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Five steps for a better round

Shake off your winter rust with pro tips from Belfair professional Dana Rader

Dana Rader is a nationally recognized leader in the golf industry. After selling her golf school in Charlotte, she returned to her coaching roots in 2018, becoming director of instruction at Belfair. She is a “Top 50 Instructor in the U.S.,” is ranked as the “Best in South Carolina” by Golf Digest and has been featured on the Golf Channel numerous times. She served for eight years as the LPGA Professionals national president and was inducted into the LPGA Professionals Hall of Fame in 2016. Recently, she was the recipient of the 2020 Nancy Lopez Golf Achievement Award. With The Masters, the RBC Heritage and beautiful weather at our doorstep, we asked Rader to share steps for shaking off the winter rust.

Get a grip

Step 1: Grip pressure. A common misconception is to hold the golf club lightly in your hands as though you’re holding a bird and especially so with the right hand or trail hand. This leads to the club head fanning open and losing control of the club face, especially at impact. Your hands should be firm at address but shoulders and arms relaxed. As you swing the club back, the hands should tighten so that you have control of the club head. Firmer grip pressure leads to better ball striking.

Find your fit

Step 2: Does your putter fit you? If your putter doesn’t fit you, it affects your posture over the golf ball. For example, you get your husband’s hand-me-down putter, and it’s too long. Gripping down is not always the best thing to do as you will have a lot of distance-control issues if the putter is too long or short. A putter that is too long tends to make you stand too upright over the ball, moving your eyes too far away from the ball. Solution: Get fitted for the putter that fits you, not the other way around. It will take strokes off your game.

Cash in your chips

Step 3: Chipping setup. There are three basic keys to setup. First, stance is narrow and the weight/pressure is always on the forward foot with your head and sternum in front of the ball. The weight/pressure should be approximately 80 percent on the front foot. Second, during the backswing arc, there is very little movement or shift to the back foot. The motion is a pendulum swing with shoulders and arms working on the same plane. The more movement in the lower body, the worse chance you will have to make good contact. Third, stay grounded on your front foot as this will lead the club head to a better impact position.

Pre-game it

Step 4: The pre-shot routine process. In order to play the game of golf, you must be organized in what you think about and how much you think. All great players have a routine or a process that keeps them focusing on the right things. First, take your rehearsal away from the golf ball. Rehearse the feel and the swing thought you are going to take on that particular shot. Once you get over the ball, it’s time to perform. Get a good snapshot of your target just prior to hitting your shot. You must always engage your target with your eyes as it should be the last picture you see. It takes practice to keep your mind focused and committed to your shot, but if you focus on a process, it will keep you on task and away from unnecessary swing thoughts. Create a routine that works for you and one that provides a positive thought process that is simple and easy to repeat. 

Practice with purpose 

Step 5: How to practice. There are two types of practice. The first one is maintenance. This is called block practice where you are using an alignment aid and working on specifics in your swing and hitting a variety of clubs at the same target. This is simply working on very focused tasks in your swing and setup to improve your swing motion. The second one is performance random practice. You actually simulate on-course play going through your routine each shot. In this practice, you never hit the same shot twice. Change clubs each time and change direction. This type of practice will actually transfer to the golf course as it’s more about playing the game on the range instead of constantly working on your swing. Both practice types are needed, but the largest percent of your practice should be performance-based.

Double the fun

Belfair, a private golf club community in Bluffton, features two championship golf courses designed by Tom Fazio that exemplify Lowcountry beauty. The West Course opened in 1996, with Links Magazine proclaiming it “the finest set of golf holes in the Lowcountry, if not on the East Coast.” Belfair’s East Course opened in 1999 and is reminiscent of the links courses of Scotland while showcasing the area’s deep-water views, freshwater lakes and lagoons. Golfweek Magazine ranks both courses among the “Best Residential Courses” in the United States.