When time is short, some tips to start your round off right

By: Christian Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published May 20, 2015

 If you only have a few minutes before teeing off, head to the practice green to get a feel for the speed of the putts before your round.

If you only have a few minutes before teeing off, head to the practice green to get a feel for the speed of the putts before your round.

Photo by Christian Davis

METRO DETROIT — Sure, you had planned on stopping at the driving range before teeing off, perhaps turn that slice into a gentle fade.

But then you missed a turn on the way to the golf course, or the babysitter was late, and suddenly the tee time that you’ve looked forward to is now a race to the first tee box instead of a relaxing start to the weekend.

Don’t worry. Though the range may be out of the question, we talked to some local pros who can help you utilize those precious few minutes you can spend at the practice green before that first drive of the day.

Chip and run
Alex “Breezy” Koskos is a PGA golf professional teaching out of Jawor’s Golf Center in Roseville. He said he splits his warmup time evenly between chipping and putting, but it’s the chipping that is a must.

“You need to hit some chips. It’s the most important part of the game. I don’t care if you’re knocking them around 10 feet,” he said. “I would get about 5 feet off the green and try to make it. It’s about making it. The only question you should have is, do you leave the pin in or out.”

Koskos said focusing on chipping before the round helps in a number of ways. For one, it encourages crisp, solid contact.

“It’s all about making solid contact. Every shot you’re going to have for the rest of your life is going to be different. There’s really no way to practice how far you’re going to hit it. Just get that solid contact and then trust yourself when you’re out on the course,” he said.

Focusing on contact during the chip can also benefit your full swing. Koskos said that amateur golfers put too much emphasis on where they want the ball to go instead of what is happening right in front of them.

“A bowler is a good example. A bowler doesn’t roll the ball to the pins; he rolls it to a dot on the lane, and that’s the way the golf swing should be,” he said. “If you make the swing right there, (the ball) will go where it’s supposed to go.”

Lastly, Koskos said that getting up and down from off the green can make the difference between a good round and a great round.

“It’s the short ones that are going to make or break you,” he said. “If you played nine holes and you had nine of those (chips) from 5 feet away, and you miss that next putt, you’re adding nine strokes right there.

“I’m going to miss greens. I know that, and I want to be prepared for that shot.”

Getting a feel for things
PGA teaching professional Bob Menzies, who teaches in Oakland and Macomb counties, said using that small amount of spare time to get a feel for the green is essential.

He said that ideally, you can practice all facets of your game before a round, but if he had to pick one, it would be putting.

“I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve heard, ‘Man, I hit a perfect putt, but it was 2 feet short,’” he said. “Getting the feel of the speed of the green is so important. So many people often needing help with their short games — specifically putting, because they have a lot of three-putts — a lot of that just equates to speed and distance control.”

Menzies said that if you’re pressed for time, start by attempting a few 1-footers, then move to 3 feet, 6 feet and, finally, 12-footers. End the session with some putts in the 40-foot range trying to lag it close.

Another idea he suggested is hitting some 3-foot putts with your eyes closed.

“Not only is that helping you to obtain feel, but it also helps with a lot of players to keep their heads down so they’re not popping out of their putts too soon, which so many people want to do,” he said.

Oakland University head pro Perry Busse also mentioned hitting some putts from a few feet out and then extending the length. He said sinking a few close ones can get you in the right mindset.

“You want to build some confidence,” Busse said. “If you go out there and you’re missing everything, that’s not real good for your psyche.”

Take a breath and swing away
You finally make it to the tee box, and now all eyes are on you.  Menzies said that for the first shot of the day, aim for the center of the fairway and give yourself some room for error.

“I wouldn’t try to do anything fancy — hit the drive of my life or something with a beautiful draw around a dogleg. I would aim for the center of the fairway so you have some variance in case you pull it or slice it a little bit,” he said.

Koskos said it’s important to remember to slow down and relax.

“Tension kills a golf swing, any kind of tension,” he said. “If you squeeze the club tight, you’re tight all the way. I tell my students, ‘Hold the club as light as you hold the steering wheel of your car.’”

Menzies echoed those thoughts.

“Exhale right before you’re ready to swing. … That just relaxes you the second before you start swinging back, because you want to be tension-free,” he said. “If you’re in a league, on the first tee everyone tends to watch, so it can be a little stressful for some people. Taking a deep breath is always a good thing.”

For more on Jawor’s Golf Center, visit www.jaworgolf.com. Menzies can be contacted through www.bobmenzies.com. For more on golf at Oakland University, visit www.oakland.edu/golf.