7 Habits of Highly Effective Golf

Put on your golf shoes, we're taking the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People onto the golf course.

For management-types, this is a way to bring the performance enhancement benefits of these famed seven ideas to your golf. If you are one of the remaining few who haven't read the book or heard the tapes, make the purchase. Applying these ideas to your golf may be the impetus you need to try them in your life.

Habit 1...Be Proactive Being reactive to weaknesses in your game puts you into a defensive "fixing" mode--circle the wagons. But being proactive says, "let's build a game I can enjoy." Now you’re in a "creative/improving" mode.   This is an important shift from focusing on "what you don't want" to "what you do want.

Habit 2...Begin with the End in Mind When you say, "I want to improve my game" what exactly do you mean? Do you have a handicap in mind? Do you want to be less stress-filled? Want a better short game? Define what you want the end to be. Keep it in mind by occasionally imagining its attainment. If this sounds flaky, you've got a lot to learn about the power of imagery.

Habit 3...Put First Things First In real estate its "location, location, location." In golf its "putting, putting, putting." You can practice it year round indoors and it requires little strength. You use the putter more often than any other club and it accounts for the biggest percentage of your strokes and the biggest chance for scoring improvement. The putting stroke is the “heart” of the full swing. Buy a great putter or a fresh grip for your old putter.

Habit 4...Think Win/Win Malcomb Forbes described success as failure that you learn from. A poorly played round is the blueprint for your game improvement, if we take the time to read it. You will be amazed at how resilient you can be after a poor shot and how many fewer poor shots you'll make if you can keep Mr. Forbes in mind and ask, "What am I learning?" Win from your good shots, win from the poor ones.

Habit 5...Seek First to Understand Then to be Understood When you are working on any part of your game, begin by first improving your understanding how it "should" be done. Only then, should you turn your focus to improving what you are doing. Seek first to understand.

Habit 6...Synergize Too many players try to "go it alone". Unless you find it particularly rewarding to "figure it out on your own", take advantage of the discoveries of those who have gone before you. Attempt to identify one author/teacher that makes sense to you and build on their experience. If you stray from their teachings, do so carefully. Collaborate, synergize.

Habit 7...Sharpen the Saw The carpenter with a dull saw can try to press harder--likewise for a golfer. But pressing harder is not the solution for either. Regardless how sharp a saw, sharpening is an inevitability. Touring professionals make this case by regularly working with their coaches. Schedule your game for routine sharpening.

Covey's teachings about life are readily adaptable to golf, because golf is life in miniature. It is a journey we take over hill and dale never knowing if we are on the verge of delight or disaster but choosing to move forward regardless. Heartland Golf Schools     Learn golf, learn from golf.

Choose the Right Tee Box

Countless rounds of golf begin with the question, “Which tees do you want to play?” Too often the answer is based on testosterone and not golf logic. Too often this becomes an opportunity for someone to announce their prowess saying, “Let’s move to some back tees!” There’s a better way.

Our home course is Annbriar.   Let’s use it as an example. The first hole plays 304 yards from the middle tees. While there is a fairway bunker on the left side, this hole is kind to the player, recognizes this is their first hole and so provides a generous landing area. When you look at the green you find that it is an elevated green sitting at least 4 feet above the fairway. Additionally, the green is shallow. The architect has set the green to receive lofted approaches. Therefore, the right tee box is the one from which your typical drive will position you to hit a high lofted shot that will hold this green.

The second hole is very different. Measuring 364 from the middle tees, you’ll find that this green is level with the fairway and is deeper. Here the architect is giving you a target that will work well with lower trajectory approaches since you will be using a longer iron.

Golf logic for tee selection, asks the simple question, “From which tees can I hit my average (not my best) drives and be in the appropriate landing areas for each hole?” Typically the prescribed landing area will be devoid of bunkers, the fairway will be a little wider and your club selection will match the design of the green (our first hole is designed for a lofted approach shot). If you are not sure which tee to play, ask the pro shop to give you the best distance from which to approach the first few holes. The choose a tee box from which you will reach that approach. A less scientific approach says, “Let’s choose a forward set of tees and if after a few holes there are too many birdies, move back.” You’ll find that using the first hole as a benchmark, that same tee selection will position you correctly for the rest if the holes as well.

