Today’s Round

I played nine holes at the OGA Golf Course in Woodburn, Oregon. It was the first time I have played on a full-sized course since 2015. I lost a few strokes because I had forgotten how to play from unusual lies, but all that will come back.

I played with a friend and a guy they paired us up with. On the green, no one made a move to take the pin out. No one even brought it up. We got off the greens pretty fast.

Also in that regard, I sank five putts from 6 to about 12 feet because the pin gave me a positive target to aim at. I know that if I had putted at a hole, I might have made only one or two of those putts.

How about the new drop rule? I hit a ball into a bank that was full of yellow jacket holes. They nest in the ground. Fortunately it has been too cold for them to be active or I wouldn’t have gone near the place. But the ball was embedded, so I took an unplayable, marked off my two club lengths, bent over, and dropped the ball from knee height.

Some touring pro (Ricky? Justin?) needs to explain to me why that is so hard to do or so hard to remember.

At one point, I thought to myself why we love golf. It’s because on occasion we can play with the pros. We can all hit shots a touring pro would say, “Can I have that shot?” But I know that if I picked up a baseball bat and stepped in against major league pitching I would probably mess my pants.

Practice Like You’re Going to Play

I was at the range today, trying out my “hit it a long way” swing, which works most of the time. At the range.

But I was there to get warmed up for a round tomorrow, and I got most of the way through the bucket and thought to myself,

“You’re not going to swing this way tomorrow. You’re going to make a slower, more controlled swing that you know hits one good shot after another. Aren’t you?”

So when you go to the range, practice your “play” swing. The one you’re going to use when you can’t rake another ball over and maybe do better.

That’s your best swing. Practice that one.

My Conception of Golf Technique

Over the years I have sprinkled certain themes throughout my posts. I say them over and over because they work—not only for me, but for everybody.

To save you the trouble of searching for what you might not know is even there, here it all is. This post summarizes my thoughts. If you do all these things (and there aren’t many) you will play better golf.

The Swing

When you’re standing over the ball, think of the swing as one unit from takeaway to finish. Impact is an event like another other along the way—do not give it extra importance.

Swing at a tempo which allows you to hit the ball on the center of the clubface consistently.

Your hands must lead the clubhead into the ball. They must arrive back to the ball before the clubhead does.

Short Game

With a chip and a pitch, think of sliding the sole of the club underneath the ball. Do not hit down on the ball.

With a chip, use one swing and several clubs to regulate distance.

With a pitch, use two or three lengths of swing (your choice) and several clubs to regulate distance.

Putting

Hit the ball on the sweet spot of the putterface.

Let the length of the backswing be the sole distance generator.

Technique is less important than mentally bearing down the hole.

Dan Jenkins, 1928-2019

Renowned golf writer and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame (2012) Dan Jenkins passed away on March 7 at the age of 89.

Read his obituary in the New York Times and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

And this tribute from Golf World.

Read also his hilarious “interview” with Tiger Woods which the then imperial personality did not find to be amusing. Be sure to listen to his monologue below the end of the article.

Jenkins’s novel, Semi-Tough, about pro football, was made into a movie starring Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson, and Jill Clayburgh.

Another of his novels, Dead Solid Perfect, about professional golf, was filmed as well, starring Randy Quaid and Kathryn Harrold.

And finally, read his account of the stroke-play qualifying for the Greatest of All Time Invitational, played starting March 20 at the Augusta National Golf Club. It’s in the April 2109 Golf Digest, with Jordan Spieth on the cover. The article is likely Jenkins’s final piece of golf writing. It will leave you in stitches. What a gift to leave to us.

How to Swing the Golf Club Faster

This is a little post.

I have said in recent posts that you should slow your swing down to ensure contact on the center of the clubface. Once you have accomplished that, swing in a way that feels the same, but in less time. Like this:

1. Before you address the ball, feel a fast, smooth, effortless swing in your mind.

2. Hold the club LIGHTLY at address. Relax everything else, too.

3. Think that it is the sole of the club that is moving fast, not your body, your arms, or your hands.

4. Relax even more during the swing.

Remember, though, you do have a red line. The key to distance is hitting the ball on the center of the clubface. Never swing faster than you ability to keep doing that.

Covering the Golf Ball

A few years ago, I published a post about a move that let me hit a 9-iron 145 yards.

This all started when I asked my teaching pro how to make sure I hit the ball first and the ground second. He showed me a move, and I talked about it in that post.

I also said in the post, “I won’t tell you what it is, not because I want it to be a secret, but because it’s difficult to describe, and if you got it wrong it would be disastrous. Besides, your pro should be able to teach you what to do.”

Now, after almost eight years, I’m going to reveal what that move is. It’s very simple to do, but does take lots of practice to get right.

It’s a Johnny Miller move he calls covering the ball.

If you go on YouTube and search for “covering the ball,” you’ll find several ideas about what that term means. One of them is to keep your chest over the ball, i.e., “cover” it, through impact.

