What Relaxation In Golf Really Means

You know how to swing the club. Your mind tells your body what to do, but the body will carry out those directions only if it is in a state to accept them. This is possible only if the body is relaxed. And the body can be relaxed only if the mind is relaxed.

If there is any tension in the body, muscles have to fight through that tension to get to the next place where they are supposed to be, but never get there, being locked in place and passing through those positions in the wrong way.

Tension makes the body work against itself and is the ruination of what ever it tries to do in golf or anything else.

Golf is a game of positions, only not as it is normally presented to you in swing sequence photographs. There are not eight or nine positions you have to hit to make a correct golf swing. There are an infinite number of positions, because the golf swing is a flow.

This is why you must play golf with a moving mind. That allows your body to move through the positions that you cannot possibly comprehend yet are needed for your best swing to emerge.

When you are relaxed, your body moves naturally, your joints move freely, and your swing flows.

This is why swing thoughts are so paralyzing. By focusing on one aspect of your swing, you emphasize it to the exclusion of every other position that is just as important, adding tension to your body to ensure that none of it goes right.

Let me give you an example of how relaxation can be made part of your swing. It has to do with rhythm.

I write over and over that the rhythm of the golf swing is 3 up, 1 forward to the ball. 3:1, like clockwork. Only, if you make it like clockwork, it won’t work. The golf swing can become stiff and mechanical.

A golf swing has to be alive. It has to breathe. Your expression of the 3:1 rhythm has to be like that, too, and it will be if the mind, and thus the body are relaxed.

Since relaxation begins in the mind, we must not do things that make the mind go the wrong way. Being too concerned about the outcome of the shot does that, as do being too concerned about some technical point, or just plain trying too hard.

Any of those breed mental tension, which feeds physical tension, and you know they do.

The solution to these problems, and others, is to pick shots you know you can hit, which go to safe places. Then get your mind moving, and play away.

Remember that golf is your recreation. Be out there to have fun. Preface every shot with enjoyment and enthusiasm and feel the tension fade away.

Don’t Play Faster, Play More Efficiently

Slow play on the PGA Tour has blown up in the past few weeks. Brooks Koepka (rightly) called out Bryson DeChambeau for taking two minutes to line up and hit an eight-foot putt, which he missed.

(No one seems to have commented on the irony that both B.J Holmes (who plays like he owns the course) in the British Open, and DeChambeau, in the Northern Trust, were paired with Koepka, who would be Death To Slow Play if he could.)

I don’t care a flying fig if Tour players are slow, but I do care about moving it along when I play my recreational game.

What it comes down to, to me, is playing more efficiently. Everyone saving a few seconds every time they do a particularly thing adds up to a significant time saving over eighteen holes. Or even nine.

Here are my suggestions, taken from Bob’s Living Golf Book.

– Take clubhead covers off and leave them off. Fiddling with them takes time, and they get in the way of finding the iron you want. The clubheads won’t get damaged if they’re left bare.

– Know where everything in your bag is so you can get what you need without delay.

– Play from the right set of tees.

– When someone is teeing off and it’s your turn next, stand beside the tee box, ball, tee, and club in hand, ready to go, rather than way over there by your cart, empty-handed.

– Don’t wait for the group ahead of you to clear if you really can’t hit into them. On the tee, consider letting shorter hitters tee off first (if they can leave their egos at home).

– When someone is hitting from the fairway and you’re next, start preparing so you can hit when it’s your turn. Don’t wait until the other player hits before you even start to get ready (J.B. Holmes). This is probably the best way to save time in recreational golf.

– You get one, and only one, practice swing.

– Step up to the ball and hit it. Standing frozen over the ball for the longest time or taking endless waggles or looks at the target does not help you in any way.

– Recreational golf is a social game, but chat when you are walking, and not when you should be getting ready for your shot.

– Always check the ball you’re about to hit to be sure it’s yours.

– After you play your shot, clean your club and put it back in the bag only if you are waiting for someone else to hit. Otherwise, start walking right away. Carry your club, and put it away when you get to your ball. If you’re riding in a cart, get in the cart with your club and go.

– If you have hit the ball five times and it’s not on the green, pick up your ball and drop it on the green when you get there. If you have hit the ball eight times and it is still not in the hole, pick it up and cease play on that hole.

– When looking for a ball that might have gone into high grass, remember that the ball is always 20 yards farther back from where you think it is. (I’m not joking about this, either. You know it’s true.)

– If someone else’s ball might be lost, play your ball first, then go help them look.

– When you get to the green, put your bag or cart on the side of the green nearest to the next tee.

– Read your opening putt as soon as you get on the green instead of waiting until it is your turn to putt. Don’t spend too much time reading the green. Your first impression is most likely correct.

– If you use an alignment mark, don’t spend too much time tweaking the mark, especially if the putt is a long one for which distance is much more important than line.

– Leave the pin in the hole.

– After your approach putt, putt out if it’s a tap-in.

– Falling behind the group ahead of you? To catch up, the first two players to hole out should go to the next tee and tee off, leaving the other two to putt out and handle the pin for each other (if necessary).

