How do you track shots during a round?

      — Matt, Antelope Valley

I usually use an iPhone app — like GolfShot — to track my statistics. It tracks all of the major statistical categories: putting, scrambling, bunkers, greens, and fairways. Better yet, its companion app — GolfPlan — analyzes the data to identify strengths and weaknesses relative to your handicap. A simple, effective way to monitor your progress.

What’s a good short game practice routine?

      — Matt, Antelope Valley

A great way to improve your short game — and your scoring — is a drill I call the scoring zone. Drop one ball inside 100 yards, then play it until you hole out. The trick is altering each hole. Different distances. Different lies. 45 yards on an upslope. 78 yards from the rough. 95 yards on a downslope. Every hole is a par three, and your goal is breaking par.

Focusing on this area of the scoring zone improves your putting, chipping, and partial wedge swing. This is where great scores are made — or lost.

How do I get your tips and tutorials?

      — Carter, Ontario

If you use a RSS reader, the easiest way is clicking the “RSS” link at the top or bottom of any webpage. This should create a feed in your preferred RSS application.

Alternatively, enter your email address in the sidebar.

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This creates a Google FeedBurner subscription. You will receive an email whenever new content is published. Best of all, you can easily unsubscribe — so you don’t have to fear an unwelcome email barrage.

As I’ve gotten older, I “hit” more with my shoulders to regain power. But I’ve sacrificed tempo and balance. Any drills to help me get back to “swinging” the club?

      — Richard, Avon

Great question. It’s a common problem plaguing many golfers.

The role of the shoulders in the downswing is almost non-existent. The major contributors are (in this order): hips, arms, and wrists. If they do anything, it comes after the hips initiate the downswing. The right shoulder tilts down toward the ball about 5 inches. This allows the arms to drop in close. That’s all they do! Just knowing that should help, and give you a better picture of how little the shoulders contribute.

How can I strike the sweet spot more often?

      — Ken, United Kingdom

Ken, you’re in luck! I just published the latest episode of Z-School — my online curriculum to improve specific aspects of your game. This installment addresses iron compression.

Upgrading Tommy Armour 845 irons (steel stiff). Considering Callaway X2s. My 7-iron swing speed is 85mph. I’m 48, fit, and a good ball-striker. Stiff or regular flex?

      — Chris, Estero

Tommy Armour 845s? What a great set… 20 years ago! All kidding aside, they were one of the best irons. With today’s technology, however, it’s time for an upgrade.

The Callaway X2 Hot Pro irons are a great set — especially for the price — plus they come with a great stock shaft in the True Temper Project X95. Slightly lighter weight than the Original Project X. If you compare the standard loft and shaft length from your 845s to the new X2 irons, you will probably gain one club in distance right there. Plus more forgiveness with the X2’s without losing that classic iron look.

I would stay with the stiff shaft — your swing speed numbers can handle it no problem. You might gain a little distance with a regular shaft, but you would lose consistency. Plus, you are already accustomed to the stiff flex.

I would treat yourself to an upgrade. I see no downside — only more distance with the same effort. And I promise they will be easier to hit in the long irons.

What does “hitting down on the ball” mean? Does one think of bringing the butt of the club down towards the ball and to the left of the body (i.e., “low and left”)?

      — Donna

I like your mantra for hitting down on the ball: “low and left.” I usually tell my students “down and left.” Either one works great. However, remember at the end of the day you want educated hands and wrists, that naturally do all of this, with no conscious though. However, this is exactly how you train them.

Where should one feel lag in the right hand? If I do punch shots, I feel it in the heel of the hand — not the trigger finger.

      — Donna

Excellent! Very perceptive. I can tell you are a student of the game.

The heel of the right hand should definitely lead the trigger finger/index finger into the impact area. Be sure to remain soft in the hands and arms as this is happening — so centrifugal force and angular momentum will naturally unhinge the right wrist and club.

How do you transition from two balls to one ball in the shank drill?

      — Aaron

Great question.  First of all, this can be a difficult transition, because you are going from lots of feedback to no feedback.  So ensure you can hit at least 6 consecutive solid shots with the two-ball drill.  Once you eliminate the second ball: (1) address the remaining ball slightly off the toe, and (2) envision that second ball just outside of the ball you are hitting.  Be very conscious of keeping the hands arms and club close to your body through the hitting area.  And if you shank 2 or more balls in a row at any time, go back to the two-ball drill.

See Two-Ball Drill and Never Shank Again lesson.

I want to buy a new driver. I’m 54 and have an 85 mph swing speed. Any recommendations?

      — Rocky

I’m reluctant to recommend equipment — particularly without evaluating the swing. It’s akin to an optometrist prescribing glasses before conducting an eye exam. But (as my wife will attest) common sense never stopped me before.

I recommend several drivers, including the:

  • Titleist 915D2. Titleist makes fantastic drivers. I particularly like the 915’s configuration mechanism. The 915D2 appears a nice compromise between forgivability and a traditional player club. It looks great, too.
  • TaylorMade R15. There’s a reason why TaylorMade makes the world’s most popular drivers — constant innovation. It’s always worth testing the latest TaylorMade driver, if only to compare the latest trend with the other manufacturers.
  • Srixon Z545. I play the Srixon Z545 driver. It’s excellent. Full disclosure: Srixon’s a sponsor. But the titanium cup face is hot and low spinning — adding penetration, roll, and reducing side spin. And the Quick Tune System is intuitive and easy-to-use.

You might also consider one of last year’s models. Most changes in golf equipment are evolutionary — not revolutionary. Last year’s models usually offer great technology with deep discounts.

We live in a golden age of golf equipment. Today’s technology, materials, and engineering are better than ever. The market’s flush with great drivers. You can’t go wrong with any of the major brands.

But be sure to get fitted for the shaft as well as the head. Shafts are frequently overlooked but easily as important as the club head.