For those of you that know me from lessons or clinics, you've heard me say, “be athletic”. Athletic Personality – what is it? It's how your body moves. It's also the movement patterns (functional or dysfunctional) that you've learned throughout your life. It's the movement we learn as we lift our heads, crawl, walk and run. It's the movement we learned from throwing, catching, skipping rocks, jumping, riding a bike, swimming, dancing, exercising and participation in any sport. Everybody has some level of physical movement awareness and tendencies based on past experiences and/or a level of physical function.
Athletic Personality is the application of motion and balance. The more you can fit your golf swing into the body motions you already understand, the less you'll need to “fix”. This dramatically shortens the learning and improvement curve, because you're accessing and adapting physical skills that you already have. Everyone has some sort of “Athletic DNA” from which to base their golf game upon. Blindly attempting to do all the exact movements and techniques of elite professionals in golf, can lead to injury, frustration and a conscious overload of tasks for our brains during our golf swing.
As we begin another calendar year, let's each recognize the traits that make up our own athletic personality and find a way to apply our known motion and balance into our golf games. I know this will help you further enjoy the self-improvement journey that golf provides.
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BALL ABOVE OUR FEET
When we find our golf ball has ended up in an uneven lie, we should consider the next shot to be a recovery shot. By that I mean, let's not magnify our first mistake by being foolish on our next shot. It is possible to be smart & conservative in our recovery strategy while still being aggressive and confident during our swing.
For any of these uneven lies, the player should feel “level” to the earth's slope with their setup. To be “level” in your setup you should align your hips and shoulders level to the slope. When the ball is above our feet, this simply means to lessen our forward bend to the ball. (Stand a bit taller)
Take a practice swing and determine where the low point of your swing is going to be. Position the ball just before this low point occurs.
For a right-handed golfer, when the ball lies above our feet, the initial launch angle of our ball flight will tend to start left of our intended target line. This is magnified if we are using a very lofted club such as any wedge. Use a longer club than normal. One club longer on a mild slope, two clubs longer on a more severe slope. Use a ¾ length swing to ensure good balance and center face contact. Aim right accordingly. (less with long irons, more with short irons) and swing within yourself with good rhythm.
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BALL BELOW OUR FEET
First, a quick reminder...when the lie of the ball is “out of balance”, it is important that the player retain balance during their swing. For this reason, it is always recommended that a player use more club than the distance requires. This will enable the player to swing easier, as in a ¾ length swing. This will provide better balance during the swing and less effort to achieve the distance required for their golf ball.
When the ball is below our feet, the typical miss is for the player to swing above the ball either topping it or blading it. To ensure more solid contact, the player needs to establish a “level”, normal relationship with the ball. In essence, the ball is farther away from us than normal. I recommend using more forward bend from the hip sockets to counter-act this. The player is then able to swing the club around their spine at a 90 degree angle. If the ball is struck solidly from this posture, the ball should flight straight, (not to the right as many believe). If a person experiences too back strain because of this increased forward bend angle, then the player can also increase the amount of knee flex. This should relieve some pressure from the lower back but can have a negative effect on the amount of space
available to us to swing our golf club through the ball.
Lastly, this is a recovery shot. Be smart in how far you try and advance the ball. If it is a severe slope, the play may not be to go for the green. It may be wiser to divide the distance in two. This makes it more manageable and lessens the chance to get yourself in further trouble.
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BALL IN HOLE- VERY IMPORTANT
This seems to be turning into the summer of putting for my mind and for these newsletter golf tips. A golf professional friend of mine, Mike Malaska tells a good story about putting while he was playing an Asian Tour event in Japan. Mike was grinding out a couple hours of serious putting technique practice after another disappointing round with too many missed putts. Watching from the fringe was the tournament leader; a Japanese pro. After observing Mike’s deliberate, impressive display of mastering the mysteries of putting technique, this Japanese pro approached Mike, asked for his putter and silently proceeded to make a few mid-range putts in a row with Mike’s putter. “Mike-san”, he says, “ball in hole, very important”.
Like Mike that day, we all can tend to make putting too complicated. We overthink the technique portion of putting. I believe it was Albert Einstein that is credited with saying that true genius is in the simplicity. With a nod to simplicity and to ‘the ball in hole, very important…here are a couple feel-based putting drills:
Two Speed drill – Bottom of Cup, Back of Cup
Take two balls, short range, inside 6 feet. Putt the first ball at a speed which trickles over the front lip of the hole and hits only the bottom of the cup.
Putt the second ball at a speed that strikes the back of the cup and then falls into the bottom of the cup. It shouldn’t hit the dirt between the cup and the surface grass. It will hit the back of the cup and then fall to the bottom of the cup.
Left Side, Right Side, Center
Take 3 balls, short range, inside 6 feet. Roll the first ball on a line which enters the hole slightly on the left side of the cup. Roll the second ball on a line which enters the hole slightly on the right side of the cup. Roll the third ball on a line which enters the hole center-cut.
Bonus feel experience is available if you can do it with both speeds from the previous Two-Speed drill.
Find your proper grip pressure. Keep it constantly smooth throughout the stroke. Feel the ball rolling off the putter face and remember… ball in hole, very important!
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How high should a player tee up the ball with their driver?
For a neutral (normal) starting point, tee up the ball so that half of the ball is visible above the crown of the driver head. This will place the equator of the ball on the top line of the driver. When struck solidly, this tee height will produce a slightly higher launch angle. High launch angle combined with low spin for the high clubhead speed player will produce maximum distance. Even low clubhead speed players will benefit from a high launch angle with their driver. However, this type of player will need more spin to aid in keeping the ball in the air longer.
Where should my ball position be with my driver?
For a neutral (normal) starting point, play the ball position slightly “forward” in your stance. For most players this will mean that the ball will be in-line with their lead heel or positioned 1-2 inches “inside” the lead foot. A simple reference is to place theball between your sternum and your lead foot. If you choose to tee it higher than normal, then position the ball more forward of normal. If you choose to tee it lower than normal, then position the ball more towards the center than normal.
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BUMP AND RUN
The bump and run is a fun shot that requires less effort and less swing than a typical pitch shot. As our famous St Andrews Scotland Old Links caddy would say, “play the ground laddie, not the sky”. It is a shot where the ball flies a little lower than the natural loft of the club you are using. It's a shot that will generally fall into the category of “minimum air time/maximum ground time” so it is the choice when a player has some room to allow the ball to run from it's landing spot towards the hole. It doesn't require a very long swing and a player can use any of their wedges or even their short irons from a 9 iron through to their 7 iron.
Begin with the ball position either neutral or slightly back in your stance. If your ball position is neutral (middle), then you can start with more 60% weight on your left foot. If your ball position is more back in your stance, then stay 50%/50% with your weight balance. Keep your grip pressure constant and allow your follow through to be slightly lower and shorter than your backswing and enjoy the process of “learning how to play the ground”. It's a very artistic part of the game both with feel and visualization, that is well worth your time.
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CUSTOM NEUTRAL GRIP
Where the ball goes and how soon we get it in the hole determines our golf score (and sometimes our sanity). The clubhead controls the ball. The only part of our body that touches the club is our hands. Our ability to communicate with the clubhead is through our hands, so the placement of our hands on the club is always going to be one of golf's great primary fundamentals.
To find your neutral starting grip, stand at ease, with your shoulders relaxed and allow your arms to naturally hang to your side. Give your arms a little shake if you like to release any tension. Now if you're a right handed golfer take a look at how your left arm naturally hangs. How many knuckles do you see? This is how your left hand should look on the club if you are searching for a neutral grip. Now, place the handle of the club underneath your heel pad of your left hand and look for the amount of knuckles you saw from your “natural” beginning. This “neutral” look will vary with each player.
For a right handed player, neutral with their right hand means that their right hand matches up with the direction of the clubface and supports the side of the shaft throughout the swing.TOP OF PAGE
One of the things I love about St. George is the chance to play winter golf. We get our occasional winter storms that pass through but within a day or two, it clears and it's time to tee it up! Here are some basic strategy adjustments to keep in mind when playing golf in December.
Ground conditions change dramatically from morning to afternoon. In the morning the greens still play a bit frozen and approach shots to the greens will release and roll farther than normal, especially that first bounce. You will not be able to produce as much backspin so adjust to play a higher ball flight and be more generous in your landing areas. In the afternoons, the greens will soften and become more receptive to approach shots.
