Practice Pitching Like the Pros

In this week’s pro tip, local pro Jason Rudolph, explains why and how to practice a critical part of the short game. If you want to shoot lower scores and practice like a pro, then read on.

A typically under-estimated part of every golfer’s game is the short game. Practiced ability in pitching, chipping and putting is what always separates decent players from the really good players. After spending over five years at Torrey Pines Golf Course watching and talking to numerous PGA Tour players, I can say that this is the one area of their game that they work on the most. The best comment I have ever heard from a tour player was from David Duval. A reporter asked him why he spends so much time around the greens. His comment was “I can hit the driver just fine, but from 100 yards and in is where I will win or lose a tournament”

If you want to improve your game and start shooting lower scores, work on this area of your game. One way I practice pitch shots at different yardages is to set targets. Starting at 25 yards, I’ll lay down a small towel on the ground. Then I will go about every 15 yards and put another target out until I have six targets on the ground from 25 to 100 yards. When I start hitting, I will take aim first at the 25 yard mark and work my way up to 100 yards, hitting about 25 balls at each target. Some of you may not have time to hit that many balls during a typical practice session, so perhaps you can start at 10 balls to each target. Another challenge could be that you just cannot run out on the range (and into the line of fire) to set targets if there are other golfers on the range. If that’s the case, try to find other targets at varying distances, like a drain, the edge of the teeing ground, a brown patch of grass. A laser range finder works well for this drill whether you are setting out towels or finding existing targets to use.

Make sure you use proper technique for pitching and make note of how many balls you put on or near your targets. If you start using a routine like this and do purposeful and deliberate practice, you will hit more greens and find you have a lot more makeable putts after shots from 100 yards and in – and that, will lead to lower scores. Of course, this drill only covers part of the short game. Don’t forget to spend time practicing chipping and putting too.


Innsbrook Public Golf Course review

innsbrook course

Those who haven’t visited the Innsbrook Public Golf Course for a few years tend to be in for a bit of a jolt when they visit now, thanks to the various upgrades the course has performed recently, including a renovated clubhouse.

“We did a major clubhouse renovation two years ago,” says Kevin Corn, PGA Head Golf Professional at Innsbrook. “Now when people come into the building who haven’t been here in a while, they say they feel like they’re in the wrong building.”

But once they hit the first hole, they quickly realize they’re in the right place, The numerous lakes, wildlife, and beautiful views that make this 18-hole course located 45 minutes west of St. Louis so appealing are still in place … along with the upgraded amenities.


“Three years ago when I got here, there were a ton of problems course wide,” Corn says. “Now it’s back more to: What do we need specific to each hole?”

With the primary upgrades completed, golfers won’t have to worry about running into any major areas under construction during their rounds at Innsbrook. Players can just relax and enjoy their rounds and the scenery at the golf course.

“We’ve done so much work really leading up to this year, it’s more targeted projects now for small areas,” Corn says.

One of those targeted projects is reworking the course’s cart paths. Corn says many golfers have made mention of the new cart paths when they visit the course.


“We’ve got seven holes done so far,” he says. “It was planned as a three-to-five-year project. We didn’t want to shut down the course, so we’re doing it a few holes each year.”

Ultimately, the golf course selected projects for upgrades aimed at making the course better from the player’s point of view, Corn says. The Innsbrook course was built in 1981, so the work has come at a good time, giving the course a nice refresh.

“The improvements were geared toward making the course more playable and enjoyable,” Corn says. “We were looking to improve pace of play, which ties right into making the course more playable. … If you hit a good shot, you get rewarded.”

Innsbrook’s par-70 layout doesn’t yield a long course, measuring 6,527 yards from the back tees and 5,765 yards from the middle tees. Players can pick from five sets of tees at Innsbrook.


“It’s a shorter golf course, but it’s not easy by any means,” Corn says.

Corn says the course requires precise shot making because some of the fairways don’t offer wide landing areas. With plenty of wooded areas and with water hazards in play on 14 of the 18 holes, golfers need to make smart shots during the round.

“It’s a fairly tight golf course,” Corn says. “You’ve got to keep the ball in play.”

The most memorable hole at Innsbrook is number 16, a par-4 that plays 424 yards from the back tees and 389 yards from the middle tees. It is the number three handicap hole on the course. Number 13 is another memorable hole, as it features a lake along the left side of the fairway, which provides a challenge on the par-5 hole that plays 522 yards from the back tees and 478 yards from the middle tees.


