End-Gaining

I will be posting my next opus, Bob’s Living Golf Book, in a few weeks. Here’s an excerpt:

End-Gaining
When golfers begin thinking that the purpose of the golf swing is to hit the golf ball, they have become an end-gainer. That means trying for a result directly rather than following the best way to achieve that result.

For example, at the range you have just hit an unsatisfactory shot so you try a little tweak you think will let you hit a better shot, or at least avoid the bad one. But that doesn’t work so you try another tweak, and so on, leading yourself farther away from the desired end rather than closer. This is end-gaining.

The end-gainer keeps doing what feels right, but which is functionally wrong, instead of doing what is functionally right, but which, because of lifelong habits, feels wrong. Even though we might know intellectually what we should be doing, the familiarity of habit forces us into the same mistakes again and again in spite of ourselves, or, more to the point, because of ourselves. In all those corrections you made to hit a better shot you might have thought you were doing something different, but you were most likely repeating variations of the same mistake.

The solution to this problem is, first of all, to find out what is right. Then proceed from the beginning of a movement until just before the part that needs changing is reached. At that point, stop. Do not let a response occur that leads from there to the wrong feeling, and thus to the wrong movement. Do this many times, until the response to proceed incorrectly has disappeared. At that point you may now insert the correct movement and start teaching yourself the correct response, which has a new feeling that you must learn to be comfortable with.

The insidious habit of end-gaining is what makes golf difficult, and prevents golfers from improving. Whenever your shotmaking, whether drive or putt or in between, is not satisfactory, end-gaining is most likely the cause.

Golf Research

If you start poking around on the Internet, you can find fascinating articles about golf that are not written by golf experts like me, or teaching pros who do the best they can.

I mean articles published in academic journals investigating golf to find out what is really true and what is just inherited wisdom. You might have some fun with this list of articles. I do.

These papers are written in a standard format. I suggest you read the abstract, introduction, discussion, conclusion, and that you browse the references to find articles that might interest you on this subject. The section on methodology is of no concern unless you want to evaluate the study or reproduce it, and the analysis can be quite technical.

Is Tiger Woods Loss Averse?

Work and Power Analysis of the Golf Swing

The lumbar spine and low back pain in golf: a literature review of swing biomechanics and injury prevention

Assessing Golf Performance Using Golfmetrics

Equitable Handicapping in Golf

Training in Timing Improves Accuracy in Golf

(These articles were accessed in August 2017.)

Start poking round yourself. Go here and enter keywords that interest you. You will be amazed at what you find.

Your Golf Scoring Potential

Sometime in August I will be releasing my next golf opus, Bob’s Living Golf Book. It will be posted as a .pdf with links to illustrative videos. Until that happens, I’m going to post a few excerpts from it in this space to generate your enthusiasm. Here’s one about finding out how good you are/could be.

Play a round where you can hit a mulligan whenever you make a seriously bad shot. Pick up your first shot and play your mulligan. By doing this, you get rid of your bad shots and play a round with only the average or better ones. The score you get is an indication of your scoring potential.

You might be surprised at how low a score is within your reach. A round like this makes clear what improvements are needed to shoot a score like that for real.

If a particular mulligan isn’t much better than your first shot, you need to work on that particular shot. If your mulligans are generally much better, you need to learn to hit your second shot first. That is a matter of gaining confidence in what you do.

Note: When I say “seriously bad”, I mean it. The more honest you are with your mulligans the more information this experiment will give you.

A Few Short Golf Quotes

This week’s post is a collection of golf quotes I have lying around. I was trying to think of what to do with them, and I decided I’ll just put them in a post and let them speak for themselves.

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“Teeing off with a 3-wood is smart only if it leaves you with a short iron.”
Hank Haney, Golf Digest, August 2009, p. 91.

“Hit the driver the same distance every time, just like you do with the other clubs.” Pia Nilsson, Golf Digest, August 2009, p. 92.

“The shortest route to improvement is to get on the green in fewer strokes.”
Hale Irwin, Golf Digest, January 2010, p. 98.

“There’s one common trait I’ve noticed in the swings of nearly all the great players. The position of the left wrist at the top of the backswing is consistent with its address position.” Jim Flick, Golf Digest, January 2010, p. 30.

“Go to the course and hit irons from the marked sprinkler heads. This will tell you very quickly far you really hit each iron. Take notes.” Bob Jones 2/16/2011

“The one feeling you should have before every shot is athletic confidence in your ability to hit the shot well.” Bob Jones 2/20/2011

“The late Gardner Dickinson, a terrific tour player in the 1950s and ’60s who happened to have a slight build, once asked Ben Hogan what he could do to get longer off the tee. Hogan told Dickinson to stop at the range after every round and hit 30 drivers as hard as he could. He told him not to care where the shots went, but to try to hit the ball on the center of the clubface.

“Hogan emphasized to Dickinson the importance of sheer swing speed. Thirty drives might be a lot for you; 15 might do. But a little violence in the swing is healthy and will help you develop more power. You’ll never hit it far without ripping it.” — Jim McLean, Golf Digest, April 2010, p. 137.

“If you’re mis-hitting chip shots, it’s because your grip pressure is too tight.” Bob Jones 3/13/2011

“Play a practice round where any shot can be repeated, but only once. If your mulligan is more like it, your mind wasn’t ready the first time. If the mulligan is just as bad, this to a shot you need to work on.” Bob Jones 2/17/2011 [Note: You’ll see more on this one next week.]

