Why I Have Blades in My Bag

Blades vs. cavity backs=”game improvement” irons.

There is an article on the GolfWRX site by Terry Kohler about the matter. I was going to write a response, but some guy beat me to it.

What he said is exactly my story. Every word. EVERY WORD.

“I have found that my scores with blade irons are the same or better as cavity backs. Could be because I learned to play with blades nearly 60 years ago because that was my only option. Could be that they just plain look better to my eye because of that old historical tie. Or it could be because I get sloppy with a cavity back relying on that supposed forgiveness. So at this point I simply select a blade because it makes me happy. It makes me think about all the things I need to do to hit a pure shot, and when I don’t I only blame myself. Handicap 9.”

As you know, I play Hogans. Either 1999 Apex or 1989 Apex Red Line.

How the Arms Swing the Golf Club

There are many ways to swing a golf club, many movements that can be made to work. Some things that are not optional if a swing is to be maximally efficient. Swinging the arms the right way is one of them.

The arms swing, and they swing from the shoulders. That fact is not as obvious as it sounds.

Stand up and bend over a bit so your arms hang down in front of you. Gently swing them from side to side. Notice how they move freely inside the shoulder joint. That is how arms are designed to move.

Pick up a golf club. Swing it back and forth from about 3:00 to 9:00 while concentrating on the arms moving freely in the shoulder joint like they just did. Your body needs to turn some, too, so let it.

When this exercise gets easy and familiar, move on to making full swings, back and forth without stopping, with the arms swinging freely in this way.

The golf swing is made of the arms swinging, the body turning. This is how the arms swing.

The USGA’s Distance Insights Report

After years of hand-wringing about how far touring pros are hitting the ball, the USGA s**t has finally hit the fan.

Their report, including recommendations, is titled Distance Insights Report and is available here as a 102-page pdf.

The Report has six chapters:
1. Scope
2. The evolution of hitting distances
3. The factors which impact hitting distances
4. Analysis of golf course lengths
5. Impact of increase in hitting distance and golf course lengths
6. Golf stakeholder perspectives and opinions on hitting distances

If you don’t have anything to do, you might want to read it. It really is pretty interesting, especially chapters 2-5.

After having assembled all their data, what does the USGA now want to do about it? Mainly, tweak equipment. For whom?

The answer depends on where you think the problem lies. Believe it or not, when stakeholders were asked, If distance is a problem, who [sic] is it a problem for? five percent of the respondents said it is only a problem for recreational players.

When comes the day that I can drive the ball 280 with one hand, I’ll agree.

There is even talk of bifurcation of the rules, which the UGSA likens to asking them all to drink a quart of rat poison, though there is baseball and softball, tackle football and touch/flag football, pro ice hockey and amateur no-checking ice hockey. Why not golf?

Rory McIlroy put matters into perspective a few days ago, saying that distance is a problem for only about 0.1 percent of golfers in the world. He said the solution is not to tweak equipment, which OEMs can find a way around, but to make golf courses harder for them.

The USGA says it is doing this because it says it wants to protect the game. But golf is not the professional game. Golf is way bigger than the professional game. It’s our game and if it needs needs protecting, it’s not from how far you or I hit the ball.

I feel like I’ve just said the same thing three times. If distance is a problem, it’s a problem because of and for Rory and Bryson and Dustin, not you or me.

So enough ranting. What to do? The Recreational Golfer knows exactly what to do.

Long hitters on Tour bomb it because if the ball ends up in the rough, even thick rough, they can still get par and birdie isn’t out of the question. The solution is to line each side of the fairway from 310-350 yards not with thick rough, but with a bed of pea gravel ten yards wide and two inches deep. If they figure out how to hit out of that, we can change it to 3/4 minus.

You have to think outside the box.

Applying External Focus to the Golf Swing

Making external focus the basis of your golf swing means to transfer the basis of swing movements from the body to the golf club, and from there to the mind. You need to know what you want the club to do and then create a simple, precise, and easily understood image of the club doing just that. Then you use the image to place your unconscious mind in control of the stroke, which directs your body to move the club the way you want it to, automatically.

