All posts by recgolfer

Tiger Turns Down Massive Saudi Offer

In the news this week, Tiger Woods turned down an offer from the Saudi government of $2.3 million to play in the European Tour’s upcoming Saudi International golf tournament.

Whether the rejection is based on scheduling conflicts or the like, or whether Woods is making a moral statement is not known.

But one thing is clear. The rejection is a blow to the prestige of a tournament the Saudi government uses to glorify its image worldwide. And that needs to happen more often now.

Since 32-year-old prince Mohammed bin Salman assumed power in the family-owned and operated country, he has acted in alarming ways not only inside his own country, but beyond its borders.

He directed the kidnapping of a foreign head of state, the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri a year ago.

Only after intense international pressure was Hariri was allowed to return to Lebanon

He is waging a brutally destructive proxy war in Yemen, creating a humanitarian crisis of unconscionable proportion.

And last month he had American resident and Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi murdered for the crime of writing dissenting articles, violating the national sovereignty of Turkey in the process.

MBS, as he is called, is acting like a Mafia don. The Khashoggi murder was to be his message that if you oppose me, no matter where you are, we will find you and … . You fill in the blank.

Also in October, the Saudi government held an international investment conference, from which executives from Uber, JPMorgan, management giants BlackRock and Blackstone Group, Google, Bloomberg, Financial Times, CNN, The New York Times, Economist, CNBC, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, AOL cofounder Steve Case, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and U.S. Treausury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, backed out of attending following the Khashoggi murder. Virgin Group headed by Richard Branson backed out of a $1 billion dollar deal.

And Tiger Woods said “no”. My hat is off to him.

Not so much to European Tour CEO Keith Pelley, who said the Saudi tournament would go on as scheduled, certainly a public relations coup for the Saudis and an embarrassment for European golf.

It remains to be seen who shows up, if anybody.

Two Swing Moves Every Golfer Needs

I looked over my blog, which I have been posting to more than weekly since early 2009.  There are 152 posts about the golf swing.  I’m going to give you one more.

This post is something of a distillation of two principles I have written about many times.

It contains all the advice you will ever need about your golf swing.  If you learn to do these two things, your golf swing will transform itself and you will move to a new level of play.  I guarantee it.

First, slow down your swing.  I say in my Living Golf Book that “Your optimum tempo is the fastest you can swing through impact and consistently hit solid shots off the center of the clubface.”   That’s very likely slower than you’re swinging now.

By “consistently” I mean three out of five times.  We don’t need perfection.  But right now I would be surprised if you’re doing that three out of ten times.

The way you achieve this is to slow down your swing.  Try swinging at thirty percent of your normal speed.  You should start connecting with the center of the clubface and hitting brilliant shots with startling frequency.

Now move up a bit to maybe fifty percent of your normal swing speed.  Are you still connecting?   Three out of five times?  If so, go to seventy percent.  If there’s a drop off in shot quality, resist the urge to figure out how to hit the center at seventy percent.  Go back to the swing speed at which you found your greatest success and stay there.

Go back to the place where you make beautiful contact and hit the ball straighter, much more often, without losing any appreciable distance.

Second, swing so your hands get back to the ball before the clubhead does.  Your hands lead the clubhead.  No good golfer fails to do this. No bad golfer ever does it.

Learn how to do this by making half swings with a sand wedge, with only your left hand on the handle (right hand if you play left-handed).  That will give you the feeling of what your left hand and wrist are supposed to be doing as they swing through impact.  Practice this over and over.

Combined with your slower swing, it will be easy to keep doing this when you put both hands on the club.

That’s it:
Slow down your swing to get centered hits
Have your hands lead the clubhead into the ball

Work on these two things.  Don’t get distracted by anything else. Make them your winter golf swing workout.

Now, I didn’t make all this up in my backyard this morning.  You can read about these two things all over the place.  I’ve been talking about these two points for years on this blog.

Teaching professionals have their own ideas about a lot of things, but no teaching professional will disagree with these two.  They might be the only swing universals there are.

And when I get it through my thick head to actually do them they actually work.

My purpose in writing this blog is to point you in the right direction.  I cannot point you in a better direction than I have today.

Two Turns and a Swish

Several weeks ago I described the golf swing in two pieces.  I said if I could describe the swing in one piece I’d let you know.  Well, here it is.