With the colder December air your golf ball will tend to fly shorter. Also, our swings tend to shorten as we dress in layers. This can decrease our clubhead speed so keep it simple and use 1 club longer than your summer yardages.
My third tip is normally about the difference in green speeds in December, however our great Superintendent, Ross Laubscher is making that a mute point. Entrada's green speeds are still fantastic.
Captain Obvious also recommends keeping your hands warm in between shots with some cart mitts and visiting the snack bar as often as possible for a warm drink.
Best wishes for everyone to be able to mix in some quality December golf as you are enjoying this Holiday season!
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With regards to a proper athletic stance when hitting your driver, I like to have the player space their feet slightly wider than the width of their shoulders. In a lesson, I will measure the width of the student's shoulders by using a alignment stick or a golf shaft. I will then place this stick on the ground and have the player position their feet slightly wider than what we measured. This allows the player to be more athletic with their lower body during the swing.
When setting up to play a driver, the player should feel that their head is positioned slightly behind the ball. Try this easy feel. Take your stance with your driver. Now, slightly lower your trail hip an inch below your lead hip. This will produce a tilt in your spine from top to bottom away from your target. This slight spine tilt away from the target will position your head slightly behind your golf ball. This will help produce the correct swing angle to your ball for a good starting launch with your driver.
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I am told these are called fairway metals now because these clubs are built with different types of metals, not of persimmon wood as they were in my youth. That istrue, however for me these clubs will always be fairway woods so let's discuss a few key points for improved play with our fairway woods.
Pure Impact Concept:
With the ball lying in the short grass of the fairway, feel and visualize the clubhead contacting the ball at the low point of your swing and gliding along the surface of the grass.
In order to strike the ball in the sweet spot of the clubface and allow the club's loft to launch it at a proper trajectory, the leading edge and sole of the fairway wood needs to be below the equator of the ball and clip or brush some of the grass through the ball. If these parts of your clubhead never touch the grass, you may see some good misses but you'll always be contacting the ball thin and you'll be very close to
completely topping it along the ground. Please note, that I did not say “hit down” on the ball. The goal is to direct the clubhead to impact the ball at the bottom or low point of your swing arc.
Place the ball between the center of your stance and your lead, target-side foot. Play it forward in your stance.
Begin in your setup with your hips, spine and head slightly tilted away from your target. This will help you deliver the club to the ball at a nice angle and will enable you to keep your head and sternum slightly behind or at the ball through impact.
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FALL MEMBER GOLF CLINICS
I am very excited for our Fall golf season!
New game improvement programs this fall are our Welcome Back Golf Camp's for Men and Ladies. These 4 hour golf schools will focus on full swing, scoring game and mental game development. The 2 hour morning session will cover putting, chipping, pitching, high pitching and greenside bunker play. Following lunch, the 2 hour session will cover drivers, hybrids and irons. I will be presenting successful golf concepts that I've used in hundreds of golf schools across the country and am excited to share them with our Entrada members. This golf camp will provide you with a great and simple assessment of where your game currently is and what you need to do to improve. Men's Golf Camp is Friday, October 9th. Ladies Golf Camp is Saturday, October 10th.
Another new program this fall is our Mixed Member Clinic. These will be a fun 1-hour clinic covering on-course skills, self-coaching ideas and specialty shots. These will be great for couples that play a lot of golf together or equally great for any individual member that wants to improve their performance or score on the golf course. Three Mixed Member Clinics are planned for the fall on the following Saturdays: October 24th, November 21st & December 5th.
Our weekly men's clinics will begin on Tuesday, October 6th & 13th featuring a pitching and putting tune-up before the Anasazi Invitational. Men's clinics will then continue on most Tuesday's until December 8th and will cover all essential skills to improve one's golf score, knowledge and enjoyment of the game.
Our weekly ladies clinics will begin on Wednesday, October 7th featuring a pitching and putting tune-up before the Anasazi Invitational. Ladies clinics will then continue on most Wednesday's until December 9th and will also cover all essential skills needed to improve one's golf score, knowledge and enjoyment of the game.
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FINDING NEUTRAL POSTURE
When I first began teaching golf full time, I was encouraged by a mentor to read a book titled “Pain Free”. It was and is a very straightforward book addressing how and why we feel chronic pain. I think many of us would enjoy golf more not merely by lowering our golf score but rather by learning how to play golf “pain free”. With this goal in mind, let's talk about neutral golf posture.
In our golf swings, pain can be caused from a posture which is not neutral to that person. Typical problems are too much of an “S” posture. I see this a lot from people that have been taught to “stick their derrières out”. They arch their lower back too much which reduces mobility and increases the likelihood of pain in our lumbar region during the body's rotation in the golf swing. The other typical problem I see is
too much of a “C” posture. I see this overly rounded upper thoracic posture from people that are trying to bend their knees too much and are trying to keep their head down too much.
Find your neutral, standing, resting posture that is comfortable and easy for you. Now, simply bend forward from your hip sockets while maintaining this neutral spine relationship. Finish with a slight flex in the knees and allow your weight to be centered evenly between the balls of your feet and your ankles. Finding your neutral posture is a great start to begin playing golf Pain Free.
FINDING YOUR STRAIGHT BALL FLIGHT
One of my favorite skill development drills of all time is simply called, “Club-face awareness”. During this drill, I have the player tee up 3 balls in a row. The player keeps the same grip, same setup, same backswing and same downswing on all 3 balls. Where the “awareness” part comes in, is during and through the impact between the center of the clubface and the center of the back of the ball.
I have the right-handed player attempt to draw the first ball (curve slightly to the left), then fade the second ball (curve slightly to the right) and then attempt to hit the third ball straight. This is an easy drill IF the player has great feel for the clubface using the proper amount of grip pressure and upper body effort. When the player begins to completely feel as though the clubface is simply an extension of their hands, then they are able to feel how they are applying the clubface to the ball to produce a draw spin, fade spin or to hit the ball straight on command. Be patient if you struggle with this drill. You may need to gain confidence with a smaller or a slower swing at first.
I usually hear the comment, “Why do I need to learn how to curve the ball? I only want to hit it straight”. Well, if you don't know what it feels like to curve it a little left and then curve it a little to the right, you'll never consistently be able to know how to make the ball fly straight.
Cheers to good golfing, mis amigos.
When using our FlightScope launch monitor, after every shot, more than 20 different factors are shown on the display. Everything that a player would ever dream of knowing about what’s happening with their swing, their club, their ball flight and how their shaft is performing. Of all these measurements, I feel the most important feature that it identifies is “smash factor”. In my opinion, it is more important than clubhead speed. Smash factor is “ball speed” divided by “clubhead speed” or basically a measurement of how much energy was transferred from the clubhead to the golf ball during the swing.
For example, let’s say you swing your Driver 100 mph, if you make solid, center face contact then the ball speed would be 150 mph. A smash factor of 1.50. If you miss the center of the club face, the ball speed would drop dramatically down to 110–130 mph, resulting in a severe loss of distance and a smash factor of 1.1 - 1.3. Another simple way of explaining this is to say that a solid shot added 50% to the ball where a miss-hit only added 10-30%.
Most players are trying to swing harder and harder, trying to get their clubhead speed higher. Even if this added effort did produce more clubhead speed, it doesn’t make the ball go farther unless you connect in the sweet spot of the clubface every time. My experience has shown that when players swing as hard as they can, that their contact gets worse, not better. Plus, I see a lot of injuries happen to golfers from simply swinging too hard.
The next time you go to the practice range or golf course, simplify your mind and effort on what works best for you to consistently deliver center face contact. A great sound, a great feeling shot and a great looking result will be your reward. Your body will thank you too, with less aches and pains. If you’re not sure how to experience center face contact, please come see one of Entrada’s PGA Professionals for assistance.
GOLF- GOOD STIMULUS FOR THE BRAIN
Human function and anatomy experts tell me that our bodies need movement and motion to regenerate and to be healthy. A sedentary body can lead to many health problems. They say that basically bones are controlled by muscles that respond to nerves that are initiated by stimuli in the brain. (I realize there’s much more to it but for the purpose of this brief article, I’ve intentionally over-simplified some of the process) This leads us to the question, does golf stimulate the brain? I think we can all agree it does. Now, is it a good stimulus or a bad stimulus? That part is up to us. The Self!
