Junior Golfers, this is your chance to have questions about golf in general or your golf game in particular answered by a PGA Professional.

Need help fixing that slice? Want to learn more about playing strategies? Have a question about rules? Just taking up the game? Our PGA Professionals will be glad to help!

Approximately once a week, your questions will be answered here by one of the participating PGA Professionals from Golf SouthWest.

This week, Scott Robbins, PGA Member Professional at City Pointe Golf Center in Dallas, Texas will be answering your questions.

Change my grip?

Scott Hicks of Westchester, OH writes: I have been taking golf lessons for three years, this is the first summer I have played on a true golf course. This fall I made the J.H. golf team. I have been using a baseball grip and the coach is trying to switch me to a interlocking grip. I experience no slice or hook , should I try and switch or stay with the grip I now use?

Scott Robbins: Scott, The golf grip serves two purposes. One is to square the clubface with the body and the other is to connect the big power muscles and transfer the power to the clubhead. The formation of that grip is determined by some personal things to each golfer. These include hand, wrist and arm strength; hand size; and personal preference.
The goal of the grip is to unify two hands into one unit that is square to the clubface and help square the clubface at impact and that will work together with the bigger muscles of your body to transfer the power generated by those muscles to the clubhead and ball.
My preference in instruction is the Vardon (also known as the overlapping) grip. I think it is the best way to unify the hands. However I do have pupils that have better success with the interlocking and full finger (you refer to it as a baseball) grips. If your hands are unified, square and control the club from twisting at impact, then I say use the grip you are using until you get too strong and feel one hand trying to dominate the other in the swing. Until that happens, as we say in Texas, “dance with the one who brung ya’.”
Good Luck, keep up the good work, play lots of golf and continue your fast improvement!
Scott Robbins

Best golf club?

– Ben Zera of Tallahassee, FL asks: What is the best golf club in your opinion (brand name)?

Scott Robbins: Ben, That is a great question. Obviously there are a bunch of top line golf clubs that Tour Professionals are playing. Yes they get paid to play the clubs they do but there is one thing in common to all those clubs. The clubs fit their swing, they don’t fit their swings to the clubs. That is what you should strive to find. You will go through a few sets from here out in your career as you grow taller and stronger and improve your swing technique.
Club fitting is a science. Be sure you find a PGA Professional experienced in club fitting. The clubhead should be any clubhead that looks good to your eye as you put it on the ground and also be sure the clubhead weights are very consistent throughout the set.
The most important part of the golf club is the shaft. First, get fit for length of the club for your height now. I have seen too any juniors have to change golf swings and pick up bad swing habits due to clubs that are too long and therefore too heavy for them. Secondly, find the right flex for your swing now. That flex will probably change in a couple of years.
The next thing is be sure the golf club has the right lie for you today. A too upright or too flat lie will cause you to adjust your golf swing to compensate for any incorrectly fit component.
Finally, be sure you have the proper grip size and type. All these factors should be consistent from club to club to provide a balanced set of clubs to play with.
Some companies with great fitting systems today are Titleist, Ben Hogan, Ping and probably the best system for fitting and most consistently and best built club is Adams Golf Company from Richardson Texas. If that is something appealing to you, their phone # is (214)644-2353.
Find a PGA Professional who can fit you properly and help you with your swing. Good Luck.
Scott Robbins

Can I go pro?

– John Amann of Westport MA asks: Hi, my name is John Amann and I am 16 years old. I have been playing golf now for two years and when I first started playing golf, I broke 100 after only my second time on a course. I was fourteen then and since that time I have lowered my handicap to about a 5, and I have gotten a hole in one, three eagles (from the fairway), and a low round of a 4 under par 68. I am at the point now that I know that this is showtime for me and if I dont get my act in gear, I will not make it to the P.G.A Tour, which is my dream and I will do anything to make it there.
But I’m not sure if I am just wasting my time? The PGA pro at my course does not have any faith in me at all! And all I hear from him is how Phil Mickelson was a scratch handicap player at my age, and Tiger Woods was a 5 handicap at age 11, and I shouldn’t get my hopes up on the tour. so my question is… is he right ? Can I ever make it to the tour ? or am I just wasting my time ???
I am playing golf so that one day I can make a living playing golf, I’m not playing golf just to do something with my time. I am confident that I can get on the tour, but I just have to inspiration from any of my family members or the PGA staff at my course. I have accomplished alot in two years, I’m the number one man on our high school golf team, and I personally think I have come a long way in two years. I practice at the very least 3 hours a day when I am not on the course and I love playing golf more than anything in the world, but am I just wasting my time, because if I am wasting my time then I am going to stop playing golf, and stop wasting my time.
And just one last question… I am five foot seven and only 125lbs I know I’m never going to be a John Daly but I do drive the ball consistantly 250 yards and hit my 7 iron about 160 yards, but when I pick up my 3 or 2 iron I only can hit it about 180-190 yards tops. Why do you think I could be losing distance with these clubs ? I hit every other clubs very well and my 3 wood i can hit about 230 yards easy… so does my weight have anything to do with this problem ? If I gained 20 lbs would I be a better long iron player ?? Please help me with my questions… any response would be greatly appreaciated. thank you

