In this week’s “best advice” column with PGA Professional Rob Labritz, we’re turning our eyes to the better players out there who are on the cusp of a single-digit handicap – the ones looking to break “80” on a consistent basis.
Even if your game fits into this category, you’re going to want to go back and touch up on the tips for breaking “100” and breaking “90.” After all, Labritz’s entire theory of becoming a better player starts at the green and working your way backwards to the tee.
So, provided you’ve gotten yourself comfortable with the short game inside of 100 yards, this is the piece for you.
How the heck can you break 80?
Labritz chalks it up to just two things: iron control and driver control.
It may seem simple, but there’s some “charting” that goes into it – and that starts with the irons.
“There are a few things I use,” said Labritz, fresh off a win in the MasterCard Westchester PGA Championship on Thursday. “First, you want to get access to some type of measuring device. If you can use something like Trackman, or another type of launch monitor, or even the Game Golf device, that’s a great place to start. The thing is, you want to learn how far your ball travels with each iron.”
Once you figure that out, Labritz said, it eliminates the guesswork.
“Play a couple of rounds, or spend time on the range just dialing in the distances your irons travel,” Labritz said. “And if you don’t have access to what we’ve already covered, a laser rangefinder will work too. Once you’re hitting consistent iron shots, hit the target where the ball is landing with a laser and see how far it’s flying.”
When you get comfortable with that, it’s time to step back to the tee.
“The key to hitting a tee shot has nothing to do with hitting it as far as you can,” Labritz said. “It’s all about positioning. It’s about playing the hole from the green backwards. When you’re on the tee, imagine you’re looking down the fairway from the green and ask yourself, ‘where do I have to hit this tee shot to give myself the best position to get my iron-shot approach into the area of the flag on this green?’”
Like most, you may be programmed to think that with driver in hand, you should take a mighty lash at the ball from the tee. You’re wrong. Over-swinging leads to problems with balance and that’s the reason for your wayward tee shots.
Labritz has a simple fix for that.
“One driver drill I love is to take a full swing at half speed on the driving range,” he said. “Give yourself a pretend fairway between two targets. Using full motion, only swing half speed. Two things will happen when you do this. First, you’ll get control of your driver face. And two, you’re quickly going to realize that you don’t have to swing so hard with the driver. Over-swinging makes it hard to hit fairways, which – you guessed it – makes it very difficult to break 80.”
To summarize: having control of your driver and control of your irons – specifically the distances they travel – is going to allow you to properly position yourself off the tee, giving you better access to greens and pin positions. Better players hit more greens in regulation.
“The big problem is that people hit the wrong club for the shot,” Labritz said. “That decreases accuracy and increases scores. If you follow the steps we laid out today, you’re going to develop comfort and balance and that’s going to build confidence, which will result in lower scores.”
Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008 and 2013, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. You can learn more about Labritz at www.RobLabritz.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz.