All posts by recgolfer

A Fine Point in the Putting Setup

When you place the putter behind the ball preparatory to making a putt, it is a good idea to leave a gap of about an inch between the putter and the ball instead of being right up next to it.

1. It prevents you from accidentally moving the ball with the putter as you complete your setup.

2. It makes it easier to put a forward press into your stroke.

3. It encourages the feeling of swinging through the ball instead of hitting at it.

Winter Practice by Golf Digest

Golf Digest just published an article on three things you should be doing this winter to maintain your game and improve it. Read the article, it’s short, then come back here for my commentary.

1. Absolutely. Standing over a three-foot but, knowing that you are going to sink it, does wonders for your score and that confidence spills over to every other part of your game.

Make your target, instead of a fake hole, a 28-oz. tomato can. Hit the can dead center. See Better Recreational Golf, pp. 54-55 to find out why.

2. Stats. Fairways hit, greens in regulation, number of putts–not worth that much. Instead, keep number of full swings, number of short shots, length of each putt, hole by hole.

3. Get a lesson that deals with correcting why you aren’t hitting the ball straight on command. Take notes during the lesson. Then at home, work on those things every day. Go to the range once a week to put your practice to the test and find out which things are now working and which things need extra attention.

Two Setup Tips

The motto of this blog is, Little Things That Make a Big Difference. Here are two tips for your setup that do just that.

First, your arms. They must be at full extension and stay that way throughout the swing. But they cannot be that way throughout the swing if they are not that way at the start.

Hold a club in one hand, with the clubhead resting in the air just off the ground. Notice that your arm feels to be pulled a bit, straightening it. Not a lot, not so the arm is rigidly straight, but straighter than it is when you are not holding the club (try it).

That is full extension. Address the ball with this feeling in both arms and maintain it throughout the swing. Why?

The momentum of the forward swing will by its force lengthen your arms as they swing the club through the ball if they are not already at full length. The rest is hitting fat.

Also, keeping your arms at full extension helps keep the clubface square. Don’t take my word for it, listen to Mickey Wright and Ben Hogan. They both regarded this as a key fundamental of their swing.

When you try this, your arms should still feel relaxed, never stiff to any degree.

Second, the line across your shoulders is the line you will take the club back along. It is the easiest way to move your body and it will want to do that. If you try to swing the club back on a different line your shoulders will fight you and your swing will be a struggle.

So if you want to hit the ball straight, start with your shoulders parallel to the target line. You will find it very easy to take the club away straight and on a plane that is aligned with your target line. That will also prepare you to swing the club back through the ball along the target line.

If you want to fade the ball, open your shoulder line a bit (aim it to the left of your target line) and swing back along that line, which will be the way your shoulders want to guide your arms. If you want to draw, do the opposite. Aim the shoulder line to the right of the target line.

But whatever, pay attention to this detail. It is easy to forget about as the round goes on.

Oh, yes. Happy New Year!

Playing Golf Better

A few days ago I was on a golf forum and the question was asked, What is the key to becoming better?

Lots of the respondents talked about hitting greens in regulation. GIR for recreational golfers doesn’t mean a whole lot. I pay no attention to it. It focuses on results, and to get better, we need to focus on skills. These skills:

1. Hitting the ball accurately (to where you intend it to go).

2. Getting up and down from off the green, say, five yards and in, as an expectation.

3. Hitting approach putts to tap-in distance.

4. Knowing how to play the game.

Get good at those things and see what happens.

No More Driver Depression

For a while now, longer than I want to admit, I have been suffering from driver depression. You know, you’re bummed out because you can’t hit this thing to save your life?

At one time it was my best friend and as straight as any club in the bag. Now? One duck hook after another.

I thought it was several things, which I won’t go into, because none of them were the reason.

But there is this book I have, titled Golf Doctor*, by the legendary British teacher, John Jacobs. He presents 25 “lessons,” each of which is a description of a particular (poor) ball flight, why it’s happening, and what to do about it.