Bottom Line: The tour players have a game that is built for the tees they play from. Choose a set of tees that are built for your game.


Enjoy the thrill of hitting better shots!

Heartland Golf Schools

St. Louis

Cart Path Relief

A golf course without cart paths is a rarity.

Knowing your rights is a necessity.

First, a player is entitled to relief from the cart path in any of these situations: 1) the ball is in contact with the cart path, 2) a player’s normal stance is in contact with the cart path, or 3) the player’s swing is interfered with by the cart path (e.g. the ball is resting close enough to the edge of the path that the club head will contact the path during the swing).

Second, relief from the cart path is an “entitlement” not a “requirement.” If for some reason a player prefers not to seek relief from the cart path, they may play the ball as it lays.

Third, here is how we go about determining our relief: 1) leave the ball (temporarily) where you found it. Then, 1) Use a marker (coin or tee) to identify the nearest point (no closer to the hole) the ball could be placed where the cart path no longer interferes with your swing and stance. 2) Holding the ball at knee height the player must drop the ball at this point or any point within a club’s length of this point (no closer to the hole). 3) As long as the dropped ball does not roll more than two club lengths, does not roll closer to the hole, nor rolls back onto the cart path, the ball is now in play.

Remember the above and you’ll be on the right path to handle the cart path.

note: Obstructions and relief are addressed in rule 24 of the USGA’s Rules of Golf. These are expanded upon in the USGA’s Decision on The Rules of Golf page 386. If you consult the Decisions, be advised that the diagram on page 386 is misprinted with the points printed 5 mm too far to the left.

Enjoy the thrill of hitting better shots!

Heartland Golf Schools

St. Louis

Better Putts from a Better Fit

You may be familiar with the phrase, “Its the Indian not the arrows”. Golfers often use this expression to convey that most errant shots are more often a matter of the player than a matter of their clubs.

However, sometimes it is a matter of the arrows (i.e. our clubs). Most commonly, club problems are less a matter of their brand and more often a matter of how they fit us. We find that one of the most commonly misfit clubs is the putter. The most common problem with the putter is that the shaft has not been sized and is too long. We wind up re-sizing the putters of about 60% of our players. Most in-stock putters have a grip size and shaft length for men 6′ and taller. Both because few shops carry a selection of women’s putters and because women often inherit their putters from male players, women are the most frequent victims of mis-fit putters.

A putter that is too long results in any of three perfomance-robbing outcomes:

  • The player must get use to holding the putter out from their body which reduces their natural balance and stability. They are more likely to sway and wobble during their putt.

  • If the player does not hold the putter out from their body the length of the shaft cramps their arms and hands in too close to their body denying them the accuracy of a free flowing swing,

  • Perhaps most importantly, a putter that is too long denies the player the critical advantage of putting with their eyes DIRECTLY over the line of the putt.

While determining the optimal fit for a putter is a simple matter, it is a more demanding task than we would want to attempt in this article. There is a preliminary way you can check your putter to see if it is seriously misfits you:

  • Using a two foot piece of tape or string to represent the line of a putt, set up the putter on this line in your regular putting stance.

  • While being careful not to move your head, release your upper hand from the putter and use it to drop a golf ball from the bridge of your nose.

  • Watch were it lands relative to that line. Repeat these steps a few times. If the ball doesn’t drop very near the line, its time to take that putter in for adjustment so your eyes are over the line.

If the eyes are not over the line you are making putting more difficult. Many players find that they are standing too far away from the line. When they attempt to move closer they find that the putter grip is rubbing against their clothing or their arms are not free to hang comfortably. If you find this to be true, your putter needs to be re-sized.

While the expense is nominal, you will find the benefit “phe-nomenal”.

Enjoy the thrill of hitting better shots!