What we want the club, or more importantly, the clubface to do, is to face the target at the start, move away and back again, and at its return still be facing the target squarely and traveling directly at it. The clubface is the important thing because that is the part that actually strikes the ball. The rest of the club is irrelevant.

You will make a normal golf swing, nothing different there, but you will have an image of something else.

Take the clubface back square and along the ball-target line. As the backswing progresses, imagine in your mind that the clubface as it rises up stays directly over that line and is still aimed square to the target. This will not be so in reality, but imagine that it is, and it will feel like it is.

To get the clubface back to the ball, imagine in your mind you are swinging it along the ball-target line, and the clubface is square to the target, the entire time. Again, this is not reality, but your imagination will make you feel like this is what you are doing.

I know the body cannot move the clubface according to that imagination, but it does not have to. The physical swing does not need to mirror the mental image. The mind and body have different rules and operate in different ways to accomplish the same task.

We all know that feel is not real. You’ve heard that so many times. The physical swing creates a physical feeling that interprets into your mind as … something.

With external focus we do that same thing but in the opposite direction. We start with an image in mind that creates a feeling that is interpreted into your body. The strength of this approach to the problem of swinging a golf club correctly is that it follows an order of events that conforms to how human beings “work.” The mind leads the body.

When we base the swing on a physical movement (internal focus), one swing is seldom the same as the last one, and we can frequently be unsure. But if we have an image of what something outside ourselves is doing (external focus), in this case, the clubface, the image can be identical every time. That leads to much more accurate and consistent physical movement.

All this is not to say, get the right mental image and you’re done. You still need a good grip. You still need good tempo. The handle still leads the clubhead. Etc. Without good technique your mind can’t lead you in the right direction.

In a nutshell, with technique alone, we often swing with the hope that all the separate parts will add up to a well-struck shot. That way works sometimes. The function of the external focus process is to create a unity of technique that produces a swing that works all the time.

Does Playing Golf Prolong Your Life?

A recent study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports concluded that playing golf regularly may increase your life expectancy by five years.

Actually, it’s not a recent article, it came out in 2008. But it caught someone’s attention recently.

Unfortunately, the full article is available only for a price, and you can buy access if you want to here.

The study’s abstract is here, but you have to have some experience reading abstracts to make sense of it.

You can find a discussion of the article here, and that should be all you really need to read.

The study did mention the full effect of prolonging life occurs in low handicap golfers, which should give all of us a new incentive to get better.

So you see, all long I have been adding add years to your life and you never knew it.

You’re welcome! Now start practicing!

Sorenstam and Player Accept Presidential Medal of Freedom

In a ceremony yesterday at the White House, Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump in a private, secret ceremony.

How this is even possible given the events of the previous day is almost impossible to understand.

Maybe you could say that both of the recipients are foreign-born (Sorenstam is a naturalized American citizen) so the assault of the United States Capitol, fomented by the very president they would be seeing, doesn’t register the way it otherwise might.

Maybe they could say, like Justin Rose said when he went to Saudi Arabia in the wake of the state-sponsored murder of Jamal Khashoggi, “I’m not a politician.”

We don’t know yet why they went to the White House.

But whatever excuse they come up with won’t be good enough. These two people have blackened their reputation and their legacy in my eyes forever.

What they did was inexcusable. Period.

The Hardest Thing to Do in Golf

Golf is hard. Not because the technique is hard to learn, though that does take some work.

It’s that even after you have learned the technique and gotten pretty good at it, you still have something left over to deal with.

The ball.

The ball just sits there, waiting for you to hit it, mocking your technique because technique is one thing, but can you do it when it counts is another.

And the ball makes you think you can’t do it.

Not letting the ball make you lose confidence in your ability is the hardest thing to do golf.

We all have very good air swings. We do. Put that swing on a ball and away it goes. But when there really is a ball in front of you, it gets tricky.

