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More bang for your bucket
By BOB HARIG, Times staff writer
Published April 19, 2007
There is much more to hitting a bucket of balls than just banging away, although most golfers reach for the driver and don't put much thought into their practice sessions.
Matt Mitchell has an amazingly simple approach to practice. The PGA instructor who teaches at the Downs Golf Practice Facility in Oldsmar and works with, among others, LPGA Tour player Brittany Lincicome, winner of Sunday's Ginn Open, breaks it down this way:
"If you start with the scorecard, there are 18 holes, par 72. Give yourself 36 putts, throw the four par-3 holes out, you've got 14 driving holes and 36 putts. So 50 out of those 72 shots are those two clubs, the driver and the putter. You better base your practice on that. If you can't drive it, you can't score. And you have to practice your short game."
Mitchell said few golfers he sees at the driving range work on their putting. He recommends spending as much time on that as hitting balls.
But when it comes to a single bucket and how best to use those balls, here is what Mitchell suggests.
1. Do a warmup activity. "You want to stretch, do something," Mitchell said. "Don't run out there and just start hitting balls. Walk up and down the range for a minute or two, do a rotational stretch, deep knee bends. Stretch your hamstrings and get loose before you start going through the clubs."
2. Take the balls and divide them into quarters. Each quarter will be used to practice a different aspect of the game.
3. Use two clubs to line up your stance with the target.
4. One-fourth of your balls should be hit with a wedge to warm up and work on pitch shots. "Many shots in a round occur from 80 yards and in. This is what you will use when you miss a green. You have a lot of 20- and 30-yard shots."
5. The second quarter should be hit with a longer-range wedge, either a sand wedge or pitching wedge to get a feel for taking a full swing.
6. The third quarter should be short irons, middle irons and hybrids. "Look at the courses you tend to play and think of the kind of shots you are required to hit and practice with these clubs," he said.
7. The final quarter should be hit with a driver or the club you like to use off the tee. "You've got to be able to drive the ball," Mitchell said. "And it doesn't necessarily have to be a driver. It has to be a club you can drive in play. I don't like to give up the yardage of a driver, but I don't like penalty strokes. You need to get the golf ball in play. Get a lofted driver if you are having a hard time. If you can't get a driver in play, then the hole never starts and you're not hitting the shots you practiced. If you can't drive the ball in play, you can't play."