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Go the right distance, short or long

By: Shawn Kelly, Journal Golf Columnist
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Do you know how far you hit the ball? I ask because to be able to play the game consistently — and, as a result, have more fun — you must be able to control how far you hit the ball. Whether it is a one-inch putt or a 350-yard drive, you need to exercise control over not only the direction, but also the distance that the ball travels. Following are a few thoughts about distance and shot control. n Your primary requirement is to strike the ball solidly with consistency. Fitted golf clubs will allow you to accomplish this task most efficiently. If you don’t know whether or not your equipment fits properly, make an appointment with a PGA-certified club fitter and go have a fit. You don’t even need to have a full set of clubs — four to eight clubs can get you controlling enough distances to play the game. n Once fitted, you need to be in positive control of your swing. Lessons are best, but instructional gadgets such as swing assists, videos, books or even The Golf Channel can be resources. There’s a ton of information out there to help you learn about the golf swing. Whichever aid you choose allows you to “swing to balance” because that will become the most effective swing for you. n You’ll want to define your distances by practicing distance control rather than swing positions because too many mechanical swing thoughts can ruin athletic timing and solid impact. Start by trying to control short distances — 25, 50, 75, 100 yards. When you can control just a few of the 25-yard increments, you can begin to score well. When you can control distances from 10 to 200-plus yards you can think about getting your tour card. (Just kidding — keep your day job.) n The new GPS yardage devices are a good way to help learn distance control. They help determine how far you need to hit it and can measure how far you just hit it. This will be valuable information for you to help manage your distance control. n Calculating distance can be difficult because terrain, wind and air temperature all need to be factored in to determine which club to select. If the green is uphill or down, you may need to compensate by adjusting 20 yards or more in club selection. Each day that I have a chance to practice or warm up before play, the first thing I do when hitting balls is to work on my wedges and control those distances of 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100 yards. If I can control these distances first, I feel that I can control them all. Practice distance control and I promise your scores will lower and your friends will regard you with newfound admiration. Shawn Kelly is a PGA professional at The Ridge Golf Club. He can be reached for questions or lessons at (530) 888-PUTT.