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by Chuck Quinton

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Ball Control
by Chuck Quinton

Most amateur golfers really have no idea how the game is really played "inside the ropes." An amateurs' understanding of how the pros play the game and work the ball is very jaded by the highlights they see on TV and never balanced out by what happens the other 99% of the time during a tournament. Ball control is one of the biggest misconceptions out there. Amateurs like to believe that the pro's control over the ball is somewhat magical, that the guys on the PGA Tour can work the ball exactly the way they want on every shot and that is what it takes to play scratch golf. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Most professional golfers have one shot that they hit more or less religiously, whether it be a fade, draw, straight, whatever. While some work the ball on most shots, very few try and work the ball in a different direction for each shot, and this includes the best in the world. Vijay Singh is known for "cutting" or fading each shot he plays. How often does he waiver from this? Hardly ever.


While watching a clinic that he and Rocco Mediate performed, the inevitable question came from the crowd, "How do you work the ball with the driver? We want to see you draw the ball". This innocent golfer expected some magical "swing thought" or "tip" that would give them insight into taking their own game to the next level and hitting that coveted high draw with the driver. Vijay's first response to the question? "With the driver? I'll hit a fade and then Rocco will hit a draw." Can Vijay not hit a draw with a driver? Of course he can, but he admitted to only hitting a "handful" per year on Tour, and even then only when it was absolutely necessary. Vijay responded again to the crowd's persistence with his classic wit, "If you can't hit the ball straight why would you want to curve it?" I love this guy.


The moral to this story is that Vijay and Rocco both have shots that they "own" and feel most comfortable with and they don't veer from this. Rocco went on to call it a "golfer's instinct." Rocco feels the most comfortable hitting shots that work right to left and he doesn't try and hit a shot that he hasn't practiced for thousands of hours. Even with a lot of practice time available to the pro's, they don't cut into the quality of their practice by trying to maintain three different ball flights, they stick with one and that gets all their focus. In other words, these two top professional golfers religiously practice one shot and stick with it. They know they can count on it because it gets the vast majority of their practice time and they build their game around that shot rather than hitting shots they are less comfortable with to fit a particular hole. Many of the greats, from Ben Hogan to Jack Nicklaus have had one ball flight that they preferred to hit over any other and they stuck with it hitting it on the majority of their shots, not trying to hit something on a consistent basis that was against their "instinct."


The first question many of you will have after reading this is "What about Tiger Woods?" It's true, Tiger does shape his shots to fit the hole and pin locations - but, you're NOT Tiger Woods, no matter what Nike tells you and even Tiger sticks with a predominantly right to left ball flight with his irons as his "stock" shot. You, as a golfer with limited practice time compared to a professional, if you are trying to learn to work the ball in both ways AND hit it straight, you are essentially dividing your practice time by 1/3 for each shot. You already have a very limited amount of practice time, so devote your game to "one shot." What fits your eye best, your natural swing and your instinctive way to swing the club? Decide on that shot from this day forward, that is the shot you will hit 95% of the time - if not 100%. Don't get caught up in being able to work the ball every way possible and believing that you "aren't very good because you can't draw the ball", be caught up in hitting the ball "one way" and don't think that you can't reach the next level of your golfing career by not having every shot in the book because neither does Vijay - and I can guarantee that he practices more than you :-)




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