The Golf Swing Is a Straight Line Motion

I’m becoming convinced that a good golf swing is easier to acquire than we are being led to believe. That’s because the swing is taught in terms of arcs and angles. I believe it’s best described as a continuous straight line motion.

Imagine a piston drawing back from the ball along the intended flight path, then exploding hard into the ball in that direction. Where else could the ball go but straight? With no arc in that motion, there would be chance for the hitting surface to be misaligned at impact, nor for the direction of the strike to be other than the intended one.

It is true that we have to turn our body in one direction, and then in the reverse direction. Arcs, circles. What I would like you to do is THINK in straight lines. Even though the club is turning away from the ball, think that is going straight back from it.

That is not to say, take the club away in a straight line motion, as a swing mechanic, but to think you are taking the club away straight, even as your body does what it has to do because of the way it is designed.

When it is time to bring the club back into the ball, THINK that you are bring it straight into the ball.

Move in an arc, think in a straight line. When you do that, your body makes unconscious adjustments that bring the club back along the intended starting path with a square clubface. All you do is hang on.

There is one technical matter that must be observed at this point. You pull things more accurately than you push them. When the clubhead is coming toward the ball, it must be pulled with the left hand, not pushed with the right. You can PULL something in a straight line easier than you can PUSH something in a straight line.

That’s all I need to say on this topic. Play around with this idea at the range to figure out how to incorporate it into your swing. If your swing feels like it is changing a bit, maybe it is, but not by as much as it might feel like. The change is mostly in your head. The proof  that you’re getting it is in golf balls going very straight, one after the other.

Earlier I said that the golf swing is best described as a continuous straight line motion. I’ll get to the continuous part in my next post.

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Two Days to Go on My Special Offer!

Buy a copy of Better Recreational Golf on Amazon, today, or tomorrow.

Forward me, at OLP@wvi.com, the e-mail message you got from Amazon confirming your purchase. I will send you, by e-mail, my FREE guide to breaking 100 (or 90, or 80), the next time you play.

If you’re close, shooting just a couple of strokes over these threshold scores, but not breaking through, I’ll tell you how to do it. FREE!

I watch the people I play golf with, and I see just what they need to do to shave three strokes off their score, which is all it takes.

This offer is valid for purchases made through March 31, 2014.

Thank you very much!

A Solid Core for Golfers

Golf is not a walk in the park, though it looks like one. The golf swing is an athletic movement, which requires physical strength to perform correctly, and to avoid injury.

The physical foundation of the swing is your core, or the trunk and the lower back. Do these exercises three times a week to develop it. No equipment is required.

Exercises 1-3 strengthen your abdomen. Exercises 4-5 strengthen your back. You must do both groups to be balanced.

1. Abdominal crunch – Lie down on your back, both knees bent. Elevate your upper back so your shoulder blades are off the ground. Hold for five seconds and lower your shoulders to the ground. Start with three times and work up to ten.

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2. Plank – Get into a push-up position, with your body supported by your toes, and your forearms instead of your hands. Make sure your body line is straight. Hold for 30 seconds and work up to two minutes.

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3. Side plank – Lie on your side. Raise your body off the ground and support it on your forearm and underside foot. Make sure your body line is straight. Hold for ten seconds. Do five times on each side. At first, you may wish only to raise your upper body off the ground.

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4. Butt squeeze – Lie down on your back, legs straight out. Clench your buttocks and hold for ten seconds. Try not to squeeze your thighs, too. Do five times.

5. Prone pointer – Get down on all fours. Raise your right leg and stick it straight out behind you. Raise your left arm and stick it straight out in front of you. Hold for ten seconds. Lower and switch to left leg, right arm. Do five times on each side, work up to twenty.

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My Swing Keys for 2014

Lately I have been hitting the ball very straight. This is because I have been paying attention to a few simple swing keys. They might be worth anything only to me, but just in case they’re not, here they are:

1. 3:1 rhythm. Three counts to the end of the backswing, one count back to impact. Often, just doing this is enough to produce a good shot.

