Getting your game up to speed

If you are lucky enough to get away from the cold weather in Chicago over the winter, you may have already started your golf season. While it is terrific to enjoy the sun and great golf courses in Southern California, Arizona, Florida and so on, it is a great idea to take stock of your game while you enjoy the weather.

I just returned from five days in Palm Springs and played about 100 holes of golf in that time. Looking back on the experience, I now know where I should focus my early season practice and may have an idea where you should, too. Here are my ideas for starting the golf season well this year:

Putting: Spend a few hours working on putts inside 10 feet. Try to hit putts that break both ways and go uphill and downhill. Focus on getting the ball in the hole and forget about stroke mechanics. What is important here is that you know where the ball is going. Work your way in to 3 foot putts and do the same thing. Get it in the hole. Most of you have been putting for years, and I think that trying to make too perfect a stroke gets in the way of success. Get into a routine and practice that. Routines reduce nerves and help under pressure too.

Chipping: Spend as much time as you can chipping balls from anywhere from 6 feet to 50 feet off the green. Scatter balls around the green so that you are not hitting the same shot twice. Here, mechanics will help. If you are chipping badly and blading or chunking a lot of shots, take a lesson from your PGA pro. He or she should get you on the path to better contact and solid shots

Pitching: Hit a variety of shots from 50 yards and in to the green. This is the real scoring area. My daughter became proficient at that shot between freshman and sophomore years at high school, hitting around 10,000 pitch shots. Her score dropped by more than 10 shots that season! As above, if this shot is too difficult, sign up for a lesson. It will help.

Full swing: Believe it or not, that should only be about 15-20 minutes of each hour of practice. Similarly to chipping and pitching, if the full swing is a problem, take a lesson before you get too far into the season. Bad habits given no attention don’t go away, and as a wise man once said, “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got!”

Ian Grant is a PGA teaching professional and a member of the teaching faculty of the PGA of America. He can be contacted at Oak Brook Golf Club 630-990-3032 in the summer and White Pines Golf Dome in Bensenville 630-422-1060 in the winter. You can contact Ian directly at 708-917-8951, or at