“Hole 16 is probably the one hole that really shows off what Innsbrook as a whole is about,” Corn says. “You can see number 13 from the tee. Two of the bigger lakes on the property are visible. There really isn’t an individual view that defines Innsbrook as well as that hole does.”

Innsbrook has multiple practice greens, a practice bunker, and a driving range, giving golfers plenty of options for working on their game before stepping onto the first tee. Additionally, lessons are available at the course.

One interesting aspect of the Innsbrook Golf Course is that it is part of a larger resort property. At the resort, you can book conferences, weddings, and every event in between, while also allowing guests to spend the night on property. Resort guests are able to use the property’s lakes, as well as participate in activities such as horseback riding, canoeing, and hiking.


Corn says that the golf course and resort work well together. Many golfers will stay overnight at the resort for meetings and other events, and squeeze in 18 holes – or 36 holes or more. With the resort portion of Innsbrook, Corn says the golf course itself doesn’t have to offer many special events to drive traffic.

“Our weekends stay so busy that we really don’t do a lot on the weekends as far as events,” Corn says. “We’re ideal for that group of 15 to 40 or so players that want to get away for a couple of days and play golf. You don’t have to go very far to enjoy your weekend here.”

Having the resort attached and having the golf course located inside a private property area does present one problem for Innsbrook, as Corn says some golfers don’t think they can play there. But the word public is in the name of the Innsbrook Public Golf Course for a reason.


“It’s one of the tough things we fight, because we’re in a gated community,” Corn says. “People kind of assume we’re private.”

When you’re looking to book a tee time at Innsbrook, Corn says the best prices are available at the course’s web site. And if Innsbrook’s amazing views aren’t enough to draw you to the course, the views of the wildlife at the course very well could be.

“You virtually always see deer on the course and turkey,” Corn says. “Bald eagles are out there, and all kinds of birds of prey. There have been days where I’ve been out on the course and see the eagles circling. No matter how many times you see it, it’s pretty amazing.”

The Landings at Spirit

The links style layout at The Landings at Spirit Golf Club provides St. Louis area golfers with some interesting playing conditions. And, as regular visitors to the course can attest, those playing conditions may change from day to day, depending on the wind and speed of the greens.

Because of changes in the wind, there are days at The Landings where players may see a three club difference in approach shots on the same hole from one round to the next.

The wind also gives the par-72 course some bite, even though it plays only 6,788 yards from the tips and 5,898 yards from the middle tees. The wind forces players to be precise with club selection and ball placement. It also can cause the course to play longer on certain days, contributing to the feeling that golfers are almost playing a different course each time they tee it up at The Landings at Spirit Golf Club.


But it’s those fast, impressive bent grass greens that draw players back to The Landings at Spirit.

The greens at The Landings are among the fastest in the St. Louis area, sometimes reaching a 10 reading or higher on the Stimp meter, depending in part on the heat of the day and whether the wind is drying the greens.

And the greens are large, making for some interesting approach shots. Players want to be precise with iron shots to avoid a challenging putt over a large distance on the fast putting surface, as many of the greens on the course have two tiers.

In total, the 18 greens at The Landings at Spirit occupy nearly five acres of space, which is close to double that of a typical golf course. Three of the greens on the course are double greens – holes 2 and 8, holes 4 and 6, and holes 3 and 7 – further emphasizing the feel of a Scottish links course.

landings golf course

To prepare for the challenging greens at The Landings at Spirit, players can work on their putting on the course’s huge putting green. It occupies about 0.75 of an acre with features similar to what you’ll find on the course’s greens. You also can work at the chipping green, a bunker with a 6-foot depth, and a long bunker.

The Landings at Spirit Golf Club sits parallel to the runway at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, Missouri. And the course plays up its proximity to the airport and airplanes by naming each of the five sets of tees after different military planes: Hornet, Harrier II, Phantom II, Super Connie, and Super Cub.

The Landings has several memorable holes, highlighted by the par-5 11th hole. It measures 553 yards from the back tees and 513 yards from the middle tees, making it the second longest hole on the course. It has a three-tiered green with out of bounds on the right. A series of mounds provides protection for the green.

Landings 2 green

You’ll find several high risk/reward holes at The Landings at Spirit too, as a handful of the par-4 holes are drivable, including the first hole. It measures 359 yards from the back and 300 yards from the middle tees. Other potential drivable par-4 holes include the sixth hole (320 yards from the back tees), 10th hole (358 yards from the back tees), 14th hole (340 yards from the back tees), and 15th hole (354 yards from the back tees).

