2017 Christmas Offer

I hope you have started your Christmas shopping. Mine is almost finished.

For the golfer on your list, which can include yourself, here’s my 2017 Christmas Shopping Special as a way of saying thank you for being a reader:

Buy a copy of Better Recreational Golf (regular or left-hander’s editions) from Amazon.

Forward a copy of your Amazon purchase receipt e-mail to me at olp@wvi.com, and I will send you, for no charge (!) a copy of The Golfing Self, my book on the mental game.

Supplies are limited, and I must receive your Amazon receipt no later than December 16 so I can mail your copy of TGS in time for the 25th.

Click now! And thanks again!

Triangulated Approach Putting (TAP)

Often I will try something out for a few weeks and if it seems to be a good thing I will write a post about it. This one is different. I discovered it in 2015. I didn’t want to let you know about it until I was sure it was sound.

It is.

The method, which I call Triangulated Approach Putting (TAP) will revolutionize your approach putting.

The commonest reason you three-putt is that you leave your first putt too far from the hole. You get the distance wrong. TAP lets you leave that first putt right beside the hole. It is almost scary how good you will get.

TAP is based on this axiom: For any length of putt, if the length of the putting stroke is the sole distance generator, there is one, and only one, length of stroke that will send the ball that distance.

TAP shows you how to find the length of that stroke. I’ll explain the theory first and then get into the fine points.

In the diagram below, you see a line from the ball to the hole. That is the baseline of a triangle. The spot marked apex is where you stand to find the length of stroke. The line from the ball to the apex is the eyeline. The line from the apex to the hole, not being a factor, and is not labeled. Distances are exaggerated for clarity.

lateral bend stretch

The apex is located at a standard spot, half the length of the baseline and offset three paces to the left (to the right for left-handed golfers). These distances are adjustable.

Stand at the apex and swing your putter back and forth while looking at the ball. Make a stroke such that the clubhead intersects the eyeline (an imaginary line coming straight at you from the ball). That stroke will send the ball the exact distance from where it now lies, to the hole.

That’s the theory. Here’s the practice.

(1) The length of the swing must be the sole distance generator. You cannot add any “hit” with your hands. That would be introducing another variable, which we do not want to do.

(2) You must hit the ball on the same spot of the putter’s face every time. The sweet spot is best. Erratic contact in this regard plays havoc with how much energy is imparted to the ball, and thus how far it goes.

(3) The speed of your putting stroke must be constant. Otherwise, you will unknowingly be imparting more or less energy to the ball, again affecting the distance it travels.

(4) The location of the apex is not fixed.
(a) If greens are slower or you are putting uphill, the apex must be more than halfway to the hole–point (A).

(b) If greens are faster or you are putting downhill, the apex must be less than halfway to the hole–point (B).

(c) Your putter can make a difference. If you are consistently leaving putts too long or too short, stand more or less than three paces from the baseline–closer to make putts go farther, or at more remove to make them travel shorter.

(5) An essential point is remembering the length of the stroke. After all, you have to walk over to the ball to hit the putt, and in that time you might forget. While at the apex, make several strokes that intersect the eyeline and pay attention to how that stroke feels to your body. There might be a slight stretching somewhere in your back, or your arms might brush against you in a certain way. When you get to the ball, recreate that sensation.

(6) Hit the ball with trust. TAP works if you let it.

Regarding the adjustments in (4), the more you practice TAP, the more accurate your adjustments will become.

Use TAP when distance is more important than line. How far from the hole that switch gets made is up to you, but ten feet is not too close.

I have tried this method on different practice greens, on different courses, and after I have adjusted to the conditions it always works.

You could take out all my posts from 2009 to date and nothing would be missing because you can read all of it somewhere else. I have just been adding emphasis or perhaps clarity.

But TAP is new. There is nothing remotely like it to be seen anywhere else. If you want to save strokes on the green starting almost overnight, here’s how. No kidding.

The Vanity Handicapper-in-Chief

It try so hard to stay out of politics when I’m online. No matter how egregious someone’s behavior is, there are legions who think it’s all right.

But this is a golf blog, and one of the things I hold most dearly as a golfer is respect for the game.

You know how you hear all the time that you learn a lot about a man’s character by playing golf with him?

That takes me right to the Vanity Handicapper-in-Chief. His GHIN listing was released today. An even though he has played golf at least 30 times since January, this is his first posting in that period.

Now you build a vanity handicap by only posting your better scores. But the assumption is that you actually shot those better scores.

Have you ever seen this man swing a golf club? You have? Then you would know.

It reminds me of when Kim Jong-Il shot a 38 on a par-72 golf course in 1994 in North Korea, a round that included five holes-in one.

Good absolute grief.

What to Aim For When You Swing

Here’s another brilliant idea that might help you, or maybe not, but try it out anyway.

When we swing a golf club at nothing we make a flawless swing. When we swing at a golf ball, well, that’s a different story, isn’t it? The ball makes us do crazy things and we just can’t help ourselves.

Here’s this week’s expert advice guaranteed to solve that problem. Don’t look at the ball when you’re swinging to hit it. Look somewhere else.

If you’re hitting an iron from the fairway, you know you’re trying to hit ball first, ground second. So be looking at a spot perhaps an inch in front of the ball. Hit that spot with the leading edge of your iron and you will make outstanding contact.

Fairway wood? Same thing. Look at a spot on the ground an inch or so ahead of the ball. There’s a trick to it, though.

When you swing the club back, it’s a fairway wood. You’re looking at it. You can’t deny it. But just before you swing the club forward, think “7-iron,” and swing forward to hit that spot with the much sharper edge of your “7-iron.”

Works like a charm.

What about balls on tees? Be looking at the spot where the club would hit the ground were the ball not on a tee, and that is about an inch behind the ball.