A Valuable Wedge Shot

This might happen to you once a round: you’re about five to ten yards off the green, the hole is near the edge (not much green to work with), and you have to get the ball over something (a bunker, a mound, heavy grass or weeds, etc.). In other words, you can’t run the ball onto the green. You have to fly it on and make it stop right now.

Without a solution, all you can do is hit on and watch the ball run way past the hole and face the Mother of Two-Putts coming back.

Well, here’s the solution. You have to have this shot in your bag, and not many people do.

1. Take out a wedge with at least 56 degrees of loft. Open the face (by twirling the handle in your hands, not by rotating your hands). The less distance over ground you have to cover, the more you open the face. You’ll have to practice to find out just how much.

2. Open your stance until the clubface is square to your target again. Put the ball in the center of your stance. No shaft lean—keep it vertical.

3. Swing along your stance line, brushing the sole of the club along the ground as you hit the ball. Do not try to hit down on the ball. Do not try to lift the ball in the air by hitting up with your right hand. The open clubface will get the ball in the air for you very nicely. Keep the clubface facing the sky on the follow-through.

In the first photo, I’m set up for a standard, straight-ahead pitch. The ball is in the center of my stance, and the clubface is square to the target line (yellow stake). Notice the piece of straw just above my left toe.

In the second photo, I have opened the clubface and rotated my stance (see the straw) so (a) the ball is still in the center of my stance and (b) the clubface is still square to the target line. I will swing along my stance line (orange stake).

(Click photos to enlarge)

Since the clubface is open, you’ll have to hit the ball harder than you think you should to get the ball to go the distance you want it to. Practice will get you used to how hard that is.

The ball will get in the air with lots of spin, land, and roll out only a very little distance. Depending on the circumstances, the ball might run past the hole, but you should have a makeable putt coming back.

This shot requires practice. Lots of it. Once you have learned it, though, you have a major and common problem around the green solved.

Then when you use this shot to get up and down on the course and one of the other members of your foursome asks, “How did you do that,” you say, “Oh, it’s just something I picked up.”

Your Hands Lead the Clubhead – IV

I’ve written often about the hands passing the ball before the clubhead at impact. I feel this is the most important technical matter of the golf swing, and have suggested several ways you can make it happen.

I constantly look for ways to make it easier to do, and more certain. Here is my next iteration. It involves the movement of the end of the handle, that and nothing more.

This new concept takes the onus off the hands to make sure of the leading, and assigns the responsibility to the club itself. The difference in effect is like night and day.

This was going to be a longer post, but everything I wanted to say is now in Bob’s Living Golf Book, sections A6 and H28.

Download the book and read those sections. Please.

Then team it up with a stationary suspension point, make sure your tempo is not too fast for you, and you will have a golf swing that performs beyond your wildest dreams.

Bob’s Living Golf Book – July 2019 Edition

The July 2019 edition of Bob’s Living Golf Book is now online.

I would recommend you open it and read the blue text, which is the new material.

Major additions are:
A6. A new description of how to have the hands lead the subhead through impact.
B4. The right thumb and forefinger in the grip.
C16. The suspension Point (all new)
G1. How to hit the ball (a bit) farther
H28. Build Your Swing Around Your Wedges (all new)

Play well, and have fun.

Your Personal Swing Flaw

I won’t say this for sure, but I’m willing to bet you have a personal swing flaw—one thing that you do wrong, not because you don’t know better, but because it makes sense, or it feels right, or feels good, whatever. It’s wrong but you do it anyway.

You get it fixed, start playing better, and then your swing goes south again, and guess why? You’re doing that thing again.

That personal flaw will haunt you for your entire golfing career. Even touring professionals have one, and they spend time on the range combatting it.

If you have one, and you know what it is (if you don’t know, start looking, because it’s there), what to do?

There are two ways to deal with it. If the flaw is a matter of poor technique, you can create a new technique. If the flaw is the result of a personal tendency, it is easier to build in a compensation than to correct something that would be difficult to change.

I’ll use myself as an example of each kind.

My pet swing flaw is to take the club back too far inside. This results in swinging the club into the ball from too far inside, which leads too often to a duck hook or a weak push.

By taking the club back slower (new technique), I remind myself to take it back straighter and this flaw goes away.

My other flaw is that I do something that makes my hands turn over through impact, leading, again, to right-to-left ball flight that I don’t want. The number of corrections I have tried felt artificial or forced.

I finally solved the problem by agreeing to let myself keep doing whatever that is I’m doing because that’s just what I do, and trying to change it gets me nowhere.

A compensation is in order, then, and the simple compensation I came up with is to open the clubface about two degrees at address.

What I get out of that is a straight shot or a baby draw. The ball doesn’t go way left unless I just lose my head, which happens, but seldom enough that I can live with it.

So there you have it. Two ways to fix a persistent problem and become a better golfer in spite of yourself.

How to Swing Faster Without Really Trying

Want to swing faster? That is, want more clubhead speed? The easy way?

Relax more. And more than that.

