Ask the Expert

Paul Leahy
Check out what our expert has to say about your golf questions.

I am having a lot of trouble hitting my short pitch shots around the greens fat. How can I improve my chipping?

Laura P., Montreal

This is a common problem for a lot of players. My assumption is you are attempting to help the ball get in the air which causes you to hit behind the ball. The next time you set up for a short pitch or chip position the ball slightly behind the middle of your stance. Open your front foot to allow your chest to also be slightly open and pointed toward your attended target. Put about 60 to 70 percent of your weight on your lead foot and swing the club on your attended target line going back. Be careful not to swing it to the inside.

Go ahead and make some short pitch shots with your weight remaining on your lead foot throughout, as this will promote clean contact with the ball. Try to allow the club to get the ball airborne by turning your chest to the target on your follow through. If your weight goes to your back foot during the shot, you will continue to have an issue making clean contact with the ball.

Which course or courses at the Lake of the Ozarks would be best for a beginner?

Brandon A., Rocky Mount

All the courses at the Lake of the Ozarks have tees designed for beginner golfers, which will shorten the total yardage of the course to accommodate all skill levels. The other things I would consider is to find a course that is as flat as possible, as hitting the golf ball from uneven lies is extremely challenging. On the driving range you are practicing from a relatively flat lie so finding a course to replicate these conditions will make your transition from the range to the course more enjoyable. Taking these elements into consideration your most beginner-friendly facilities are Lake Valley Country Club, Rolling Hills Country Club, Redfield Golf Club and Eldon Golf Club.  These facilities don’t have some of the dramatic elevation changes that some of the others have that make them challenging because of all the uneven lies.

When I go out to practice, what tips could you give me so I can get the most out of my practice time as I am limited on how much I can get out?

Jack D., Jefferson City

This is a great question and most golfers don’t think enough about their practice habits.  First, I would try to plan an hour if possible of dedicated practice time. Try to find a spot where there is as little interruption as possible and start by stretching and preparing your body. You hit more full shots on the driving range than you do on the course most days so you need to prepare by stretching and conditioning your muscles.

Always have a plan as to what you are going to work on. I would recommend always practicing with a club or alignment stick laid on the ground so assure that you are aligned properly and hitting your shots at your intended target. Don’t just drag balls over and hit, not knowing where you are actually aiming. Have fun with your practice time. Play 18 holes on the range at your favorite course. Pretend you’re teeing off on the first hole, use the club you would hit off the tee and play each hole visualizing the shot you want to hit. This will slow down your ball hitting and help you prepare to play the next round of golf. Just don’t poor your bucket out and hit 60 drivers, you won’t accomplish much and will probably create bad habits as you will get tired.

I would spend half your practice time on shots under 100 yards and putting, as this area of the game equates to more shots on the course than any other area. Use your time wisely and I know it will lower your scores and help you enjoy the game more.

Paul Leahy is a PGA Golf Professional and the Director of Golf at The Oaks at Margaritaville Lake Resort.