Winter Practice, 2005

This is a post from my first web site, before WordPress. I had to program it entirely by myself in html. Those were the days.

This advice is still good.
In January and February, shun the regulation course and find an executive layout. Make sure you go out as a single, because you are going to be hitting a lot of mulligans. What you are going to do is par every hole before you move on to the next one.

Here’s why. When you play a game of golf by the rules, if you hit a bad shot, or the wrong shot, you never get a chance to practice it until you get it right, or hit a different shot that might be better. You have to move on to your next shot without getting to correct what you did wrong.

First off, this method is for 100 yards and in. You don’t get do-overs for tee shots and approach shots. Fix those mistakes those on the range.

After you have gotten the ball within 100 yards of the hole, take a mulligan if (a) your pitch doesn’t land on the green and stop, or (b) your chip doesn’t end up within 3 feet of the hole, (c) your bunker shot doesn’t get out, (d) your approach putt doesn’t finish within 3 feet of the hole, or (e) your second putt doesn’t go in. If you make all those corrections, you should end up scoring a par on every hole.

What you accomplished: You will have learned how to make pars and how to save pars, and learned it under playing conditions which I should not have to explain the benefits of.

When you take you game to the big courses starting in March, you will have the skill and confidence it takes to play well around the greens and shoot the scores you deserve.

Note: Sorry I found this old post in mid-February. It’s still not too late to give it a try.

Reading Short Putts

There’s a common reason why you miss short putts. I mean putts of four feet or less. The reason is that you don’t read them correctly and a putt that should have gone straight in slithers off to the left.

How did that happen?

I think you know that when you read a 20-foot putt you pay attention to what is happening in the last few feet around the hole. That, and you’re reading the putt from about 25 feet away from the hole, make local slope, and the overall tilt of the green, clearly visible.

But with a four-foot putt, you might glance at it from seven or eight feet away, and that’s too close to detect what you can see from far away.

The answer is to back up and read those shorties from at least 15 feet away. Farther back would be even better. From there, you can see where the ball will roll to.

What’s In My Bag – 2024

Every year I change up my bag. Golf is for having fun. This is it for 2024.

Full bag:
Driver – Titleist 975D, 12.5
Fwy wood: Titleist 975F, 20.5
Irons: Ben Hogan 1999 Apex, 2*, 5-E; Ben Hogan Producer, 9 (left-handed)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey 52-8, 56-8, 60-4
Putter: Ping G3 Tess

Short bag:
Driver – Titleist 975D, 12.5
Fwy wood: Titleist 975F, 20.5
Irons: Ben Hogan 1999 Apex, 5, 7, 9
Wedges: Titleist Vokey 56-8
Putter: Ping G3 Tess

* Specialty shots only

How to Keep the Clubface Square

The key to hitting the ball straight (without curvature) is to keep the clubface square to the swing path.

There are three places in the swing where the clubface needs to be square: at address, at the end of the backswing,* and at impact.

Address. Step behind the ball, looking downrange. Visualize a line connecting the target and the ball. When taking your stance, place the club on the ground so the leading edge of its sole is perpendicular to the line.

Backswing. Swing back as far as you normally do, and stop. Remain coiled, and test the position of the clubface by lowering your arms straight down from where they are, to just above hip height. Turn your head to look at the clubhead.

If the leading edge of the sole is straight up and down, it’s square.** There’s nothing more for you to do but practice the feeling of that backswing over and over to make it your own.

If the leading edge leans either forward or backward a bit, this is the result of what feels normal to you, and you now have some work to do to replace your customary backswing feeling with one that keeps the clubface square.

The solution is in your hands and forearms.

Let’s say your clubface was closed. Swing back and rotate your forearms slightly clockwise as you do. Not too much. Just a bit. When your backswing is completed, perform the test. You can see right away if you got it right, if you went too far, or not far enough.

If you’re corrcting an open clubface, rotate your forearms slightly counter-clockwise.

Keep working until you get it right. Then remember what that backswing feels like and practice it over and over.

Identify a key feeling, too. What I have found is that when I am keeping the clubface square all the way back, the feeling of my hands on the handle that I have at address does not change. The feeling that clicks for you might be different.

Impact. You’ll need to hit golf balls to figure this one out. If your shots fly to where you are aimed, go out and break 80.

If they curve,*** or if they fly straight, but to the right (push) or left (pull) of where you are aimed, get a lesson to find out what you need to correct. Those errors can’t be fixed by reading a blog post.

* It is possible to play good golf from an open position or a closed position at the end of the backswing, but it so much easier to play from square.

** If you try this test when you have taken the club back only halfway, to hip height, a square leading edge will be leaning forward a bit. Performing this test from a different position gives you a different result.

