Hall of Fame golfer and master of the wedge game Doug Ford died on May 14 at the age of 95. Ford won 19 PGA tournaments from 1952 to 1963, including the 1955 P.G.A. Championship and the 1957 Masters.
The golf swing should be as simple as possible, but no simpler (Albert Einstein?)
When your swing goes south during a round, re-group. Play the next hole with your 8-iron. 8-iron off the tee, 8-iron down the fairway, then a lesser club to get you on the green, where two putts will get you a bogey. On the next hole after that, go back to your usual game and swing whatever club you use just like you swung the 8-irons.
Close to breaking 100, or 90, or 80, but just can’t shed those one or two strokes? Play a round from the forward tees once, and break through. Now that you’ve done it, the monkey is off your back, and you can return to your regular tees and enjoy golf again.
Anything you want to do with a golf ball, hit it straight, far, curve it, spin it, high, low, anything, starts with hitting it on the center of the clubface. That, is golf’s fundamental skill.
Ben Hogan said that in the forward swing, you can’t turn your hips too fast. That is good advice as long as you do not swing out from under yourself. The hips turn, but they must carry the torso with them and not leave it behind.
Try playing a round in which every shot into the green, from no matter from how far away, ends up past the flagstick, and see what that gets you. If you think a 6-iron will do, take a 5, grip down an inch and swing away. If you’re chipping, make sure the ball stops past the hole, not short of it. You score by getting the ball up to the hole, not by sneaking up on the hole.
I really like 2s. When you put a 2 on your scorecard, everyone knows exactly what happened. A 3 could be several things, so could a 4, and a 5 could be a double bogey. But a 2 means only one thing. I like 2s a whole lot.
It is true that the less tension you have in your swing the faster the clubhead can go. At address, you should be completely relaxed–not limp like a noodle, but have no tension anywhere. Most of us are OK on the backswing, but when the forward swing starts is where tension can come in, especially if you want to hit the bill hard. What you really want to do is hit the ball fast, and that means…no tension. I have found in my swing that the place where tension comes in and slows down my swing is in the muscles of the upper torso. If I keep this area relaxed, the clubhead screams through the ball with ungodly fury, yet it is still under control. Try it. Try keeping that part of your torso relaxed on the forward swing and see how much more clubhead speed you get.
Just before you take your putter back, lift it up so the sole is off the ground and just touches the top of the grass. Now you can start your stroke. The difference between starting the stroke by swinging straight back and going up a bit first then back, is significant.
The April 2018 edition of Bob’s Living Golf Book is now available.
Look at the two pictures below. Because there is a bunker near the pin, you really don’t want shoot straight for it. It would be better to start the ball closer to the center of the green and curve it into the pin. If the curve doesn’t come off, you’re still OK.
In picture 1, you see how to set up for hitting a draw. Aim your stance at the target (yellow circle), aim the clubface to the right of it (blue circle), and swing through the ball toward a spot even farther to the right (red circle).
You may click the picture to enlarge it and see this more clearly.
Even though the clubface is open to the target line, it is closed to the swing line, and the ball will curve to the left.
To fade the ball, set up a show in picture 2. Aim your stance to the left (red circle) of the target (yellow circle), and aim the clubface between the two (blue circle). Swing through the ball toward the red circle.
The clubface will be open to the swing line, start off to the right of it, and curve further right toward the target.
In both cases, it is most important that you think of hitting the ball straight toward the red circle. Do you see where the tree line in the background drops down to a low point behind the red circle? That is where you should think of hitting the ball, in each case. Your setup and swing path will curve the ball in the direction you want it to go.
If instead you have the target in mind, you could unconsciously try to steer the ball in the direction you want it to go, ruining everything.
Don’t get too caught up by the circles being unevenly spaced here. They might or might not be the exact positions for your golf, but their relative positions and their proximity to the pin are. Hit little draws, and little fades, not big ones.
(. . . and it’ ain’t that much.)
I want to give you, for your consideration, a new way of looking at distance. It’s a way of showing you how little of it you need to shoot good scores.
There is a link at the bottom of this post to a spreadsheet which shows you that on a 6,200-yard course you can hit no shot farther than 120 yards and break 100. Or you can break 90 with no shot longer than 140 yards.
Breaking 80 is a little more demanding, but not by anything huge. If your longest tee shot is 220 yards, and your longest shot from the fairway is 165 yards, you can break 80.
Granted, this assumes that each shot is hit well and straight. And that you take two putts on every green.
But no one does that. So what am I getting at here?
I’m saying that accuracy trumps distance. If you’re accurate you can still score even if you don’t or can’t pound the ball. Being pretty good around the green won’t hurt, either.
Not convinced? Try it. Play a round with nothing longer than your 140-yard club, and just hit it 140 yards, no trying to get more out of it than that, and see what you shoot.
You may download this Excel spreadsheet and put in data for your own courses. Cells with boldface entries may be changed. All other cells are locked.
I would assume without too much chance of error that every golfer wants to improve. A perpetual 104 wants to become 98. Books have been written, not on how to turn 95 into 91, but 93 into 89, though there is not much difference between the two differences. At the other end, championship golfers are always looking for a little something that will make even more championships easier to win.
