Stuck in a rut? Here’s a few break-out ideas

By BETSY LAREY – Gazette Columnist

If you’re like most golfers, this is the time of the year when you start to question every little thing about your game. The year started out with dreams of grandeur and by July, it’s more like a daily grind. So what does it take to get your game back on track?

First, if you haven’t figured out exactly what the problem is you need to start keeping all the stats on your game. You have eight open boxes on your scorecard. Here’s what I would use them for.

Fairways in regulation (FIR), fairway shots (long or short, miss left or right), greens in regulation (GIR), wedges around the green (long or short, miss left or right), up and down from around the green (U/D), sand shots (long or short, miss left or right), putts (long or short, left or right) and finally score.

This is probably more than most people will do but the stat that I think is most important is which side you tend to miss on. I guarantee you will see a pattern in your game if you take the time to do this. Consistent direction issues are either alignment (most often) or swing path issues.

Chances are after five rounds you will start to see the same pattern on your cards, so why not take the time to dial in exactly what your issues are and devote your practice time to them? If you’ve identified the problem and can’t seem to fix it, you might want to invest in a lesson or two to get professional help. If you’re a good player and know your issues, ask a friend to videotape your swing. Many times if you see it, you’ll get it.

Once you’ve figured out what the problem areas are in your game, you need to be realistic about your goals vs. the time and effort you are willing to put to improve. If you don’t have the time to practice faithfully, you’re better off picking one or two things that will have the most impact on your game.

I’m always surprised when I ask people how much time they practice and it turns out it’s very little. You can’t get better unless you’re willing to put in the time to work on your game. Playing is great, but you can’t fix problems on the course unless you have the course to yourself.

I always suggest two practice sessions for every round if you are working on a swing issue. I also am a big believer in practicing with a purpose. Have a plan for when you go to the range. Hitting balls for an hour at the range is not a plan.

If you’re working on overall game improvement, here are a few suggestions you might want to consider. First, change your target with each shot. This forces you to think about each what you are doing every time you hit. Pay close attention to your alignment. If you are not perfectly aligned to your target, you may think you have swing issues when in fact you just aren’t lined up correctly.

Second, change your club after each shot. You never hit the same club twice (unless you hit out of bounds) so why not simulate a real round of golf?

If you’re working on your short game, go to the practice green and hit your chip/pitch shot then make the putt. Most people can get a chip next to the hole if given 10 tries, so why not see how many times you can get up and down around the practice green from different places? If you have a friend with you, why not play a 9-hole round (par 18) for something? Even if it’s a Coke, if you’re like me and you’re playing for something you will pay more attention.

So if you want to break out of that mid-season slump, figure out what your weaknesses are and set up a practice program to help move your game up to the next level. There are two practice essentials that must be part of any successful program. Next week I’ll explain what those two key components are.

Betsy Larey is an LPGA teaching pro who enjoys teaching, writing, researching and playing golf. You can reach her directly at [email protected] or 651-470-2297.