Simple steps to help you tee up, stay energized and lower your golf score

  • The 18th hole provides a panoramic view at Shepherd's Cook in Zion. The links-style course opened in August 1999.

      The 18th hole provides a panoramic view at Shepherd's Cook in Zion. The links-style course opened in August 1999. John Dietz | Staff Photographer

  • Combine the 5- and 7-irons for part of your pregame warmup.

      Combine the 5- and 7-irons for part of your pregame warmup. John Dietz | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/4/2020 6:31 PM

Golfers generally fall into two categories when it comes to how early they show up for their round.

Some give themselves at least 30 minutes so they can properly warm up. Others -- and I'm thinking that's most of us -- are scrambling to get our clubs out, put our shoes and glove on, strap the bag to the cart and end up sprinting toward the first tee as a ranger bellows: "HEY! YOU'RE UP!!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

OK, maybe it's not that bad.

But rushing to the tee is a big reason we aren't striking the ball properly until the fourth or fifth hole.

So what to do?

I decided to ask advice from Bill Gaucher, who is an adaptive golf coach for the Freedom Golf Association and attempted to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open four times in the early 2000s. A resident of River Forest, he also gives individual lessons and will fit clients for clubs. His father, Joe, worked for Golfcraft as a club designer and passed those designs on to Bill.

It is Gaucher's understanding of how different designs work -- in conjunction with his study of swing mechanics and his undergraduate studies in physiological psychology -- that has enabled him to understand the changes that occur during a round of golf.

• • •

If it's just 10-15 minutes before your tee time, Gaucher wants mid-to-high handicappers to go through the following routine:

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• Take a 5-iron and a 7-iron, put them together and swing them "slowly and perfectly" 20 times. "That will stretch your tendons and your ligaments," he said.

• Then hit six putts. Two each from 5, 10 and 15 feet. Make sure five of the six get past the hole. "Now you're not afraid to get the ball to the hole," Gaucher said.

• On the first tee box, take your 200-yard swing. Your only goal is to hit the fairway. "Your second goal is to stay in front of the green if you can't reach it," Gaucher said. Assuming it's a par 4, chip on and roll your putt at least to the hole. It may go in, but you should have no worse than bogey and now you're mentally ready to play -- and to score well.

• • •

As for those of you who can actually hit the range? There's a routine for that as well -- and it doesn't include hitting dozens of balls.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After stretching and taking practice swings, Gaucher wants us to hit four or five shots with our pitching wedge. Then three shots each with a 7-iron, 5-iron and 3-hybrid. Then four drives and two more wedge shots.

That's it. Then go to the putting green.

• • •

Let's assume all of this gets you off to a decent start and on the 15th tee box you have a legitimate chance to shoot 4 to 6 strokes under your average. Like many mid-to-high handicappers, however, you are probably prone to rough finishes.

And why is that? Gaucher says it's because many of us aren't managing our nutrition on the course. He says we should eat half a banana on the fifth hole and the other half on the 12th. Or take nutrition bars. Or a bag of peanuts. Also: No soft drinks or sugar.

"What I'm trying to get you to do is to maintain your adrenaline level without having it spike," Gaucher said. "Once your adrenaline spikes, it's going to drop. Then what happens is you get tired, the brain sends a message to your muscles that you're no longer as strong so you start swinging harder.

"I could go through a litany of what happens to your spine angles and your timing after that."

Down the stretch, be aware that you will likely need one more club to reach the green. So pull out a 6-iron instead of a 7 for that approach shot on your finishing holes.

"You're physically weaker at that point," Gaucher said. "What I try and teach students is you're managing 1,500 calories. And if you're properly managing them, you're not going to be as strong at 18 as you were at 11. So rather than swing hard, take more club."

I followed all of this advice on my last round and it paid big dividends. Until No. 18, that is. On a daunting approach shot, I overswung with my 5-hybrid, put the worst move of the day on it and watched the ball fly into the water.

Next time I'll do as instructed and take one more club. I promise, Bill.

We'd love to know how this advice helps as the summer unfolds, so feel free to let me know via email.

• • •

Next: Another Hidden Gem

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