In addition to its golf offerings, The Landings at Spirit also hosts a variety of events. Jaclyn Tripp, the Assistant Manager and Special Events Coordinator at The Landings at Spirit, says the course has greatly expanded its event hosting efforts in the past couple of years. The course hosts weddings, receptions, showers, banquets, and parties, as well as a variety of other events.

“We’ve broadened out to meetings, seminars, training sessions, and more,” Tripp says. “We have a lot of people who ask to do photo sessions too.”

The golf club can host events indoors as well as outdoors. Tripp says the course makes use of a 40-by-80-foot outdoor tent for gatherings that those who book the course often cite as their favorite aspect of the event.

“With a large event with 200 to 250 people, we can host that event [in the tent] and with the great lighting effects we have,” Tripp says. “And what’s better than being 10 feet from the golf course? It’s kind of like a little park setting. So you are literally right here by the course.”

landings golf course

The Landings at Spirit has a bar and grill area that caters to golfers and that serves burgers, brats, and hot dogs.

“It’s a simple menu for the golfers,” Tripp says.

For catering for its events, The Landings at Spirit has an extensive menu of food options, including grilled chicken, salmon, and pork, as well as gluten free and vegetarian options. The catering menu includes full meals, as well as appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, and bar services.

“Last year we had six weddings,” Tripp says. “This year, we had doubled up on the marketing, and we have 24 or 25 weddings. We’re definitely growing and looking to expand. I am crossing my fingers that we can double and triple the following year too.”

Tripp says some renovations are planned on The Landings at Spirit course this year, although the timing is still unsure. She says the increased number of events that the course is able to host allows for making extra renovations, meaning golfers are able to benefit from the events too, even if they don’t directly participate.

For those who want to learn more about the latest golfing related events at The Landings, Tripp says the course’s Facebook page is a great place to check. She says the course even has themed weeks for golfers that are announced on the Facebook page. Additional information about the events at the course are available on the club’s main web site ( and at its events site (

Driver Tech for Your Game

When did golf become so darn… techy?

Sure, golf has always feigned the appearance of a sophisticated, erudite game, but check out the diction being used by some of golf’s most trusted names: “titanium Exo-Cage,” “ultralight triaxial carbon crown,” “acoustic engineering,” “turbulators,” “Vortect technology.”
The list goes on, all the way to biomimicry and “geocoustics.”

Most in your Sunday morning crew didn’t study astrophysics in college, so after parsing through that mumbo jumbo technological jargon, here’s what you need to know: The innovations Callaway, Titleist, Srixon, Ping, and Taylormade, among others, are introducing to golf technology are working immensely in your favor.

From 1980 to 1993, the average driving distance on the PGA Tour increased a whopping three yards, from 257 to 260. By 2017? That number was just 10 yards shy of the coveted 300-yard threshold – and that’s an average. As of the beginning of Masters week 2017, there were 35 players on the PGA Tour averaging better than 300 yards off the tee.

This can be attributed to a wide variety of factors – balls, player improvement, course maintenance, weather – but club technology is inarguably chief among them. So whether you’re a layman or one of the aerospace experts working with Callaway, all you really need to know is this: It’s easier to make a little white ball go a long, long way.

big bertha fusion
Callaway Big Bertha Fusion

Perhaps the most reliable name in golf when it comes to the big stick, Callaway’s Big Bertha, is back and easier to hit than ever. How this is done is actually fairly rudimentary. Callaway simply restructured where the weight of the club would lie, moving the heavier materials to the perimeter of the club and the lighter aspects to the face.

What this allows is a driver that still maintains force – or that signature “pop” off impact – while being maneuverable along the face of the club, making for a bigger hitting window for the user. Essentially, it’s a mid- to high-handicapper’s dream, as the Big Bertha has always touted itself to be. What’s different is that the crown is made of a material – Callaway calls it a “titanium Exo-Cage and ultralight triaxial carbon crown” – that is 65 percent lighter than standard titanium, portending higher swing speeds yet also increased forgiveness.

The shape and look of the club is a bit wonky, far from the typical half-moon you would find on most drivers. It’s sharper, more of an egg-like look. Callaway claims this increases aerodynamics and a more efficient and faster movement through the swing.

big bertha epic
Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic

This isn’t just the Big Bertha. Nor is it the Great Big Bertha. It’s the Great Big Bertha Epic. A name can be just that – a name – but when adding a descriptor like “epic” onto one of the most successful club lines in golf, well, Callaway must mean business with its latest version of Big Bertha.