The title of this post is it: two turns and a swish, credited to legendary teacher John Jacobs.

But what does that phrase mean?  That part isn’t so easy.  From Jacobs we go to Jim Flick and his book with the most to-the-point title ever, On Golf.

In this book, Flick makes the clear statement that the golf swing is composed of turning motions and swinging motions.  They are different, and are performed by different parts of the body.  Some parts turn, other parts swing.

The turning elements are the shoulders, torso, hips, legs, knees, and feet.

The swinging elements are the club, the mind, the fingers and hands, the wrists, the forearms, the elbows, and the upper arms and shoulder sockets (in which the upper arms turn).

He makes the key point that the turning elements support and respond to the swinging elements.  Swinging comes first, turning comes second.

Let’s move to Manuel de la Torre, who refines this concept in his book, Understanding the Golf Swing.  He says (writing in broad terms) the hands produce the backswing, and the arms produce the forward swing.

On that second point, he uses the anatomical definition of the arm, which is the upper limb from the elbow to the shoulder.  The limb from the elbow to the wrist is the forearm, and that is not used to produce the forward swing.

How do you integrate these two motions, the turn and the swing?  For the recreational golfer, Flick advises “to let his feet and legs support him and move in response to the swing.” (I’ll assume that applies to women, too.)

de la Torre says the body turn takes place in response to the swing, and says nothing more about it.  As far as the weight shift goes, which you hear about so much, the swing will produce it.

Both instructors are in firm agreement that the underlying concept in all of this is that what is swung is the club, not any body part.  The club.

Let me throw in one idea that helps keep the swing and the turn working together.  Flick calls it, “letting the air out.”  The first move forward with the arms is a gravity move.  The arms begin to drop in response to the pull of gravity.  “Tour players will tell you they want to soften their arms precisely at the change of direction.”

Centrifugal force will build up the necessary speed by the moment of impact.  By not forcing things at this critical instant, the swinging and turning elements integrate.

So there you have it: two turns and a swish (swing).  Part of the body turns, part of it swings.  Get those two parts straightened out and you’re on your way to hitting beautiful golf shots.

A Few Thoughts on Pressure

About a month or so ago, I posted on why you should learn to play without pressure rather than building pressure into your game on the practice ground.

Yesterday, a GOLFWRX newsletter presented an article titled, “Here’s why your practice sessions right now are probably worthless.”

Yep, you guessed it.  The writer said they are worthless because there is no pressure involved.

So I wrote a reply which I wish I had saved, because I submitted it but it didn’t get accepted for publication.  It’s not hard at all to get published on a golf forum, and we see comments from trolls getting by the censor, but I guess my comment was too incendiary.

I dared to suggest that controlling the mind is a skill that has nothing to do with golf, but with life, and the reason instructors and touring professionals attempt to find ways to accept pressure rather than eliminate it is they do not know the first thing about how the mind works.

I remember Greg Norman saying during his playing days he would never listen to a golf psychologist because none of them knew what it as like to be hitting into the 15th green at Augusta while in contention Sunday, so who were they to tell him what pressure was.  He also said upon reflection when his career was over that attitude was a big mistake on his part.

So if you have a pro who can teach you how to flush a 5-iron, I would listen.  But I would listen at arm’s length when they start telling you about pressure and how the mind works.  They’re most likely telling you what is in the air without having ever dipped further into it than that.

But I have.  So listen up.

What is pressure?  How does it get created?  It takes three conditions for pressure to arise.  In no particular order,

1. You are in a situation where you need to perform at your highest level.
2. You have only one chance to get it right.
3. You have judged the price of failure to be high.

This list could apply to a five-foot putt.  It could apply just as well to a business presentation of importance to your firm.  It could apply to rock climbing, where one wrong move could cost you severe injury or your life.

To prevent #1 from getting to you, practice to the point that you know what you are doing and have all confidence that you will get it right.  Then just do what you’ve practiced.

We all know that when we hit that five-footer a second time, after we missed it the first time, it goes in.  Why?  Because we did not feel pressure!!!  So learn to have that second feeling when you hit your first putt.  It’s entirely possible.

#3 should be easy to deal with.  In the grand scheme of life, there are things that can happen to you that are truly costly if you fail, but missing a five-foot putt is not one of them.  If the price or chance of failure is to high, then don’t put yourself in that situation.