2017 Open Championship Preview

This coming week, Royal Birkdale Golf Club will host the 146th Open Championship. The tournament has been played there nine time previously.

Royal Birkdale

The first time was in 1954, when Peter Thompson won his first Open Championship victory. He won again there in 1965, for his fifth and last. Arnold Palmer’s win in 1961 was instrumental in returning the Championship to center stage in the golfing world.

Padraig Harrington won the previous visit, in 2008, at three over par, defending the title he won in 2007 at Carnoustie. 2008 was the tournament that aging Greg Norman contended until late on the final day.

In 1998, Mark O’Meara won his the second major championship of the year here, but the big news was 17-year-old amateur Justin Rose finishing in a tie for 4th place. Rose turned pro shortly hereafter.

The course will play at 7,137 yards, par 70 (34-36). At one time, four of the last six holes were over 500 yards, and par was 34-38 = 72.

The fairways are flat ribbons tucked in between dunes. There are cut narrow for championship golf. Nothing other than a straight tee shot will do.

Greens are fairly flat and accept accurate approaches well. They have to be hit, though. Missing will put the ball in a nasty pot bunker or into willow scrub that rings most every green.

Most of the holes are laid out to present a crosswind. While not hard by the ocean, the course is still only a few hundred yards off the Irish Sea. Wind will be a big factor.

One hole to watch is the 346-yard 5th. It has a drivable length, but the risks of trying to cut the corner are great.

The 15th hole has a plaque on the spot where Arnold Palmer played a spectacular shot out of heavy rough with a 6-iron from 140 yards to save his par in the final round. Palmer eventually won by one stroke over Dai Rees.

Another notable hole is the 16th, regarded as the signature hole of the course. The player must find the fairway after a long carry, and an approach the is just a little bit off line will find one of five deep pot bunkers.

The U.S. Open is the major I would like most to say I had won (wish!), but the Open championship is the most fun to watch.

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Tuesday 7-18: Phil Mickelson will not have a driver in his bag this week because of the narrow fairways. He plans to use a “hot” 3-wood and a second “driving” 3-iron. There’s also a 64* wedge in there.

Out On the Course Again

I went out to play with my Men’s Club for the first time since 2014. These last few years have kept me busy with other matters.

Not having played for a long time, I wasn’t sure if anything had changed. On the first green, I asked if I had to replace my ball in front of my marker, or could I put it anywhere I want like the pros do. They said that unfortunately we have to play by the rules. Just checking.

I played OK, shot a 45, two pars and two doubles. I was really good off the tee and on the green, but in between was blotto. I had this ten-yard draw off the tee which was not the shot I wanted, but it got the ball in the fairway so I decided to go with what was working instead of trying to fix it on the fly and make it worse.

I would say I lost four strokes, potentially, by having forgotten how to play the game. You know, hit this shot instead of that one. Or use this club instead of that one. Or hit it here instead of there. Those little things that give you a real chance to get down in two from close in.

The main thing I learned is that you have to practice all your shots to keep them fresh in your mind. Several times I played a pitch near the green when a running shot would have been better. But pitches are all I have been hitting lately, not running shots, so that’s what came to mind.

The difference between 45 and 40 isn’t that great. Just keep the ball in play, which I did, and close the deal in a hurry when you get to the green, which I didn’t. (But if you’re not doing number 1, number 2 won’t help you.)

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My next opus, titled, Bob’s Little Golf Book, is in editing now, and will be posted on the blog site in about three weeks. Again, it will be a multi-media extravaganza, and this time free and click-ready from the start.

Your Golf Has to Travel

A few days ago I got a wake-up call. I was doing business at an end of town I don’t spend a lot of time in, but which has a driving range nearby. So I took along a putter and a ball to get a little practice in before I went back home.

I get all of my putting practice on the green at the range where I normally go to. If you saw me putt on this green, you would say that I’m a very good putter. I make putts from all over the place, and I go around the putting clock and never three-putt.

Well.

On this new green, I couldn’t do a thing right. I was three-putting from twenty-five feet about half the time, it was hit-and-miss with four-footers, and my distance control was just nowhere.

I realized that I putted so well on my usual green not because of things that I thought made me a good putter. They didn’t have anything to do with it.

I had merely unconsciously memorized the green. That’s it. So when I went to this new green, I didn’t have the skills to handle the differences in green speed and contour.

I play the same courses, and I putt very well on them, because I have memorized their greens. It all adds up to having become lazy.

An under-appreciated aspect of the way Tour pros play the game is that their golf travels. They play different courses every week, that require different shots, that provide different responses to the shot, and you know what? They don’t care! The adapt after a practice round or two and it’s off to the birdie-fest.

You improve and become a Golfer by having skills that hold up under any condition. Looks like I have some work to do. How about you?

Golf’s Most Important Two Inches

You’re never going to hear the end of this from me. It’s the most important swing fundamental there is. Your hands have to lead the clubhead.

A few weeks ago, I changed it to, the handle moves in harmony with the clubhead. Too wordy.

How about the handle leads the clubhead?

Whatever you call it, you see it demonstrated here by our new U.S. Open champion, Brooks Koepka. His hands got to the ball before the clubhead did. Not by much, only about two inches. But that’s all it needs to be.

Brooks Koepka at impact

If you’re not used to swinging through this position, it feels like your hands are two feet ahead of the clubhead, but they’re not. They’re ahead by just a little bit. But it’s the most important little bit in golf.

Little Differences That Make a Big Difference in How Well You Play