The Recreational Golfers’ Best Posts of 2012

In only five more days 2012 passes into history. The blog posts I’ve written, however, remain current. All you have to do is know what you’re looking for. To make that easier for you, I’ll show you where the best posts of the year can be found. A few of them might not make the most popular list, but all of them will make a big difference in how well you play.

Good golf begins in the mind. So does your golf shot. The True Beginning of a Golf Stroke. January 8.

Your elbows, left arm, and right leg build a good swing if they are managed correctly. This video lesson shows you how. The Golf Swing – Elbows, Left Arm, Right Leg. March 1.

The best golfing advice you ever got. If you can do this, you are on your way to low scores. Not better ones, low ones. Ball First, Ground Second. March 28.

Instead of trying to fix your golf swing, start over. Same for your short game and putting. Maybe You Should Start Golf Over. April 10.

A positive mind is the best tonic for better golf. Always Be Positive. April 30.

Many recreational golfers try to flip the ball in the air with their right hand. Death move. Here’s how to stop. The Golf Swing Move That Changes Everything. May 28.

Short game technique needs to have a plan. Here’s one. A Short Game Framework. June 25.

Your best shots will be wasted if your swing isn’t pointed in the right direction. It’s simple. Align Your Golf Swing This Easy Way. July 9.

Still can’t get out of bunkers? Let fix that right now. Getting Out of a Greenside Bunker. August 8.

A little detail, ball position, can make all the difference regardless of what else you do. Why Ball Position is Important. September 13.

Never be too proud to take a golf lesson. I know a few golfers who are. When Do You Need a Golf Lesson? October 22.

O.K., distance. Here’s how to get more, and it couldn’t be simpler. Two Simple Ways to Get More Distance. December 17.

I can’t wait for the 2013 season. It’s going to be my best yet. And you?

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Your Playing Set of Golf Clubs

When I began playing, a set of clubs was four woods (1, 2, 3, 4), nine irons (2-9), a pitching wedge and a putter. Most people swapped out their 2-wood for a sand wedge. A few people traded their 2-iron for a 5-wood. That was about it.

A half-set for beginners was sold, consisting of a 1- and 3-wood, the odd-numbered irons, and a putter. I don’t think half-sets are sold anymore, though they should be, to make it less expensive for beginners to get into the game. As far as the composition goes, you could trade the 3-iron from a modern set for a 21-degree hybrid and you would have it.

Whatever clubs you have in your bag, make sure there is a reason for every one of them to be here. You’re allowed fourteen clubs, but you don’t have to carry fourteen. Also, every club except maybe the driver should be able to multi-task. If not, either learn how or get rid of it.

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A Winter Improvement Plan – Ball First, Ground Second

Nine months ago, I posted what might be the most valuable advice I have ever given you about the golf swing. It is to hit the ball first, and the ground second. If you would like to read that post again before going on, here it is.

“Ball first, ground second.” You would not be undone by making this a mantra. On every shot except the ones you hit with a driver and a putter, this is the basis of a good shot. You cannot get too good at this.

The post has a drill you can use to teach yourself this move. There are training aids that help you learn it. You might even take a lesson, which would be the best way to go about it.

There isn’t more that I can say about it, except that if you want to be a different golfer by the time the 2013 season opens, learn how to do this. It might take that long, but your effort will be worth it. It truly turns golf into a different game.

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Yes, Bob, There is a Santa Claus

A few weeks before Christmas, Santa said, “Bob, I’m going to bring you a Leupold GX-1* rangefinder for Christmas, but I’m pretty busy right now. Can take care of that for me? Wrap it, put my name on it? Thanks a bunch.”

Thank you, Santa.

If you’re looking for a distance-measuring device, this is the one to get.

*No longer manufactured. Click link to see current models.

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One Club at a Time

I’m slowly getting back into my swing after my surgeries earlier this year. My pro and I have developed a healthier swing, which I spent a few months learning. Now I am putting it into my game, one club at a time.

I started with a 9-iron and worked with it exclusively for about three weeks until I got consistent (-ly good) results with it. Then I started easing in the 8-iron. It has taken about ten days for that club to come up to speed, so later this week I will introduce my 7-iron to the practice plan.

I might help you to try the same thing in the next few months. Start with your 9-iron and keep at it until at least three out of five shots are exactly like you want them to be. Then keep hitting the 9, but hit a few balls here and there with the 8 — just one or two, then go back to the 9. Ease the 8 into your practice until it is performing like the 9, then you can introduce the 7.

By getting reacquainted with the clubs in your bag this way, one club at a time, slowly, and only when you’re ready, you’ll improve your swing by quite a bit.

What we normally do during the golf season is spend time at the range hitting the clubs we want to hit, or trying to fix problems. Do yourself a favor by starting over. Learn to hit an easy one well. Then take the one next to it and learn to hit that one well. And so on.

It wouldn’t hurt to suspend playing until this exercise is over. It night take a few weeks with each club at first, but once you get the hang of how to make transitions, it will proceed more quickly.

Visit www.therecreationalgolfer.com

Two Simple Ways to Hit a Golf Ball Farther

Everyone wants more distance, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t get it. Here are two simple ways to add a few more yards to every full shot.

1. Get your rhythm right. Last week’s post on the subject tells you how to do that.

2. Lighten up your grip pressure. There’s no need to squeeze the club. How hard do you hold when you shake hands with a child? Or how tightly would you hold a pretty woman?* That’s how hard you should hold the club, and try to keep it that light all the way through the swing. Holding too tightly makes your muscles work against you, slowing down the swing.