In golf, we can learn to move the ball many different ways; high, low, mid, roll, draw, fade, hook, slice, pull, push and the ever elusive straight ball. Each will provide stimulus for the brain and improving what the ball does is exciting for our brains! A round of golf can be played with a full set of 14 clubs while riding in a golf cart or while walking and playing with only 1 to 2 clubs. Either way, walking happens in golf and is good for our health. You can play competitive rounds or fun, social group golf that hopefully brings chances to laugh with each other. You can cruise around the course alone with your thoughts or you can play without keeping score to simply escape life’s daily routines. The Self and The Ball!
The ball is played from dirt, sand, water, short grass, tall grass, mushy ground, hard ground, uphill, downhill, sidehill, across ponds, through trees and over dry desert ravines. Golf offers the opportunity for us to harmonize with all weather conditions. Except for lightning, I’ve played in all weather situations, even snow. One of my alltime favorite rounds was played in thick fog! It was in Scotland at a course called Old Head Links. Our group had a creative caddie that day painting a picture from the tee box of each hole that we couldn’t see due to the fog. It was so cool to play entirely from imagination and feel. The Self, the Ball and the Earth!
What an awesome sport! I love that each day I play golf I will face different variables and challenges! I hope that you will as well. If you need help with how to play the ball, the earth or finding your best golf ‘self’, please come see me or one of our PGA pros. Cheers to a great fall season!
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'Tis the season to reflect on our past, enjoy the present and for some, to plan for the future. I just finished reading two conflicting articles. One showed important ways to complete your new resolutions, while the other recommended not making resolutions at all. I suppose it's like professional golf, there's more than one way to get the job done. With respect to your golf game, I think this is a great time of year to begin with a fresh, simple mind. Here's my suggestion to help you start the year with purpose and find your swing during these first few months.
Begin first by developing more awareness of your golf club during your entire swing with the proper amount of grip pressure. Your hands touch the grip so I know you can at least feel that end of the club. The next level is to be able to feel the club head and the shaft during your swing. Fingers and hands slightly secure, arms and shoulders at ease. When a player keeps their wrists, elbows and shoulder joints relaxed, it is easier to have a tension-free swing. With the proper grip pressure, the clubhead becomes the source of good rhythm.
I enjoy reading and learning new things. I tend to favor learning new things that will make me a better golf instructor and I love it when I find jewels of knowledge and wisdom from varied sources and disciplines. I’ve added the word ‘player’ to the following quote which comes from a non-golfer business consultant: “First, to make mistakes is Human. We all do. Learning from mistakes can lead to higher productivity and growth for the player. This will happen if the mistake is managed correctly. Mistakes or errors can be healthy as they can be good indicators of hidden problems, and therefore it leads to applying a solution that will result in higher productivity.”
Some of our golf games are more ‘Human’ than others! These mistakes can be healthy. This means that you have the higher opportunity for growth and productivity! We need to be sure though that we are applying the correct, simplest and most efficient solution to our mistake. I see many players adding to their mistakes by working on unnecessary things in their golf swings. Ben Hogan was credited with saying that golf is a game of misses; it’s those that miss the best that win. We need to learn those things that will give us a solid golf shot or leave us with a good miss that is still playable.
Here’s another quote that I’ll adapt to golf: “Once is a mistake, but twice is not a mistake. It is a trend.” There’s no need to stress about one mistake as long as you know what it feels like to do it correctly. On the golf course, when our mistakes become a trend, do we know how to coach ourselves and make the correct necessary adjustment? If we do, the very next shot will be better! If you’re not sure how to coach yourself on the course, please come say hello to one of our PGA pro’s. Sorry if that sounded like a promo ad, but there’s truth in it.
One of my recent favorite golf quotes is from an unlikely source. Dr. JohnWedge. Great golf name, by the way. Dr. Wedge is a retired pediatric surgeon and former head surgeon at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and is now a seasonal caddie at Cabot Links in Nova Scotia. I find his quote accurately states many things that I’ve witnessed in my years of being a full time Teaching Professional. “For a non-intense sport, golfers endure variable degrees of stress. The essence of their character is unveiled in a broad range of human emotions: humor, anger, frustration, pleasure, despair, honor, self-deprecation, self-respect, optimism and pride.”
I’ve seen all of these from one time to another in my players that I’ve had the pleasure to associate with on the golf course. My hope is that we learn how to approach our golf with the healthier emotions listed above in Dr. Wedge’s thoughts.
Hybrids are relatively new to golf. A hybrid's loft can vary from 16 degrees to 30 degrees. Their design blends characteristics of fairway woods, irons and old utility woods. They can be used in the fairway, rough, fairway sand bunker, dirt and from the tee. Also, hybrids are very useful around the green for chipping and off-green putting. Research shows that ball flight is improved and easier to play than typical long irons. If you don't currently have any in your bag, do yourself a favor and replace your 2, 3, 4 or even 5 iron with an appropriate hybrid.
From the fairway with your hybrid, adjust the ball position slightly forward in your stance. I like to contact the ball at the low point of my swing when the club is moving level to the ground and lightly brushing the grass as it glides through the ball. This is a feeling very similar to how center face contact feels with my fairway woods. However, if you are a player that tends to top or thin your hybrids, then you need to play the ball more centered in your stance. This will enable you to contact the ball before the low point of your swing or slightly on the descent. For this type of player, the hybrid contact will be similar to your 7 iron.
LEARNING IMPACT BEGINS WITH PUTTING
Solid, center-face contact between the clubhead and the golf ball should be the most important objective of all good golf instruction. For the player, recognizing how centerface contact happens and how it feels, is at the core of playing better golf. Putting and Pitching are great ways to learn proper clubface/golf ball contact because the clubs are shorter, the swings are slower, the target is closer and the clubheads are easier to feel. This is an opportunity for motor skill development and acute golf skills awareness.
In putting, the player first begins to learn what they have to do to make proper contact with the ball. I like the drill, "roll the stripe". Simply draw a stripe completely around or half-way around your golf ball. Align this stripe with the aiming line on your putter head. Now, make a small swing and see if you can roll the stripe end over end. If you miss the center of the putter face; if the club face is open or closed to the line; if your swing direction is too much to the right or to the left; or if your angle of attack is too ascending or descending.....then you won't see astripe rolling. The stripe will wobble or will not be visible. This drill will help you begin to recognize the proper swing components of angle of approach, low point of swing, face angle, swing direction and target awareness. This drill also works on short chip shots and pitch shots.
The stripe will still be visible. It will come off the clubface with backspin, land and begin to roll. Another easy way to guage center face contact is to simply spray some powder on your clubface. The golf ball dimples will show up on the clubface and will show you what part of the clubface you are contacting the ball with.
Once a player is good at rolling their stripe with the putter and seeing the stripe fly with a wedge, then it becomes time to recognize the importance of speed. Solid Contact with Proper Speed = Distance Control. Distance control is a balance between the speed of the clubhead, the transfer of energy to the golf ball and a player's ability to judge the slope of the green correctly. Speed control starts with mastering your grip pressure.Strive for a constant level of grip pressure throughout your stroke or small swing. Whenour brains begin to trust that our grip pressure will deliver a constant rate of acceleration, they then can begin to be athletic with the length of swing necessary in the moment. Great rhythm, feel and a smooth effort, are the results of mastering grip pressure.
January is a good time in St. George to work on our putting and short game. So, let's master our grip pressure and start enjoying the pleasure of a purely struck golf shot!TOP OF PAGE
LONG HIGH PITCH SHOT
This week we want to learn the high soft pitch shot that will fly between 20-50 yards. Accuracy decreases at these longer distances when the clubface is open (as in a flop shot) so we want to play these longer high pitch shots with a square clubface.
Begin with the ball positioned either in the center of your stance or slightly forward of center. Our weight will adjust to the ball position. (Centered weight=center ball position, Slightly forward weight=slightly forward ball position.)
The key to this longer, high soft shot is to have a relaxed upper body. Our arms, chest and shoulders should stay at-ease during this shot. It's going to feel like a long lazy swing. I call this shot “some-to-some”. This means that we want “some” natural wrist hinge on the backswing, however the “some” on the follow through refers to “some” soft, folding elbows. Nothing should feel stiff, tense, tucked or tight in this follow through. The softness in this follow through allows the loft and bounce of the wedge to interact with the ball and the turf appropriately. The result will be an effortless high soft pitch shot which will give you some bonus points for looking cool with your golf partners. Enjoy!
