A Valuable Wedge Shot

This might happen to you once a round: you’re about five to ten yards off the green, the hole is near the edge (not much green to work with), and you have to get the ball over something (a bunker, a mound, heavy grass or weeds, etc.). In other words, you can’t run the ball onto the green. You have to fly it on and make it stop right now.

Without a solution, all you can do is hit on and watch the ball run way past the hole and face the Mother of Two-Putts coming back.

Well, here’s the solution. You have to have this shot in your bag, and not many people do.

1. Take out a wedge with at least 56 degrees of loft. Open the face (by twirling the handle in your hands, not by rotating your hands). The less distance over ground you have to cover, the more you open the face. You’ll have to practice to find out just how much.

2. Open your stance until the clubface is square to your target again. Put the ball in the center of your stance. No shaft lean—keep it vertical.

3. Swing along your stance line, brushing the sole of the club along the ground as you hit the ball. Do not try to hit down on the ball. Do not try to lift the ball in the air by hitting up with your right hand. The open clubface will get the ball in the air for you very nicely. Keep the clubface facing the sky on the follow-through.

In the first photo, I’m set up for a standard, straight-ahead pitch. The ball is in the center of my stance, and the clubface is square to the target line (yellow stake). Notice the piece of straw just above my left toe.

In the second photo, I have opened the clubface and rotated my stance (see the straw) so (a) the ball is still in the center of my stance and (b) the clubface is still square to the target line. I will swing along my stance line (orange stake).

(Click photos to enlarge)

Since the clubface is open, you’ll have to hit the ball harder than you think you should to get the ball to go the distance you want it to. Practice will get you used to how hard that is.

The ball will get in the air with lots of spin, land, and roll out only a very little distance. Depending on the circumstances, the ball might run past the hole, but you should have a makeable putt coming back.

This shot requires practice. Lots of it. Once you have learned it, though, you have a major and common problem around the green solved.

Then when you use this shot to get up and down on the course and one of the other members of your foursome asks, “How did you do that,” you say, “Oh, it’s just something I picked up.”

Your Hands Lead the Clubhead – IV

I’ve written often about the hands passing the ball before the clubhead at impact. I feel this is the most important technical matter of the golf swing, and have suggested several ways you can make it happen.

I constantly look for ways to make it easier to do, and more certain. Here is my next iteration. It involves the movement of the end of the handle, that and nothing more.

This new concept takes the onus off the hands to make sure of the leading, and assigns the responsibility to the club itself. The difference in effect is like night and day.

This was going to be a longer post, but everything I wanted to say is now in Bob’s Living Golf Book, sections A6 and H28.

Download the book and read those sections. Please.

Then team it up with a stationary suspension point, make sure your tempo is not too fast for you, and you will have a golf swing that performs beyond your wildest dreams.

Bob’s Living Golf Book – July 2019 Edition

The July 2019 edition of Bob’s Living Golf Book is now online.

I would recommend you open it and read the blue text, which is the new material.

Major additions are:
A6. A new description of how to have the hands lead the subhead through impact.
B4. The right thumb and forefinger in the grip.
C16. The suspension Point (all new)
G1. How to hit the ball (a bit) farther
H28. Build Your Swing Around Your Wedges (all new)

Play well, and have fun.

Your Personal Swing Flaw

I won’t say this for sure, but I’m willing to bet you have a personal swing flaw—one thing that you do wrong, not because you don’t know better, but because it makes sense, or it feels right, or feels good, whatever. It’s wrong but you do it anyway.

You get it fixed, start playing better, and then your swing goes south again, and guess why? You’re doing that thing again.

That personal flaw will haunt you for your entire golfing career. Even touring professionals have one, and they spend time on the range combatting it.

If you have one, and you know what it is (if you don’t know, start looking, because it’s there), what to do?

There are two ways to deal with it. If the flaw is a matter of poor technique, you can create a new technique. If the flaw is the result of a personal tendency, it is easier to build in a compensation than to correct something that would be difficult to change.

I’ll use myself as an example of each kind.

My pet swing flaw is to take the club back too far inside. This results in swinging the club into the ball from too far inside, which leads too often to a duck hook or a weak push.

By taking the club back slower (new technique), I remind myself to take it back straighter and this flaw goes away.

My other flaw is that I do something that makes my hands turn over through impact, leading, again, to right-to-left ball flight that I don’t want. The number of corrections I have tried felt artificial or forced.

I finally solved the problem by agreeing to let myself keep doing whatever that is I’m doing because that’s just what I do, and trying to change it gets me nowhere.