*My wife says I hold her like a golf club.

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A Winter Improvement Program – Rhythm

Last week we talked about tempo. This week we’ll talk about rhythm. They’re not the same thing. Tempo is the overall speed of the swing. Rhythm is the temporal subdivision of the swing into its component parts. Two swings can have different overall speeds, but feature the same rhythm.

For years, golf pros told you the rhythm of the golf swing was 2:1 — two parts backswing, one part downswing. This, however, is not correct.

John Novosel came out with a revolutionary book in 2004 called Tour Tempo, in which he pointed out that the rhythm of the golf swing was 3:1. Three counts to the top of the backswing, one count to impact. He based his finding on video analysis of the golf swing of Tour players.

Young-Tae Lim and John W. Chow, in a 2002 study of lumbar spine loads during the golf swing, graphed the phases of the golf swings of five low-handicap college golfers. The time dimension of the swing was normalized to 100, with 0 being the start of takeaway and 100 being the finish. The end of the backswing was centered narrowly around 52, and impact was likewise centered around 68. That’s as close to 3:1 and you could ask for.

While Novosel was right about the 3:1 ratio, he got it all wrong when he created an audio track to listen to alone or to accompany a video of a golfer swinging. The audio track is a 2:1 rhythm. If you count the audio beats, starting with 1 at takeaway, the end of the audio sequence comes at the fourth count. That’s three beats, not four: two beats to the top, one beat to the ball. Right idea, wrong execution.

Let’s try using a tune most of you are familiar with, Johann Strauss’s The Blue Danube waltz, to feel the correct 3:1 rhythm. Those of you who are musically inclined can see how this works from the music displayed below. Takeaway starts with the pickup note (and). The next three notes take you to the top of your backswing (1, 2, 3) and the first note of the second measure indicates contact (4).

I included the rest of the musical phrase just to be complete.

If the music notation is no help, or you’ve never heard the piece, I’m sure you have a friend who can whistle it to you or pick it out on a piano. It starts with two repeated notes. The first one signifies takeaway of the club. The next three notes, which ascend in pitch, take you to the top of the backswing. The last of these three notes is repeated, and that second note of the pair is the count for impact.

You can also set a metronome to about 168. When the metronome ticks, count One and begin your swing. You should reach the top of your backswing at the fourth tick and have swung back down to impact at the fifth.

Get used to this rhythm and then hit a ball or two. You might find that good golf just got a whole lot easier.

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.

A Winter Improvement Program – Tempo

A few days ago, I found this comment on an Internet golf forum: Slow down your swing and learn to live with the extra distance you get.

Exactly.

Whenever I’m at the range and I get into a patch of poor ball-striking, the first thing I do is slow down my swing. Most of the time that is all it takes to get back on track. I do the same thing after a couple of bad shots in a row on the course, too.

I hit straight again, and the ball jumps off the clubface and flies out to the full distance I expect from that club, with what seems like no effort at all.

Now I grant you that clubhead speed contributes to distance. You can’t chip the ball with a 7-iron as far as you hit it when you swing. But. . .

What is far more important to getting the distance you want, and the accuracy, is square, centered, in-line contact. You might be surprised how far you can hit the ball with just a half swing when all those factors are lined up.

Or let’s look at it from the other end. I was at the range with my son a few years ago, trying to show him why he needn’t swing so hard. I took out a mid-iron and swung as fast as I could without falling down.

Then I hit another ball using my usual swing speed. The second ball landed less than five yards short of the first ball. All that effort for just a few extra yards and the risk of a poorer shot.

There is just no percentage in swinging hard. You do want to hit hard, but that happens when you have the clubface all lined up at impact. You give yourself a much greater chance of that happening when you swing smoothly, which means slower.

Here’s one way to figure that out. When you’re on the range, assume that your task it hit one thousand golf balls without taking any big breaks. You would having to be saving your energy on every swing in order to get that done.

On the course, same thing. Assume you’re going to play 72 holes today. If you swing for the fences every time, you’ll never make it. You need to figure out how relaxed you can be when you swing the club.

Many people think that to be relaxed is to be out of power, lacking in strength. This is not true. What it means is to be using only the necessary amount of muscle power to get the job done. Just like cracking a whip, or casting a fly rod, the center must stay relaxed in order for speed to multiply outwards along the full radius of motion.

I am finding lately that the best way to monitor and keep your tempo under control is by the speed at which you rotate your hips. It should be the same speed going back and swinging through. You absolutely cannot control your tempo with your hands and arms.

Take a lot of swings without a ball, just to build up a sensitivity for the right tempo. When you do put a ball in front of you, be careful, because that by itself makes us swing faster. We don’t clobber the ball, we just swing the club.

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A Simple Business Model

I get telephone calls every so often about business services that the caller would love to provide to me. I say I am a VERY small business, and don’t need their help, but thank you very much for calling. It never hurts to be polite.

Last night I got a call from someone who said I had been sent a preapproved application for equipment and vehicle purchases. I signed off as usual, because I don’t need a fleet of trucks to deliver all the books that everyone is buying from me. I just need to make a trip to the post office, and it’s close by.

If you click over to therecreationalgolfer.com and buy one of my books, I’ll sign it, put it in an envelope, go to the post office, and mail it to you. What could be better than that?