A concept and quote that I heard my friend Jim Flick say many times was, “The ball only knows what the clubface tells it.” He wanted people to make the clubhead the highest priority on their “get better” list. The clubhead controls the ball. The only part of our body that touches the club is our hands. Our ability to communicate with the clubhead is through our hands, so the placement and grip pressure of our hands on the club is always going to be one of golf's great primary fundamentals.
To find your neutral starting grip, stand at ease, with your shoulders relaxed and allow your arms to naturally hang to your side, tension-free. If you're a right handed golfer take a look at how your left arm naturally hangs. How many knuckles do you see? This is how your left hand should look on the club if you are searching for a neutral grip. Now, place the handle of the club underneath the heel pad of your left
hand and look for the amount of knuckles you saw from your “natural” beginning. This “neutral” look will vary with each player.
For a right handed player, neutral with their right hand means that their right hand matches up with the direction of the clubface and supports the side of the shaft throughout the swing. If you are left handed, I hope you are fluent in left hand mirror language and can reverse my words.
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Many years ago Mike Malaska suggested I read a book titled “Pain Free”. It is a book addressing how and why we feel chronic pain. I think many of us would enjoy golf more by learning how to play golf “pain free”. With this goal in mind, let's talk about neutral golf posture.
In our golf swings, pain can be caused from attempting to swing from a posture which is not neutral for us. Typical problems are too much of an “S” posture. I see this a lot from people that have been taught to “stick their derrières out”. This creates too much arch or flexion in their lower back which reduces spinal mobility and increases the likelihood of pain and injury in their lumbar area.
The other typical problem I see is too much of a “C” posture. I see this overly rounded upper thoracic posture from people that are trying to bend their knees too much and are trying to keep their head down too much.
Stand relaxed with your arms to your sides. This at-ease posture is your neutral posture. Now, simply bend forward from your hip sockets while maintaining this neutral spine relationship. Finish with a slight flex in the knees and allow your weight to be centered evenly in your feet. Finding your neutral posture is a great start to begin playing golf Pain Free. If you have any concerns about your golf posture, please come see me.
Enjoy your golf!
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ONE OF GOLF
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The position and direction of the clubhead is one of golf's highest priorities, yet, not many players truly are aware of where and what their clubhead is doing during their swing.
The next time you find yourself on the course after recently hitting a wild shot, please ask yourself, “What would make the ball do that?”. The answer is simple and obvious, the ball only does what the clubhead tells it to do. Instead of getting sidetracked by all the negative body related things that you think just happened, find something more positive to focus on between the simple position or direction of the clubhead relative to your golf ball and it's intended destination.
Our sole source of communicating with our clubhead is through our hands. They are the only part of our body that touches the club. Learn the basics of a proper grip and a proper grip pressure and stick with them through the ups and downs that golf brings. A proper grip helps us control the direction of the clubface and proper grip pressure helps our body balance and our ability to create a free swing. As you
become more familiar with how your grip and grip pressure affect the position and direction of the clubhead, your ability to control the contact and flight of your golf ball will dramatically improve.
PLAYING APPROACH SHOTS INTO THE WIND
We've had a few windy days lately so let's talk about some keys for playing approach shots into the wind. Some key fundamentals to keep in mind are balance, center face contact and spin control.
Swinging in balance gives us a better chance to make solid contact. Most amateurs make the mistake of swinging too hard when they feel the wind blowing into them. Swinging hard, increases our tension level which causes a loss of balance resulting in too many off-center hits. The old saying of “swing easy when it's breezy” has merit.
After achieving solid center face contact with proper balance, the player can know focus on controlling trajectory and backspin. For simplification purposes, more clubhead speed equals more backspin. Less clubhead speed results in less backspin. A good wind player knows how to keep their backspin low and control their trajectory by abbreviating their follow through.
Summary, use a longer club and smooth out your clubhead speed. Your solidly struck ball will come off the clubface with less spin and a lower trajectory that will bore through the wind to your target.TOP OF PAGE
PLAYING CROSS WINDS
A player generally faces two choices when playing into a cross, side-to-sidewind. Should I ride the wind or work my golf ball against the wind?
If you are a straight ball hitter, you choice is easy, ride the wind. All you needto to do is adjust your aim and alignment to accommodate the amount of wind andthen watch as your golf ball gently curves back towards the flag riding the wind.
If you generally slice or hook your golf ball, then working against the oppositeflow of wind will produce a straighter ball flight. You will lose some distance when you work your golf ball against the flow of wind, so club-up accordingly.
If you are only able to slice your golf ball or only hook your golf ball, then you may be in trouble when the cross wind is such that your slice or hook spin is magnified by the cross wind. As you try to ride the wind, it may seem that you can't aim far enough to your one side to keep your ball on the course.
This situation of not beingable to work your ball against the wind creates those dreaded unplayable holes foryou.
My advice is to spend some quality time on the practice range learning how to adjust your grip, stance and clubface through impact in a way that will produce the opposite ball flight from your normal. You might not need this specialized shot on calm days, but I guarantee you it will help you on cross-wind days.TOP OF PAGE
PRACTICING WITH A PURPOSE
I just returned from my yearly trip to The Memorial Tournament at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. I am part of a team of five teaching professionals invited to conduct golf schools for the Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf during the tournament week. The golf schools are hosted at The Country Club of Muirfield, located a short Par 4 away from the 16th hole of the tournament course. It’s fun to hear the roars of the crowd when someone makes a long putt on the 15th or 16th holes. During staff introductions of each session of the golf schools, I’m always pleasantly surprised that many people nod with recognition when I mention that I’m from Entrada.
Each year I enjoy watching the best players in the world go about their business. As a fan, I enjoy watching them on the course. As a teacher, my favorite place is to watch them on the practice range, short game area and putting green. It’s always very apparent that each player is practicing with a purpose. There is no random waste of time spent on the range simply going through the motions beating balls.
This year on the range, I overheard a player joking with Rory McIlroy that he didn’t need to be on the practice range because he always hits it pure. Rory responded that he was struggling with his driver and needed to dial it in. I watched Rory hit 20 drivers, making a few slight adjustments along the way to get the ball flight that he wanted. He then put the driver away and hit a few mid irons to different targets. Then he returned to hit 5-10 more drivers. By the way, this was after he finished playing on Friday. He seemed pleased with the progress and shot 64 the next day. Practice with a purpose.
On the putting green Sunday morning, I watched Hideki Matsuyama use a putting training aid before he teed off. It was a simple board with lines to train a correct path and a correct putter face angle. It also had a gate for the ball to roll through. He was using it on a short range putt of 6 feet. Practice with a purpose.
Lastly, on Friday afternoon on the short game practice area, I watched a Korean pro that I wasn’t familiar with. His wedge practice covered everything in 30 minutes. Low running chip shots, mid trajectory pitch shots, high soft landing flop shots, bunker shots from 10-30 yards, shots from tight lies and from long grass. It was an impressive display of touch and variety. Later, I saw his name, Byeong Hun An. He finished the tournament tied for first, played an incredible flop shot in the playoff before eventually losing to a birdie putt by winner Bryson DeChambeau.
His 30 minutes of practicing with a purpose served him well. It can for us too.TOP OF PAGE
PROPER SETUP ALIGNMENT
An old pro once said, “If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time.” If we want to be able to know where and why our golf ball goes, then we need to aim and align at something properly every time.
The only thing that should be aimed at our target (or desired starting direction) is the leading edge of our clubhead. Everything else should be parallel. What I mean by “everything else”, is a reference to our body lines. Preferably our feet, knees, hips, forearms, shoulders and eye line need to be parallel to our target line. This is a great place to start from and to begin to learn about your natural swing tendencies. You may discover some great natural things that you are able to do from this square, parallel alignment or you may discover some weaknesses that show up with this proper alignment. Either way, you are on your way to becoming more efficient and less reliance upon in-swing compensations.
A side note; sometimes due to individual mobility or injury/surgery issues, I find that a person isn't able to have all their body lines parallel to the target. In these cases, I strive to have as many body lines as possible remain parallel to the target line. Upper body lines such as eyeline, shoulders, forearms and hips become more important to swing plane than our feet lines.
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Putting is a game within a game. Something as easy as simply rolling the ball along the ground has frustrated all golfers and even the top professionals throughout golf history. It is however, the greatest opportunity in golf for the average golfer to perform at the same level and sometimes even better than a professional.