So to the range we go, trying this tip or that hunch in search of the perfect shot, or at least a shot that is closer to perfection than the shots we’re currently most proud of. And therein lies the mistake.
We improved to our present point incrementally, never in great leaps. So, we should not be looking for improvement in great leaps. Rather, the best use of our practice is learning how to hit good shots within our present capability, one after another.
We don’t need to hit perfect shots. Golf, thy name is consistency, and hitting the same good shot time after time is the way to play it. This is what we should be schooling ourselves to do at the range.
I should clarify what I mean by “a good shot.” I mean one in which you make clean ball-first, ground second contact and the ball goes straight to where you were aiming it. The distance it travels is not important.
Occasionally the perfect shot does pop out, and we stop, trying to figure out how that happened so we can do that again. So now, instead of enjoying that perfect shot and getting back to business, we begin chasing it.
You might have a good idea of how you hit your string of good shots that preceded this one but you really have no idea about how the great one happened. Trying to figure it out is taking a detour down a dead-end road.
As you keep hitting the string of good shots that you are capable of and understand how to hit them, really good ones will pop out. Let them. Just keep doing what you’re doing. In making the gradual transition from one level of play to another, the really good ones will pop out more often. But you cannot force them or chase them. Let them emerge in their own time.
The best way to practice hitting one good shot after another is to hit them all with the same club, an easy club that you can control, such as your 9-iron. Use a different club if you like, but not if you hit only mostly good shots with it. You’re aiming for ALL good shots. Besides, if you can’t hit a 9-iron consistently well, why would you want to hit an 8-iron at all (or a driver, it should go without saying)?
Hint: The less hard you try to hit a good shot, the easier it to hit one.
When there is one more hole to go and you can break a milestone score, 90, or 100, or 80, think this way, and ONLY this way. No more, no less.
Think, “All I need to do is get the ball in the fairway and it’s over. I’ve done it.”
From the fairway now, think. “All I need to do is get the ball up to the green and it’s over. I’ve done it.”
From greenside or on the green, think, “All I need to do is lay the ball up close and it’s over. I’ve done it.”
From next to the hole, think, “All I need to do is sink this little putt and it’s all over. I’ve done it.”
That’s four shots, but it’s just an example. Maybe five shots will do. So play five shots, one at a time. However many, let go of the last shot, focus on the next one, never get ahead of yourself.
For each shot, but only one of them at a time, think, “All I need to do . . .” When that shot is over, begin thinking that thought again, and only that thought, for the next one. Be thinking that thought all the way up to the ball for that one shot. Just one.
Keep the task manageable. You don’t need to hit four good shots in a row (or five, or six). Just one. You only need to hit one good shot in a row.
When you have done that, start again. One good shot in a row. Not getting ahead of yourself. Just this shot. This one.
This is not logical thinking, but now is not the time to be logical. Now is the time to make it easy on yourself.
I don’t have a 500-word essay for you today. All I have is one little idea.
Lately I had been doing everything right (I thought), but I was still hitting behind the ball.
So, I thought to myself, don’t look at the ball during the swing. Look at a spot on the ground about and inch and a half in front of the ball, and hit that.
Problem solved. The ball erupts off the clubface.
Give it a try.
You know what the red line is. It’s the line on the tachometer of your car that you dare not rev the engine beyond unless you want to ruin it. Shift, already!
Your golf swing has red line, too. Keep your swing speed under it, and your swing will perform the way it is supposed to. Exceed it and, well, . . .
Before I go on, let me be clear that when I say swing speed, I mean how fast you pivot and swing your arms. That’s not the same as clubhead speed, which usually refers to the velocity of the clubhead as it hits the ball. This post is about swing speed. Another name for that is tempo.
It might seem that if you want the clubhead to be moving faster when it hits the ball, you need to move faster, too. Although there can be a direct relationship between swing speed and clubhead speed, there can be an inverse relationship.
Oh sure, if you watch many modern Touring pros swing, they swing hard and fast and hit the ball way out there. But we’re not them. If most of us tried to swing as fast as they do, our body would get so tight that we would actually slow down the clubhead.
When you swing at a speed that is right for you, and it’s not going to be as fast as you can, the clouds part, the sun shines down upon you, the violins swell, and golf becomes a simple game.
In my earlier writings, I said to find your swing speed (tempo) you should start slowly and speed up until you have gone too far, then back down. Now I want to suggest trying the opposite approach.
Go to the range, and after you have thoroughly warmed up, hit balls with a 6- or 7-iron, swinging as fast as you can and yet stay in reasonable control of the goings on. Hit maybe a dozen balls this way. Be sure to rest in between shots.
Hopefully that sustained outburst should make you good and tired, so slow things down a little bit now. Try swinging as fast as you can without feeling like you’re swinging fast, with a gentle up and down rhythm. Try hitting a dozen balls with a swing that like that instead of “Hold on to your hats!”
I will not be surprised, though you might be, that the slower swing speed dramatically improves your ball-striking. You make much better contact than before, get better ball flight, the ball goes in a consistent direction, and you get pretty good distance. Did I leave anything out?
The latest update of Bob’s Living Golf Book is now posted.