All posts by recgolfer

U.S. Open Preview 2020

Winner: Bryon DeChambeau by six shots over Matthew Wolff.

This week’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot in New York is just the tonic for this golfer. When I was a young golfer I imprinted on this tournament, sometimes called the National Open back then.

It was the greatest tournament in the world. “U.S. Open champion” was the greatest title to hold. The Masters was still a springtime novelty, the British Open hadn’t been discovered in this country, and the PGA was something of a head-scratcher.

Winged Foot is where Bobby Jones sank an impossible downhill breaking 12-foot putt in 1929 after having lost a commanding lead in the final round, to tie Al Espinosa and win the next day in a playoff. Jones said later that if he had missed he would have given up competitive golf. Today the members will challenge you to hit that putt. You can’t sink it.

Then there was the Massacre at Winged Foot, where the USGA got its revenge in 1974 for Johnny Miller shooting a 63 in the final round to win at Oakmont a year earlier. Hale Irwin won at seven over par.

It was the site of the most famous fonebone in recent U.S. Open history as Phil Mickelson had the trophy in his pocket on the 72nd tee and made a double bogey to lose by one to Geoff Ogilvie. Let’s not forget Colin Montgomery, who took four to get down from the fairway on the same hole also to lose by one.

Here are a few sites you might want to go to to get an idea of what the pros are up against this week. It ain’t pretty.

Official web site

Every hole at Winged Foot West

Seven important shots at Winged Foot

Playing the drivable par-4 sixth hole.

Bryson is going to bomb it.

Players comment on the course.

I think the course will produce a winner who follows what used to be U.S. Open formula–hit straight off the tee and putt the lights out. It should be fun to watch.

[Note: DeChambeau hit only 23 of 56 fairways, a U.S. Open records. So much for hitting straight off the tee.]

Arriving (II)

A year or so ago I posted an article on the importance of arriving–getting the ball up to or past the hole when you hit a shot into the green. That was all based on theory, with a generous assist from the writings of Vivien Saunders.

Now I have some actual data. Yesterday I was prowling around the Internet (why is that word capitalized, anyway?) looking for data on the average leave for recreational golfers’ shots into the green because I was writing about the interplay of swing improvement and short game and putting improvement. What I found forced me take a U-turn and revisit arriving.

The image below is a chart of the dispersion of the AMA (average male amateur) from 160 yards away. What I don’t know is whether the dots represent shots hit only by male golfers who are of average skill, or if the dots show the average compiled by male amateurs regardless of skill. That difference probably isn’t relevant to the point I’m making in this piece, though.

I divided the chart into a sixteen-cell grid. Four columns separate shots that missed left, hit the green left, hit the green right, and missed right. Four rows separate shots the missed long, hit the green long of center, hit the green short of center, and missed short.

Because the green is round and not square, there are a few shots in the corners of the four grid cells for hitting the green that did not hit the green, but I accounted for those.

An eyeball inspection shows two things: most of the shots that missed the green missed short, and most of the shots that missed short were on line to hit the green.

Here are the actual numbers, which I got by counting the dots:

I won’t make your eyes glaze over by throwing bunch of numbers at you. You can make whatever you want to out of what’s in the table. I will say just two things with numbers that I already said with words.

(1) Eight out of ten of the shots in the chart finished short of the center of the green (GS+S). That means that only two out of ten shots into the green finished beyond the center of the green.

(2) Of the 574 shots that finished short of the green (S), seven out of ten of them (411) would have hit the green if they had been hit far enough: S: GL+GR.

What does that mean? Four out of ten of all shots hit the green (green cells). If you push the shots in the (S: GL+GR) cells into the GS row, now over six out of ten shots will have hit the green: (S: GL+GR) + (GS: GL+GR). The actual percentages here are 38% and 64%.

If you apply these percentages to every hole (which doesn’t match reality, but this is all the data we have) you get 6.8 and 11.5 GIR, respectively. THAT’S ALMOST FIVE MORE GIR JUST BY HITTING ENOUGH CLUB INTO THE GREEN.

And that is just getting the ball onto the green, never mind getting the ball onto the green past the hole.

Maybe some of the shots at the green that ended up short were mishits. Well, not maybe. Were. But that’s only a small portion of them, and not enough to take away from the following point.