Putting allows for the most options of personal creativity in the game of golf. This means there are several different ways to place your hands on the grip. Traditional, overlap, interlock, reverse overlap, cross handed, the claw, the saw, the pencil, the split hand, the palms out, the anchored lead arm…..I hope you get the point. Find a grip that is comfortable for you. Find a grip that oozes confidence. Find a grip
that delivers the head of the putter consistently back to the ball with the correct speed and that sends it down the correct line. I like making suggestions during my lessons, but ultimately it is up to the player’s feel.
There are options of different postures that have been successful. Find the posture that enables you to see the line the best and that allows you to be in balance and provides stability for a repeatable putting stroke. I have found that for many people, having a posture where your eyes are directly over the ball is not the best way to see a correct line. Experiment with placing your eyes inside the target line an inch or two, especially if you prefer a slight arc to your putting stroke.
There are different options of putting strokes. Straight back/straight through, inside to inside (arc) or inside to down-the-line. There are different options of what body parts to focus on. Some like to rock their shoulders. Some like to feel their arms swing. Some like to use their hands & wrists. Some like to only focus on their abs, as in core putting. Where do we start?
Allow me to suggest two areas of expertise to begin with. First, learn how to read the putting green. Before you get to the green, see the slopes, the waves, the high points and the low points, the drainage. When you arrive at the green, see and feel the texture and the speed of the turf and what your putt requires. This is a skill that all good putters have earned. Next, learn how to swing your putter with constant grip pressure. This will deliver reliable speed. This will deliver beautiful tempo and rhythm to your putting. This will roll the ball, instead of “hitting” the ball.
Read the green correctly, have constant grip pressure throughout your stroke and then enjoy choosing through all the other options available to you in putting.TOP OF PAGE
QUALITY BEACH TIME
Winter days are great for spending some quality time at the beach. The sand is in good condition at the Entrada practice beach located next to the short game chipping and pitching green. No towels or sunblock needed, just a good sand wedge will get the job done. Thirty minutes of quality practice time each week in the greenside sand bunker will give you the confidence to play better sand shots on the course.
Let’s start with a drill to clarify where the low point or bottom of your swing should occur. Draw a thin line in the sand. Place this line in the center of your stance. Now, make some swings that deliver the clubhead into the sand at the line or slightly forward of the line. The low point of your swing should occur between the center of your stance and your front foot. If your club hits the sand behind this line, you’re in danger of chunking or skulling your bunker shots and it means you are trying to “help” or lift the ball out too much. Practice a slightly descending angle of swing that thumps the sand at the line or slightly forward of the line. A good bunker swing will strike the sand only, no ball contact should occur. Now, place a golf ball 2”-3” in front of that line and repeat the same swing. The displaced sand will push the ball up and out of the bunker. The ball should go where the sand goes, so be aware of sending the sand at your target. This should result in a nice manageable 10-15 yard bunker shot.
Now that the low point of your swing is occurring properly, it’s time to look at the depth of your divot. If your divot is too deep, your ball might only fly 5 yards. Deep divots mean the swing angle is probably too steep & too vertical or your grip pressure is way too tight. Reducing your grip pressure slightly and opening the clubface a little will add some bounce to the sole of the club. This will help the clubhead slide through the sand instead of digging. Also, shallowing out your swing will produce a thinner cut of sand. Imagine you’re standing and swinging in shallow water. What would you have to do through the bottom of your swing to not make the splash so big? This shallow splash angle of water is the same image that will produce a great sand bunker shot.
Enjoy your quality Entrada beach time!TOP OF PAGE
REDUCING THE SLICE AND THE HOOK OF A GOLF BALL
Everybody loves the straight ball! When I ask players what ball flight they are trying to do with their longer clubs, they say “straight”. The reality is that the straight ball is the most difficult shot to produce, so please enjoy it when it happens for you! It’s much easier to intentionally curve the ball, right or left.
Slower club head speed players have the best chance to produce a straight ball. With less force applied to the ball, less spin is produced. The ball doesn’t go as far, but it’s straighter. For faster club head speed players, more force to the ball produces more spin. It now becomes a matter of what type of spin you are producing. There are many ways to hit it straighter. Let’s over-simplify it and discuss two questions you can ask yourself when your ball is curving too much.
First, how was my contact? Center hit, heel hit or toe hit? If your answer is center hit, move on to question #2. If you don’t know, well… you need to improve your grip pressure and club head awareness! You can also put tape or spray powder on yourclub face to find out. A heel hit produces slice spin. A toe hit produces hook spin. I list both heel and toe hits under the “balance and grip pressure” categories. Improve your starting posture and your correct distance from the ball before and during the swing. You can also simplify it by feeling the correct foot pressure balance before and during the swing. Proper grip pressure and a keen awareness of the club are the secret sauce of great golf. Center face contact = first priority!
Second, how was my club face angle relative to my swing direction path? Launch monitors tell us that 75-85% of what the ball does is a result of what the club’s face did to the ball. The swing direction path and angle of approach provide the remaining 15-25% of influence. If the ball is hit in the center of the club face, a closed club face will impart hook spin. An open club face will impart slice spin. This means “open” or “closed” to the direction that the club is moving. A slicing ball means your club face is too open. Look at your grip and grip pressure. You can adjust your top hand, placing it more internally rotated (strong-pronated slightly) and move the grip more into your fingers. Proper grip pressure allows the club face to close or “release” easier. This happens when the body isn’t so aggressive or tense. You need more swing to reduce the slice, not more body turn. If you’re hooking it too much, you can weaken your top hand slightly by externally rotating it (supinate). The good news for those that hook it too much is that you can be more aggressive with your body through the ball. Go ahead and rotate your chest diagonally up and through impact into your follow through. This produces an opposing force which delays the closing of the club face.
Center face contact with the correct club face angle to the path reduces the curve spin on the ball and produces a straighter flight. Now, direct your swing towards your target and enjoy the flight!TOP OF PAGE
RHYTHM AND TEMPO
It is possible for all golfers to develop good rhythm and tempo. Tempo is the cadence, beat or pace of the movement. In lessons, I begin by associating this tempo awareness to the pace in which the player is swinging their hands, arms and golf club. There are different tempo's that can be successful. Some professionals use a very steady, easygoing tempo while others play with a fast, up-tempo type of swing. I feel that tempo many times is simply an expression of that person's inner personality.
Rhythm in golf occurs when the movement of the body is in sync with the movement of the hands, arms and club. Please don't interpret this to mean that the hands, arms, club and our body move at the same speed. They don't. When the body is scientifically measured during an efficient golf swing, different parts of the body are accelerating and then decelerating to transfer energy to other parts of the body that in turn accelerate/decelerate eventually resulting in a maximum transfer of energy into the golf ball from the clubhead. This is the “kinematic sequence” that many of you might be familiar with.
My experience has shown me that when players focus too much on their “rhythm sequence” they tend to struggle athletically. They begin to think about too many things. I recommend finding your tempo first with the proper grip pressure. From this you will begin to feel more athletic rhythm instead of analytical rhythm.
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SHORT GAME OPTIONS
If you only play golf a couple times per year, you should use one wedge (pitching wedge or sand wedge) for all your short game shots around the green. That way, you’ll learn quickly how high and how far that Wedge can hit the ball. You’ll really only have one shot to play…a normal lofted pitch shot…but that's all you'll need to get you through those one or two rounds of golf you play per year. If you play more frequently than that, then do yourself a favor and develop some creativity and imagination around the greens. It's always nice to have multiple options!
Practice using all your short irons around the green. (Lob Wedge, Sand Wedge, Gap Wedge, Pitching Wedge, 9, 8 and 7 iron, even your hybrid). Experiment and see how the ball comes off differently with each club. (Trajectory, speed & roll distance) Every club has a “normal” loft to it. When you impact the ball with that club’s “normal” loft, let's call that a normal pitch shot.
Normal loft starts when the ball position is centered in your stance and your balance is centered from left-to-right and from toes-to-heels. Normal loft is achieved when the swinging of your clubhead reaches a low point in the center of your stance. You’ll see and feel the club brushing or gliding across the grass. When your club bottoms out this way and glides across the grass in this manner, then the sweet spot of the clubface will contact the back of the ball. This will deliver a “normal” lofted shot for that club. There's no need to help or lift the ball up, or no need to hit down on the ball. Simply allow some gravity to be involved and direct the momentum of your swing to brush the grass in the center of your stance. Good short game players are aware of and comfortable with the clubhead and the ground.
For a lower pitch shot, begin by setting up “normal” as described in the previous paragraph. Now slightly shift your body’s weight toward your target-side foot. 60%- 70% is plenty. This will de-loft your club face resulting in a lower pitch shot. Since you now want the ball to come out lower than normal, you’ll want to use a follow through that is lower (and shorter) than normal.