That’s the theory.  To put it into practice, read my book, The Golfing Self.  It teaches you how to develop a mind that is impervious to pressure.

Remember, pressure is all created within you.  The other three members of your foursome aren’t nervous at all watching you stand over that five-foot putt.  They’re probably thinking.  “Good grief!  It’s a straight putt.  Just hit it!”

You can listen to professional golfers speak from ignorance and build pressure into your game, or you can develop your mind to play a care-free game of golf and do just as well, probably better.

Your choice.

A Small Golf Reference Library

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re a golf reader.   (Not everybody is.)   You might have more than a few golf books at home, too.   Nothing wrong with that.   I have several score.

These are the ones I have found to be most useful in teaching technique, diagnosing problems, and just plain having fun with golf.

On Learning Golf, by Percy Boomer, 1946. The original book on how to be a feel player.   This book still has influence.

Advanced Golf, by Vivien Saunders, 1995. Saunders goes into detail on points that barely get mentioned in popular instruction books.   Once you get the hang of the basic swing, this is how you elevate it.

Golf Doctor, by John Jacobs (also published as Curing Faults for Weekend Golfers), 1979. Jacobs describes twenty-five errant shot patterns, explains why they happen, and tells what to do about them, in detail that no other book even approaches.   Whatever is going wrong, it’s in here.

The Elements of Scoring, by Raymond Floyd, 1998. This is absolutely the best book there is on both the mental game and the art of getting the ball in the hole.

The Complete Golfer, Herbert Warren Wind, ed., 1954. Great fun.   Fiction, humor, memoirs, history, instruction, and fold-out maps of great courses.   This book is for people who realize there was golf before Tiger Woods, or even Palmer, Player, and Nicklaus, or want want to find out about it.

A few others:
The Golf Swing, by Cary Middlecoff, 1974.
Play Golf the Wright Way, by Mickey Wright, 1990.
The Short Way to Lower Scoring, by Paul Runyan, 1979.
A Golfer’s Education, by Darren Kilfara, 2001.
How to Play Golf on the Low 120’s, by Stephen Baker, 1962.

How to Practice Your Swing

Golf swing practice should be, at its core, learning how to repeat your swing, and learning it so thoroughly that when you play you never have to think about what your swing is doing, but rather where the ball is going to go.

You don’t learn how to do that by swinging over and over. You learn by breaking down your swing and building it back up, one part at a time. And repeating that endlessly.

Let me go to music to demonstrate what I’m saying.

When you learn a new piece, you first memorize it in little bits, a few measures at a time. You would start with the most difficult parts, because they need the most work.

After all of the piece has been memorized, you learn how to play the little bits smoothly, and how to connect them. It’s a slow building-up process that leads to playing the piece all the way through.

When the entire piece has been learned, you practice it, not by playing it all the way through over and over, even though you can, but by playing and connecting those little bits, just like you did when you were learning it.

You build up larger and larger compilations of the little bits until you are playing the entire piece. You’re always working on the details, so none of them get forgotten.

That is how you practice your golf swing. You should know what the little bits are that make you swing work. Practice each one, in isolation, to drill them into your unconscious mind.

Then build up your swing, one bit at a time, until you are swinging from start to finish, hitting all the bits you were practicing.

Then go do all that again.

How many times have you hit a bad shot and thought when it was over, “Oh, no. I forgot to do X.”

You most likely forgot to do X because you don’t practice X. You make only full swings and hope that part gets right somehow. But it never will get right until you practice that part alone. And all the other parts as well, each one by itself.

At the range, build up your swing, bit by bit, before every ball gets hit. After you hit that ball, repeat the building-up process again from the very start.

This method seems slow because you will make fewer full swings. It actually accelerates learning. Not to mention, the full swings you do make will be linked up and just like you want them to be.

A Few Random Golf Notes

No essay today. Just a few odds and ends that have come to mind lately.

1. That the forward swing begins with the movement of the left hip is beyond doubt, but what that movement is, exactly, is a matter of confusion. There is a slide and a turn. But which one comes first and how much of a movement is each one? Let’s make the matter simpler.

Think of the first move forward as pushing your left hip straight back behind you. Now it cannot exactly go straight backward. To go back it has to turn somewhat and there will be a bit of a slide, too. Also, your weight will get off the right side early, like it should.

By thinking about it this way, whether the slide or the turn happens first is no longer an issue. They will both happen at the right time and that’s all you need to worry about.

