Don't tell unless asked is an unwritten rule of golf etiquette when it comes to offering swing tips.
However, when the advice comes from a golf instructor, a person who knows every facet of the game - from what club to use to the importance of the mental game - we'd be foolish not to accept it.
Following are 15 tips from golf professionals who work from Santa Barbara to San Diego. While the tips range from putting and driving to flexibility and mental preparation, they have one thing in common: follow them and you'll lower your scores.
1. PRACTICE ANYWHERE YOU CANMost people have one complaint when it comes to practicing: they don't have an extra half hour a week to go to the range. While there is no substitute for an effective practice session at the range, it's possible to practice in your back yard or living room, says Justin Stotts, manager of Golftec, a Woodland Hills indoor instructional facility.
"The hardest thing when it comes to golf is muscle memory," Stotts said. "But that can be worked on just about anywhere. You try to create the swing wherever you're at - maybe holding a club or even a fork in your hand. The thing is, you have to know what you're working on, and that's going to take a lesson from a pro who will show you what you should be concentrating on."
2. GET TO THE COREFitness and stretching are key to improving golf performance, with the core - abdominal muscles, lower trunk, legs and shoulders - being the most important areas of concentration.
"That's where the power of the swing comes from, and those are also the parts of the body that give you endurance," said Eric Horve, director of golf instruction at Tustin Ranch Golf Club. "Most people start to lose focus after 14 holes, and strengthening their core can help them stay focused."
But leave the heavy lifting to bodybuilders. Golfers should concentrate on more repetitions with lighter weight to build endurance and retain flexibility, Horve said.
Yoga also is becoming a popular way for golfers to build core strength.
"It's all over the golf industry right now," Horve said of golf-specific yoga exercises. "It's unbelievable how effective it can be."
3. ESTABLISH A PRE-SHOT ROUTINELike the swing, pre-shot routines require practice.
"You practice it on the range and it produces a high probability" that the shots you make are the shots you want, said David Wurzer, director of instruction at Westridge Golf Club. "A solid pre-shot routine gives a level of consistency that will help any golfer gain a higher probability of success in their shots."
The essential components of a pre-shot routine include: thinking (gathering information, such as the lie of the ball, distance from the hole and wind); sensing (imaging and visualizing the shot); and commitment (trusting that the cognitive and intuitive parts of the routine are where they're supposed to be).
4. THE QUARTER DRILLOne of the quickest ways to lower your score is improvement on the greens. John Francis, a teaching professional at Westridge Golf Club, recommends the quarter drill.
"Take two quarters and place them about a foot from each other," Francis said. "Get five balls and putt the ball from one quarter to another quarter. Try to get the ball to die on the face of each quarter. When you've hit five in a row, go to 2 feet apart and then 3 feet apart."
The quarter drill is "multi-beneficial," Francis said. "It teaches you to perfect your small backswing, which is the hardest one to perfect in golf. It also gets you in the habit of pinpointing your putt, since a quarter is one-fifth [the diameter] of a hole. It also teaches you to get the ball online the first foot of the putt, which is very important."
5. HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONSMost golfers dream of career rounds while driving to the course. But, let's be honest, it's probably not going to happen.
"If you're a 20-handicapper who hasn't played in a few months you best not head out to the first tee thinking you're going to shoot under 80," said Eric Lohman, director of golf at Black Gold Golf Club. "You have to give yourself a few holes to warm up and you have to have patience through the entire round."
Realistic expectations also provide an opportunity for positive reinforcement that all golfers need in order to to improve. If you've never shot under 100, try to make par twice during a round rather than beating yourself up for posting an 8 every now and then.
6. GET A LEG UPOne of the best ways to improve golf performance is proper posture at address, which includes a straight back in order to achieve proper turns in the backswing and follow-through. To achieve this, flexibility in the hamstring is critical. Jeremy Klinkhamer, who works with the San Diego Body Balance for Performance Center, recommends a hamstring stretch that can be performed in a doorway.Lie on your back with one leg on the wall and the other leg through the open doorway. The leg that is up should have a straight knee with the foot in a neutral position. The leg through the door should be bent to alleviate back tension. Move closer to the wall for more stretch and away from the wall for less stretch. The stretch should be gentle enough to tolerate for three minutes.
7. MAKING THE ROUNDSChip Boldin, director of golf for Pro Kids Golf Academy in San Diego, says playing mini-rounds within a round will lead to improved scores.
"You play the course three holes at a time," Boldin said. "When you're done with three holes you fold the scorecard over and then play the next three."
The method not only prevents players from getting down on themselves after a stretch of bad holes, it also prevents players from getting too comfortable.
"The worst thing for some golfers is to make three birdies in a row because then you start pressing and start giving it right back," Boldin said. "Using this scoring trick you're able to get a clean slate six times during a round. It helps you deal with the bad bumps and prevents you from getting too comfortable when things are going well. It also gets you focused on the immediate shots at hand."
8. HERE'S THE PITCHThere's no way to overestimate the importance of the short game in lowering scores.
"If people are looking at lowering their scoring they have to spend equal, if not more, time on every phase of their short game, including putting, chipping and pitching," said Greg Hood, general manager of the Jim Mclean Golf School at PGA West. "The average golfer misses a lot of greens in regulation, and if you can develop a positive chipping and pitching technique you will see great improvement in your score."
Good instruction will lead to proper technique. Then it's a matter of "trying to make sure to control the trajectory and spin of the ball, knowing what club to pick, knowing how long each shot will fly and how long it will roll. That all comes through practice," Hood said.
9. TILT, TURN AND SWINGTo be more consistent with your tee shots, follow these three simple steps, courtesy of David Emerick, director of instruction at the Hodges Golf Center.
Tilt: Set up to play a tee shot with the ball lined up with your left heel, then tilt your upper body so the right shoulder is in line with your right knee. (Your head will be behind the ball). Tilting will help you make contact with the ball at an ascending angle.
Turn: This involves the core muscles of the body, where a good golf swing is centered. Use your core muscles to move the arms and swing the club. By relaxing your arms, you can make a good turn and stay behind the ball.
Swing: Golf pros make the swing look easy because they swing easy. Hitting through the ball instead of at it will produce a controlled swing.