For a higher pitch shot, begin by setting up “normal”. Use the most lofted club in your bag. For most of you, this will be a Sand Wedge (56 degrees) or a Lob Wedge (60 degrees). Add some loft to your club face by opening it a few degrees. Swing normal now and glide the sole of the clubhead along the grass. The ball should fly a bit higher than normal. For a lot of you it will fly straight. If it goes slightly to the right, then either move your ball position slightly forward in your stance or lower the handle of the club closer to knee height in your setup. This will direct the center of the club face straight along your target line.
Have fun with your short game and begin to create more imagination around the greens!TOP OF PAGE
SHORT MEDIUM PITCH SHOT
On the easy scale around the green: 1. If you can putt it, then putt it. 2. If you can't putt it, then chip it low or bump and run it. 3. If you don't have enough room to chip it low or bump and run it, then do a short medium pitch.
A short medium pitch is going to feel a lot like a long putting stroke. It isn't necessary to have a lot of wrist lever during this swing because the swing length is so short. I sometimes will call this swing a “none-to-none”, meaning no wrist hinge on either the back swing or forward swing. Unlike a putting stroke which only contacts the ball and not the ground, the short medium pitch shot will contact the ball and the ground slightly.
In your setup begin with a square clubface with the ball position in the center of your stance. Because the swing shape feels like a long putt, the flight distance expected is generally 10 yards or less. To ensure a proper low point of your swing at impact the player has two choices. Either begin your swing with slightly more pressure in your lead foot (left foot for a right-handed player), or if the player begins with a 50%/50% foot pressure setup, then the player should feel more foot pressure into their lead foot on the downswing through impact. This will ensure crisp contact with the center of the club face which will impart the proper amount of backspinTOP OF PAGE
SHORT RANGE HIGH PITCH SHOT
Last week we discussed the short range medium pitch shot. During that shot, we used the normal amount of loft already available in our club. This week we will put a bit more loft on the shot by opening the face slightly at setup. “Opening” the face is one basic way to add more loft to the short pitch.
This is a fun shot which delivers more height and more spin with minimal adjustment to your swing. Begin by selecting your most lofted wedge. The adjustment for this higher shot is in your setup so set the clubface on the ground behind the ball, aimed directly at your target. Now, dial the clubface open slightly (add some loft) and then place your hands on the grip. Now just swing like it's a normal pitch shot! (There's no need to try and get under the ball and lift it. Contact the ball at the normal low point of your swing. The added loft of the club face will launch it up into the air for you.) Your ball should fly higher and straight. If it flies slightly to the right, then you may need to “open” your stance slightly by aiming a few feet to the left.
The swing length you use will depend upon how far you need the ball to fly. Gain confidence first with a casual “gravity-like” speed, then that will open the door to swing with a bit more zip through the ball for increased back spin possibilities.
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SIMPLE JIM FLICK MESSAGE
I want to share some simple concepts from my friend Jim Flick that I know will help you. Jim was an outstanding teacher that mentored many young teaching professionals like me. He was inducted into the Golf Teacher's Hall of Fame and was named the Instructor of the Century. Today's message begins with a question. “What would make the ball do that?”
First, in order to answer this question, one needs to be able to consistently find their ball with their club. If you swing and miss the entire golf ball a lot, then please come see me. You have some issues that we need to discuss. Let's make golf less complicated.
If you are a player that makes decent contact with your ball but it doesn't go where it's supposed to, then please ask yourself, “what would make the ball do that? I clearly remember Jim Flick sharing the following advice to hundreds of players over and over again. “The ball only knows what the clubface tells it”. This seems so simple yet most players skip past it searching for bodily cures or temporary swing tip band-aids. If you want your ball to behave better, start with the clubface. Your primary source of communicating better with your clubface is through your hands. They are the only part of your body (hopefully) that is touching the club. Devote some practice time to become better with your hands and clubface. This will deliver a better message to the ball and it will respond.TOP OF PAGE
SMALL ON- COURSE ADJUSTMENTS
For the past two days I had the opportunity to play in a tournament with David Hall. It was a lot of fun to be on the course and experience the emotional roller coaster of tournament golf.
My belief was confirmed that a player will need to make adjustments on the course as they play. For me, I felt good about my swing, but my contact, divot pattern and ball flight were off a bit. I knew I wasn't doing what I felt I was doing. I made a small adjustment in my posture and ball position which immediately helped. The final small adjustment involved my arms and clubhead on my downswing through the ball. This final adjustment led to 4 birdies out of my last 8 holes.
When we are on the course, it is up to us to be our own coach and then be the athletic player that doesn't think too much. The fear of making adjustments needs to be overcome with the correct small dosage of self-coaching. When we learn to do this, we can turn a bad round into a pleasing memorable one.TOP OF PAGE
SWING HARD OR SWING EASY
In order to answer the question of whether or not one should swing hard or swing easy, we need to discuss some basic factors that produce ideal distance. A lot of players swing hard thinking this will produce more distance.
In my opinion, this thought process errors in two major ways. First, swinging hard usually produces overly tense muscles. A tense muscle moves and reacts slower and requires more effort to initiate movement in the first place. A relaxed muscle moves and reacts faster and requires less effort. Second, even if this “swinging hard” makes the player feel that they are creating more club head speed, they tend to lose their balance and it is wasted effort because it does not produce center face contact between the club face and the ball.
Here are my top basic factors that are the genesis of creating distance or power. Please notice they all involve the golf club.
1. Center face contact between the ball and the sweet spot of the club face (maximum energy transfer)
2. Correct club face angle at and through impact (club face angle matching desired ball flight)
3. Correct angle of club directed to the ball (swing plane angle that delivers the low point of the swing for optimal impact relative to ball, lie, club & target)
4. Efficient club head speed (faster not harder)
Swing hard or swing easy? Perhaps neither one, I think smooth is a better word and feel. Purposeful practice will allow the player to find their own “smooth” rhythm which will deliver effortless power and our top 4 factors mentioned above.
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Last week my tip to help you find your swing this year was on finding the proper amount of grip pressure and awareness of your golf club. Today's tip focuses on something that all good players have; awareness of the target.
For many recreational golfers, being target aware isn't on their radar yet. They struggle with making solid contact so their attention begins and ends with “just trying to hit the ball”. That's like a basketball player “just trying to get the ball out of my hands”, versus shooting with confidence to make the basket. They can feel the basketball in their hands but their primary awareness is on where they want the ball to go with the right touch. A golfer needs to have awareness of their golf club during their swing. They need to know what swing feels deliver solid contact with the ball, however their main focus should be on their ball flight and the target. During playing lessons, I will ask the player where they want their ball to go. If they answer, it's usually: “the middle of the fairway, on the green or close to the hole”. Okay great, now, the real question is: “How do you see it getting there?”. What trajectory? Straight or curving? What speed? When the player develops a detailed awareness image of their golf ball in motion is when the athletic, fun golf begins.TOP OF PAGE
THE HYBRID PUTT
For those of you that already carry a Hybrid club in your bag, I hope you have discovered that it is a great utility club. It can be used in the fairway, from the rough, from a fairway bunker and yes, even around the green!
One of my favorite shots around the green is to putt with my hybrid. The ball rolls off the face very similar like a putt. Let's talk strategy. The hybrid putt is great from a tight fairway lie when you don't have any tall grass, sprinkler heads or divots in the ground between your ball and the hole. It is great when your ball comes to rest between the fringe and the first cut of tall rough. The hybrid putt is great even from the greenside rough as long as you don't have more than 1 yard of rough to carry the ball over. With more than 1 yard to carry, the ball will tend to launch too low and get caught in the tall grass.
In your setup, give the shaft of the hybrid the same lie angle that you would with your putter. Place your hands down to the bottom of the grip just above the shaft. Stand taller, closer to the ball with a narrow stance. This means that it will appear that the heel of the hybrid is slightly off the ground with the toe of the clubhead touching the ground. Don't worry, you will still be contacting the ball with the center of the face and the ball will roll straight. Now, simply swing it like your putting stroke. The ball will launch slightly in the air for a yard or less and then begin to roll like a putt. If you hit behind the ball, then begin in your setup with 55%-60% of your weight on your lead target-side foot. This will move the low point of your swing to the ball and give you pure contact.TOP OF PAGE
THE LOW WEDGE WITH SPIN
A short range, low chip shot is safer than a high-lofted flop shot, when you have room for the ball to roll out. It requires a shorter swing and less distance to cover in the air. This generally will result in fewer mistakes in contact and distance control. Many players like to play this shot with a 9 iron, 8 iron, 7 iron or even a hybrid club. My question today is what to do when you still want to hit a safe, short, low shot but there isn’t enough green to allow for the roll out of your 7 iron? The answer is to play the same type of shot with your lofted wedge. (56–60 degrees).