You can relate to the ball that way, and a lot of golfers do.

I read a long time ago about a teaching pro who would glue a piece of string to a golf ball. He would get down on the ground, and ask his student to hit the ball.

Every now and then the pro would pull on the string at just the right moment, when the student’s swing was committed to hitting the ball, to yank the ball away.

This was his way of teaching his students not to get caught up in hitting the ball, but rather to just swing the club, because they never knew when there was going to be ball there or not, and when the ball did get yanked away it didn’t make any difference because the job was to swing the club, not hit the ball.

Great for the range, but that wouldn’t make sense on the course. The solution is to find a way to turn a negative into a positive.

Hitting a golf ball isn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. Life throws you much bigger problems and if you have been around the block a few times you know what I mean.

The way you get through those times is to find a way to live through that negative time without having that negativity affect the way you think and speak and act.

Not easy.

So let’s start small. With a golf ball. Find a way to turn doubt and worry into confidence.

My way is to think of the club and the ball as my partners and the three of us are going to hit the ball where it needs to go this time.

Sound silly? Yes, but it’s easier said than done. It requires changing a mental habit and that takes honest work.

The process you go though to not be intimidated by the ball, and actually welcome the chance to hit it straight and far, is the same process that you need to go through when something really important comes your way and you have to find a way to perform.

I’ll bet when you started reading this post you didn’t think it was going to turn in to a life lesson. But, take ’em where you get ’em.

And along the way you’ll become a better golfer. Can’t say no to that!

how to make quiet hands work for you in the golf swing

Many books and videos say you should keep your hands quiet throughout the swing—all they do is hold on to the club. If there is more to be said, it will be something like, “ … and they transmit the movement of the body to the club.” But that’s about it.

I believe that is true, but they never tell you what “keeping your hands quiet” means. Here is what I think it means.

The right hand, if you play right-handed, or the left hand if you play left-handed, plays a big role in keeping the clubface square from takeaway through impact. We’ll just call it the lower hand.

When you assume your grip, your hands become oriented in a certain position, and your lower hand acquires a feeling of being in that orientation. That feeling is most strongly felt along the top of the thumb and forefinger, as marked in the picture.

If you would rotate the club around the axis of the clubshaft, in either direction, you would notice the lower hand acquires a different feeling. Your grip hasn’t changed, but because the club moved in a certain way and you can now feel that something is different in your lower hand.

When the lower hand rotates away from its address position, since it acts as a proxy for the clubhead, the clubface will no longer be square.

Your ability to detect changes in that orientation during the swing, and keep them from happening, play a large part in keeping the clubface square.

Get out a golf club, take your grip, set up, and swing halfway back. While doing so, rotate your hands slightly clockwise. Fix that position of your hands and return the club to club to the address position. You will find that the clubface is oriented differently from how it was at the start.

Do the same thing again, rotating your hands slightly counter-clockwise. Again, the clubface will be out of square.

Try one more time, but with the feeling in the key part (in terms of this drill) of your lower hand remaining the same. When you return the club to address the clubface should be dead square.

Begin building the awareness of hand orientation into your swing by making slow half-swings. Slowing down helps you concentrate on your lower hand. Do not let your wrists become stiff. Let them hinge as they should. Do not try to keep your lower hand frozen in its address position. It should be relaxed and free to move—you just don’t let it move. Exerting less pressure on the handle with this hand helps, too.

You should also train yourself to mimic the address feeling in the lower hand when it swing through impact.

The Meaning of External Focus in Golf

The concept of external focus, that is, putting your mind on what the club is doing rather than what you are doing, pays off brilliantly when applied to golf.

I have worked with it for several years and finally spent last summer hitting balls two and three times a day to work it into my golf swing for good.

It makes things so much easier, and so much better.

But it is important that you understand what the concept really means. This video, featuring Vivien Saunders, a champion golfer and legendary teacher from England, explains it.

Watch it several times. She makes key points, but says them only once. The more times you watch it, the more you will understand what she is really telling us.

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