2. Start the club back straight away from the ball. My pet swing flaw is to take it back inside.

3. Take the club back to control. This means to take the club back only so far as I still feel a connection between the clubhead and the ball. The clubhead knows where the ball is and how to get back to it. If I make my backswing to long, I lose this connection.

4. The left hand leads the club into impact. You might think this would leave the clubface open. It does only if your body is too far ahead of your arms. 

When I get these four things right, I hit the ball right where I’m looking. 

Here’s to low scores in 2014.

Note! Only one week left for my special offer. Buy a copy of Better Recreational Golf or BRG, Left-hander’s Edition, and get my guide to breaking 100 (or 90, or 80) the next time you pay, FREE! Send me your e-mail receipt from Amazon, and I’ll send you the guide, pronto.

 

Jack Fleck (1921-2014)

The man who defeated Ben Hogan in the 1955 U.S. Open died today at the age of 92 in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

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Fleck was an outstanding ball striker, but an indifferent putter. He came to the Olympic Club confident and knowledgable, having played many rounds there. He was one stroke off the lead going into the Saturday 36-hole final.

With several holes to go for Fleck, Hogan was in the clubhouse with a two-stroke lead. On the 72nd hole, Fleck need a birdie 3 to tie Hogan. He got it, to get into a playoff the next day.

Fleck had a one-stroke lead on the final hole when Hogan slipped hitting his drive, and ended up with a double bogey 6, securing the victory for Fleck.

Fleck, who began and ended his career as a teaching pro, did not receive the adulation a National Open championship normally received, one, because he beat Hogan, and two, he was an unknown.

He got a set of Ben Hogan irons just before the Open, with the blessing of Hogan himself.

Fleck won only two more tournaments on the PGA Tour.

His autobiography, The Jack Fleck Story, describes the payoff shot by shot.

Leave Approach Putts Next to the Hole

The main reason you have three-putt greens is that you leave your first putt too far from the hole. That has to do with touch; some days you have it, and some days you haven’t a clue.

There is a way to always have it, though. When you move the putter back, your body changes shape. Some muscles contract, other muscles flex, and if you are aware enough, you can feel all this. The trick is to identify the physical sensations that are related to a certain size of backswing, which is the regulator of distance in putting.

I will describe my own sensations as an example. Yours might be different.

I keep my upper arms close to my body, but not touching it, at address. When I take the putter back and feel my right upper arm start to press against my right side, that is the length of backswing for a putt of about 15 feet.

When I take the club back farther than that, and feel a stretching on the right side of my torso, near the hip, that is a backswing for about a 30-foot putt. If I continue to take the putter back beyond that sensation, I will eventually feel the same kind of stretching in my torso on the left side. That is the backswing or a 40-foot putt.

There’s one I left out, because it’s subtle. When I take the putter back past the pressing of my upper right arm, but before I feel the stretch on my right side, there is a point of what feels like ease, like a natural place to stop swinging the club. That backswing hits the ball just over 20 feet.

With these longer putts so calibrated, I never have to guess how hard to hit a putt. I just read my own body.

I developed these indicators on the practice green at my driving range. Most golf courses I play on have greens faster than that one. All I need to do is re-calibrate each sensation on the practice green at the course, before I tee off, and I’m ready.

Relying on your mind to “feel” the length of the stroke leads to inconsistency from round to round. This method gives you something that is tangible and repeatable to gauge its length. The more of that you can put in your golf, the better.

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The Simple Pitch Shot

Five years ago, I published Better Recreational Golf. Several pages were, and still are, devoted to a short game shot I called, and still do, the Hard Chip. It is played just like your greenside chipping stroke, the essential feature being no wrist break, but with a much bigger swing. It functions as a pitch shot.

I developed this shot on my own because all the books I read about pitching talk about playing a mini-swing for your pitch. That’s a difficult stroke to play, and is one reason why so few recreational golfers I play with pitch the ball very well.

I have found, over the years, that if you make this wristless stroke in two forms, one taking your hands back to hip height, and another taking your left arm back to parallel with the ground, you have eight pitching distances locked into a stroke that can hardly go wrong.

