PGA Championship Tip-Practicing Better

Take it from a pro who owns a driving range: most of us don't know how to practice.

"I can't tell you how many times I've seen people walk through the door with a driver and a 5-iron in their hands," says Paul Riccio, who owns and operates Champions Golf Center in Macedon. "Those are the two worst clubs to practice with."

Riccio says proper practice requires a plan. You don't just mindlessly swing away on the first tee, so you shouldn't do it at the range, either. The best plans usually doesn't involve a whole lot of full swings.

"People need to spend more time practicing their short game," Riccio says. "That's where most shots are lost--around the green."

Working on chipping and pitching can make a world of difference with the long clubs, too.

"I teach (clients) how to hit a golf ball on the face of the club," Riccio says. "All this is is a mini full swing. If you get this down, it'll be easier for me to teach you (other shots)."

When practicing longer shots, Riccio drives home that golfers spend too much time looking down, focusing on the golf ball. The focus should be on the target. "If you play darts, you don't stare at the dart in your hand, you look at the target, the dartboard. It's hand-eye coordination. Golf is the same way," Riccio says. 

The target doesn't have to be a green or a flag. Make one up if necessary.

"You watch the players on the PGA Tour, they all look at their target," Riccio says. "They know there's a golf ball on the ground. They don't have to stare at it."

This focus on the target also helps the pro to properly follow through. "They get all the way over to their left side," Riccio says. "Most people are so focused on the ball that they never get off their right side. They stay trapped on their right side."

Pros also have the proper plan for what clubs to hit on the range. "They start with the pitching wedge or the sand wedge. They'll hit half shots, not full shots," Riccio says. "They'll work up to the full shot and then, they'll start with their progressions up to the mid-irons and long irons."

To have a good practice session, it helps to have good equipment. Golf clubs and balls are so specialized today, it makes a difference to figure out exactly which settings and alignments work for you.

"A lot of it is in the shaft," Riccio says. "You've got to get the right flex in the shaft. The right size grip is also an important thing."

Don't be afraid to give in to temptation because if you feel good, you play good. "The club cosmetically has got to look good to you," Riccio says. "If you look down at it and it doesn't look good to you, you're not going to hit it good."

For more tips and information, visit the Western New York PGA section website. All of the pros for Tuesday's Tip belong to the Western New York PGA section.

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