Club golfers struggle to keep the ball in the short fairway grass. After just about every round, you hear them pointing out how many times they went in the woods and the number of dropped shots caused by hitting the ball into the water. Why does this happen?
Not surprisingly, it's usually because of a bad swing. Hitting the ball long and straight is one of the keys to scoring lower since it gives the player a tremendous advantage, especially on longer holes. In this regard, the drive is one of the most important shots.
It demands reasonably good skills for players to keep the ball in the short grass. This then allows the next shot to be played more accurately to the green. Occasionally hitting the fairway is just not good enough. Doing it regularly requires not only a reasonable amount of proficiency but also understanding and following some basics.
Why so many wayward drives?
A lot of tee shots head into the forest because golfers try to achieve that extra bit of distance and force the swing and body. Forcing the swing creates tension in the body, and the body then actually becomes a resisting force to swinging freely through the ball. The result is often a loss of balance and balls flying off in all directions.
Golfers also regularly just align themselves wrong, with their feet and shoulders pointing way away from the actual direction where they want the ball to go.
How can these be corrected?
Poor balance really starts from bad posture. If the way you stand while addressing the ball is incorrect, it becomes hard to stay balanced during the swing. Some keys are keeping your spine at a 90 degree angle to the club shaft and keeping your weight on the balls of the feet (closer to your toes, not on your heels). If this angle and balance can be maintained, it will promote straighter drives.
For poor alignment, while practicing, lay a club on the ground parallel to the target line. Then set the feet and shoulders parallel to that lined club. This will ensure you are better aligned. It shouldn't take more than half an hour of such practice for you to get the feel of being properly aligned. Don't be shy to ask a fellow golfer or caddy to stand behind you and check your set up.
How to hit it solid and far.
Tension and stiffness in the body doesn't let the arms and the body swing through the ball. Too tight a grip causes a chain reaction of tension in almost all parts of the body. So it is very important to keep the grip reasonably light and the body supple in order to generate a higher swing speed and to swing through the ball, getting a better release and follow-through.
Our national team of golfers comprising Tashi Ghale, CB Bhandari, Shivaram Shrestha, Pushpa Rai and Shastika Shrestha are in Pakistan representing Nepal at the 6th SAARC golf tournament (pictured before departure at Kathmandu airport on Tuesday). Let us hope they keep themselves balanced and aligned, stay nice and relaxed and perform their best.
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Head Golf Professional at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. [email protected]