4 ways to swap bad moves for pro-caliber ones

mike mcgetrick smiles and makes practice swing

Mike McGetrick was recently inducted into the GOLF Top 100 Teachers Hall of Fame, and he's here with four tips to transform your game.

Stephen Denton

Great golfers do things mid- and high-handicappers don’t. Let’s change that in 2023. Here are four easy — and major-proven — bonus tips to take any game to the next level.

1. Have purposeful practice swings

mike mcgetrick makes practice swing
Stephen Denton

Some golfers make practice swings out of habit, but high-level players do them with purpose. I like to think of the practice swing as a dress rehearsal for the actual swing — so it needs to have intention. The practice swing should match the type of shot you’re trying to hit. If it’s a stock shot, make a stock practice swing. If it’s a punch shot, rehearse a punch swing. This practice swing is not only helping you visualize and feel the type of shot you want to play, it’s also programming your short-term memory so that you don’t need to think about the swing as much once you stand over the ball. A practice swing is also a great time to rehearse the feel of the move you’re trying to groove in the swing. Think about that feel as you make your practice swing and remember it when you step up to the ball. Once you get over the shot, you’ll have a swing feeling to get back to when you’re under the gun. Don’t make the mistake of wasting your practice swing. Instead, make the exact swing you hope to make over the ball.

2. Practice competitively

mike mcgetrick makes swing
Stephen Denton

In golf, there are two times of practice: fundamental practice and competitive practice. Fundamental practice is when you’re working on mechanics and instilling swing changes. Competitive practice, on the other hand, is creating tournament-like conditions and practicing like you play. Competitive practice is valuable for a couple reasons. One, it helps you measure your performance in the arena. And two, it teaches how to play golf, not play golf swing. Most players focus on fundamentals on the range and then take those thoughts to the golf course. But the great players don’t do that. I taught Meg Mallon for many years, and she always worked on her mechanics on the range. The minute she went and played in tournaments, though, she never thought about her mechanics until she was back on the range. One drill I like for my students is working through their bags using either odd or even clubs. I have them pick targets on the range and hit five shots with each club, keeping track of how many finish within an acceptable distance. This drill gives my students a healthy amount of competition in their practice routines as they can measure their performance against themselves, or each other. Once you introduce these competitive practice techniques into your improvement plan, you’ll be able to take your range game to the course much easier.

3. Focus on speed control

mike mcgetrick putts
Stephen Denton

Good players understand speed control. What I teach is for my players to roll the ball approximately 18 inches past the hole — enough speed to reach the cup, but not so much that there is a long come-backer. A drill I like to use to promote speed control is picking two holes and rolling three balls from one to the other. Your goal should be to leave every putt just past (or in!) the hole. Each ball that finishes within this window is worth one point. Roll 12 putts and see how many points you score. Once you can finish the drill with 12 points, you’ll know your speed is dialed in on the greens.

4. A cheat code for reading greens

mike mcgetrick reads putt
Stephen Denton

Green reading is a crucial skill in golf, but not many recreational players know how to do it well. What I like to teach is a triangulation technique that encourages the use of both the player’s eyes and their feet. The first thing you should do is stand about 3 feet behind the ball with your feet together and determine which foot is lower than the other. Once you determine which foot is lower, walk to the low side and split the distance between the ball and the hole. From this spot, you’ll be able to accurately assess the side slope of the putt. Then, walk a few feet behind the cup and look back toward your ball. Stand again with your feet together to check the break. From this angle, you will be able to see how much uphill or downhill slope will affect your putt on the way to the cup. Once you have a look from all three sides, you’ll have all the information you need to match your speed to your read and roll a great putt.

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