The Epic features what Callaway calls “Jailbreak technology.” There is a fair amount of scientific jargon in terms of what this technology does and how, exactly it does it, but what the average golfer needs to know is this: It “changes how the head and face behave at impact to promote more speed across a larger area of the face for increased average distance,” per Callaway’s website.

The Epic isn’t so much trying to differentiate itself from previous lines of the Big Bertha as it is from the XR 16, of which it is 64 percent lighter, a cut-down due to a carbon crown as opposed to titanium.

The end result is higher ball speed and a slightly higher launch, but with less spin – all of which promote more carry and more distance off the tee. Not bad, huh?

titleist 917 D3
Titleist 917 D3

Similar to Callaway, Titleist is touting a lighter club face for increased forgiveness without sacrificing power. But what Titleist seems to have focused on in regards to the D3 is reducing spin off of impact – which results in more distance – and a lower launch angle. With less spin, the ball will be more likely to cut through the air, and a lower launch angle will reduce the amount of drives that seem to balloon off impact.

Where Titleist differentiates itself is in its movable weight. Virtually every manufacturer offers a driver with customizable features, but the D3 has a neutral and a top-heavy setting that golfers can toggle between, depending on their preference, as opposed to the standard “draw, neutral, fade” options offered on most other drivers.

The neutral setting is designed for forgiveness, as the weight will be lower on the club. The top-heavy option is exactly as it sounds, keeping the weight back so the golfer can maximize control of the ball flight.

srixon z565 driver
Srixon Z565

Where Titleist zigged, Srixon zagged. Titleist sought a lower launch angle with its D3, and Srixon, in the Z565, aimed for a higher launch with a draw bias. Now, is the draw bias going to fix that massive slice that keeps calling out of bounds home? No. It’s simply a club with a heel-favored sweet spot, which encourages a nice, right-to-left (for righties) ball flight.

What appears to be the main objective of the Z565, however, is forgiveness. Srixon expanded the face of the club, creating almost a wrap-around effect, which provides better performance on off-center impacts. Four grams of weight, in fact, were removed from the crown and restructured throughout the club, lowering the center of gravity and thereby creating a more forgiving club face.

An appeal for the Srixon, for some, is that it went back to basics when it comes to club aesthetics. It has become vogue for drivers to be decorated with logos or designs, shapes, “speed tracks,” or any other visually pleasing appeal (we’re looking at you, Ping and TaylorMade). Srixon reversed course, going with the standard black top with a chrome face.
No frills. Just hit the ball and watch it fly.

ping g driver
Ping G

Dragonflies and drivers. They don’t seem to be the most likely of duos, and yet that’s exactly what Ping has done with the G. PING claims that its engineers “analyzed the dragonfly’s intricate wing pattern to design ultra-thin crown sections for extreme CG and maximized MOI.”
To translate: Engineers took a look at how a dragonfly’s wings work and mimicked that movement with its driver to optimize its center of gravity and forgiveness.

As you might expect, a club that was loosely based off of an insect has a unique look to it, with curves and ridges on the crown that make the club more aerodynamic. As has been PING’s modus operandi, however, the latest model is one based on forgiveness, as its massive clubface suggests.

The G is light and large, with an emphasis on reducing spin and the launch angle, which should appeal to golfers of all handicaps.

taylor m2
TaylorMade M2
It is no coincidence that the man leading the PGA Tour in driving distance, Dustin Johnson, plays TaylorMade. TaylorMade has long been synonymous with woods, and Johnson’s 316.2 yards per drive – four yards longer than No. 2 Luke List – are a testament to that.

Johnson, however, is bombing away with an M1, though it’s only a matter of time until he makes the upgrade to the M2, which offer a similar look with slightly different features. The M2 boasts what TaylorMade is calling “Geocoustic sole shaping,” in which the club’s “sunken sole shape enables a larger clubface,” and a larger clubface invariably leads to increased forgiveness. But where many drivers might sacrifice distance for forgiveness, the M2 kept power at the forefront.

The M2 has a lighter crown with a sturdy base, making for a low center of gravity and thereby increasing distance. Similar to the Srixon, the M2 also features a draw bias with its heel-based weight, another aspect designed to maximize distance off the tee.