The average male amateur (that’s you) can GREATLY increase the number of greens he/she (you) hits JUST BY USING ENOUGH CLUB.

Why doesn’t that happen? Either you don’t really know how far away the green/pin is, or you don’t really know how far you hit your irons, or do know but base club selection on how far you are capable of hitting that club rather than how far you usually hit that club. Or you don’t take your lie into count. Or the wind. Or the condition of the turf. Or how you’re hitting today. Or the green is elevated.

All of those are easy problems to solve. They do not require you to be one bit better of a ball-striker than you are now. They just require you to think.

Maybe you won’t get five more GIR. Maybe four, maybe three. But you’ll get more.

I’m not going to listen to any excuses.

Bob’s Living Golf Book–August 2020 Edition

The August 2020 edition of Bob’s Living Golf Book is now online.

I don’t have any major new essays, only additions and clarifications that I like to put in when I don’t think I have expressed myself clearly. That is the benefit of online publishing–no edition is final.

There is one thing I have been working on for a number of weeks now that I am really excited about. I put up a post a few weeks ago about squaring up the clubface at impact.

The best way to have the clubface square at impact is to keep it square throughout the swing and I, at about the time I posted, came up with a way to do that. This is something to be added on that post, not to replace it.

I have never read this or seen it on YouTube. It is a product of my natural genius. (Ahem!) It involves grip pressure, but a different kind of grip pressure. It’s the blue paragraph in section B3. I wish I had known this twenty years ago.

Play well, and have fun.

How to Square up the clubface at impact

For almost two years, I would say, I have been working on a swing principle I discovered that has to do with keeping the clubface square at the start of the swing.

I’m certainly not the first one to have ever discovered it, but I knew from the first moment that it was true and correct.

For all this time I did not know how to extend that startup principle into the whole of my golf swing. I did not know that I was trying to incorporate that principle into a swing that was not designed to accept it.

Which meant I couldn’t tell you about it.

Now I can.

Instruction books show pictures of how the clubhead should be oriented when you have taken the club back to the place where the shaft is parallel to the ground. These pictures show the sole of the club pointing straight up in the air, perpendicular to the ground.

That is entirely incorrect.

At that point in the swing the sole of the club should be parallel to the axis of rotation of the swing, which is the spine angle. The clubhead taken back parallel in this way will be leaning forward a bit. That looks closed, but it is really square.

The pictures in all those books are showing you how to open the clubface at the start of the swing, which might partially explain why so many people slice.

If you want to confirm this for yourself, get into your setup, take the club back to where the shaft is parallel to the ground, and with the sole of the club pointing straight up and down.

Now stand up straight without adjusting your hands. The clubface is open, isn’t it?

A few weeks ago I came across a video by Mike Malaska which (a) confirmed that what I had found was right, and (b) showed me how to integrate that principle into my golf swing.

This next video of his shows you how to practice this technique, starting at 3:40.

For my entire golfing career I could not explain how the clubface got back to the ball as square as it was at address. All I could say was it’s something that just happens, which is no which explanation at all. On some days it happened for me, on other days it didn’t, and I thought, that’s the just way golf is.

Now I can explain how the clubface gets back to the ball square, and now I’m in control of it happening.

You can be, too. It’s really easy.

Election 2020

I know this is a golf blog, but I also know there are things more important than golf and this is a forum I can use to talk about them. Voting is one.

The November election is 95 days away.

If you are not registered to vote, register today. Or next week.

Covid-19 developments could make voting in person on November 3rd problematic, impossible, or just plain risky.

Therefore, if you do not live in a state that intends to allow voting by mail, request an absentee ballot.

I am not, and will not, advocate for any candidate. Who you vote for is your business, not mine.

I am only reminding you that being able to vote, and getting your vote counted, could be difficult this year in ways it never has been.

Plan now. And vote!

Thank you.

Hitting golf balls off mats

If for some reason your driving range provides only mats, do not hit golf balls off the mat. Hit them off a tee.

In my experience, I hit the ball much better–straighter and more accurately–off grass than off an artificial surface.

