Add Distance With No Extra Effort

Everyone wants to hit the ball farther. If you don’t, there is something wrong with you.

The usual solutions are to swing faster or hit harder. Either of those solutions lead you to inventing any number of new ways to mishit the ball.

There is a third way–make the arc of your swing longer, which allows more speed to build up before the ball is struck.

Making the swing longer for most golfers does not mean to make your backswing longer. It means to make it wider.

Lee Trevino shows us to take a wedge back halfway, stop, take your trailing hand off the club, and reach out for the clubhead. If you can grab it, your swing is too small. That tip comes at the very end of the video.

Trevino is talking about a wedge, but the same thought applies to the longer clubs. Watch this swing of Anne Van Dam. Notice the width of her swing and that her wrists begin hinging after the club is halfway back.

Make your swing bigger by extending the arm on the leading side as far as makes sense to you. Try one time reaching out as far as you possibly can, and you will feel what doesn’t make sense. Far, but not that far.

Once you have swung back, maintain that sensible arc on the way back to the ball.

Now, your wrists are still hinged, and there is still roughly a 90-degree angle between the shaft and your trailing forearm. It’s just farther away from you than before.

You might notice that when you have this much width in your swing, you have to slow down a bit to keep it under control. That’s a good thing.

You might also notice if you do this that you have to stop trying to hit the ball and make your focus be swinging the club. That’s a good thing, too.

Practice Approach Putting at Home

Everyone can practice 4-footers at home. I hope you do.

But the other putts we need to practice, the long ones, we can’t practice unless we get to the range.

I found a way to practice them, in part, at home. You can’t practice distance control, but you can practice directional control.

First, you need a “hole” to aim at. The rubber grippers sold in grocery stores make a perfect one.

Stand about eight feet from the rubber hole, with a backstop behind it about three inches high.

Hit the ball as you would a 40-foot putt, say. Watch the ball. It should roll over the dead center of the rubber hole.

The longer stroke an approach putt requires can get your stroke out of whack directionally. This is one way to get good at not letting that happen.

A New Look at Rhythm and Tempo

The marriage of rhythm and tempo is the foundation of the golf swing. If this part isn’t right, nothing else matters.

Rhythm is the relative duration of different parts of the swing. Tempo refers to the overall duration of the swing.

The rhythm and tempo that suit your golf swing are personal matters, to be determined by yourself for you alone, by this simple procedure. Take a stance with your feet together, heels touching. Swing the club fully a few times. That’s your rhythm, that’s your tempo.

Now we apply them.

You know that taking the club away from a dead stop can cause you to jerk it off course. Taking the club away smoothly is not easy to do.

Many golfers solve that problem by having a forward press of some kind to give the takeaway a rhythm to play off of so the taking away movement does not begin from a dead stop.

Other golfers solve it by staying in constant motion, with their hands, their feet, all the way up to the point of takeaway. But there is a better way.

The real state of affairs is not that the body starts from a stop, but that the mind starts from a stop. Mind leads body. We get the mind moving and the body follows that movement.

We divide the rhythm of a golf stroke into four parts.

The count of One is a small movement in the mind toward the target. That gives the body the feeling that it is moving, even though it does not move.

The count of Two is a movement in the mind away from the target which the body follows by taking the club away from the ball. This real movement follows the imaginary movement of count One without a hitch.

The count of Three is a movement in the mind back toward the ball which the body again follows.

The count of Four is the mind coming to a calm repose following the completion of the swing.

Tempo is the same. It exists in your mind and gets expressed by the body. The speed of the swing in the heels-together exercise was set not by your body, but by your mind telling you this is the fastest you can swing from this position.

In your normal swing, all you have to do is repeat that tempo in your mind and your body will follow.

Joyce Wethered, Simply the Greatest

If you want to talk about the greatest golfers of all time, proponents of Jones, Snead, Hogan, Nicklaus, and Woods would have lively debate.

Female golfers? Wright, Whitworth, and Sorenstam all have their claim.

But then there is Joyce Wethered. If you don’t know who she was, read this. If you do know who she was, still read it.

I once had a book of essays by Bernard Darwin, the best golf writer ever. He had a few on Wethered that exhausted his supply of superlatives. She was that good.

Why Most Golfers Don’t Get Better

A few weeks ago, and article appeared at GolfWRX with the title, “Top 4 reasons why most golfers don’t get better“.

It was written by Terry Koehler, a golf club designer and golf industry veteran.

The first reason echoes my favorite Ben Hogan quote: “The average golfers’s problem is not so much a lack of ability as it is a lack of knowing what he should do.”