Pitches and chips are a bit different. In these shots, you slide the sole of the club across the top of the grass. So look at the ground underneath the ball. It takes a little imagination to focus on the ground under the ball without noticing the ball, but you can teach yourself to do it.

Looking at a different spot does two things: it stops you from being ball-bound, and it helps you aim your stroke to where it should be aimed.

No beating down on the ball! And remember, swing with good rhythm and let the handle lead the clubhead.

Those Extra Strokes

When you play 18 holes, you know you’re going to putt the ball into the hole 18 times. The structure of par assumes you need 36 strokes to get the ball on the green in 18 holes. That’s 54 strokes, guaranteed, every time you play.

The questions you need to answer are, what are you doing with the shots from #55 up to your average score? And which of them you can get rid of most easily?

Extra putts? Of course there are going to be some. But if there are more than 18 extra, that’s too many. An extra 14 would be nice.

Extra swings? Make good contact and hit the ball straight. This isn’t difficult if you get lessons to learn what you’re supposed to be doing. Hint: it might take more than one lesson.

Penalty strokes? Keep the ball in bounds and out of water hazards. See above.

Extra recovery shots? Hitting out of tall grass, hitting out of trees, all that’s going to happen, so learn to get out of trouble and back in play in ONE shot. Don’t get greedy.

Extra chips? One per hole. First chip gets on the green. Close to the hole is better.

Extra pitches? One per hole. The green is a HUGE target. But if you aren’t good enough yet to hit it on the fly every time, hit a pitch and run with an 8-iron. Even if you can hit it on the fly, if the pin is sitting right in front of you and there is good ground between it and you, go with the 8-iron.

Extra sand shots? The pros say this is the easiest shot in golf. It is, but it’s a lot like learning to ride a bicycle. Get a lesson and practice. Once you know how to do it, it’s the easiest shot in golf.

Winter golf practice, 2017-18

1. This winter, go to the range twice a week. Get a small bucket. Hit half the balls with a full swing, and use the other half for pitches from 50-100 yards. All that (~30 shots) should take about 15 minutes. Spend 45 minutes on the practice green hitting chips and approach putts. Practice short putts at home.

2. Get a lesson to find out how to put the ball in the fairway off the tee if this is a problem for you. If you normally hit less than ten of fourteen fairways, it’s a problem.

Try Two Putters

You carry a driver and a fairway wood or two, maybe a few hybrid irons, six or so irons, a few wedges—and one putter.

Why only one putter? Well, up to the green, we need all those clubs because all the shots we need to play are different. But once we get the ball on the putting green, all the strokes are the same, aren’t they?

They are certainly not!

There are two kinds of putts. There are the long ones that you only want to get close to the hole, and there are the short ones you think you can sink.

You not only plan each kind of putt differently, if you examine your putting carefully, you will find that you hit them differently, too. That is why you need two putters.

They need to be putters with a difference. Any old two won’t do. The difference has to do with balance.

If you balance your putter shaft on your hand, you will probably see that the shaft rotates so the toe of the putter points to the ground. If so, you’re holding a toe-balanced putter (bottom in photo).

But there is another kind of putter which, if you apply the same test, ends up with the toe of the putter pointing straight to the side and the face facing the sky. This is a face-balanced putter (top in photo).

You might have read about whether your putting stroke should take the putter back on a straight line or on an arc. There are proponents of both schools.

The fact is, a toe-balanced putter naturally swings on an arc, and a face-balanced putter naturally swings straight. So you don’t have do to do anything. Just pick the right putter and use your normal putting stroke to get one result or the other.

Now, here’s the point. Approach putts hit from a distance need power supplied by an arcing stroke which allows us to move freely as our bodies are built to. That calls for a toe-balanced putter.

Short putts, where direction is paramount, are better struck with a shorter stroke that stays on line from start to finish, which gives greater assurance to the putter face being square to the starting line when the ball is hit. Enter the face-balanced putter.

So if I told you all you have do to save three shots per round is to take out one club (probably one of your longer clubs) and put in a second putter, would you do it? I did, and that’s why I’m writing this post.

A Launch Monitor in Your Golf Ball

You read that right. OnCore Golf is planning to demonstrate a golf ball in January 2018 containing sensors that give you a full read-out of your shot, which is accomplished using a mobile phone app. It keeps historical data, too, of your play on any course.

Read about it here: http://tinyurl.com/y93d39y9.

Public release is scheduled to occur in June 2018. The projected price is $49.95 for a sleeve of two Genius Ball golf balls.

What an age we live in.

Unwind Through the Ball

The less you try to HIT the golf ball and the more you SWING THROUGH it, the better shots you are going to get. I keep looking for a way to explain that to myself, and this week’s version is, “unwind through the ball.”

That means, in the backswing wind up, and in the forward swing unwind in the same way, all the way through the ball. Not TO the ball, but through it. Big difference.

It’s like you turn yourself into a giant spring. You wind up the spring on the back swing and you unwind on the forward swing. The unwinding is performed in the same manner as the winding. It is not ease back, then fire through.

I think the reason this is so hard to do is that we want to HIT the ball along way. So it’s really hard for us to swing easy back and easy through. But that’s exactly what I think you have to do.

That will also make it easier to hold onto the angle between your forearm and the club shaft and not let it go too early. That way, the club builds up acceleration without you even feeling it. You LET the club do the work instead of MAKING it do the work.

Before you swing, remind yourself to wind up gently and unwind gently through the ball. Regardless of what you really look like when you swing, picture in your mind how smooth and graceful you must look.

Practice swinging like this in your living room or in your backyard. Than the next time you play, take a practice swing in slow motion that winds up and unwinds through the mall. Then step up to the ball and do the same swing, just a little faster. I think you’ll like what happens.

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