Heartland Golf Schools

St. Louis

Buying A New Set of Irons

We walk into the golf store and there they are. Lined up along the walls, sleek and shiny sets of irons that have the appearance of elegant instruments. We succumb to their beckoning and take one that is most attractive down from its perch. With our hands embracing its fresh grip, visions of wonderful shots rush through our heads.

Too often that’s the extent of our decision process. For the more conscientious buyer, the process may include a discussion with store personnel about who uses the club on tour, what are the most popular sellers, and what does that person think about these clubs. Sometimes we will even hit some ball with the club and watch the flight projected on a big screen.

There are other factors to consider. Important ones. Here are 3 of 6 considerations when making a selection:

1. Where is the clubs center of gravity (CG)? If there was one “most important” characteristic of the club this would be it. The CG is the most important factor determine how solid the ball feels, how easily the club gets the ball in the air
BOTTOM LINE: the lower the CG the better.

2. What is the clubs moment of inertia (MOI)? If we can combine a low CG with a high MOI we are talking about an optimally forgiving club. The MOI increases as we move weight from the middle of the club out to the toe and heel (perimeter weighting).
BOTTOM LINE: the weight should be distributed around the perimeter and the CG should be as rearward as possible.

3. Imagining a line that runs down through the center of the shaft and right through the bottom of the golf club, what is the distance behind that line where the leading edge of the club begins? Between and eighth and quarter of an inch is considered a moderate offset. This offset is considered to be a game improvement feature.
BOTTOM LINE: look for offset.

4. Forged or cast? Test results have proved that excellent golfers have been unable to tell the difference in the feel between forged and cast clubs built to comparable specifications. Forged are generally more expensive and have higher aesthetic value. Cast are more readily consistent in their performance from two iron through wedge.

BOTTOM LINE: if you have narrowed you choices down to two models that are comparable on the above points 1 – 3 and one of the choice is forged and the other is cast, choose the one that is the prettiest or the one that fits your wallet the best.

5. Shaft. Steel and graphite shafts can be equally stiff and equally flexible. The graphite shaft is typically lighter and therefore may allow the player to achieve more club speed. The important feature of the shaft is its flexibility. Since the shaft actually bends “forward” as it approaches the ball the loft of the clubface is increased and therefore the ball will have a steeper trajectory. For slower speed swings a more flexible shaft can mean extra distance.

6. When considering a new set of irons, consider a set consisting of 6 iron through sand wedge. Get hybrids for yardages between 6 iron and 3 wood.

BOTTOM LINE: Get hybrids/fairway woods

1. New clubs are not the answer for a troubled swing.
2. Buying clubs are like buying tennis shoes. Choose the ones with the features that you want and then be certain to have someone who is trained fit them for you.


Enjoy the thrill of hitting better shots!

Heartland Golf Schools

St. Louis

Adjusting the trajectory of the ball

There is seldom a round played in which there is not at least one shot where you would like to adjust the trajectory of the ball. You would like it to travel a “little” higher or lower. Too often players get so caught up with making adjustments to accomplish this that they do not make a good swing.

Here is a simple way to accomplish the task without getting in the way of making a good swing.

When you want to have the ball travel one club higher (i.e. the difference between a 7 iron and an 8 iron) play the ball one ball forward from your standard setup. It is important to note that in this case you want the club to be positioned at setup in its normal position. That will put the equivalent of one ball’s diameter between where the club is and where the ball is. When you make your swing the club will arrive down to its normal position. When it gets there it will not find the ball. It then continues moving forward and upward. An instant later, as it is ascending and the clubface is slightly more lofted it will find the ball and send it slightly higher.

  • This ball will travel slightly left

  • This ball will be about one club higher and the distance will be about ½ club shorter.

When you want to have the ball travel one club lower, play the ball rearward by the diameter of one ball. In this case the club at address is placed directly behind the ball as it would be normally. Because the ball is back in your stance, the shaft will be leaning slightly forward.

  • This ball will travel slightly right of target

  • This ball will be about one club lower and the distance will be about ½ club longer.

Enjoy the thrill of hitting better shots!

Heartland Golf Schools