Scott Robbins: John, There is one way to find out if you are good enough to play on Tour. Practice hard, learn everything about the game, learn every shot you can, get a college education and go to Tour Qualifying School. There are players who were great as juniors and are great professionals now. For every one of those there are dozens and dozens who never made through Q School. For every one of those there are ones who never played well as a junior and are champions now like Lee Trevino. There are also Tour Professionals who did not play till they were older and now play professionally like Robert Landers on the Senior Tour and Calvin Peete who played and won on the Tour.
So who is to say today if you are good enough to make it on Tour while you are 16? Yes, everything you have been told Phil and Tiger are true. But what about the other Tour players who didn’t do that as kids. There are lots of professionals, winners and non winners making a living who did not have the success that those two did growing up. Some blossom later than others.
Don’t give up your dream. It is what life is made of. Shoot for the stars. Realize not everyone makes it. Prepare in case you don’t achieve your dream, but don’t abandon it until you know you have given it your very best shot and that your very best doesn’t achieve your goal. Then and only then will you be sure that you did do everything to try and achieve your goal. Decide realistically as you get closer to your goal what you will and won’t accept as your best effort.
Tom Lehman, the reigning British Open Champion decided he had not given it his best and turned down the Golf Coach position at the University of Minnesota to try the Nike Tour and he qualified for the PGA Tour. Look at him now. Give it your best.
Sometimes our best and our ability isn’t good enough. That’s O.K. As long as you try your best, feel like you gave it your best, you then are just as much a champion as Tom Lehman, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Decide what is best for you, what are your goals, and surround yourself with positive people and energy and get after it!!!!
To answer some other questions. Have a PGA Professional (one who is interested in helping you achieve your goals) check your technique to help you hit better long irons. Also, reigning PGA Champion Mark Brooks is not very big. I played college golf with Mark’s instructor, Doug Higgins and Doug and I were discussing the changes in Mark’s distance on the course. Mark feels like it is a combination of better technique (swing) and the conditioning and strength exercising he has been doing on Tour over the past few years.
Therefore, I encourage you to find a conditioning coach who can help you build strength and flexibility together to improve your physique to play the game. By the way, one of the best ways to build strength in the muscles you need for golf is to hit a ton of golf balls.
Good Luck. Surround yourself with positive people, work on and trust your technique, absorb all you can and don’t let go of your dreams.
Good Luck. I look forward to hearing from you.
Scott Robbins

Get rid of pesky slice

– Stephen Johnston of Campbell River B.C, Canada writes: I can’t get rid of my pesky slice, everytime I hit the ball off of the tee my ball goes into the trees. I play at a hard course and my game keeps on getting worse, can you help????

Scott Robbins: Stephen, Slices are the most common complaint the instructor will get. You slice the ball because your clubface at impact is facing right of target or your swing path or both and usually from the club chopping down at the ball instead of sweeping through the ball.
There are a lot of places to check. First check your grip. Be sure your hands are facing each other in a palm to palm “praying” type position. Then be sure to hold the club more in the fingers than the palms so that you cannot twist the club in your hands.
Secondly check your address and alignment positions. Alignment should be like the letter “H.” The far side of the letter should be your target line, the near side should be your feet and body line and the crossbar should be your club. You should be in an athletic posture. You should look as if you are ready to play defense as a guard in basketball, a short stop in baseball or a goalie in Hockey. Bent over at the waist, knees slightly flexed and spine straight.
Once you have a good grip and a good posture and alignment you are ready to swing. To keep the clubface square at impact you should concentrate on the club moving back by turning your chest away from target and holding the club over your back shoulder so that the back of your wrists are flat and in line with your forearms. From that position at the top you should then try and swing the club away from your body through impact so that your arms extend towards target after impact.
Try these tips and go see a PGA Professional who will be able to adjust your fundamentals and cure your slice!
Good Luck, Scott

Can I use longer clubs

– David Hansen of Cudahy, WI writes: I would like golf clubs for my birthday. Can I use longer clubs and hold them lower so I can use them for more years, or should I get ones that fit me now?

