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.

My Ad-Free Blog Site

Wherever you go the Internet these days you see ads. Click on something and the next day you see an ad to buy it. You can’t get away from it, and it’s as annoying as all get out.

Except here. I have not monetized this blog and never will.

Think of it as a respite from drowning in an ocean of greed.

So could you say, “Thank you, Bob,” by doing me a tiny favor? Buy one of my books.

They’re just $14.95, the cost of a few sleeves of golf balls, nine holes at your local muni, or you tell me.

Especially The Golfing Self, my mental game book, which is the only mental game book on the market that not only tells you what to do, but HOW to do it.

Better Recreational Golf isn’t too bad, either. It tells you how to play better from the perspective of a recreational golfer just like you, rather than a touring pro who is ungodly good and really doesn’t know what you’re going through out there.

If you do just a few of the things that are in these books you WILL become a better player. Click the picture of the book cover and you’re on your way.

Thank you. Now back to golf.

A Simple Pitch Shot

Eight years ago, I published Better Recreational Golf. Several pages are devoted to a short game shot I call the Hard Chip. This shot is played just like your greenside chipping stroke, the essential feature being no wrist break, but with a much bigger swing. Though I didn’t know it at the time, the Hard Chip functions as a basic pitching stroke.

The pitch is a difficult shot to play, and is one reason why so few recreational golfers I play with pitch the ball very well.

But I found out this wristless stroke is a pitching stroke that can hardly go wrong. All you have to do is take the club back and slide the sole underneath the ball going forward. Because you’re not getting wristy, this is easy to do. The ball pops up and makes a beautiful arc toward the green.

You can hit a Hard Chip with any club from your 7-iron through your lob wedge. Mine goes 105 yards with a 7-iron, 40 yards with a lob wedge.

This video shows how to hit the Hard Chip.

[For some reason, the embedding code to YouTube isn’t working. Use this link instead.]

If you try the shot, it might feel like the club is sticking straight out to the side, though in reality it does arc upward a bit. The key is that your wrists are loose enough that they could break, but you just don’t let them. Locking your wrists doesn’t work out well.

I recommend you take each club in your bag from 7-iron through lob wedge, or whatever you have, and calibrate them. Find out just how far each one goes with a Hard Chip stroke of identical length.

This will revolutionize your pitching game. I promise that you will start getting up and down from distances you didn’t think were possible.

A Flexible Body for Golfers

A few years ago I wrote a post showing five exercises designed to strengthen the core in order to play better and prevent injury.

Flexibility is a big part of an efficient and healthy golf swing, too. Here are five exercises that will keep you limber for golf.

1. Lateral bend — Stand with your feet apart. Bend to the side as shown, supporting yourself with a hand on the leg. Reach over your head with the other arm to complete the stretch.

lateral bend stretch

2. Supine trunk rotation — Lie down on your back and bring your knees up, feet flat on the ground. Rotate your knees to one side, keeping your shoulders in contact with the ground. This the preferred way to rotate the trunk. Rotating the trunk while standing adds compression force to the torque. When you lie down, there is no compression, only torque.

supine trunk rotation

3. Rotator cuff — (1) Bring one arm across your body at shoulder level. Use the other forearm to press inward and complete the stretch. (2) Stand in a doorway with both hands on the doorway as shown. Lean forward for the stretch.

rotator cuff stretch 1

rotator cuff stretch 2

4. Hamstring stretch — Sit on the floor with one leg straight out in front of you. If you can’t tuck your other leg as shown, that’s all right. Lean forward (not down) to complete the stretch.

hamstring stretch

5. Neck stretch — Rotate the head to the left and hold for a few seconds. Do the same to the right side.

neck stretch

You can do all these stretches daily in less than five minutes.

We Visit the U. S. Senior Women’s Amateur

The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur is being played in Portland this week. The final match is scheduled to begin in less than an hour from this posting.

I went to see it yesterday with one of my golfing buddies. The tournament is being played at the Waverly Country Club, a private course located in SE Portland on the east bank of the Willamette River. It’s one of those clubs that you can’t just pay the membership fee and first month’s dues and you’re set to go. Rather if they want you to be member, they’ll let you know.

So I figured the only way I would ever get to prowl the grounds is if there was a tournament there. Fortunately, the USGA likes this course. They sometimes have local qualifying for the U.S.Open on it. Fairways are narrow (the word “ribbon” comes to mind and is accurate), there are numerous deep bunkers, the lay of the land is hilly–level lies in the fairway are hard to find, and the greens–ridges, slopes, you could get seasick walking on them.

We saw the morning quarterfinal matches, and I swear we were the only people out there who were not relatives of the competitors or involved in some way with the tournament. Only four groups on the entire course.

And it was quiet. Real quiet. Just golf balls being hit. No talking. All business.

We saw some outstanding shots, and some beaner shots. But this we did see: straight shots. Maybe off line sometimes, but straight flight. Balls coming into the green right at the pin. Short game OK, putting outstanding. Players taking their time picking their shot, but once they had it, it was get the club, set up, and swing, all in a rhythm oozing confidence and competence.

Every one of the eight players had a swing that was flowing, graceful, smooth, and to the point. And without an ounce of “hit.” It was all swing, and that’s my biggest golfing takeaway from the day.

When the morning matches were over, we left and had lunch nearby. I had a cup of curried corn soup and a summer risotto. Then home. What an outing.

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