If you try this, make sure the hip goes backward in rhythm. Don’t snap it back quickly.

2. A few years ago, the Play It Forward campaign was big. Play from the right set of tees and you will shoot lower scores and have more fun. There’s another reason why playing it forward pays off. It makes you a better golfer over time.

Because the course is shorter you will be hitting more shots that are within your ability to hit. This means you will learn how to score. Instead of always playing catch-up, you will always be on offense. You will learn how to dictate to the course instead of the course dictating to you.

You might want to play for a while from tees that are too short, then back up with your new mindset.

3. A few years ago I talked to you about the clubs I used to chip with. It was a set that went from lob wedge through 8-iron. The chipping stroke I used was somewhat of a downward blow with a little bit of punch to it.

Recently I have changed my chipping stroke to one that is more of a level brushing stroke. It gradually became clear that the clubs I calibrated earlier did not work well with the new stroke.

Since the blow with a brush is not as sharp, the ball does not leap off the clubface as it does with the downward stroke. All I had to do to recalibrate my chipping set was to move up by two clubs.

For example, where I had been using a lob wedge I now use a gap wedge to chip to a certain distance, or instead of a pitching wedge I use an 8-iron to send the ball an equivalent distance.

4. Remember that we play golf in order to have fun with friends. Of course we want to get better, but improvement occurs gradually. Having fun happens anytime we want to. First things first.

The Golf Swing as Simply as I Can Describe It

Golf instruction books, videos, blogs, all give you advice on how to swing the club that makes sense to the person who wrote it but is no more than a vain attempt to describe what the swing feels like.  That’s what technical advice really comes down to.

Bobby Jones wrote this in his introduction to his book Bobby Jones on Golf:
“In order to play well, the player must have the feel of the proper stroke.  Being unable to view himself objectively, he has no other guide than the sensations produced by the action of his muscles.”

Those sensations, being subjective, defy objective description.  Technical advice can point a golfer in the right direction and warn her or him of things NOT to do, but after that, all is left to the internal investigations of the individual.

I’m going to make an attempt here at describing the swing in terms of everyday motions, not golf motions.  This description lacks detail on purpose.  If you can do these things, I believe you will be CLOSER to doing it right than if you followed a mechanical laundry list of what is happening.

So here goes.

The backswing:  Imagine there is a shelf behind you and just above your right shoulder (left shoulder if you play left-handed).  Stand up straight and reach behind yourself with the hand on the opposite side of your body to take something off the shelf.  The catch is that your feet have to stay in the same place and cannot turn.

Unless you are Gumby, you will will not be able to reach the object on the shelf unless you turn your body.  Your legs turn, your hips turn, and your shoulders turn in order to get your hand back there.

Now get into your golf stance and do the same thing.  Reach for the shelf and you will find your body making a proper turn back.

If you do this with a club in your hands, once you are finished you will be in a very good backswing position.

Without a club in your hands, you might have turned your head to look at the imaginary shelf, but holding a club, your head stays looking forward.  That should be the only difference.

As for the forward swing, imagine you are holding an object up there weighing several pounds that you want to toss a long way away from you, and which you are holding with both hands.

You would start by getting your hip into it (you would), then your arms would swing forward, and lastly your hands would release the object you’re throwing. The momentum of the throw would continue your body turn, and swing your arms and now-empty hands high and in front of you, coming to a balanced stop.

(The reason I say to think of throwing a heavy object is that its weight will keep your hands back where they cannot throw it until it is time to.)

That’s it, the golf swing in a nutshell:  reach back for the shelf, throw the heavy object.

Now do two things with what I have just said.  First, interpret it literally, not literalistically.  What’s the difference?  If I say it’s raining cats and dogs, the literal interpretation is that it’s raining very hard.  The literalistic interpretation is that boxers and tabbies are falling out of the sky.

Second, if this description of the golf swing doesn’t make sense to you, or doesn’t seem quite right, or if you have a better way of saying it, don’t quibble.  Make up your own nutshell.  Use what I said as a springboard for finding your own way to express the golf swing IN THE SIMPLEST TERMS.

When you’re out there playing is not the time to be thinking of minute technical points.  They all have to be included in a larger, simpler conception.  I’ve given you two: one for the backswing and one for the forward swing.

I’ll let you know when I figure out a way to describe the whole thing at once.