Scott Robbins: David, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!
I am a firm believer in clubs that fit a golfer at all stages of development. I have seen too many juniors with too big and heavy of clubs creating too difficult of swing errors just to swing too much club.
Get a set that is right for you now and have them extended as you get older. You can get clues that are a half to three quarter inch extra length, but much more than that can cause some swing problems.
Good luck and happy birthday and I hope you get to use those new clubs soon!
Scott Robbins

Can’t hit long irons

– Mike Stuewe of Cleveland, OH writes: My problem is I can’t hit my long irons. I can hit my 9 iron 110, my 8 iron 120, my 7 iron 135, and my 6 iron 155. My 3,4,5 iron bounce around 110. They stay low and feel like I’m hitting a rock. Can you help me?

Scott Robbins: Mike, It sounds as if your swing is too “choppy” with your longer clubs. This chopping motion shrinks the size of your swing which in turn lessens club head speed which in turns doesn’t create enough momentum to make the golf ball go far.
Try and start sweeping all your longer irons, if not all your irons. The wider and shallower (lower) you can bring the club back and through, the farther you will hit it.
Find a PGA Professional in Cleveland that can look at your swing and recommend the changes neccesarry to hit all your clubs!
Good Luck,
Scott Robbins

Is there one way to putt?

– Dan Traeger of Akron, OH writes: I am 14 and I was wondering if you have any information on the international junior golf tour. Also, I was wondering if you think there is one way to putt. my dad is a really good teacher but there seems to be a disagreement when it comes to my putting stroke. He wants me to putt conventionally but I like to putt a different way. I putt with a wide stance and an extreme forward press and have been averaging 30 putts a round with it and won two tournaments this summer and came second and third in many tournaments and am finally putting well for the first time in my life. what do you think? Also do you think hitting a s-wedge 115 yds. full is to far if you make a smooth swing . thanks.

Scott Robbins: Dan, Thanks for your letter. I will take your questions in reverse order.
Hitting a sand wedge 115 yards is fine as long as 1) you finish in balance and 2) you are consistent with your distance and accuracy.
Putting is a very individual subject. I don’t mess much with a student’s putting method as long as he/she can 1) star the putt on line for the first foot or two and 2) they can consistently control the distance they hit a putt. If you are hitting your putts on line and your distance control is good, putt it in the hole!!
I do not have information on the International Junior Tour. However the PGA of America might have some in thier Junior Golf Foundation. Contact them at “http://www.pgaonline.com” for more information.
Good Luck, Scott Robbins

PGM program?

– Kyle Burroughs of Columbia, IL asks: What are the universities that offer PGM program? Approved PGA or not would be appreciated.

Scott Robbins: Kyle,
I know of Ferris State, New Mexico State and Mississippi State right off hand but I would ask you to contact the PGA of America at “http://www.pgaonline.com” and they can give you all the information you need.
Good luck!
Scott Robbins

How to warm up?

– Nicole Faniola of Old Lyme, CT asks: How should you warm-up correctly for a big tournament? I often give myself an hour and I practice putting, iron shots, and a couple good drives. Then right before my tee off I get and hit some short putts to get me confident for the day ahead. Is there more I could and should be doing? Thanks for your help!

Scott Robbins: Nicole, What a great question.
You are doing a lot of the right things physically to get ready for a tournament from the swing stand point. However, before you swing you should stretch your ligaments and muscles.
Most tour pros differ in their exact routine but many of them look like this when written down. 1-1 1/2 hours before tee time, arrive at the golf course. (Use this time to check in and register if that is required for the tournament.) Start at the putting green for 15 – 30 minutes. Move to the range and hit warm ups. Some stretch before the putting green, some before they hit a ball and some warm up after they have hit 15-20 short sand or pitching wedge shots. They finish warm up in 20-40 minutes. They finish with some bunker shots and some return to the putting green for a final few putts, most don’t.
You also must prepare mentally. Before you ever get to tournament day and/or to the tournament site, you want to have already set a game plan in your head and/or preferably in writing. Your game lan should be whaat clubs you want to hit where off the tees, what strategy you want to use and play the whole round in your head before you get to the site. If you tend to get nervous (we all do) hen find something to help you relax, such as deep breaths, closing your eyes and imagine clouds and peaceful days, etc. As you warm up, have specific targets and rehearse your routine for hitting shots on the course.
There are some great books of instruction that talk about how to practice and how to prepare to play such as Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons, the Modern Fundamentals of Golf” and Jck Nicklaus’ “Golf My Way.” If I recall correctly, these are a couple that has some info on preparation. There are also tapes and/or books by Dr. Bob Rotella, Dr. David Coop, and Dr. Richard Coop who are all famous Sports Psychologists that can help with the mental side of prperation and playing.
I hope this helps. Look and find a successful playing PGA Professional in your area and go interview him/her and ask how he/she prepares.
Good Luck, Scott Robbins

What is a swing plane?