The reason, I am guessing, is that the price of a mishit on a mat is the shock of hitting it when I hit fat even a bit (and we all do that, don’t we). I don’t like that. It doesn’t feel good. So I unconsciously end up swinging not to develop my ball-striking skills, but to avoid whacking the hard mat.

The only price I pay for hitting a bit fat on grass is being somewhat chagrined.

The rubber tees at driving ranges are all tall ones designed for hitting your 460cc driver. Get a short one, maybe 1½ inches, and bring it with you. It will poke its little head through the mat just enough to lift the ball off the ground but not so much that you’ll hit the ball too high on the clubface.

The most difficult challenge this game presents to us is the ground. If you take the ground out of play, you can concentrate on what you’re there for–improving your swing–and not to avoid uncomfortable contact with a hard mat.

Speaking to that point, I would suggest using a tee even if you do hit off grass at the range.

But maybe all this is just me.

Please don’t avoid trying this idea because you think it’s cheating, though. Nick Price wrote a book on how he developed his golf swing. In it he said he hit a lot of 7-irons when he did it. Off a tee. That encourages you to swing through the ball and not worry about picking it off the ground.

Stop Hitting Fat!!!

I hit fat, you hit fat, she hits fat, we all hit fat. Maddening, isn’t it? Well, here’s a drill that will cure that once and for all. Guaranteed. I promise you.

First, though, you must have mastered the magic move of having the hands lead the clubhead into the ball. If you aren’t on board with that, the rest of this post won’t help you. Guaranteed. I promise you.

So to stop hitting fat, do this drill. Go the the range and get on a mat. You can’t do the drill on grass.

Put a ball down and get into address position, then back away from the ball a few inches so you can swing the club and not hit the ball. You can see this setup in the picture.

Swing a few times with your usual swing and see where your club commonly thumps the mat. If that spot is behind the ball, you have some work to do.

The drill is to swing so the sole of the club thumps the mat on the red line or the X side of it. In order to do this, you are going to have to modify your swing somewhat. I’m not going to tell you how, because (a) there is no once-size-fits-all way to do that, and (b) self-discovery is the best teacher.

Keep swinging and take baby steps to getting the club to thump the mat farther and farther forward. Trying to get in front all at once will throw you off too much.

The adjusted swing shouldn’t be that much different from what had been doing already. There is no need to revamp your entire swing. The best adjustment will have you doing one thing just a little bit differently while the rest of your swing stays essentially the same.

If you ease into this, in less than ten swings, maybe even less than five, you should have figured out how bring the low point of your swing to a spot forward of the ball. Step up to the ball now and hit it with the swing you just developed. I hope you like the result.

All that was the easy part. The hard part is that you’re going to have to do this drill constantly. Never give up on it. Do it every time you go to the range before you start hitting balls. Do it when you warm up before a round.

Nicklaus Vs. Snead at Pebble Beach

In the early 1960s, Shell Oil produced a series called The Wonderful World of Golf. Every week the match was in a different country, featuring an American touring pro playing a pro from the host country.

One of the matches in the year’s lineup would be on an America course. In 1963, the American match was between Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead at Pebble Beach.

Years later, all the WWoG matches were released on DVD–except this one. Because of a contractural barrier, this episode was prevented from being released.

But now you can see it.

Pebble Beach was a different course back them. It was somewhat ragged, especially the edges of the bunkers, not the pristine $500 per round course it is now. You’ll notice that right away when you watch the video.

Notice also that they left the pin in when they putted. The rules allowed that back then.

Notice also the forecaddies marking the way when the players hit their blind second shots on #6. That would not be allowed now.

Notice the dimples on Nicklaus’s ball at 36:55.

And then there’s the dog at 31:11.

Keep your eyes open and you’ll see a lot of other quirky things from the time.

But watch the ball flight when they hit long irons, which they hit a lot of. High, straight, just as easy as pie. I would like to see the pros hit those shots with those clubs today.

Oh, yes, one more thing. Those were the early days of color television. Very few programs were in color and this was one of them. A neighbor who lived down the hill from us let me do odd jobs around his property and in payment I got to come to his house on Sunday afternoon and watch WWoG in color.

The money, if he had paid me, would have have been so long gone and I would have no idea now what I did with it. But the memories of watching these shows is still with me.