When Blake Doty was a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, the Rolling Road Golf Club -- just a pitching wedge away -- caught his attention.
“I was going to UMBC and I saw a golf course, and I got a job here as a cart boy six or seven years ago,” said Doty, 25.
He decided to leave UMBC and focus on golf. After attending the Golf Academy of America in South Carolina, Doty returned to Maryland and became the assistant pro at Norbeck Country Club, in Rockville.
In 2013, Rolling Road head golf professional Bill Bassler Jr. hired him as an assistant. Doty, who lives in Laurel, gives about five or six lessons a week.
He offered the following 10 tips to helps golfers lower their scores.
“It’s stuff that a beginner can really pick up on,” Doty said. “It’s not necessarily like the technical common stuff.”
1: Practice under pressure
Make games out of your practice routine.
“Instead of chipping 25 balls to the hole, maybe just chip one ball to the hole and then try to putt it in,” Doty said. “Try to get up and down, instead of just sitting there hitting balls to the hole. Practice real golf situations.”
2: Proper equipment
It all starts with having the proper tools. Make sure you get equipment that works for you.
“Every golfer can benefit from golf clubs that are properly fit to their golf swing,” said Doty. “The most important thing is the shaft. The old guys that were using persimmon (wood drivers) were hitting it a certain distance, but then they lost distance, but saw that the new equipment added that distance and now and they are hitting it the same distance that they did with the persimmon drivers.”
3: Tee it forward
One of the keys to speeding up the game is playing from the proper tees.
“Play a set of tees that matches your skill level,” Doty said. “The USGA is really promoting that right now and most people that watch golf have seen that. You want to have a shorter club in your hand. The pros aren’t hitting 4-irons into every green.”
The blue tees at Rolling Road, which are the furthest back and designed for the longest hitters, are 6,174 yards for 18 holes. The white tees are 5,953 and the red tees are 5,644.
4: Pre-shot routine
“Have a method of addressing the ball and really rely on that,” said Doty, who starts with the same look from behind the ball for every shot from the fairway. “Be consistent about doing the same thing every time.”
If your alignment is out of whack, so will most of your shots.
“When you are going through your pre-shot routine, you should have a way of aligning yourself to your shot,” Doty suggested. “Proper alignment will lead to better golf shots.”
5: Slow and low backswing
Stay grounded when starting the backswing.
“Take the club away low and slow and keep the head of the club low to the ground as long as possible,” Doty said. “That creates a larger arc and that will create more clubhead speed and more distance.”
This is especially important when hitting woods off the fairway or drivers off the tee.
“That’s something I really push on people when they are driving,” Doty said.
6: Loosen your grip
If you want to stay out of the trees and enjoy the fairways, don’t strangle the club.
“To hit more fairways, grip the club very lightly, have a smooth tempo and remain balanced throughout the swing,” Doty said. “If you feel like if your forearms are really flexing, you are gripping the club too strong.”
7: Fairway bunkers
Amateurs tend to get intimidated when hitting out of a fairway bunker far from the green, but Doty insists it’s not a hard shot if you follow one simple rule..
“The most important aspect of hitting shots from a fairway bunker is making contact with the ball first,” he said. “I like to put the ball a little bit back in my stance and maybe take an extra club and actually choke down on it.”
Be sure to use a club with enough loft to get it over the lip of the bunker.
“You can’t use your 4-iron if you have a huge lip,” Doty said.
8: Read the green
Don’t just admire your ball when it’s on the green. Get a good panoramic view of what surrounds the hole.
“When reading the green, try to determine where the low point of the hole is,” Doty said. “This will help you determine how the ball is going to break around the hole and how much uphill or downhill the putt will be.”
Looking at a downhill putt only from above the hole could lead to a putt that leaves you feeling down.
“I’m sure you realize if you look at the hole from above the hole, you don’t see how far downhill it is,” he said. “But if you go below the hole, you can really see the slope a lot better. So I like to try to make sure I read the greens from the low point of the hole.”
9: Let it roll
When chipping from off the green, the more the ball rolls, the better chance you have of getting it near the hole.
“Use a club with less loft and let the ball roll longer,” Doty suggested. “I like to practice my chipping with an 8-iron. Keeping the ball on the ground is much easier to control than flying the ball. Just let it roll. It’s so much easier to control.”
10: Make the putt
If you trust your putting skills, don’t hesitate to use your putter any chance you get.
“Putt when you can, chip when you can’t and pitch when you have to,” Doty said. “If you can putt the ball, that is always your best option. If you don’t have anything in your way, putt it. If you can’t putt it, chip it, because chipping is pretty easy.”
Using an 8-iron and bumping it up and letting it run is Doty’s preferred shot around the green, but sometimes obstacles like trees or bunkers make that impossible.
“If you have to hit a shot when you are flying it in the air, that’s your last option. You never go to that first,” he said.