Your Ideal Golf Swing Tempo

It’s funny how you can hear the same thing over and over again and it doesn’t make sense until something happens that just makes it click.  That happened to me a few days ago when I was watching Tiger Woods hit a few tee shots.

On every tee, His GOATness took two relatively slow, graceful practice swings—swings any one of us could make.  I would hurt myself if I swung at the ball like he does, but I am right in there with his practice swing.

Which gave me an idea for my game.  Hit the ball with my practice swing.

I know, everyone has heard that a thousand times before, but watching Tiger’s practice swing next to his real swing made me finally comprehend what that advice really means.

His practice swing is slowed way down so he can feel everything.  He’s checking all the marks that he pays attention to along the way.  What those marks are is not important.  That his swing is error-free is important.

Now he is good enough to step on the gas with a ball in front of him and still make an error-free swing.  We are not.

I would suggest that before each shot the recreational golfer take a few unhurried, perfect practice swings, and use THAT SAME SWING for hitting the ball.

That will provide the time to hit all the marks that are important for making a successful swing.

You will not rush yourself through your swing and miss some of your marks, or more importantly, force the club out of position by making your body keep up with itself, and fail to.

Many amateurs have a problem getting their weight onto their left side before impact.  Swinging slower gives them time to do that.

Many amateurs throw the club at the ball from the top.  Swinging slower makes it easier to hold onto their lag and release it naturally at the ball.

Swinging slower makes it easier to swing from start to finish rather than from start to impact.

And so on.

I wrote in my Living Golf Book that your ideal tempo is the fastest you can swing through impact and consistently hit solid shots off the center of the clubface.  For many recreational golfers, that isn’t nearly as fast, or as forceful, as they now swing.

Will you lose distance?  Maybe, at first, but when you have settled into hitting the center of the clubface, that distance will come back AND you will be much straighter.

Sounds like a good deal to me.

The swing you make before you hit the ball is the same swing to hit the ball with.  There should be no, zero, difference between the two.  Hopefully it is an unforced swing that leads to your finest shots time after time.

Practice Scoring, Not “Golf”

Once you have developed reasonable skills, your practice should be built around lowering your score.   By that I mean practice particular shots that will help you get the ball around the course efficiently and into the hole quickly.

You might think that the point of practice is to build skills that accomplish those two things.  But I mean the opposite.  Practice accomplishing those things then take what you practiced onto the course and use it.

I came up with this thought a few days ago when my approach into a green came up about 4 feet short and I had about a 35-foot chip. The ball was resting slightly on upslope.  The more I looked at the shot the more I liked it because I realized I practice that shot all the time.  There is no mystery in it.  All I have to do is hit the ball.  So I did and it ended up 15 inches from the hole, like I knew it would.

Another shot like this is 63-yard pitch.  There’s a flag that distance from the mats at my range, so I warm up by hitting balls at it.  Over the years I have become very good at hitting a golf ball 63 yards.

I know that if I have a pitch on the course between 60 and 65 yards the ball will end up one-putt close, not because I have a great pitching game, but because I hit this particular pitch all the time and it has become second nature to hit a ball 63 yards.

Golf has almost an infinite variety of shots that can be hit.  You can’t practice them all.  I’m suggesting that you pick a few and practice them to the extent that you know every time you step up to hit one of them something good is going to happen.

Here’s a sample list:
– 3-wood off the tee—to be used all the time or when your driver is being a bad boy.
– Advancement shot from the fairway, say of 175 yards.
– Shot into the green from 145 yards.  Once you get past the 150-yard marker, you should be thinking, “Down in three.”
– A pitch from a given distance.  Like I said above, I have 63 yards pretty well figured out.  But what if it’s 80 yards?  I’ll just take two clubs more and put the same stroke on the ball. Et voilà. Roughly 80 yards.
– A chip to a certain distance.  Same comments as for the pitch.
– A 30-foot putt.  Same comments again.
– A 3-foot putt.  Gotta sink those every time.

You can make up your own list.  The point is to get very, very good at the shots on your list.  If you have them down can’t-miss cold they will be all you need to play well.  You will never have a bad day.

Again.  There isn’t enough time to practice being good at everything.  If you try, you end up being good at nothing.  Practice shots you know you’re going to use.  When you play, put yourself in a position to hit those shots as often as you can.  That’s how to shoot low scores.