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Thursday, April 12, 2007 - Page updated at 02:01 AM

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Golf Tips | Some pocket prose from the pros

Seattle Times staff reporter

Tom Sovay was working out one day when he had a lightbulb moment.

"Why not ask some of the top teaching pros in Western Washington for their best tips and publish them?" he asked himself.

That's exactly what he did and the result is the paperback "40 Pro's in Your Pocket," an $11.95 paperback on sale in most pro shops.

Sovay, a six-time Washington Instructor Of The Year who teaches out of Trilogy Golf Club near Redmond, spent about 18 months collecting tips. Here are some of them:

Putting

"Before your round, practice putting from approximately 30 feet and farther to help you get a feel for the greens that day. Find putts that require you to putt over mounds and through slopes. This will further develop your touch. Players who practice inside 10 to 15 feet cannot get enough feedback to give them a good sense of the green speed. Most will be faced with longer distances and will struggle to find the green speed until well into the round."
-- Todd Erwin, PGA teaching pro, Tacoma Firs Golf Center

"Make sure your putting stroke at 4 feet is no more than a couple of inches more than at 3 feet."
-- Chris Aoki, PGA teaching pro, Harbour Pointe Golf Club, on players overswinging when a putt is 4 feet instead of 3 feet.

Chipping

"Swing the club with the same rhythm that you do your putter. At the First Tee, we use 'cue' words or phrases. The 'cue' phrase for putting and chipping is 'tic-toc, like a clock.' Say this to yourself as you make your rehearsal strokes and it will allow you to make that smooth, pendulum-like stroke you're after."
-- Gordy Graybeal, PGA professional, First Tee of Seattle

Bunker shots

"When faced with a greenside bunker shot, imagine a square-shaped box framing the ball with the ball positioned in the center of the box. Imagine an inch of space between the entire ball and the edge of each side. You can cheat when practicing by drawing the box around your ball using your finger. To execute the shot, you simply 'hit the sand out of the box.' ... You essentially hit sand prior to the ball, thus lifting the ball using a cushion of sand as it should be."
-- Michael Anderson, PGA professional

Getting back on track

"A long time ago, my old high-school coach told us, 'If you are struggling, you can't take the club back too slowly.' ... When we swing too fast, we are usually out of balance. Our body prioritizes what is most important. Hitting the ball becomes secondary to keeping us in balance. When this happens, we must find a way to turn off the self-preservation switch and get back to golf. Swinging extremely slowly will help get your sequence back and improve your balance. I usually take some extremely slow practice swings between shots. The body can calm down and starts having fun again."
-- Steve Stensland, PGA professional, Gig Harbor Country Club

Master short game first; find your safe shot

"I have always been of the opinion that when one understands the basic flow and movements of the short game, they are well on their way to a flawless, athletic, repeatable long-game swing. So master the short-game principles first in your development."

"All players need to establish what I refer to as the safe shot. This is a go-to guarantee shot you can hit when your swing is off. Remember, play the shot you have, not the one you want."
-- Joe Thiel, PGA Master Professional, Worldwide Golf Schools

A steady head

"To help golfers maintain good eye contact, as well as help hold the head in a relatively steady position, I ask my students to focus on two plain white dimples next to each other somewhere on the ball and to keep that focus for the entire golf swing. It's amazing how quickly they start making better contact with the ball if they are able to keep that focus. ... There is another huge benefit to this tip as it functions as a wonderful 'mind block' to keep the golfer occupied during the swing and not thinking of other, more mechanical swing thoughts."
-- Mike Coury, PGA professional, executive director, Western Washington chapter PGA

Productive range time

"For those of you who spend most of your time on the range, I recommend the 25-50-25 method. ... The first 25 represents time spent on short swings such as pitches. ... The 50 represents the time dedicated to swing mechanics. You must have something specific to work on. ... The last 25 percent represents the time one should use to sharpen their visual and targeting skills, which includes developing a pre-shot routine."
-- Brian Thornton, PGA teaching pro, Meridian Valley Country Club

Pre-shot routine; Stay positive

"It's all about feeling relaxed. You can't play good golf if you talk bad to yourself. Be nice to yourself."

"Play your best golf by being relaxed on the golf course with your pre-shot routine. Your routine should be the same every time you step up to address the ball and should take the same amount of time."
-- Randy Jensen, PGA head professional, Lakeland Village Golf Course

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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