Confidence is key
On my last round at SilverRock Resort in La Quinta, CA, I played with a couple from Olympia, WA. They had played all season in the desert and his game was spot on whereas I was playing army golf - left right left right. It was horrible. After a few homes, I managed to start feeling confident off the tee. It was amazing what a little confidence could do for your game. My irons became a threat and my putting stroke became more smoother. By the 16th hole, I was shooting pars. I was confident off the tee and especially around water, I had no fear whatsoever on carrying it to the green.
To increase consistency, you have to be able to repeat every swing including your chips. Chipping is best done by forming the triangle between your arms and hands. When pulling back, keep the triangle intact without hinging the wrists. For chips, you don't need to generate a lot of club head speed so your wrists don't need to cock. The motion is that of a pendulum and it is started with your shoulders.
Where to land your chip shots?
Now that you have mastered your chipping technique, where should you land your chips to guarantee yourself a birdie or par? Some say you should land it 3 feet from the apron and let it release. Others say that you should land it within a 6 feet circle of the pin.
A lot of us struggle with pitch shots. The reason is because we think a pitch shot requires an abbreviated swing or we setup for a long chip. With doubt, we often hit it fat or we sail it over the green. Next time you're on the range, try to hit shots inside 100 yards. Experiment a little with your wedges and try to hit incremental shots. Try hitting 30 yards then 40 yards and eventually up to 80 yards.
When to Play a Flop Shot
If you have a sand bunker between you and the green then you'll need a flop shot to get your ball high and land very softly.
Every so often, you go for the green but miss horribly by pulling your shot left. When you find your ball, it's sitting in the rough but there's a sand bunker between you and the green. If you play it as a chip, the ball will probably run after it hits the green. Or if you mishit it, your ball will end up in the bunker.
What would the pros do? If it was Phil Mickelson, he would execute a flop shot. And when Phil does it, it's wonderful to watch because he's magic with a wedge. As an amateur, if we practice lots, we can get execute the flop shot too and confidently. We need to work on the fear as much as the technique.
The technique is simple. Put the ball in front of your stance (ie. closer to the front foot). Address the ball with an open stance and an open club face. Bring the club back and hinge quickly so that you get a steep angle of attack. Keep your weight on the front foot like you are chipping. Now swing the club through smoothly. The ball should pop up high, fly over the bunker and land softly on the green with little to no roll.
If you practice this shot frequently, you will gain the confidence in executing it when you need it the most. The confidence will eventually replace the fear in you so practivce
Golf fitness experts would like us to increase our cardiorespiratory endurance so that we can recover quickly from walking a full 18-hole course. It's unfortunate that most golf courses requires us to rent a cart instead of letting us walk the course but are you fit enough to walk and carry your clubs?
If you had a sedative lifestyle in the winter, go out for a 30-minute walk. Try to walk briskly to raise the heartbeats so that when golfing seasons starts, your body will be ready for golf.
What body segments to focus on?
According to Ralph Simpson and Pete Draovitch, you should do exercises that will strengthen the trunk, muscles in the upper and lower body, hips and legs. Try to concentrate more on the hips and legs because it is here where most of power comes from for a golf swing.
Golfers like Vijay Singh have been building up trunk muscles by twisting and turning while holding on to a medicine ball. He would setup like he is addressing a golf ball but instead of holding onto a club, he would hold a medicine ball with both his hands. He would then turn his hips and raise his arms without releasing the medicine ball. He would repeat this until his arms feels like rubber.