When you play this low bump and run type of chip shot with your sand wedge or lob wedge, the additional loft will also add more backspin to your ball. This will keep it from rolling too far over the green when limited green space is a concern.
Begin with a narrow stance. Play the ball position anywhere between center and your trailing foot. Slightly move your head, chest and legs towards the target until it feels as though 60%-70% of your body weight is being supported by your lead foot. Do a back swing length that your landing spot requires and shorten or abbreviate your follow through lower than normal. This will de-loft your wedge slightly and produce a low flying shot with a little bit of backspin. In the setup and during the swing, resist the human urge to “help”, “lift” or “get under” the ball. These instincts are unnecessary and lead to chunks and thin bladed shots. The club has loft, it will flight the ball up into the air when you use the center of the clubface.
Practice this shot on the short game area and prepare yourself to enjoy it on the course. The looking cool factor is high on this one! It looks effortless. It flies low, checks up with a little backspin and releases into a short controllable roll towards the hole.TOP OF PAGE
THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMET
Each summer I have the opportunity to represent the Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf as one of 5 staff instructors chosen to conduct golf schools during the entire week of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. The corporate golf schools are led by Mike Malaska. Mike is the worldwide Director of Instruction for Nicklaus Academies, is a Top-20 rated golf instructor in the country, the National PGA Teacher-of-the-Year in 2011 and a long time personal friend of mine. I am always assigned to teach the full swing alongside Mike. During each group's opening presentation I introduce my teaching experience and describe my home base of instruction. It was fun to see 2-3 hands raised into the air during each session as I asked them if they had heard of, or visited our Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club. Our great lifestyle here amongst the red rocks is becoming more well known across the country.
It's always surprising to see the complicated concepts about playing golf in th minds of the tournament's presenting sponsor invitees and then it's always very rewarding to see the improvement when we uncomplicate it by focusing on a few key essential golf skills. We also take time to see some of the tournament and to watch how the best players in the world are using their time on the practice range and on the course. This year more than ever, I left the Memorial Tournament with an excitement to share ways to improve this great game for our Entrada golfing members.TOP OF PAGE
THREE ANGLES OF APPROACH
A dynamic fundamental that helps golfers achieve more efficient contact with the ball is called the Angle of Approach (AOA). This is the angle the clubhead is moving when it makes contact with the ball. There are three primary results when looking at data on our FlightScope Launch Monitor: descending, ascending or zero. (Zero means that when contact was made, the clubhead was at the “low point” or “bottom” of its arc.)
If your AOA is good, it doesn’t guarantee a straight ball flight, but it will help you hit the ball in the center, sweet spot of the clubface more often. When this happens, it feels and sounds great! As we discuss the basics of AOA, you will see that there is one preferred AOA, one okay AOA and one poor AOA for each shot.
We can group Putting and Drivers together because the AOA is similar for both. With putting, the AOA of the top players is an ascending 1-2 degrees. An interesting note here is that most of these players are not intentionally trying to hit “up” on their putts. Other causes create this effect. The okay AOA is level or zero. I would recommend this pendulum-like, level feel through the ball for all amateurs. It produces a nice roll on the ball. What’s the poor AOA with putting? Descending… please don’t try and hit down with your putter.
With a driver, the preferred AOA is an ascending 1-5 degree angle at impact. Again, many players are not intentionally hitting “up” with their driver; they have other causes that create this effect. A level or zero AOA is okay if the player likes to tee the ball low or prefers a lower ball flight. What’s the poor AOA with a Driver? Descending… please don’t try and hit down with your driver.
For fairway woods, hybrids, irons and wedges played from grass or dirt, the preferred AOA is a descending 1-6 degree angle through impact. However, when we tell ourselves to “hit down” on the ball, it usually produces too much divot. The club’s natural momentum is already moving downward. We simply need to direct the low point of its arc more forward through the ball. This will allow the club head to contact the ball before the ground.
The okay AOA is level or zero. This will usually produce a slightly thin or bladed shot but a good miss none-the-less. What’s the poor AOA with these clubs? Ascending… please don’t try and hit up with these clubs.
If you are struggling with solid contact, start with putting and pitching to improve your AOA. This will lead to success with your full swing.TOP OF PAGE
The three basic parts of playing any golf hole are the tee shot, the fairway or advancement shots and the short game shots. I’d like to share some basic thoughts about how to achieve solid ball contact in each of these parts. All require the proper grip pressure that will deliver a
swing motion free of unwanted tension, while easily maintaining an acute sense of where the clubhead is in space.
Use those two skills to then deliver the club to the ball with a proper angle of approach. (AOA) Tee shots are usually thought of as strictly hitting a Driver, however many players might find it easier to consistently hit a good tee shot with a fairway wood. It has more loft and is easier to get the trajectory of the ball higher. Because the ball is on a tee, this should make it easier for the player to deliver the center of the clubface to the ball. When practicing these tee shots with a Driver or Fairway Wood, the most efficient angle of approach (AOA) of the clubhead on the downswing when it contacts the ball is: level-at the true bottom or low point of the swing, or a few degrees on the upswing. 1-5 degrees at the most. Remember, level or slightly on the upswing but NOT on a descending angle.
Fairway shots or advancement shots are played from short grass, long grass or desert transition area here at Entrada. With these shots, played with a fairway wood, hybrid or iron, the most efficient AOA is to strike the ball with a slightly forward/descending angle. Again 1-5
degrees is plenty, but this time the clubhead should contact the ball on a descending angle. Remember, forward descending angle of approach or level, true bottom of swing brushing the ground but NOT on the upswing.
Short game shots are usually played with Wedges from short grass, long grass, dirt or sand. With these wedge shots the most efficient AOA is also with a forward/descending angle at impact with the center of the clubface. A level true low point of the swing which brushes the
ground at the ball is great too. Remember, forward/descending angle or level but NOT on the upswing or not under the ball in a lifting motion either. You have a lot of natural loft built in to these Wedges, so there’s no need to try and lift the ball in the air.
Putting is part of the short game but because we are just rolling the ball along the ground, the AOA is different than Wedges. With modern day putting green conditions being so fast, the best AOA with a putter is from level to a very slight upswing of 1.8 degrees. Remember a level feeling strike or very, very slightly on the upswing but NOT on a downward descending angle.
For some of you, this will sound easy. For others, this will sound too technical. My hope is to always find the proper and most efficient info & image for the brain to work from and then turn it over to the athletic side of the brain to perform. Golf is an amazing sport for your brain.
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THREE BASIC PARTS TO PLAYING ON
The three basic parts of playing any golf hole are the tee shot, the fairway or advancement shots and the short game shots. I’d like to share some basic thoughts about how to achieve solid ball contact in each of these parts. All require the proper grip pressure that will deliver a swing motion free of unwanted tension, while easily maintaining an acute sense of where the clubhead is in space.
Use those two skills to then deliver the club to the ball with a proper angle of approach. (AOA)
Tee shots are usually thought of as strictly hitting a Driver, however many players might find it easier to consistently hit a good tee shot with a fairway wood. It has more loft and is easier to get the trajectory of the ball higher. Because the ball is on a tee, this should make it easier for the player to deliver the center of the clubface to the ball. When practicing these tee shots with a Driver or Fairway Wood, the most efficient angle of approach (AOA) of the clubhead on the downswing when it contacts the ball is: level at the true bottom or low point of the swing, or a few degrees on the upswing. 1-5 degrees at the most. Remember, level or slightly on the upswing but NOT on a descending angle.
Fairway shots or advancement shots are played from short grass, long grass or desert transition area here at Entrada. With these shots, played with a fairway wood, hybrid or iron, the most efficient AOA is to strike the ball with a slightly forward/descending angle. Again 1-5 degrees is plenty, but this time the clubhead should contact the ball on a descending angle. Remember, forward descending angle of approach or level, true bottom of swing brushing the ground but NOT on the upswing.