Now what happens? The December 2012 Golf Digest has an article titled “The  New Big Thing on Tour.” You know what it is? The Hard Chip! Except in the article it’s called the “straight-arm” pitch.

Tour pros are apparently hitting their pitch shots this way, and why not?  The swing itself has no variables, so it is easy to repeat. You can change the shot by varying ball position at address, the club, or the length of your swing, but the stroke doesn’t change.

The greatest benefit for recreational golfers is that it is easy to bring the club back to the ball to make clean contact. In a pitching stroke where the wrists break, this isn’t easy to do.

So what I would recommend is rushing out to buy a copy of Better Recreational Golf so you can learn how to hit this easy and valuable shot. Besides, who knows what else is in there that will take the Tour by storm? And you will have been there first!

You can find it at www.therecreationalgolfer.com.

 

 

 

 

Golf Swing Indicators

The hard part about correcting your golf swing on your own is that almost all of it happens out of sight. That’s why you have lessons–because the pro can see what you can’t.

If you develop  a set of indicators, though, you can figure out exactly what your swing is doing when you’re right, so you can fix yourself when something goes wrong.

One of my pet swing flaws is to take the club back too far inside. This leads to a series of low hooks. I have found an easy way to see if this is happening.

At the top of my backswing, I drop my hands straight down to the ground. If the clubshaft hits my right shoulder, I’m OK. Even better than OK, actually. I’m primed to hit the ball right where I’m aimed.

If, on the other hand, I drop my hands and the club misses my right shoulder entirely, the club is too far behind me. That was caused by taking the club back too far inside.

Now, every time I play and hit a low hook, I know why it happened and I can correct it instantly.  Better still, I know what to do to prevent it in the first place, which is to take the club back straight away along the target line.

How do you find these indicators? It takes a little imagination. I found this one by swinging in front of a mirror. Do try to find, them, though. Once you do, you’ll have your best swing locked in place.

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Practice Golf as You Play It

When you go to the range, you need to work on two things–your technical skills, and your mental skills. The third phase of golf, playing skills, can’t be practiced. You learn that “on the job.”

You can, however, practice the first two at the same time if you do this one thing: never hit the same shot with the same club more than two times in a row.

After you hit your 7-iron twice (and you are hitting it to a target, aren’t you?), put that club down and take out another that is somewhat different, such as a long iron or a sand wedge. Hit two shots with that club and switch again.

If you’re practicing around the green, hit a chip twice, then pick a different target that makes you use a different club.

With the putter, again, don’t hit the same putt more than twice in a row. Hit a few three-footers, then go to a few 20-footers, for example.

Mixing  it up like this accomplishes two things. First, it keeps you from getting into a groove. After a while, you might be hitting one good shot after another, but that doesn’t help you learn that shot.

When you play, you have to set up your mind for making a shot because you only have that one chance to get it right. Banging out one ball after the other, even if they’re all good shots, skips that critical mental process.

Second, you can go the other direction. You have to set up your mind for each shot when you play, but you can’t overdo it. After three or four good shots at the range you might start thinking about it, and start tweaking what needs to be left alone.

Good performance in sports is based on trusting your training. Learning how to trust is just as important as perfecting your physical skills.

So you don’t have to hit only two 7-irons, or any other club,  and call it a day with that club. Just hit your two shots with it, and work with a few other clubs before you go back to it.

They say to practice as you play, and this is one way to do that.

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Short Irons and Bad Backs

I was playing golf today, and I noticed that while my drives are going about 220 yards, and my 4-iron went 170 yards, I had a full shot into the green from 118 yards and I hit a full 8-iron.  That’s not very far for that club, given what I’m doing with the other two.

It struck me, though, that the reason is that I have to take care of my back when I swing. When I hit the longer clubs, I can stand more upright, which puts less stress on my spine.

But with a short iron, I have to bend way over (I’m 6’6″ tall). That puts a lot of stress on my spine, so I’m unconsciously reluctant to swing too hard.

If you have a bad back, and I know there are a lot of you out there who do, too, take this into consideration.

The more you bend over, the more of a load you place on your lumbar spine. Therefore, the more easily you need to swing a golf club in that posture.

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