A compensation is in order, then, and the simple compensation I came up with is to open the clubface about two degrees at address.

What I get out of that is a straight shot or a baby draw. The ball doesn’t go way left unless I just lose my head, which happens, but seldom enough that I can live with it.

So there you have it. Two ways to fix a persistent problem and become a better golfer in spite of yourself.

How to Swing Faster Without Really Trying

Want to swing faster? That is, want more clubhead speed? The easy way?

Relax more. And more than that.

Relax the parts of your body that swing the club–your shoulders, arms, and hands. Especially the shoulders.

This swing won’t feel powerful, but power is not what you’re looking for. Clubhead speed is, and you get it by taking tension out of your body.

Be careful, though, because you might get more clubhead speed than you can handle.

Your maximum tempo is the fastest you can swing and still hit the ball on the center of the clubface.

You can swing faster than that, but that’s exceeding your swing’s red line, and the extra speed won’t do you any good because you can’t control it.

Ignore all the things you see on YouTube about adding swing speed through technical fixes.

Just relax. That’s all there is to it.

2019 Open Championship Preview

Winner: Shane Lowry by six strokes over Tommy Fleetwood.

The 148th Open Championship will be played this weekend at the Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. The tournament was last played there once before, in 1951, when England’s Max Faulkner won by two strokes over Argentina’s Antonio Cerdá.

This year the course will play at 7,344 yards to par 71. Graeme McDowell grew up in Portrush and played there hundreds of times. Rory McIlroy, at age 16, set the course record of 61, which has still not been equalled.

The photo shows the course, looking westward with the town behind it, and the sea behind that.

This Golf Digest article shows stills of all the holes. This course is different, believe me.

Hole-by-hole flyover videos are available at the official website.

It’s hard to pick out one hole over another for mention because they are all so good, and each one presents a unique challenge.

But we must mention the 16th hole, a par 3 playing at 236 yards into the prevailing wind, with the appropriate name of Calamity Corner. The green sits on a perch that slopes severely away on the right. The merest slice will be disastrous (photo). It’s no fun if you’re short and right, either.

Two new holes, which will play as the 7th and 8th, were created just for this championship to replace the traditional 17 and 18. They were considered somewhat lackluster, and are in a spot on the grounds better suited for the tent village that is a fixture at major championships anymore, so for that purpose will they be used.

Through a re-routing of the holes from the 7th onward, which I won’t go into, the round will finish with the traditional 15 and 16 serving as 17 and 18 for the Championship.

The course is by the sea, but only the 5th green and 6th tee come near it. The new 7th and 8th are out there, too, but not as near to the beach.

One thing that all holes save the 1st share: they curve. Only the 1st plays straightaway. In addition, if the rough is allowed to grow inward, the fairways will be very narrow.

Those two factors might convince golfers who have a hard time hitting their driver straight to retire it for the week. How about the bombers, though? Will they find a way?

There are few bunkers on the course, especially around the greens. They are guarded by hills, mounds, and hollows. Greens can be difficult to hold if approached from the wrong spot of the fairway.

It should be noted that during the Championship in 1951, only two golfers, not including Faulkner, broke 70.

What would a major championship be without controversy? This year it involves John Daly. Daly, because of osteoarthritis in his right knee, was allowed to use a cart at Bethpage Black for the PGA Championship, but the R&A has offered only their sympathy.

Daly’s request to use a cart at Royal Portrush was turned down, because the R&A felt that golf is a walking game, and besides, the course is not set up for, and does not have places for carts to be driven.

Who will win? I know who wants to win, and that is Rory McIlroy. His A game beats everybody else’s A game. Let’s see if winning the return of the OC to Ireland is sufficient motivation to bring it with him this week.

So get up early and watch golf played the way it should be played. Whatever you think of the other major championships, this one is the most fun to watch.

The Suspension Point

In order to hit the ball cleanly, the club has to return to the same place it was at address. This means the swing arc can’t be moving around during the swing.

The first part has to with the up and down location of the bottom point of your swing (Figure1). If you raise up when you take the club back, that raises the bottom point of your swing. Now you have the problem of getting it back to where it was you started–not too far back down, and not staying too far up. Who can get that right from swing to swing?

The second part has to with the side-to-side location of the bottom point (Figure 2). It’s real hard to get ball first-ground second contact when the swing keeps bottoming out in a different spot, relative to the location of the ball.

Again, the problem is to keep the swing arc from moving around during the swing. The solution was developed by Paul Runyan and explained in his book, The Short Way to Lower Scoring.