Relax the parts of your body that swing the club–your shoulders, arms, and hands. Especially the shoulders.

This swing won’t feel powerful, but power is not what you’re looking for. Clubhead speed is, and you get it by taking tension out of your body.

Be careful, though, because you might get more clubhead speed than you can handle.

Your maximum tempo is the fastest you can swing and still hit the ball on the center of the clubface.

You can swing faster than that, but that’s exceeding your swing’s red line, and the extra speed won’t do you any good because you can’t control it.

Ignore all the things you see on YouTube about adding swing speed through technical fixes.

Just relax. That’s all there is to it.

2019 Open Championship Preview

Winner: Shane Lowry by six strokes over Tommy Fleetwood.

The 148th Open Championship will be played this weekend at the Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. The tournament was last played there once before, in 1951, when England’s Max Faulkner won by two strokes over Argentina’s Antonio Cerdá.

This year the course will play at 7,344 yards to par 71. Graeme McDowell grew up in Portrush and played there hundreds of times. Rory McIlroy, at age 16, set the course record of 61, which has still not been equalled.

The photo shows the course, looking westward with the town behind it, and the sea behind that.

This Golf Digest article shows stills of all the holes. This course is different, believe me.

Hole-by-hole flyover videos are available at the official website.

It’s hard to pick out one hole over another for mention because they are all so good, and each one presents a unique challenge.

But we must mention the 16th hole, a par 3 playing at 236 yards into the prevailing wind, with the appropriate name of Calamity Corner. The green sits on a perch that slopes severely away on the right. The merest slice will be disastrous (photo). It’s no fun if you’re short and right, either.

Two new holes, which will play as the 7th and 8th, were created just for this championship to replace the traditional 17 and 18. They were considered somewhat lackluster, and are in a spot on the grounds better suited for the tent village that is a fixture at major championships anymore, so for that purpose will they be used.

Through a re-routing of the holes from the 7th onward, which I won’t go into, the round will finish with the traditional 15 and 16 serving as 17 and 18 for the Championship.

The course is by the sea, but only the 5th green and 6th tee come near it. The new 7th and 8th are out there, too, but not as near to the beach.

One thing that all holes save the 1st share: they curve. Only the 1st plays straightaway. In addition, if the rough is allowed to grow inward, the fairways will be very narrow.

Those two factors might convince golfers who have a hard time hitting their driver straight to retire it for the week. How about the bombers, though? Will they find a way?

There are few bunkers on the course, especially around the greens. They are guarded by hills, mounds, and hollows. Greens can be difficult to hold if approached from the wrong spot of the fairway.

It should be noted that during the Championship in 1951, only two golfers, not including Faulkner, broke 70.

What would a major championship be without controversy? This year it involves John Daly. Daly, because of osteoarthritis in his right knee, was allowed to use a cart at Bethpage Black for the PGA Championship, but the R&A has offered only their sympathy.

Daly’s request to use a cart at Royal Portrush was turned down, because the R&A felt that golf is a walking game, and besides, the course is not set up for, and does not have places for carts to be driven.

Who will win? I know who wants to win, and that is Rory McIlroy. His A game beats everybody else’s A game. Let’s see if winning the return of the OC to Ireland is sufficient motivation to bring it with him this week.

So get up early and watch golf played the way it should be played. Whatever you think of the other major championships, this one is the most fun to watch.

The Suspension Point

[August 2019: I went to the LPGA tournament in Portland, Oregon at the end of the month. I watched every swing with this point in mind: does their suspension point move? In about three golfers it did, but they are ones who launch their lower body into the shot on the forward swing. EVERYBODY ELSE kept their suspension point still. It did not move. Jin Young Ko, Stacy Lewis, Georgia Hall, Morgan Pressel, Jessica Korda, Jeongeun Lee6, Anne Van Dam, Brooke Henderson, Suzanne Pettersen, Gerina Piller, and a host of players I hadn’t heard of, on the practice tee. It didn’t move.]

In order to hit the ball cleanly, the club has to return to the same place it was at address. This means the swing arc can’t be moving around during the swing.

The first part has to with the up and down location of the bottom point of your swing (Figure1). If you raise up when you take the club back, that raises the bottom point of your swing. Now you have the problem of getting it back to where it was you started–not too far back down, and not staying too far up. Who can get that right from swing to swing?

The second part has to with the side-to-side location of the bottom point (Figure 2). It’s real hard to get ball first-ground second contact when the swing keeps bottoming out in a different spot, relative to the location of the ball.

Again, the problem is to keep the swing arc from moving around during the swing. The solution was developed by Paul Runyan and explained in his book, The Short Way to Lower Scoring.

Runyan talked about the suspension point of the swing, around which the swing turns. He identified it as the big bone at the base of your neck (C7 vertebrae).

Read about it in my book, Bob’s Living Golf Book, section C16.

One year at an LPGA tournament in Portland, I stood behind the players on the first tee, so I was looking at their back. I kept my eye on the suspension point. With player after player, it didn’t move until after the ball was hit and they rose into their finish. It didn’t move up and down, it didn’t move side to side.

It didn’t move.

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