Utilize these tips, and you should be finding the fairway more often, hitting more greens, and lowering those scores.
P.S. A little short game and putting practice never hurt anyone either, don’t neglect that part of the game as a result of this article.
The good people at Carnoustie, the golf apparel company, sent over some samples for us to try out. The Carnoustie Golf Links has a long and storied history in the annals of golf. Its namesake apparel company take a traditional approach to style and cut.
When you think of a golf shirt, this is it in terms of style and cut – Carnoustie really nails it. Long in the arms and waist, Carnoustie deals in that classic look. Solid colors and horizontal stripes dominate the 2017 collection. As for the fabrics, Carnoustie uses some wicking-type fabric – which works well on-course.
The pullover sent was whole different story. The XL, which is my size, was way too big under the arms and way too short at the waist. A good pullover needs to get out the way during the golf swing. I’ve found the best pullovers are fitted under the arms and longer past the waist. Carnoustie’s version needs to go back to the design drawing board.
All in all, keep an eye out for Carnoustie gear – it’s worth a try.
It’s been a long drought – since 2011 – but it’s finally over. Long Island is finally getting a pre-season golf show.
The people at North Coast Golf and Travel Shows are bringing their show to Suffolk Community College — from Friday, March 3rd to Sunday, March 5th.
The show is full of fun (and free) golf related features. Once inside you’ll have access to a huge hitting area to test out the latest in clubs, a long drive contest, and seventy-foot putting challenge.
Celebrity guest speakers are planned but have yet to be announced. We’ll post that here once we know more details.
Adult admission is $12 and it includes a one-year subscription to Golf Magazine. Note: Cash only. Kids 12 and under are admitted free. Check the website here.
Friday: 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m
Suffolk County Community College Sports & Exhibition Complex
1001 Crooked Hill Road
Brentwood, NY 11717
Architectural Photography by Michael Baxter, Baxter Imaging LLC
Anyone who has spent some time perusing golf social media accounts has probably heard of Top Golf by now. The very Instagramable driving range chain has been heavily promoting itself through social media, by reaching out to golf writers, social media stars and professionals. Top Golf recently opened a location in Edison, New Jersey, not far from the Outerbridge Crossing. I made the pilgrimage from my apartment in Brooklyn to see what the buzz is about.
That said, to call Top Golf a “driving range” might be something of a misnomer. As an avid golfer, I do not think I’d return for my regular practice session. Top Golf is more of a golf experience. They make some mention of attempting to be like a bowling alley, and I think that’s a fair comparison.
At Top Golf, you don’t make your way to a driving stall, and just wail away on 100 or so balls, and head home. Instead, you share a stall with whomever you arrived with, and using Top Golf’s technology, you aim for circular light-up targets down the range to score points.
Upon arriving at your stall, after a brief registration process to obtain membership cards (for a $5 fee), all of the players swipe into a computer mounted on the wall of the stall. You then select which type of game you wish to play. There are several varieties, with the most basic game having the objective of scoring the most points, with the furthest targets being worth more. The only other game my companions and I had the opportunity to try was the chipping game, in which you must shoot for a designated target at 25, 50 or 85 yards, and you lose points for hitting the wrong target.
Top Golf Edison, NJ – Photo Credit: Frank Molfetta
The balls at Top Golf are not your standard driving range fare. The balls are equipped with ID chips. When the hopper releases a ball, it matches that ball to the player who is selected on the wall-mounted computer. When that ball lands in one of the targets, it is read by a scanning mechanism in the targets, and registers a score on the screen. The targets also have sub-divisions, with more points being awarded the closer you are to the flagstick in the center of the targets.
The balls certainly don’t fly as well as even traditional balls. My experience is the balls fly a club to a club and a half less than your normal club yardage. Hence my 100-110 56* wedge, was only flying to the 85-yard target with a full swing.
I went to Top Golf with two buddies who golf, and my girlfriend, who doesn’t. I would highly recommend Top Golf as an enjoyable night, even for people who don’t golf. Several factors made it enjoyable for non-golfers. First, Top Golf has waiter service at each stall, with cocktails, beer, wine and food. There are couches in some stalls and stools in others, with a table for drinks and food. Second, each driving stall comes equipped with a two sets of golf clubs—one men’s and one women’s—for use by those who do not have their clubs. Third, the competition keeps everyone engaged. Finally, they have TVs in the stalls, with various national and local sports channels available to watch.
There are several reasons I would not recommend this for your regular practice session. First, the range only goes to 215 yards. Second, the balls definitely have a different feel to them, and don’t fly the same as standard golf balls, even standard range balls. Third, it was not cheap during normal practice hours (evenings after work for me), with a bay running $50 per hour. Four people, including one complete beginner, we were able to smack 240 balls total during our two-hour session. Fourth, the atmosphere is very casual, with music playing and lots of non-golfers enjoying themselves, and hooting and hollering over their ongoing competitions.
Photo Credit: Frank Molfetta
Despite sounding like a cranky old man with that last point, I did really enjoy Top Golf for what it was, a golf experience, and I will certainly be back in the future. I also am hopeful that Top Golf continues to expand (hopefully to Long Island), as I think a fun experience like this could be a great way to grow the game of golf, a belief I was heartened in to see so many teenagers and young adults at the Top Golf in Edison.