Short game shots are usually played with Wedges from short grass, long grass, dirt or sand. With these wedge shots the most efficient AOA is also with a forward/descending angle at impact with the center of the clubface. A level true low point of the swing which brushes the ground at the ball is great too. Remember, forward/descending angle or level but NOT on the upswing or not under the ball in a lifting motion either. You have a lot of natural loft built in to these Wedges, so there’s no need to try and lift the ball in the air.
Putting is part of the short game but because we are just rolling the ball along the ground, the AOA is different than Wedges. With modern day putting green conditions being so fast, the best AOA with a putter is from level to a very slight upswing of 1.8 degrees. Remember a level feeling strike or very, very slightly on the upswing but NOT on a downward descending angle.
For some of you, this will sound easy. For others, this will sound too technical. My hope is to always find the proper and most efficient info & image for the brain to work from and then turn it over to the athletic side of the brain to perform. Golf is an amazing sport for your brain.Enjoy!!
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Last week I had the opportunity to attend a TPI Certification in Southern California. TPI stands for the Titleist Performance Institute and is highly regarded as the foremost authority on premier golf instruction in the world. The seminar consisted of two full days of interactive discussion, activities and presentations that primarily focused on the golf swing/body connection. This was preceded by a two day on-line prerequisite course. My current teaching philosophy blends well with what the TPI staff offers because I have been fortunate to have a lot of experience teaching alongside some great players and teaching professionals that understand this golf swing/body connection, however, this TPI experience took it to a whole new level.
For this week's tip I want to share with you TPI's philosophy of the golf swing.
“We don't believe there is one way to swing a club; we believe there are an infinite number of ways to swing a club. But we do believe that there is one efficient way for everyone to swing a club and it is based on what they can physically do.”
I look forward to helping everyone discover their most efficient way to play golf, basing it upon what you, the individual, can physically do.
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TRAITS OF GREAT PUTTERS
|Putting is the area of golf where amateurs have the best opportunity to become as efficient as professional tour players. Why? We're just rolling the ball along the ground, right?!? Let's examine a few traits this week that great putters possess and organize them with an eye towards a pre-shot routine.|
1. Great putters have acquired an above average ability to read and judge the slope in all of the quadrants of the green accurately before they stand on the green.
2. Great putters continue to see the correct line during their setup and subconsciously during their swing. Their aim and alignment react individually to their perception of line.
3. Great putters control the speed and distance of their golf ball with the proper grip pressure; using the tempo that matches their personality and by making center face contact.
4. Great putters have a repeatable stroke that delivers a smooth rolling golf ball that starts down their intended line of play.
5. Great putters know they are great putters. Their attitude sets them apart. They choose to be confident and stay confident during challenges.
They love to putt. They understand that a good putt doesn't always fall into the hole. A good putt is one that starts off with the speed that the player wanted and leaves the putter head tracking along the line that the player envisioned. If the player has achieved these two things, they know it was a good putt.
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When faced with a downhill lie, use a more lofted golf club. Whichever club you choose will fly lower and longer than it typically does. When it lands, it will tend to roll out more as well. In your setup, achieve a level, neutral feeling with the slope. On a downhill lie, this means feeling like your hips and shoulders are parallel to the downhill slope. When the player does this, it is natural to feel a bit more foot pressure favoring the downhill foot. To make sure that you have room to swing your golf club on-plane, move your uphill foot a few inches away from your target line. This will enable your knee line to remain parallel to your target line and ensures enough space to swing the club into the golf ball on the correct swing plane.
Take a practice swing and note where the low point of your swing is occurring in the grass. Be sure and adjust your ball position so that the ball will be impacted before the lowest point of your swing occurs. This will help with making more centerface contact and also helps avoid the heavy or bladed shots. Finally there's no need to force the length of your follow through on a downhill lie. Taking a ¾ length follow or less helps the player retain their balance and make more consistent contact with the ball.
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When faced with an uphill shot, the player needs to first adjust their club selection to a longer club dependent upon the severity of the slope. A general starting point is: mild slope=1 club longer, moderate slope=2 clubs longer, severe slope=3 clubs longer.
To ensure a more solid contact on an uphill shot, the player needs to adjust their hips and shoulder lines to be parallel or level to the degree of the uphill slope. There will be more pressure in the downhill foot. To help with alignment, the player should move their uphill foot slightly out of the way. This allows the knee line to remain parallel to the target line and ensures more room to swing the club on the correct plane.
Ball position may be different for each player depending upon where the low point happens for each player. To find your low point, take a practice swing and note where your swing bottoms out. Position the ball such that it will be contacted before the low point of your swing occurs. Generally, this should be in line with your sternum or in balance with where your center of mass is through impact. Lastly, try a ¾ length swing. This will make it easier to maintain your balance as you play this recovery shot from the uphill slope.
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VISUAL VIDEO TRAINING
Many top players are at their best when they are able to trust their feelings of the physical movements in their golf swings. Most train and fine tune their swing adjustments utilizing visual, video swing analysis and/or launch monitors. Here at Entrada, we are fortunate to have daily access to the #1 rated Golf Swing Analysis Software, JC Video. I emphasize in my lessons that the video system is for the student, not the teacher. A good teacher can easily see where and how the player can improve without a video system, however it can be a challenge to have the student properly and efficiently trust how to make needed adjustments. This is where seeing is believing.
For most players, “feel” is not “real”. What I mean by that is that what they think they're doing, isn't usually what's happening. A properly guided video lesson will allow the player to know, without doubt, that their “feel” is truly producing a better “real”. Visual video training will help you practice better and play better.
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WHAT'S ON YOUR PLAYERS CARD
A few years ago, one of the major golf magazines would feature highlights of the different mental cues from PGA and LPGA touring professionals. It was a one page article with the image of an old recipe card in the lower portion of the page. On the recipe card, in the player's own handwriting, were listed the player's swing keys, swing feels or areas of focus. Most player's cards only had three or four lines at the most.
Some of the content was so simple and general pertaining to feels about tempo, balance or rhythm. True genius even for some touring professionals is the ability to make the seemingly complicated....,uncomplicated. Other player's cards showed reminders of what they wanted to do correct with their swing to get the desired contact and ball flight. These showed an understanding of mistakes that they tend to make and what they needed to do to correct them. The word "don't" wasn’t written on any of these player's cards. From many recreational golfers, I hear "don't" a lot. Don't slice it, don't hook it, don't look up, don't tighten up, don't hit it in the water, don't sway, don't over swing, don't leave the putt short, etc.... phew! Golf is a "do" sport. The player needs to figure out what they can do, what they tend to actually do and then what it feels like to do it better.
I suggest to start with three things on your player's card:
Number 1 is going to be something about your mind and your setup to get ready to play.
Number 2 is going to be something about your backswing.
Number 3 is going to be something about your downswing, through impact and into your finish.
My personal opinion is that #1 and #3 are the important ones.
On my player's card, I sometimes need to make small adjustments to my #1, or my #2 or my #3 according to the type of ball contact I'm feeling or the type of ball flight that I'm seeing. Having a player's card does not make you too mechanical or too technical, it makes you more consistent and frees up the athletic instincts in you. Keep an open mind to making small adjustments to your card as needed.
Cheers to good golf!
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YOU ARE YOUR OWN SWING
The majority of today's golfers have heard and seen more about “golf swing mechanics” than any prior generation, due primarily to the seemingly endless supply of information, videos and common random opinions available on the internet, TV and magazines. However the average golf handicap index for avid card-carrying members is getting worse, not better. Are we making the game easier or just more complicated?
Even when a concept can be debated as true via comparison to a Touring Professional doesn't necessarily mean it will automatically apply to you and your game. Tour Players are different animals. They've earned the right to attempt some of the things that they do with their golf swings and bodies.
To begin to play more efficiently and injury-free, we need to step back and take a good look at ourselves. How's my mobility? How's my balance? What type of shots can I consistently play? How aggressive can I go after the ball while still able to maintain decent contact? What should MY golf swing concept be? Here's an easy test to start with. If what you are currently trying to do in your golf swing causes tension in your mind or body.....the Captain Obvious inside you knows it's not helping and only making the game more difficult.
Finding your own swing and identifying your own individual unique tendencies (good and bad) will lead to better golf. It will be easier to coach yourself through the ebbs and flows that golf brings us. The common objective of all golf instruction is to achieve correct, consistent contact between the clubface and the ball relative to the desired outcome. How that is achieved, thankfully is open to the individual's signature. Come see me or one of our PGA Staff Professionals and let us help you find YOUR swing!
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