– Tyler Griffith of Palm City, Florida writes: I’m just beginning to golf (about 3 weeks now) and I think I got a knack for the sport. I just have a couple stupid questions that I’m too embarassed to ask 🙂 First, when pros chip a huge hunk of grass always flies up with the ball. Is that supposed to happen? Whenever I try to do that my club just stops. Second, I am wondering if you give lessons? If so where? Third, I have no idea what all this planes stuff is, could someone explain?!?! thanks a bunch

Scott Robbins: Tyler, There is no such thing as a stupid question!! We ask questions when we don’t understand things as you have done.
The chunks of earth or divots you see the tour players take is usually with the short irons which are short and upright (shaft doesn’t lean as much towards the body) and therefore creates a more up and down swing which will dig slightly into the ground. Your goal should be to try and sweep the ball off the ground with each swing. One of the greatest players of all time, Byron Nelson won 11 tournaments in a row and 13 total in 1945. Another pro, Jug McSpaden said the reason yron was so good was because he never took a divot and could control the ball better than anyone else.
Learn how to sweep the ground instead of digging into the ground.
Yes I do give lessons, in Dallas, Texas. That might be a little far for you to travel so you might want to contact the PGA of America at “http://www.pgaonline.com” and ask for some names of PGA Pro essionals in Panama City that you and your parents could go interview to find one you would feel comfortable taking lessons from.
Finally, let me try and clarify the swing plane. The simplest way is to ask you to get a hula hoop or bicyle tire and hold it parallel to the ground. That is what your baseball or tennis swing ould look like. Hold it one the gouund like it would be to ride on it on your bicycle. That is what your bowling or croquet swing will look like. Now take that hoop or bicycle tire and hold it ag inst a golf club that is soled on the ground. That wheel or hoop is what your swing should look like. That hoop that your swing will follow is the “plane” of your swing. I hope this helped.
Good luck with your golf.

Where are tournaments in California?

– Caroline Cabrera of Manila, Philippines asks: Where can I join tournaments for my age group in California? How can I join these tournaments? Who do you recommend in the Philippines I contact that is a member of your association?

Scott Robbins: Caroline, WHat a great ambition you have to go play in tournaments already at the age of 7! You have been smitten by the golf bug! Unfortunately, I do not have the information you need but I do have another web site for you to visit and they can answer all your questions.
Contact the PGA of America at “http://www.pgaonline.com” and ask for the address and phone numbers for the Southern California PGA and Junior Foundation. Also ask where you can find a PGA Member in the Phillipines. They are a great source for you.
Good luck. I look forward to hearing from you again!

Bunker shot tips?

– Jason Gironella of the Manila, Philippines writes: I’ve been playing since I was 9 years old. I’ve joined the optimist junior world in San Diego and some international tournaments. Now that I’ve been playing for almost 8 years, I’m still having a hard time hooking and making my ball draw accurately mostly with my driver. Also, can you give me some tips regarding short and long bunker shots like around 5 yards and 35-60 yards. Thank you so much.

Scott Robbins: Jason, Sounds like you have a pretty good game and have competed all over the world. How exciting!!!
Bunker play is a matter of understanding two letters of the English alphabet and how they apply to the flight of the golf ball. The two letters are “U” and “V”.
The “U” shaped swing will produce a lower ball flight, shallower and thinner cut of sand and therefore longer bunker shots. The reason is that the “u” shaped swing foces the sand out of the bunker owards target, therefore as the ball flies on the seat of sand, it is flying forward and lower and farther.
The “V” shaped swing produces the opposite. A higher ball flight, a deeper cut of sand and usually shorter bunker shots.
Use which one where? The longer (35-60 yard) bunker shots require a more “U” shaped swing. To produce this you should take a pretty normal stance (square, club face towards target) and stand a lit le closer to the ball and a little taller than normal. This will cause a shallower swing plane and a more “U” shape to the swing.
The shorter shots require a more “V” shaped swing. Stand a little farther away with a wider stance. Open the clubface to produce a loftier flight and turn your feet and body until your clubface is facing the target. Swing along your feet line and a little more steeply than usual (the wider stance will cause you to bend over more and create a steeper swing.
With both swings, to control distance all you have to do is practice and see how far the shot flies with different length of your backswing. Good Luck and find a PGA Professional to help you with your bunker play.

Turning my hips too much

– Maverick Percival of Orlando,FL writes: On my follow through I think that I am turning my hips to the left too much. How can I solve this?

Scott Robbins: Maverick, There are a couple of drills you can do to restict your hip turn coming through. One of the best ones is a drill that I know Mark Brooks (you’ve heard of him – 1996 PGA Champion) used right after the Masters this year.
Take your normal setup, drop your back foot back so that your feet and shoulders are at a 20-45 degree angle with your target line. Then hit balls trying to hit the ball towards target and finish in in a tall erect position facing target.
The best thing though is to go see one of the fine PGA Professionals in Orlando nad have him/her diagnose your swing faults and suggest the cures and drills that will work best for you.
Good Luck, Scott