I won’t argue with that, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about here.

(Left-handers, in what follows read “left palm” for you.)

I’m going to use Miller’s definition, which is “the act of angling your right palm toward the ground” as the club comes through impact.

Instead of facing the target directly, the right palm FEELS like it is angled slightly toward the ground, hence “covering” it with the palm of your right hand.

You don’t PHYSICALLY turn the palm down to cover it unless you want to hit a great big hook.

What you will get by applying this feeling is a de-lofted clubface which will send the ball farther. And straight. You will also get the ball first, ground second contact that is the key to good golf.

It will take some experimentation to figure out how to do this. I would suggest getting into an impact position with a feeling of the right palm being angled down, but with the clubface still square to the swing path. (Hint: Your hands have to be ahead of the ball.) Then work the swing, always starting in this position, making bigger and bigger swings, slowly, that keep arriving back to this position.

IMPORTANT POINT: DO NOT do this when the ball is on a tee. Ground only.

The Miller quotation is from his book, Breaking 90 with Johnny Miller.

Shaping Your Golf Shots

I’ve written several times on how to hit fades and draws, and this one is probably my best post on the subject.

There are other ways to get this done, though, and you should be acquainted with a few of them. The ones I am going to talk about today involve the hands.

Let’s review the problem to be solved. To fade, the clubface must be open to the swing path. To draw, the clubface must be closed to the swing path.

Here are several ways to get that done with your hands alone.

When you set up, your right palm (left palm for left-handed golfers) faces a certain direction, and you can feel the orientation of that palm against the club and in relation to the other hand. I wrote about this a few weeks ago.

When you take the club back and through and that feeling of orientation doesn’t change, you will hit a straight shot, all things being equal.

To hit a draw, feel like your palm has turned toward the other hand just a little bit as you bring the club into impact. That “just a little bit” part is important. Don’t overdo it.

To hit a fade, do the opposite. Feel as if the right palm has turned away from from the other hand and you come into the ball.

Note: this does not mean the hands have gotten closer together or separated. They stay as united as they were at address.

If you have feeling of the palm having moved, you will get it right. If you actually move the palm, you will overdo it and hit a slice or a hook, which you don’t want.

Another way to get this done is by altering the orientation of your hands during the takeaway.

When you take the club away, your forearms naturally rotate. Retard the rotation slightly and the clubface closes. Over-rotate slightly from normal and the clubface opens.

From there, hold that orientation throughout the backswing and forward into the ball.

A third way is a different way of looking at the first way. To draw, turn your right palm down as the club comes into the ball. To fade, turn the right palm upward.

A fourth way is entirely mental and relies on giving your unconscious mind instructions and then staying out of its way as it tells your body what to do.

If you look at your hands as they approach impact, the right palm faces somewhat upward, squares up at impact, and appears to turn and face downward following through. It is as if your hands are rotating. They aren’t, though. It’s the forearms that are rotating, but you get the idea.

To fade, think about delaying the rotation until a touch after impact. That will leave the clubface open at impact. To draw, think about rotating a tiny bit early. The clubface will then be closed at impact.

A fifth way is to swing back normally, and on the forward swing, to fade, think of the heel of the clubhead leading the clubface into the ball. To draw, think of the toe of the clubhead leading the clubface into the ball.

These thoughts will be felt in a subtle movement of the right hand of which there is no need to control deliberately. The shift will happen by itself and hopefully give you a controllable amount of curve.

Five ways to think about working the ball. Five ways of saying the same thing, probably. Pick one and work on it.

The benefit of these methods is that you can use the same setup and the same swing and still be able to move the ball. The more things you do that are the same, the easier golf is.

But to do something different with the ball, you have to change something that you do, which means you have to practice until you own that change.

An Anchored Putting Revival

Those of my readers who have been around for a few years remember my displeasure with the anchored putting ban. Search the tag “anchored putting” to read about that. There’s no point here in going over plowed ground.

You can still anchor your stroke, though, and I do it to great effect. I was doing it long before the ban. I putted then, and now, really well with it, and it is the foundation of my putting stroke.

What I do is bring my upper arms in contact with the sides of my torso. Light contact, not pressing. Pressing would make it almost impossible to move the putter. Just light contact so the upper arms stay in contact with the torso the whole time–slide over it, if you will.

That’s how I anchor my stroke. If my upper arms ride free in the air, they can go places they shouldn’t go to. By letting them slide freely in contact with my immovable body, they are guided along a predictable path consistently.

Combine that with a putting grip that does not allow my hands to wander, and I have the greater part of the stroke pretty well taken care of.

This anchoring gives me a mental boost, too. It creates a feeling of security that prevents any worry about moving the club from creeping in. I can concentrate on the only thing that is important–the ball going into the hole.

Anchoring works, or the USGA wouldn’t have outlawed it. This way of anchoring works, too, and it is legal.

For now.

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