And it’s not just, do you slice or do you hook. It gets much more detailed than that.

This is the one that described me:

“Lesson 7: Shots with all the clubs start out on target but curve to the left thereafter. Shots with all clubs fly lower than normal. Your driver, the least-lofted club, is practically unplayable.”

That’s me, especially the last. And you know what? It was all in the grip.

The first correction was to see if the grip is turned too far to the right. Too strong. Yes, my right hand had drifted over that too far to the right. I should be placing my right hand so the V made by the thumb and hand is nearly centered on the handle (see photo).

But that wasn’t all. He suggested a very fine point. At address, the pocket formed by the right hand rests firmly on top of the left thumb. If this pressure releases during the backswing, the right hand is free to get active and overpower the left hand through impact, closing the clubface.

That was my biggest problem. My right hand was separating itself from the left. There was a big gap between them by the time my backswing was finished.

When I was young, books talked about putting a blade of grass between the right hand and left thumb, and not letting it fall out when swinging the club. I don’t see that pointer too much anymore, though Tom Kite’s method book has it. There’s a picture of it in Jacobs’ book about five pages later where he uses that concept to fix something else.

So that’s it. Two things to work on. So I worked on them at home. When the winter weather cleared, I went to the range to try it out.

No luck. Same as before. But with two balls left in the bucket I realized I had gone back to my old habit and my hands were coming apart. More practice at home.

A few weeks later, and another trip to the range. This time I had “hands together” down pat.

Driver. I haven’t hit it that well in years. LOUD sound. Square in the center. Ball launching off the clubface, up in the air, straight down the “fairway” a long way. Again and again.

I’m happy now. No more driver depression.

You might look into getting a copy of this book.

* Also published as Quick Cures for Weekend Golfers.

Me and Tiger

GolfWRX published an article today on the driver Tiger Woods used when he won the Tiger Slam in 2000. It’s a Titleist 975D.

It just so happens that is the same driver I use, even now.

Tiger (actual club)
Me (actual club)

I hit fairways with it and it feels real good in my hands. It doesn’t go 298 yards, though. I must be doing something wrong.

Maybe it’s that my driver is 12.5* and not 6.5*. Maybe it’s that I have never hit it past 250 and have no idea how I hit it even that far. Once.

But I don’t care. Me and Tiger. We know a good driver when we see one.

A New Look at Bunker Shots

I have a real problem with bunkers. I work hard to make ball-first, ground-second contact from the fairway. But in the bunker, that’s just what you’re not supposed to do. They all tell us to hit one, two inches behind the ball. In other words, hit it fat.

And I just can’t bring myself to do that. Consequently, I’m lousy out of bunkers. Terry Koehler to the rescue.

Terry is a club designer who also writes a periodic column for GolfWRX. In one of his recent posts, he advises us to hit the ball and the sand at the same time.

This is exactly what I do when I hit out of a fairway bunker, a shot I am as good at as I am bad in a greenside bunker. Which in both cases is “really.”

My problem is there isn’t a practice bunker within miles of my house, so I can’t try it out. The only practice I get in a bunker is when my first attempt doesn’t work and the ball is still in it, so I get to try again. But maybe there is one near where you live and you can see if it improves matters.

You know, the touring pros say the bunker shot is the easiest one there is. If that’s so, why do we have so much of a problem with it?

If you’re a hopeless case in a bunker like I am, maybe Terry’s new approach will turn things around for you.

Swing a Golf Club Every Day

Swing a golf club every day, ten, twenty times. Don’t worry, you can do it inside and you won’t hit the ceiling.

Swinging every day is how you remember what your golf swing feels like, and that’s the important thing, not the technique of the swing, but the feel of the technique.

When your swing deserts you it’s because you forgot how it is supposed to feel.

Swing a golf club every day so the feeling becomes natural, a part of who you are, what just comes out when you move the club.