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Go from short shots to long

The best way to learn the golf swing and golf itself is from the hole back. Start on the putting green.

Begin with very short putts, then move back to longer ones. You can learn almost everything you need to know about the swing by doing this. The putting stroke is pendulum-like, back and through with very little independent movement of the hands. As the swing gets longer, the hands will cock and uncock naturally and the body will begin to turn back and through. But the basic swing is the same.

Move from putting to chipping, the little shots from the edge of the green using a more lofted club. Then move back a few yards to the pitch shot with an even more lofted club and a longer swing, getting the ball more in the air so it doesnít roll so far after landing.

As you do this, youíll be developing a feel that will carry over to the full swing. Take your time. Donít expect an instant golf swing. Go slow and get it right. Your improvement will be faster.

When you have graduated to the full swing, donít forget the short game in your practice sessions. Iím amazed at the number of golfers I see on the practice tee who spend most of their time bashing shots with the driver.

Less than 40 percent of the shots you will make in a round of golf will be with full swings.

More than 60 percent will be short-game shots, the shots that can save you strokes and that are fun to play. Anybody, no matter how much or little strength he or she has, can learn to play them well.

A word of advice ó hitting practice shots is a lot of fun for many players, but donít hit them indiscriminately. If you beat so many balls that you get tired, your practice becomes counterproductive.

Try for quality, not quantity. Once you have hit two or three good shots with one club, move on to another. When you have hit a couple of good shots with every club you want to practice with, quit for the day.

Then youíll be eager to come back the next time.

Keith McElroy is the program director of The First Tee of Knoxville, home of the Knox Area Junior Golf Association and the PGA Professional for the Concord Park Golf Course. He teaches adults and juniors and may be reached at 966-9103/ Web


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