Fox Hollow apprentice golf pro offers 10 tips for better game

When the Baltimore County Junior Golf Academy wraps up the second of four of its summer sessions for youth ranging in age from 6 to 15 at Fox Hollow Golf Club in Timonium July 17, apprentice professional golfer John Rosecrans will return to teaching adult players the finer points of a sport that is difficult to master, regardless of the player's age.

Because those adults are usually at a loss to figure out why they can't coax a drive on the fairway or keep a putt from sliding off the green, Rosecrans and his Fox Hollow colleagues are prepared to help with a few timely tips that should help ease some of their frustration.

According to Rosecrans, a Cockeysville resident and Towson University grad, trying to reinvent the wheel, golf-wise, is not the best way to go to keep scores low and enthusiasm high.

Here are his some of his tips to make the golf course more user-friendly this summer .

1. Getting a grip — It all starts with how the club is held. Firm is good, squeezing is bad news. Whether it is interlocking (pinkie of one hand intertwined with forefinger of the other hand), overlapping (pinkie behind the knuckle on the opposite forefinger or baseball-style (hands adjacent), using a proper grip technique can make the difference for the key components of golf — distance and direction.

2. Positive position — For longer distance, the ball should be aligned so an imaginary line drawn from the ball to the inside of the left foot (for a right-handed swing) and then forms a 90-degree angle toward the right foot. When using a wedge, the ball should be farther back toward the right foot — or more to the middle of the stance. By swinging in a downward motion, it creates loft with a backspin for getting out of tricky lies.

3. In good standing — A solid stance is the foundation for a sound golf swing and solid ball striking. Equal weight distribution on each foot with feet aligned with the shoulders, while feet, knees, hips, forearms, shoulders and eyes are parallel to the direction of ball's projected flight line, helps players' address the ball with confidence.

4. Mean green — If putting is not the end-all and be-all of golf, it's on the short list of keys to the game.

"It's the most important part of golf," says Rosecrans, 23, who is working his way through the ranks of qualifying levels to become a full-fledged professional instructor. He advises players to sit two tees a club-width apart on the putting green and then practice the art of swinging the club head between the tees without hitting them.

5. Slow it down — "The biggest mistake players make is swinging too hard" with a driver, Rosecrans warns. And, as already discussed, keeping a light grip on the club as weight is shifted backward on the backswing will start things off well. The next step is to use a controlled pace on the downswing while making sure hands are always stationed in front of the club head.

"Most people want to hit it 110 percent," Rosecrans adds. "But when you watch the pros play, they don't swing as hard as you think."

6. Playing rough — Getting the ball from the rough, does not require Popeye-type muscle, even though some golfers refer to the higher grass outside the fairway as "spinach."

A nice even swing with a steeper downward arc is the best way to make the ball elevate out of trouble.

7. Drive time — In addition to not overswinging, a good way to work on accuracy with irons from the driving range is to pick a target 70 yards away and see how many times the ball lands in the target area. Increase distances in 10-yard increments while keeping a target in mind. 

8. Short and sweet — It's not just on the green that top players excel.

"When you look at your scorecard after a round, you'll notice that most of your shots are from 100 yards and in," Rosecrans. "That's why the short game is so important."

9. Staying loose — Rosecrans says that he uses some core exercises from P90X — or Power 90 Extreme, an intense commercial home exercise regimen — and he throws in some yoga, too.

"You don't want to bulk up by lifting a lot of weights," he insists. "Flexibility is the key."

10. Keep it fun — If there's a hula hoop handy, practice chipping into the middle of the 1950s-era toy. If a plastic hoop is not available, lie a club down and chip the ball over it.

Or think of other ways to lighten up while being serious about improving.

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