Reasons two and three involve pre-swing fundamentals and the setup.

Reason four repeats the old saw, It’s a swing, not a hit.

Read his advice and see where it fits into your game.

The Importance of Iron Play

1. There is a chapter in the book, The Search For the Perfect Golf Swing, titled, “Long Approach Shots — Where Tournaments are Won”.

By “long approach shots”, they meant shots between 130-220 yards. The indicator is proximity to the hole. The closer, the better, obviously.

There is another chapter on driving which concluded that length counts most, but I won’t go into that here.

2. My favorite Tiger Woods quote was when he said his irons were his offensive weapons. Yes, he made some putts, but they were putts his irons gave him the opportunity to make.

3. My favorite golf quote of all time comes from Percy Boomer’s book, On Learning Golf: “It is true that if you cannot putt, you cannot win, for no hole is won until the ball is down—but good scores are only made possible by good play up to the green.”

4. This article, which came out in Golf Digest today, explains why Collin Morikawa is so good. Big hint: it’s his iron play.

You’ve no doubt read the comment that his dispersion with a 6-iron is the same as the average Tour pro with a pitching wedge.

5. I was a decent iron player even at the time when I wasn’t all that good at anything else, and one thing that got me into single digits was becoming a very good iron player.

So when you go to the range, spend a lot more time with your irons than you do with your driver.

Although he had to find fairways, Johnny Miller didn’t shoot a 63 at Oakmont because of his driving.

Professional Handicaps

Want to know how good PGA professionals really are? The chart below shows their handicaps from 2016 to 2000. They’re pretty low.

To put plus handicaps into perspective, it is said that there is a greater difference between a 3 and a +3 that there is between a 3 and an 18.

If a plus handicap is a new idea to you, it works like this, roughly. Take the course rating and subtract the handicap. So if your local course is rated 70.0, and a pro’s handicap is +8, their expected score would be 62.

That’s not exactly how it works, but that gives you the general idea.

The average index is +5.4. The best index achieved as Ricky Fowler’s +8.4.

It all works out to the fact that they’re playing a different game than we are.

(Click to enlarge)

A Single-Digit Golf Swing

Want to see what the golf swing of a single-digit player looks like? Go to this post, the video shot in 2010, and take a look at how I was swinging when I played at that level.

It’s nice-looking swing, simple, effective. It doesn’t hit great shots, but it hits good shots, one after the other.

I look at this video often to remind myself that I don’t have to have breathtaking technique to play good golf.

I look at this video often to remind myself that this is how I play golf.

This swing is my golfing personality. There is no need to mess with it.

This swing works. All I have to do is this and I can play good golf.

When you get into an extended spell of playing well, hopefully because you have gotten unstuck and are now playing at a new level, make a video of yourself swinging.

I guarantee you will come back to it sometime later to remind yourself of how simple it all was, and how simple it needs to be now.

The Natural Placement of Your Hands on the Golf Club

Golf instruction books speak of three orientations of the hands when taking a grip: strong (the Vs between your thumbs and forefingers point outside your trailing shoulder), neutral (the Vs point at your trailing shoulder), and weak (the Vs point at your chin).

These are grip categories, however. They should not be taken as actual ways to set your hands on the club. How you do that is an individual matter that should reflect the natural orientation of your forearms. *

Instructors often talk about the clubface getting out of alignment because the hands turned the clubhead, but they do no such thing because they can’t turn. It is the forearms that turn, carrying the hands with them. This is not a trivial distinction.

When the forearms start out in their natural position, they will stay there (unless you disturb them) and return the clubface to the ball square. If you address the ball with them out of position, they will return to their natural position during the first few feet of takeaway, very likely without your being aware of it. There goes your shot when it has just barely started.

Stand with your arms hanging naturally by your sides. Notice where the backs of your hands are facing. They must face the same way when you put your hands on the club, which in turn puts your forearms in their natural position.

In the pictures below, of an actual golfer (me), you can see that my hands hang differently. This is because my forearms are not built identically. So, when I take my grip, I need to have a strong left hand and a neutral-to-weak right hand.

If you have trouble with the clubface being either open all the time at impact, or closed, and have tried everything to fix it without success, consider that the only problem is with your grip. It’s not your grip.

Try this analysis and correction on your own and see if your shots don’t straighten out. The technique described in this earlier post provides extra insurance.

You might find as well that the swing feels kind of effortless because you are not forcing your arms to move in a way they don’t like.

* The only instruction book I have found that mentions this point is the chapter on the grip in Al Geiberger’s book, appropriately titled, Tempo.

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