Runyan talked about the suspension point of the swing, around which the swing turns. He identified it as the big bone at the base of your neck (C7 vertebrae).

Read about it in my book, Bob’s Living Golf Book, section C16.

One year at an LPGA tournament in Portland, I stood behind the players on the first tee, so I was looking at their back. I kept my eye on the suspension point. With player after player, it didn’t move until after the ball was hit and they rose into their finish. It didn’t move up and down, it didn’t move side to side.

It didn’t move.

The Trigger Finger in Your Golf Grip

There’s a grip feature that isn’t talked about very much. You hardly ever read about it in instruction books, maybe because the authors think it is an advanced technique. It might be.

But if you have been around the game for a while, you might have seen it, and you might want to try building it into your grip in an advantageous way.

Your right index finger is probably resting alongside the right middle finger when you hold the club, and doesn’t do much but sit there. If you play left-handed, I’m taking about your left index finger.

What I want you to try is separating that finger by placing it farther down on the handle. Put about one finger-width away from the middle finger so there is a gap between the two. That makes it what people call a trigger finger.

For you Golfing Machine nuts, it is Pressure Point #3.

You can stop there, but I went a step further. With my thumb, which is sitting on top of the handle, I press the handle against the middle bone in my index finger (medial phalange, if you must know). That clamps the handle between those two fingers and gives them a major role in guiding the club throughout the swing.

For Ben Hogan buffs, of which I am one, this is the exact opposite of what he said to do with these two fingers in his book Five Lessons, which he called swing wreckers. A more careful reading of the book reveals that he was opposed to the use of these two fingers for the average golfer, but they are used by advanced golfers for touch in striking the ball.

I see what he means. I find I have placed the club in the firm grasp of the two most sensitive fingers, the ones with which I, or all of us, do any kind of precision handwork. Given the precision that is required to hit a golf ball on the center of a square clubface, why wouldn’t I want to have these two fingers play a leading role?

When I take the club back, I take it back with these two fingers. That lets me bring the club up to the same place for the start of the forward much more often than not. During the forward swing, the pressure of these two fingers serves to prevent my right hand from turning over the left and hooking the ball.

The result is a stream of very straight shots, rather than draws that can get out of control without notice. I wish I had discovered this twenty years ago!

More specifically, I get more center hits with my driver, and more precision hits (ball first, ground second) with my irons.

What about short shots, that get hit with finesse stroke? Aren’t your right thumb and forefinger the name of the game when it comes to finesse?

What I’ve told you so far is how this is going for me. This might not work for you, or work in this form. I went through several variations of the trigger finger, to figure out just how to do it, before I hit upon this one, and it has taken some time to get to this place with it.

It’s just something you can play with that you might not have heard about. A few videos might be help you along.

Shawn Clement has a video that led me to the grasping concept, but he emphasizes power. And those are muscles in your forearm, not tendons.

One more, from the irrepressibly cute Aimee Cho, emphasizes the control aspect.

Getting the Right Golf Grip

The right grip opens or closes the door to good shots. It is much more important than you might think. Here’s how to find the grip that works for you.

To make golf easy, the clubface needs to be square at three places: address, the end of the backswing, and impact.

Everybody can get the first one right. The second one is what I will talk about today.

Now you don’t have to have the clubface square at the end of the backswing. Many championship golfers do not. But golf is a lot easier if you do. Let’s find out where yours is facing.

Take your normal grip, swing the club all the way back as you normally do, and stop. Without moving your hands, turn your shoulders back so they face the front again. Lower your hands until you can see the clubhead. If you have horizontal hinging in your backswing, you’ll have to straighten the shaft so it is vertical.

Now look at the clubface. Is it square? If it is not, I guarantee that your right hand is not in the same orientation that it was in when you addressed the ball.

If you find that the clubface is no longer square, keep your hands oriented where they are, twirl the club with your fingers until the face is square again, and re-test. And you know what you’ll get? A square clubface at the end of your backswing.

Why does this happen? A golfer’s flexibility, habitus, and sense of movement can force the right hand into a certain position when the club gets taken back. But if the hand is already in that position at the start, it does not move, and the clubface stays where it was: square.

If I start with a square clubface on the ground with the V in my right hand pointing toward my right shoulder, the so-called neutral grip, after I do this test the V will be pointing straight at my chin, and the clubface will be closed.

Getting a properly oriented grip is only one step. If you swing down and stop at what would be impact, is the clubface still square? If not, you have a swing correction to make.

But if the clubface is square, welcome to the world of straight shots.

Check your grip this way periodically. Everybody’s grip drifts over time.

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