*** To an unplayable degree.

How To Become a Versatile Shotmaker

In order to score well and have fun, you need to have a shot for whatever a golf course can throw at you. That’s being a shotmaker.

This is how you accomplish that over time, and it’s so easy.

When you play a round, and you come across a situation that you can’t handle, or have to play a shot you don’t hit well, go to the range afterward and fix it.

Patch up those holes in your bag right away so when you get into that same spot again you’ll know what to do and be able to hit a good shot from it.

Sometimes, though, you might not be able to figure it out. That’s when you get a playing lesson, and have three or four shots like that you want to work on.

Bring a notebook and pen and write down what the pro tells you to do, because I guarantee that a year later you will have forgotten all about it.

So it’s OK to be at a loss once, that’s what you call experience. But twice from the same spot, shame on you.

Golfing For Cats – Part 2

About ten years ago I wrote a post titled Golfing For Cats. You might want to read it. It brings back fond memories for me.

But now I have to post Part 2.

I avoid posting things I find on the Internet, but this little video is priceless.

The cat does what it is born to do, but you have to admit she’s a pretty good chipper to always hit the ball just right.

Notice how the cat dips its head to the ground every time, right when she takes the club away. I don’t know why it does that, but it must be part of preparing to catch in some way.

Any cat experts out there?

I sent this video to a friend of mine, who replied:

“It would be better if it was a ball retriever, though. But no cat would be that helpful.”

Hole-Oriented Putting

I have taken a devil-may-care attitude toward my golf game lately. In other words, I don’t play “smart” golf anymore. I attack.

You don’t make birdies if you don’t shoot at pins. You don’t lay up to “your distance.” Closer is always better.

And then there’s putting. Putting is about hitting the ball into the hole. That should be obvious, but it’s not.

What are we taught to do when we putt? Read the greeen. Get the line matched up with the speed. Set up to your starting line. Square up the putterface. Smooth stroke.

Where’s the hole in all that??!!

Instead, stand behind the ball and look at the hole. Fill your head with the thought of hitting the ball into it.

Then step up to the ball thinking the same thought and hit it in.

That simple.

When you’re awake, your conscious mind is always thinking about something. Choose the right thing for it to think about.

When you putt, do you get points for the quality of your mechanics? How well you read greens?

Of course not! You get points for hitting the ball in the hole. So think that, because that’s what you want to do!

I promise you if you try this you won’t putt any worse than you do right now. And you will probably putt better.

Indoor Wedge Practice

We had freezing rain yesterday, for 10 hours, non-stop. The ground today is covered with an two-inch layer of what looks like snow but is solid ice. It’s as hard as a rock, and so slippery. Going outside is not a smart thing to do.

Not to mention, it’s 23 degrees.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t practice my golf.

My back room has a big rug over wall-to-wall carpet. I swing my wedge, maybe a 40-yard swing, and try, so every time when the sole of the club brushes the rug going through “impact”, to make the same sound.

About a dozen years ago I had a playing lesson and set up with a ball about 75 yards from the green.

I took three practice swings, the same length of swing each time, but with one hitting the ground firmly, one brushing the top of the grass, and the third one diggining into the ground a little bit.

The pro said, those were three different swings and they will each hit the ball three different distances. The club needs to hit the ground the same way every time.

So I started practicing the depth of my swing, and have ever since.

It’s one thing to have calibrated your wedges for distance, but you don’t have to wait until it’s 23 degrees and icy to start putting that calibration into practice.

The Meaning of Tempo

You hear lots of talk about the tempo of your golf swing–its overall speed. What is that speed?

It is, according to Percy Boomer in his masterwork, On Learning Golf, the speed that gives you “a sense of unhurried calm, a feeling that there is lots of time to feel each movement blending into the others.”

Swing at that speed with every club. If you swing faster than that, perhaps in the effort to hit the ball farther, you outswing your technique.

Often what seems to be a swing problem can be solved merely by slowing down a bit.

The Relaxed Arms Golf Swing

All golf shots, from drive to putt, are made with the arms. The body provides support for the arms, but it is the arms that swing the club, not the body. The arms must be completely relaxed to do their best job. This lets the arm swing be a true swing, and not a hit.

Stand up straight and bend forward just enough so your arms dangle down in front of you. Now swing them from side to side, loosely, effortlessly. Notice how relaxed they feel. Notice also how relaxed your shoulder joints feel. Keeping your shoulder joints relaxed is what keeps your arms relaxed.

You might think this is all right for putting, because no power is needed in that stroke. But it’s the same for a drive. You don’t need power in your driver swing. You need speed. Speed comes from relaxation. Tense muscles feel powerful, but they slow down movement.

In all the different types of golf strokes, it is a given that the arms and shoulder joints should be completely relaxed throughout the stroke.

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